NC’s ‘Steyer’ Wants to Re-educate Conservatives

The physical resemblance is uncanny, but it’s not the only thing Jay Faison and Tom Steyer have in common. They both are wealthy political environmental activists who have decided they will spend their millions/billions to support the politics of environmentalism and the agenda of Big Solar – one influencing the power elite, the other unbelieving Republicans.

Indeed, Bob Inglis (SC-4), a former Republican congressman, recently told the Washington Post that Faison “can be the Tom Steyer of the right on climate change.”

There are differences, of course. Faison might consider it a compliment to be compared to Steyer, the well-known liberal billionaire, environmental activist and philanthropist from San Francisco. Steyer, in 2014, spent more than $75 million in a mostly unsuccessful attempt to defeat Republican gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates. His profile has been raised significantly in the last couple of years and is perhaps second only to George Soros in being celebrated by the Left and scorned by the Right.

Faison, on the other hand, is a relative unknown whose political profile has been all but non-existent – until now. Perhaps that was the point of Faison’s recent introduction, by the left-leaning journalism organization Politico, to North Carolina politics – to draw the comparison to Steyer and at the same time create a mainstream and powerful persona for a political unknown.

This month has brought a flurry of articles written about Faison; most were based on a June 8 story on the liberal-leaning Politico  that introduced Faison as a Republican/conservative/Christian from Charlotte who made his fortune from the sale of his audio-visual equipment wholesaler – SnapAV. The story went on to say that Faison was going to use his fortune to fund a three-year, $175 million campaign that will aim to convince Republicans/conservatives that global warming is real and man-made and that with the proper re-education we can do something about the disaster supposedly looming over the planet. In this case, the difference between Steyer and Faison is that Steyer has a history of political engagement seen through his finances, spending his own money himself and via his charitable trusts and foundations. So far, Faison’s political giving doesn’t compare to Steyer’s. Faison’s ClearPath Foundation is so new, its tax forms haven’t been made public yet. So far, all we know about ClearPath Foundation is that it received its IRS Exempt Status in August of 2014 and is a 509(a)(3) – an organization whose primary function is to support one or more public charities or government agencies.

Significant by omission is the absence in all but one of the stories introducing Jay Faison to North Carolina is any mention of his father, the late Henry Faison. Henry Faison was a prominent and respected Charlotte developer who died in 2012. He was a well-known conservative and generous contributor to conservative and Republican politicians. Triangle Business Journal, in a July 2013 story ranking North Carolina’s 25 most powerful Republicans (using all federal campaign donations), ranked Henry Faison as number one.

His estate was valued at more than $200 million when he died at age 78 in 2012. His will left much of his wealth to his company, Faison Enterprises. Among the provisions: the forgiveness of $105 million in loans to the company. According to his family, however, he had planned to change his will so that a large portion of his wealth would go to the Skeebo Charitable Trust, which would support conservative causes. But he died before signing an updated will.

That touched off a court battle, with Jay Faison and his brother, Lane, asserting the company had agreed to the new will. When the case was settled, however, the judge decided that the company did not have to repay the $105 million loan, and that the Faison brothers were to refund $1 million in interest from the loans and were to pay up to $2.5 million of the company’s legal fees.

According to the Charlotte Observer, “after all legal fees, distributions and other expenses are satisfied, the remainder of the estate goes to the Skeebo trust.”

Civitas research, however, so far has turned up only records showing the trust has no assets.

Jay Faison’s political giving doesn’t represent that of an influential political activist comparable to his father, yet his donations and activity provide some intriguing clues.

The Politico account omitted important facts that would help all of us better understand Faison’s background and his motives for pushing a liberal-leftist’s agenda. It would have been beneficial to learn that Faison was a member of the board of ecoAmerica. He also has served on the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) North Carolina regional council as far back as 2002, and on the EDF National Council at least as far back as 2010. These are hardly conservative organizations. Interesting to note, in 2014, of the $1.75 million EDF spent against Republicans nationally, $442,489 was spent against U.S. Senate candidate (an eventual winner) Thom Tillis, then speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

The State Board of Elections shows that since 2000 Jay Faison has contributed $16,800 to candidates or committees in North Carolina. Of note, $9,500 went to the Pat McCrory Committee, $500 went to former Gov. Bev Perdue’s campaign and $3,000 went to the North Carolina Clean Energy Business Alliance PAC (NCCEBA PAC). NCCEBA is one of the groups pushing the Big Solar agenda this year, led by Republican consultants yet targeting Republican legislators.

In addition to Faison’s recent donations to Jeb Bush’s the Right to Rise PAC ($50,000) and $25,000 to Lindsay Graham’s campaign, both reported by Politico, the Federal Elections Commission website shows that he has contributed a total of $151,800 to a variety of federal candidates and PACs, a far cry from his father’s total of over $1.4 million.

But really, this is all pocket change to the $165 million Faison has promised to use to indoctrinate global warming skeptics. He also promises to use $10 million in the political realm.

What’s really ominous is what was revealed when The Charlotte Observer went to the belly of the beast and asked Republican politicians in Raleigh what they thought about Faison’s foray into North Carolina politics.

They spoke to Rep. Chuck McGrady, a Hendersonville Republican. “There’s enough scientists saying we’ve got a huge risk here, we would be stupid not to protect ourselves from that risk. Even if they’re wrong,” he said. Talk about the lines becoming blurred: McGrady is past president of the national Sierra Club.

The Observer also talked to state Sen. Jeff Tarte, R-Mecklenburg, who told them that “the facts are beyond debate,” and “to not believe in climate change is to say that there were never dinosaurs on the planet, that Columbus sailed off the edge of the Earth and that the moon landing occurred on a back lot in Burbank.”

So there you have it – one lawmaker who says we should follow the dictates of global warming advocates “even if they are wrong,” another who believes there is no reason to debate the issue, and a multi-millionaire who plans to re-educate us all. And these men are supposedly from the Right.

Never mind the multitude of scientists who disagree with them and the data that shows no change in global temperatures in the last 10 years. Political consultants and operatives on the right side of the aisle are recognizing the money-making potential in so-called clean energy and the Left has learned to cloak their scheme in conservative language. The money they all will make from subsides and incentives they push through will be coming straight out of the pockets of hardworking taxpayers.

This article first appeared the Civitas Institute’s website on June 22, 2015.