Soraa walks away from $90M factory that NY built; $15M more brings new tenant
Justice Clarence Thomas is in his 27th term in the U.S. Supreme Court, and he agreed to become the 341st leader interviewed for my Daily Caller News Foundation series.
Now at age 69, he is looking back on his life with gratitude and discernment with valuable lessons for others.
People often want to define you by the bad things that happen in your life, he says, but there has been so much good amidst the challenges he told me, his wife, in this exclusive interview for TheDCNF.
From a life that launched from economic deprivation, illiteracy, family dysfunction and even time as a radical leftist, his accomplishments now reach to the U.S. Supreme Court — where he faces constant vilification and defamation. He says he learned the value of humility, patience, and persistence, but the bedrock of his rules for living came from simple aphorisms from his illiterate grandfather.
At a young age, he learned how to build bridges and find something in common with other people, be it sports, a hobby, religion or experiences, rather than focusing on differences and divisions. “Everyone has inherent value and is worth listening to,” he believes.
Looking back, he credits divine providence for the path of his life. From the burning of a house, to being raised by his grandparents, to the nuns who taught in Savannah’s inner city, to attending the seminary and to getting his first job with Missouri Attorney General Jack Danforth who was interviewing at Yale. Nothing could have foreseen his sitting on the Supreme Court today.
Faith, he says, gives him “the strength to do what I have to do every day, to assert the independence, to be willing to take the beatings, the criticism, the unfairness.” When he attends daily mass, he says, it helps him do his “job, a secular job, in the right way and for the right reasons.” It reminds him that his work has nothing to do with what is said about him, but is rather about doing what he took an oath to do.
Justice Thomas frequently turns to the “Litany of Humility,” which helps focus and insulate him from the distractions, criticisms, or praise that can come from this world. In his view, what really matters is whether you do what you are called to do.
As we talked about the biggest blessings of his life, he named being born in America, his faith, his son, and our marriage. He also spoke of his love of University of Nebraska athletics, motor homing over the last 18 years through “fly over country,” and the gift of being able to read. When you grow up surrounded by illiteracy with adults asking, “What this paper say?” reading becomes a true blessing. “It is like Christmas every day” when he reads.
On inter-racial marriage he says, “if I were more progressive or liberal it [our marriage] would be considered progressive to be in an inter-racial marriage, but if you are not, then you are selling out.” He adds, “I don’t think of it as some statement. You’re my wife.”
Only after public outrage and congressional resolutions condemning the Smithsonian Institution’s refusal to honor Thomas in its African American museum did an exhibit get modified. Ritual defamation by an antagonistic cultural elite who hope to reduce his popular currency and make his views radioactive, especially for any black American to emulate, has become the way of life for him.
Although he knows the difficulty of taking the public beatings for his views, he often remembers his grandfather’s advice in the 1980s of “Boy, you have to stand up for what you believe in.” He acknowledges a certain peace that comes from knowing you did the right thing, and he talks about the importance of not allowing the critics to make you into someone you are not by overreacting negatively to them. He quotes the black author Richard Wright who said, “the worst I’ve ever been treated is when I told the truth.”
In an epic speech some 20 years ago to black judges in Memphis, Thomas boldly stated that he came not to defend his views, “but rather to assert my right to think to myself, to refuse to have my ideas assigned to me as though I was an intellectual slave because I’m black.” He wrote that speech, he says today, to draw attention to, “the right, among blacks, to think for themselves, the right to be that invisible man, to be the one who lays claim to his own thoughts.”
On the best part of being a justice, he praises our marriage to share the experiences, but also the joy of his four clerks each term. He promises his clerks that they “will leave this job with clean hands, clean hearts and clear consciences” They are “just a delight.” He enjoys the company of his colleagues and misses those who have retired and passed away.
Don’t miss his jovial ending where he wanted to turn the tables on the interviewee.
For more on Justice Clarence Thomas, read his autobiography, “My Grandfather’s Son,” see these articles or watch any of the 264 C-Span covered events of speeches he has given. To me, he is the best man walking the face of this earth!
This damn government is so damn corrupt that it is not possible to have a proper investigation. How is it possible that no one is being indicted and locked up. This video proves the FBI and the DOJ is corrupt all the way up to Barack Obama.
Will anyone ever get locked up for all of this corrupt behavior.
DeWitt, N.Y. — In 2014, the development arm of SUNY Polytechnic Institute agreed to build, with $90 million in state money, a factory in DeWitt for an LED light bulb manufacturer.
The company, California-based Soraa, agreed to create 250 full-time, high-tech jobs at Collamer Crossing Business Park and to encourage Soraa contractors and suppliers to create another 170 jobs in Central New York.
In return, the company would be allowed to lease the factory for $1 a month for 10 years.
But the deal with SUNY Poly’s Fort Schuyler Management Corp. did not require Soraa to spend any of its own money to build or equip the factory. And it contained no penalties if the company did not occupy the building or create the promised jobs. The company never even signed a lease.
So when Soraa recently said it no longer needed the factory and pulled out of the deal just as the state was completing construction of the 82,000-square-foot building, there was nothing the state could do about it.
The state was left with a factory, nearly fully equipped, but no company to use it.
One expert said using state money to custom-build a factory for a specific tenant is bad policy.
“You have a situation where the state could potentially wind up with a white elephant,” said John Bacheller, former head of policy and research for the state’s economic development office, Empire State Development. “I think it’s too much risk. When you provide a grant, the risk is limited to the amount of the grant.”
The state has found another company, but taxpayers will have to spend up to another $15 million to properly equip the building for the new company.
This time, state officials say they won’t repeat the mistake made in DeWitt again.
Empire State Development, a state economic development agency, took over the project from SUNY Poly a year ago after the college’s president, Alain Kaloyeros, was arrested on corruption charges and resigned from the university. ESD said a deal with a new tenant will include financial penalties if the company fails to meet its job commitments.
Jason Conwall, a spokesman for ESD, said the penalties, or “clawbacks,” will be included in a grant disbursement agreement with NexGen Power Systems, a California start-up. ESD’s board of directors voted Dec. 21 to approve a grant of up to $15 million to NexGen for tooling and equipment for the factory.
In return, the company has pledged to create 290 full-time, high-tech jobs for the production of semiconductors at the facility and agreed to invest $40 million of its own money into the building. It will pay rent of $1 the first year and increasing amounts up to full market value in the 10th year, ESD officials said.
Conwall said the grant will be contingent on the company meeting its job commitments. Details of the grant’s terms will not be available until the grant disbursement agreement is executed later this month, but they will follow ESD’s standard practice of requiring companies to return a grant, or portions of it, if they fail to meet hiring milestones, he said.
ESD’s agreements generally require a company to meet a certain minimum amount of their job commitments within a specified period or be required to return a grant. In some cases, a company is required to return only a portion of the money if it falls just a little short of its hiring commitments.
ESD officials said no such “clawbacks” were put into SUNY Poly’s deal with Soraa because none of the $90 million in state grants used to build the factory went directly to Soraa. All of the money went into the building, which is still owned by the state, so there was no money to take back from the company, they said.
Former state budget director Robert Megna, who was appointed president of the non-profit Fort Schuyler Management Corp. in February 2017 following Kaloyeros’s departure, said the fact that Fort Schuyler retained ownership of the building was a good thing.
“While we can’t speak to the reasoning behind all the terms of the agreement with Soraa, which were made by the previous leadership, the facility was constructed to accommodate Soraa’s gallium nitride lighting business and no funding was provided to Soraa,” he said in a statement.
“All state funds were provided to the not-for-profit Fort Schuyler Management Corporation, and the building and the equipment are all owned by FSMC on behalf of New York State,” he said. “This model enabled the state to quickly adjust to changes in a very dynamic industry and make the facility available to NexGen for its production of gallium nitride semiconductor devices, modules and systems.”
Conwall said Empire State Development takes a much different approach. It provides grants to assist companies with the cost of building facilities in the state, but it does not go the riskier route of building entire factories for them, he said.
He said ESD was fortunate to have found a new tenant to go into the DeWitt building. NexGen plans to make semiconductor power devices from gallium nitride, the same material that Soraa uses to make LED lighting. That means that NexGen can use much of the equipment already installed in the factory.
“It worked out because we owned the facility and found another tenant quickly that aligned really well,” the ESD spokesman said.
Though ESD has agreed to provide up to $15 million to NexGen for the purchase of tools and equipment, some of the $7 million not yet spent from the original $90 million in grants for the building could be used toward that $15 million commitment, he said. (The state had spent about $83 million of the $90 million on the factory and equipment by the time Soraa pulled out, officials said.)
NexGen was formed in California last year to make semiconductors for the electronics industry. It does not yet manufacture anything. The DeWitt facility will be its first manufacturing operation.
Dinesh Ramanathan, NexGen’s president and CEO and one of its founders, also was CEO of Avogy Inc., a Silicon Valley start-up that planned to make power sources for electronic devices such as computers.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in 2016 that Avogy had committed to moving from California to a state-owned cleanroom facility in Rochester that the state agreed to upgrade with a $35 million investment of state money. The state never made the investment, however, and Avogy never made the move.
Avogy went out of business later in 2016. NexGen bought its technology and is starting up with new money from investors, according to Ramanathan.
NexGen has not publicly disclosed who its investors are.
Prior to Avogy, Ramanathan served as the executive vice president at Cypress Semiconductor for almost nine years, where he managed the company’s Programmable Systems Division and its Data Communications Division, according to NexGen’s website.
Prior to joining Cypress, Ramanathan held senior marketing and engineering positions at Raza Microelectronics; Raza Foundries, described as an “incubating venture capital company”; and Forte Design Systems, an electronic design automation company, according to the website.
ESD officials said they are confident that NexGen will succeed in DeWitt.
“NexGen is led by a management team and investors with a proven record and decades of combined experience building and operating high-tech businesses,” Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said in a statement. “This gives us the confidence that the company will meet its commitment to bring hundreds of new, good-paying jobs to Central New York.”
The state may be fortunate in this case if NexGen is able to use the factory constructed for Soraa. But custom-built factories can be hard to sell or lease if a tenant walks away, Bacheller said.
The state should always require companies to invest more money into a project than the state does so they have a strong motivation to stick around and make the development work, he said.
“You always want the company to have skin in the game,” he said.
He said SUNY Poly may also have made a mistake constructing a factory for an LED light bulb maker, given the fact that LED light bulb production is increasingly dominated by low-cost Chinese manufacturers who have brought the price of LED bulbs almost down to that of incandescents.
“Unless you’re in a niche that the Chinese aren’t in, it’s the kind of business that is very risky,” he said.
NexGen says its semiconductor devices can be used in a wide array of applications such as LED power supplies, solar inverters, data centers and automotive applications.
The company will be getting the use of a building with up to $105 million in state money invested in it. NexGen’s capital investment will be far less by comparison – $40 million.
Bacheller said the state appears to be taking a substantial risk with NexGen, given that the company is a start-up with no manufacturing or sales track record of its own. However, he said Empire State Development may be making the best deal it could after inheriting a bad situation from SUNY Poly.
“They’ve already got a building up and they’re stuck with it,” he said.
Soraa walks away from $90M factory that NY built; $15M more brings new tenant
A federal judge Thursday denied a request by Fusion GPS to void a House Intelligence Committee subpoena to provide bank records as part of the committee’s investigation into Russian activities during the 2016 election campaign.
U.S. District Judge Richard Leon found Fusion’s objections to the subpoena to be “unavailing” and denied the research firm’s request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction that would have prevented it from handing over the documents.
Fusion GPS attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. said the firm would appeal Leon’s ruling.
“Instead of focusing its efforts on Russian meddling in the presidential election, the Committee continues to misuse its investigatory power to punish and smear Fusion GPS for its role in uncovering troubling ties between #Russia and the Trump campaign,” Boutrous said in a statement.
The committee, chaired by Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., had subpoenaed the records in an effort to determine who paid for a now-infamous “dossier” outlining various claims about President Donald Trump’s connections with various Russian officials. The dossier, commissioned by Fusion GPS and compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, was published in full by BuzzFeed in January of last year.
Among a number of unconfirmed allegations about Trump and his associates, the dossier included sordid claims about the president’s sexual proclivities.
“Although the records sought by the Subpoena are sensitive in nature,” Leon wrote in a 26-page ruling, “the nature of the records themselves, and the Committee’s procedures designed to ensure their confidentiality, more than adequately protect the sensitivity of that information.”
Leon also rejected Fusion’s claim that the subpoena would have a chilling effect on its work for political clients and violate the firm’s First Amendment rights.
“While the opposition research Fusion conducted on behalf of its clients may have been political in nature,” Leon wrote, “Fusion’s commercial relationship with those clients was not, and thus that relationship does not provide Fusion with some special First Amendment protection from subpoenas … the First Amendment is not a secrecy pact!”
In October, Fox News confirmed that Fusion GPS was retained by Marc Elias, an attorney representing the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The DNC and the Clinton campaign paid Fusion to produce the dossier.
Earlier this week, Fusion GPS founders Glenn Simpson and Peter Fritsch wrote a New York Times opinion piece accusing congressional Republicans of being “in the thrall of the president” and waging a campaign to portray Fusion GPS “as the unwitting victims of Kremlin disinformation.”
In response, a spokesman for Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that Simpson “has refused to answer dozens of questions voluntarily, and has failed to provide the Committee with documents and responses to follow-up questions …”
It looks like the fix really was in.
Republicans lawmakers report irregularities in the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server that suggest the bureau had evidence to believe the former Secretary of State and her staff broke federal laws.
Congressional investigators told The Hill they possess written statements indicating a belief by FBI agents that laws were broken Clinton and her aides transmitted classified information through her private email server.
Republicans on three House committees and the Senate Judiciary Committee have based their findings on recent interviews and document productions, including an analysis of the multiple drafts of former FBI director James Comey’s exoneration of Clinton.
Investigators on Capitol Hill said drafts of the statement acknowledged there was “evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information.”
The May 2, 2016 draft of Comey’s statement featured a passage that read:
“The sheer volume of information that was properly classified as Secret at the time it was discussed on email (that is, excluding the “up classified” emails) supports an inference that the participants were grossly negligent in their handling of that information.”
Comey’s final language mirrored that draft, when he said, “although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case.”
The FBI also confirmed that a key witness lied to the FBI during his interviews. The witness was the computer technician who deleted Clinton emails from her private server in 2015 after a congressional subpoena had been issued for them.
The technician’s admission came a year after making the false statement. He was never charged for lying to the FBI, a federal felony to which former Trump national security adviser Mike Flynn pleaded guilty.
The most jarring irregularity Republican lawmakers say they found was confirmation that the FBI began drafting an exoneration of Clinton before the former Secretary of State and other key witnesses were interviewed.
A senior law enforcement official who spoke under conditions of anonymity told The Hill, “the leadership had a sense of where the evidence was likely headed and the idea was they would begin drafting their conclusions and if we found anything that changed that sense we’d alert them.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), head of the Senate Judiciary Committee, blasted the move.
“Making a conclusion before you interview key fact witnesses and the subject herself violates the very premise of good investigation. You don’t lock into a theory until you have the facts. Here the evidence that isn’t public yet shows they locked into the theory and then edited out the facts that contradicted it.”
Grassley’s staff also received a sworn affidavit from an FBI agent that contradicted claims by Comey. The former FBI director told Grassley the bureau investigated whether Clinton and her staff were guilty of unlawful destruction of government records.
The FBI agent in question stated the bureau did not address that issue.
These revelations cast further doubt on the objectivity of the FBI investigation that ultimately let Clinton off the hook.