In federal filing, FirstEnergy officials say criminal charges possible from federal House Bill 6 bribery probe

COLUMBUS -- "...a new company regulatory filing says “potential criminal or civil liabilities” related to myriad ongoing federal investigations and lawsuits into Ohio House Bill 6 are among the possible risks to the company’s reputation or financial condition. The company also said in a Friday filing it’s launched an internal process to strengthen its internal governance and compliance measures.

...Acting CEO Steve Strah, who took over after the company fired former CEO Chuck Jones last Thursday, said Monday the company won’t comment while the federal investigations are ongoing. He also said it would be “premature” to say whether FirstEnergy’s ongoing internal review, which began after the SEC subpoena, might find violations by other company officials.

“I think the only thing we can say is the internal investigation by the board and outside counsel led to the outcomes you saw Friday,” Strah said Monday during a conference call with investors. “And that’s the only kind of comment we can make about the past. The dismissal of the executives mentioned were for violations of company policy and codes of conduct.”

Strah’s comments, and FirstEnergy’s identification of possible criminal charges, are a change in tone from the company’s previous conference call in July, led by Jones."

-- Andrew J Tobias, cleveland.com

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Column: After HB 6, Ohio needs to recreate energy future

"The good news is that Ohio can recreate its energy future, build a stronger, more resilient economy, and help families save money each month. A repeal will accomplish some of that, but should Ohio invest in and adopt a more inclusive energy policy, Ohio will benefit for decades to come.

A recent report conducted by the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs at Ohio University shows how large, utility-scale solar energy projects can benefit Ohio’s economy by creating thousands of new jobs, provide significant tax revenues for struggling rural counties, and help eliminate the need for Ohio to import costly energy from other states. More importantly, the possible — $10 billion projected to be invested in these solar developments will almost entirely come from private sector capital — not ratepayers. Furthermore, it has consistently been demonstrated that solar and wind energy create more jobs than traditional forms of energy and are in many cases, the most affordable form of new energy development.

The report shows utility scale solar can potentially deliver up to 50,000 construction jobs (80% of which must be filled from Ohio residents, per Ohio law); more than 600 full time, well paying, operations and maintenance jobs; and generate up to $2.7 billion in tax revenues to rural communities and the state of Ohio."

-- Susan Monroe, Guest Column, The Lima Ohio 

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Across the political spectrum, Ohioans agree it's time to repeal HB 6

"While some plans to repeal or replace HB 6 have been proposed, it is Ohio’s newly-elected speaker that Leland refers to who remains a wild card in the equation. Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, was chosen by his fellow Republicans because of his veteran status in Ohio politics, but he voted for HB 6 as well. Cupp quickly formed a study committee to look into whether or not HB 6 should be repealed or replaced, but the committee has nothing else planned until after Nov. 3, kicking any potential action on HB 6 to a brief lame duck session following the election. Now Ohioans are getting restless.

Thankfully, some state legislators on both sides of the aisle are trying to right the wrong. House Majority Whip Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, bucked Householder’s demands for supporting HB 6 and voted against the bill in 2019. Lanese has since been leading the charge among House Republicans to repeal HB 6, while Democrats like Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, and Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, have introduced a bill to repeal HB 6 as well. Together, the two bills have 54 cosponsors, with some legislators signing on to both, including Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, who also sponsored Lanese’s bill. However, so far no proposal has made it past the initial committee hearings and now it’s clear that if the majority of Ohioans want to see HB 6 repealed, they must make their voices heard for action to be taken.

After all, across the political spectrum, Ohioans are ready to see HB 6 get repealed. Thanks to the work of the FBI and individuals committed to transparency, voters are now fully aware of FirstEnergy and Larry Householder’s alleged conspiracy to siphon $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars into failing energy companies in and outside of Ohio. Ohioans deserve to have corrective action taken by their elected leaders as soon as possible, as an immediate repeal of HB 6 on its face is a no-brainer. For now, it’s just time for Republicans and Democrats in the Statehouse to have the guts and political will to do it."

-- Rachael Belz, Tyler Fehrman, and Travis Irvine, Ohio Capital Journal

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Please urge your legislators to repeal HB6! Already contacted them? Email again -- and encourage others to do the same -- at repealhb6.com!


Attorney General challenges legality of Householder using $1M campaign cash for legal fees

 

"Attorney General Dave Yost said Friday he would file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission after a disclosure Thursday that former House Speaker Larry Householder used campaign cash to cover legal fees since his July arrest on federal corruption charges.

In a tweet Friday morning, Yost said the spending was illegal and that he was directing staff in his office to pursue a formal complaint.

The post came a day after Householder's pre-general election campaign finance filing, which included seven expenditures since mid-July totaling more than $1 million to three separate law firms, including $660,000 to Marein & Bradley in Cleveland, the firm currently representing him in federal court."

-- Marc Kovac, The Columbus Dispatch 

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Please urge your legislators to repeal HB6! Already contacted them? Email again -- and encourage others to do the same -- at repealhb6.com!


Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder has spent $950,000 in campaign money on legal fees since his July arrest

COLUMBUS -- "Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder has spent nearly $950,000 from his campaign account on legal fees since his arrest in July on a federal corruption charge, according to the campaign-finance report he filed with the state on Thursday.

Nearly all of that money -- $920,000-- went to two law firms that are aiding in his criminal legal defense. Two experts in state campaign-finance law called the spending questionable, since the Ohio Elections Commission, which interprets and enforces election law in Ohio, repeatedly has found that spending campaign money on a candidate’s criminal defense is illegal under state law.

Maggie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Frank LaRose, a Republican who is the state’s top elections official, said: 'Yet again, it appears that the former speaker’s campaign flagrantly disregards state law and will result in another referral to the Ohio Elections Commission.'"

-- Andrew Tobias, cleveland.com 

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Please urge your legislators to repeal HB6! Already contacted them? Email again -- and encourage others to do the same -- at repealhb6.com!


FBI source in corruption investigation talks opposition to HB 6

   

"Fehrman, who reported that lobbyist to the FBI, spoke during a virtual rally to repeal HB6, calling the legislation 'horribly written policy.'

He added, 'It is also a disgusting attempt by lobbyists, political operatives, and elected officials to set themselves above the law and get away with crimes that have detrimental effects on the trust of the people of our state.'

A U.S. district attorney says former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and others are accused of running a bribery scheme to help get HB6 passed. 

Fehrman says he is the source listed as CHS 1 in the FBI affidavit which details him helping investigators gather recordings of Matt Borges, a former lobbyist for FirstEnergy and defendant in the racketeering case.

'If I had the opportunity I would do it again 1,000 times over. Even the parts that put my life and career at great risk,' says Fehrman."

-- Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau 

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watch the hearing from October 21st on youtube

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Ohio environmental groups hold virtual hearings over House Bill 6 repeal

"Even when hearings were held in the House and Senate, most of those testifying were legislators and officials representing groups such as the Ohio Manufacturers Association and the Ohio Consumers' Counsel.

Citizens, on the other hand, haven't had their say, Leppla said.

'Essentially what we are seeing is that the public is not being invited to testify,' she said. 'It is a really corrupt piece of legislation. It's really important for the public to be heard.'

The fund along with several other groups such as the Ohio Citizen Action, Black Environmental Leaders and Solar United Neighbors have come together to hold the hearings, the first of which was held Wednesday."

-- Mark Williams, The Columbus Dispatch 

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watch the hearing from October 21st on youtube

learn more about the hearings and sign up at www.ohiocitizen.org/testify


Editorial: Ohioans lose if lawmakers fail to repeal HB 6

"Along with phasing out the energy efficiency requirement and surcharge, HB 6 guts the state’s renewable portfolio standard. That’s a mandate that utilities get at least 12.5% of their power from renewable sources by 2027. Under the bill, the standard drops to 8.5% immediately and disappears in 2027.

These programs, essential to spurring innovation and investment in clean energy, already were modest compared with those of other states. Slashing them further is an embarrassment to Ohio, highlighting the General Assembly’s shortsightedness and lack of leadership.

Lawmakers can fix that by repealing HB 6 and crafting an energy bill that works for Ohioans rather than for moneyed interests, lobbyists and politicians on the take."

-- The Columbus Dispatch Editorial Board

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The nuclear bailout nobody’s talking about

COLUMBUS -- "In February, seven months after Gov. Mike Dewine signed the $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout that mostly would subsidize two Northern Ohio nuclear plants, FirstEnergy might have gotten an even bigger break in U.S. bankruptcy court. That’s when Judge Alan M. Koschik signed off on a settlement that largely excused FirstEnergy from footing part of the bill to clean up the aging nuclear plants in Ohio and another in Pennsylvania that it had bequeathed to to its successor, now known as Energy Harbor, in the event that company goes belly up.

If the new company can’t make a go of it with the nuclear and coal plants that had been owned by FirstEnergy, taxpayers could well be on the hook for whatever part of the estimated $10 billion nuclear cleanup that Energy Harbor and a trust fund it’s required to maintain can’t.

Those are cleanups that, for financial reasons, will take 60 years — decades during which the crumbling cooling tower of the company’s Davis-Besse plant, for example, will loom over the Lake Erie shoreline in view of South Bass Island, one of Ohio’s premier tourist attractions."

-- Marty Schladen, Ohio Capital Journal

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Here’s why Ohio lawmakers haven’t done anything about scandal-tainted House Bill 6 so far

"The main reason, lawmakers and observers say, is because – much like congressional Republicans' unsuccessful attempts to repeal Obamacare in 2017 – there’s no consensus among GOP lawmakers on what, if anything, to replace HB6 with.

Some favor a straight repeal of HB6. Others think it should be replaced, and at least a few believe nothing at all should be done to alter it.

'They are all over the place,' said state Rep. Mark Romanchuk of Richland County about his fellow Republicans.

There are other reasons as well. Even Republicans who favor repealing and replacing House Bill 6 say they need time to study HB6, an enormously complex law that goes far beyond the nuclear bailout, and make sure that any changes they make to it won’t have unintended consequences for Ohioans."

-- Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland.com 

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If you want to contact your legislator about HB 6, visit repealhb6.com