Recent news

Ohio AG Yost considering lawsuit to halt nuclear plant surcharge

Aug 26, 2020 4:06 PM

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Wednesday said he’s preparing to seek an injunction that would halt the imposition of a ratepayer surcharge flowing to two northern Ohio nuclear power plants at the center of the $61 million statehouse corruption scandal.

Mr. Yost, a Republican, indicated he’s considering moving ahead with a lawsuit as the Ohio Senate prepares to return to Columbus next week to discuss repealing or replacing the energy law, House Bill 6, at the heart of the scandal.

Pressuring lawmakers to act quickly on what will be a complex process, Mr. Yost said he could file a lawsuit as soon as September if the legislature doesn’t move swiftly to repeal the law. He declined to set a deadline or elaborate on what might trigger him to file, except to say he supports a repeal."

— Liz Szalka, Toledo Blade

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OH House leadership must release all documents!

Aug 25, 2020 8:18 PM

In the latest outrageous development in the federal investigation into House Bill 6, the Ohio House has refused to release all the documents that have been subpoenaed by the FBI in relation to the ongoing corruption investigation.
So, just so we're clear. They hid behind a shell game of dark money organizations and unethical lobbyists to grease palms to the tune of $60 million to pass the worst energy policy in America. Now they want to hide even more evidence from the taxpayers -- and the feds! -- by withholding legislative documents in the HB 6 bribery scandal? So much for the General Assembly's claims about repairing the public's trust!
The fact that we don't have complete transparency throughout the legislative process is why we're in this mess to begin with! It makes no sense, unless our legislators still have something to hide? The Legislative Service Commission bill drafts, amendments, and other working documents are part of the work paid for by We the People. Stop messing around. We have a right to see any work produced in the public's name using public dollars.
The Ohio House Leadership must immediately release these documents. If they refuse, we urge the Department of Justice to pursue them in court. We're confident a federal judge will agree that -- especially in Ohio --"sunshine is the best disinfectant."
-- Commentary by Lisa Maatz, Ohio Citizen Action Senior Advisor
Rep. Householder Elected Speaker of the 133rd General Assembly
Rep. Householder Elected Speaker of the 133rd General Assembly, Source: Ohio House

Ohio House won’t give up some HB 6 documents, but co-sponsor OKs release to feds

"House officials were served with the federal subpoena July 20, the day before the arrests in what U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers called the biggest public corruption case in Ohio history.

The withheld documents and emails, many of which involve proposed amendments and records requests involving correspondence with House lawyers, can remain secret because of attorney-client privilege, the House said.

Others were withheld due to an exception to state public records law that cloaks the dealings between lawmakers and the Legislative Service Commission, which writes legislation, in confidentiality.

A claim of privilege to withhold records under a federal subpoena can be asserted, but a judge ultimately will rule if the claim is legitimate or if the records must be produced, said a Department of Justice spokesman."

-- Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch

How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering

Aug 25, 2020 1:31 PM

RICHMOND, VA -- "In the 20th century, local and federal officials, usually white, enacted policies that reinforced racial segregation in cities and diverted investment away from minority neighborhoods in ways that created large disparities in the urban heat environment.

The consequences are being felt today.

...In the 1930s, the federal government created maps of hundreds of cities, rating the riskiness of different neighborhoods for real estate investment by grading them 'best,' 'still desirable,' 'declining' or “hazardous.” Race played a defining role: Black and immigrant neighborhoods were typically rated 'hazardous' and outlined in red, denoting a perilous place to lend money. For decades, people in redlined areas were denied access to federally backed mortgages and other credit, fueling a cycle of disinvestment."

--  Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, New York Times

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Ohio Senate likely to repeal HB 6 before Election Day

Aug 23, 2020 9:03 AM

COLUMBUS -- "'The Senate will be meeting in September, and we are likely to add additional session dates to the schedule. One of the issues we will be considering is a potential repeal of HB 6,' confirmed Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina.

Holding a session in September would show voters that the GOP-dominated legislature is taking action — just before early voting begins in early October — on the legislation at the heart of what federal authorities say is a $60 million racketeering scheme to return former House Speaker Larry Householder to power and to bail out Ohio’s two nuclear power plants.

It is unclear whether the House will take similar action."

-- Darrel Rowland, Columbus Dispatch

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Lawmakers conflicted over repealing law at heart of scandal

Aug 19, 2020 5:12 PM

COLUMBUS — "Gov. Mike DeWine has called on lawmakers to swiftly act to undo House Bill 6. He signed the bill into law last year and still supports the policy behind it. But he argues that the $1 billion bailout has been tainted by the revelations detailed in a federal indictment of what allegedly went on behind the scenes to get HB 6 across the finish line.

...But the commissioners of Ottawa and Erie counties, where the two plants are located, called on lawmakers to leave the law in place. Together, they directly employ about 1,400 people.

'While we detest any alleged illegal or unethical activity before, during, or after the enactment of the legislation, we certainly believe the policy outcomes were of great benefit not only to our counties, but also to all Ohioans,' they said in a joint statement on Monday.

'If the former House speaker or ‘dark money’ contributors were coordinating illegal behind-the-scenes activities, they should be punished in accordance with federal and state laws,' they said.

Mr. DeWine wants lawmakers to openly debate and enact a replacement law."

-- Jim Provance, Toledo Blade

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Grifters are part of Ohio history, but a reckoning may be coming

Aug 17, 2020 10:55 AM

COLUMBUS -- "Given Householder’s indictment, House Republicans did what they had to do, politically – unseat Householder as speaker, and replace him with Lima Republican Robert R. Cupp, once an Ohio Supreme Court justice. That was on July 30.

Then last week, in a fairly rare but constitutionally authorized action, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, of Akron, and House Democrats’ three other caucus leaders posted a protest in the House Journal over the passage of HB 6, albeit 385 days after the House sent it to DeWine. Still, the Democrats’ protest highlighted one of HB 6′s worst facets: It “effectively [nullifies] any incentive for new renewable energy development in [Ohio].” And it subsidizes – with consumers’ money – two coal-burning power plants (one in Indiana), whose owners include FirstEnergy and Columbus-based American Electric Power.

Yet the legislature recessed without repealing HB 6. Repeal is the first thing the House and state Senate should have done after the grand jury acted."

-- Thomas Suddes,

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Ohio House won’t cough up some HB 6 documents under federal subpoena

Aug 14, 2020 6:20 PM

Rep. Jamie Callender received $12,700 in campaign contributions

from FirstEnergy and was a sponsor of HB6. 

COLUMBUS -- "The Ohio House has turned over thousands of pages of records concerning House Bill 6 under a federal subpoena, but withheld 30 documents — claiming they are exempt due to attorney-client and legislative privilege.

The House released some of the records Thursday in response to the subpoena and public-records requests from news organizations, but still is compiling more records for release to the U.S. Department of Justice.

...Many of the withheld records involve communications between House lawyers and Reps. Jamie Callender, R-Concord, and Shane WIlkin, R-Hillsboro, and their aides. They were co-sponsors of HB 6.

In a tweet on Friday afternoon, Callender said he notified House officials that he waived privilege and to release the documents involving him. 'I waive those privileges and urge House leadership to help us give as much info as possible to the FBI and to the public,' he wrote."

-- Randy Ludlow, Columbus Dispatch

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A new campaign aims to oust Ohio’s top utilities regulator

Aug 13, 2020 3:08 PM

Who is Sam Randazzo and how is he tied to FirstEnergy?

COLUMBUS -- "Sam Randazzo, the powerful chairman of the state commission that oversees utility regulation and rate-setting, is the target of a new campaign tying him to FirstEnergy through his previous work as a lobbyist and attorney.

The Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, which describes itself as an advocacy group pushing for more renewables that it believes will ultimately lower electricity rates, is making a case for Randazzo’s removal through a new website:

...The Ohio Consumers Power Alliance argues that Randazzo holds the same views with the PUCO that he held in his previous career, lobbying and as an attorney for the Industrial Energy Users -- Ohio, a group representing some of the state’s largest industries, when he fought renewable standards. For years, he was out front in the opposition to the renewable energy and energy efficiency standards.

'It’s really obvious during the time that he’s been the chair that he’s not doing what he said he would do a year ago (at his confirmation hearing,) which was to represent Ohio and Ohioans,” said Rachel Belz, director of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance, which is a project of the left-leaning grassroots Ohio Citizen Action. 'Instead, they’ve been picking winners and losers.'

Randazzo, through a spokesman, declined to comment on the effort to remove him."

-- Laura Hancock,

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The Householder bribery scheme unveiled millions in secret spending

Aug 12, 2020 10:48 AM

But dark money has been in Ohio for a while.

COLUMBUS - "The message could not have been more clear: Save the American way of life from the nefarious Chinese. 

The television ad showed Chinese President Xi Jinping lifted his fist as military members marched by. An ominous script warned that this well-oiled machine had come for Americans' manufacturing jobs and it was back for Ohioans' energy jobs, too: "Don’t let them do it to you. Don’t sign the petition allowing China to control Ohio’s power.”

While the message was clear, the source of that xenophobic ad could not have been less clear. 

That's because, according to a federal investigation, FirstEnergy and other energy companies funneled money through two groups that had to disclose little – if any – information about the donations that ultimately paid for the ad.

...Much like internet trolls or anonymous web commenters, these dark money groups are frequently emboldened by their anonymity to pay for the nastiest ads – ones politicians can easily disavow while still reaping the benefits of mudslinging."

-- Jesse Balmert, Cincinnati Enquirer

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