Recent news

Utility company linked to HB6 bribery scheme changes executive team

Oct 30, 2020 10:34 AM

AKRON -- "Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. terminated its chief executive, Charles E. Jones Jr., and two senior vice presidents for violating company policies and its code of conduct, the company said in a statement released Thursday evening.

Senior Vice President of Product Development, Marketing and Branding Dennis Chack and SVP of External Affairs Mike Dowling were also terminated.

The house-cleaning comes just hours after two other men pleaded guilty to racketeering charges in a massive public corruption case centered around House Bill 6.

FirstEnergy advocated for the new energy law, which will deliver an estimated $355 million 'decoupling' revenues to FirstEnergy, as well $1.3 billion in subsidies to Energy Harbor, a former FirstEnergy subsidiary that owns two nuclear power plants in Ohio."

-- Laura A. Bischoff, Dayton Daily News

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Q: "How do you plead?" A: "Guilty, your honor"

Oct 29, 2020 11:31 AM

We can stop calling Ohio's coal and nuclear bailout scandal an "alleged" bribery scheme. Two of the accused have now agreed to plead guilty.

Today, Jeff Longstreth, 44, a political consultant and key Householder adviser, and Juan Cespedes, 40, a FirstEnergy lobbyist, changed their pleas to "guilty" for the RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) charges in the $61 million federal corruption scandal involving former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder. The defendants face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The FBI case says Cespedes and Longstreth organized Generation Now, the  group that funneled Householder money to squelch the referendum that would have let Ohioians vote on the bailout.

Householder's attorney said he was stunned by the pleas. “I didn’t see those coming... He denies wrongdoing, and he will defend himself in court.”

What are you waiting for, Ohio legislature? Repeal HB6!

Stay tuned, because there's certainly more to come:


Why I'm working the polls on Election Day

Oct 28, 2020 3:43 PM

Why I’m working the polls on Election Day

By Anastazia Vanisko, Cleveland Program Director

Like anyone who’s managed to get themselves on to a political email or text list, I started receiving texts and emails a couple months ago encouraging me to sign up to be a poll worker. The meat of the message was always the same, warning about a shortage of poll workers and urging me to apply to be an election official with my local board of elections.

The first time I received one of these texts, I remembered what a friend told me about her experience as a poll worker the night before the Ohio primary election, when it was unclear whether or not the primary election date would be postponed. She said that many of the people she worked with as a poll worker were older and would be considered high-risk if they caught COVID-19. They were uneasy about working the polls at all (and understandably so). Many had already withdrawn from their positions as election officials out of concern for their health and safety. Everyone was concerned that they wouldn’t have enough workers for the election on March 17.

My friend’s personal story reflected the same message as every text and email I’d seen asking me to be a poll worker.

Ultimately, I decided to apply to be an election official because so many of the people who have done this work in past election cycles simply can’t any longer. Even though the rate of mail-in and early in-person voting is increasing every day beyond anything we’ve ever seen in our country, we still need people working the polls to make sure that everyone is able to vote on Election Day.

I’m happy to say I’ll be one of those people in Cuyahoga County!

If you need information on how to vote early in Ohio, how to drop off your ballot, or where to find your polling location, you can find it at https://www.ohiosos.gov/elections/voters/. If you run into problems as you vote, or witness concerning behavior at the polls, please contact the national election protection hotline at 866-OurVote (866-687-8683).


Columbus and Cincinnati sue to block HB 6 nuclear bailout fees, citing corruption probe

Oct 27, 2020 5:20 PM

COLUMBUS -- "The lawsuit from Cincinnati and Columbus is the second government lawsuit filed over House Bill 6. Republican Ohio Attorney Dave Yost also has sued, seeking to block the HB6 subsidies from flowing to Energy Harbor, the former FirstEnergy subsidiary that now owns the plans.

But unlike Yost’s lawsuit, Columbus and Cincinnati officials said the new lawsuit seeks to prevent the fees from being collected at all.

'Columbus and Cincinnati are suing so the people of Ohio can keep the money in their own pocket, especially heading into the winter months amid a global pandemic,' said Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, a Democrat who holds an elected position.

In a statement, Yost said of the new lawsuit: 'Every person is a welcome ally in the fight to eradicate the fruit of this poisonous tree. But let’s be careful not to kill other things in the process—unintended consequences are still consequences.'"

-- Andrew J. Tobias, Cleveland.com

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

Oct 26, 2020 2:03 PM

"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

read the full op-ed

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

Oct 22, 2020 8:35 PM

 

"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

Oct 22, 2020 8:24 PM

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!


Ohio Citizen Action Program Director delivers testimony in favor of repealing HB 6

Oct 22, 2020 1:48 PM

 

"My name is Anastazia Vanisko, and thanks for taking the time to put this all together and allowing us to testify. I’ll be testifying today in favor of repealing HB 6.

Through my work canvassing, both door-to-door and over the phone, I’ve spoken with hundreds of people about HB 6 since it was first introduced. There have been two elements present in all these conversations: confusion and disgust. Confusion, for two reasons: a) the very name of the bill is misleading, as a clean air bill wouldn’t raise our electric bills to bail out two coal plants while simultaneously slashing renewable energy standards; and b) our Republican-led legislature has made it clear that its members will live and die by the free market, yet they’re willing to bail out failing power plants without any proof that a bailout is needed. When the people I spoke with managed to get past their confusion, they were disgusted that our General Assembly would even consider such a terrible bill.

I wish I could tell you that people were surprised that HB 6 was being considered, but that wasn’t often the case. Most people saw this as yet another instance of their representatives putting their pocketbooks before their constituents. (Keep in mind, the conversations I’m referencing happened before it came out that a $61 million racketeering scheme put this bill on the books.) We’ve known for a long time that this was the product of corruption and that if legislators were listening to us, it never would have passed the first time around.

It’s not just the fact that they passed HB 6 that proves legislators weren’t listening to their constituents, but also the way they treated members of the general public who urged them not to pass this bill. When myself and other Clevelanders drove down to Columbus last year for the in-person, opponent hearings on HB 6 in spring of 2019, we were there listening to testimony for more than eight hours while we waited our turn. We were there longer than some of the legislators. By the time it was our turn as members of the public to speak, committee members who ultimately voted YES on HB 6 blatantly ignored us. I empathize with high school teachers who need to keep the attention of a room full of teenagers with cell phones, as I imagine it’s similar to what I felt speaking to a committee of elected officials who couldn’t bother to look up from their phones while I told them why I was opposed to HB 6. My fellow Clevelanders were given similar treatment.

Our legislators know that HB 6 is a bad bill that could never have passed without a $61 million push out the gate. It’s time that they start listening to our voices—the voices of the people they were elected to represent—instead of listening to large corporate donors. If they did that, they would know that we want an immediate and full repeal of HB 6.

Thank you for your time."

watch the hearing from October 21st on youtube

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


FBI source in corruption investigation talks opposition to HB 6

Oct 21, 2020 11:04 PM

 

"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 

read or listen to the full article

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

Oct 21, 2020 3:17 PM

"Backers of HB 6 like to say killing the energy efficiency programs saves consumers money because, as of January, a surcharge averaging $3.36 per month no longer will be added to electric bills and the new subsidy for the nuclear bailout will be less than that.

This ignores the fact that energy efficiency — saving energy — saves consumers money. Based on their filings with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, utilities said the efficiency measures saved the average customer $7.71 per month, more than covering the surcharge.

But the quibbling over the surcharges coming on and going off the bills always has ignored the real harm in HB 6, which is that it sends Ohio backward — away from the clean, safe energy sources that promise cleaner air and an opportunity for a manufacturing renaissance — instead, propping up nuclear and coal-fired plants."

-- The Columbus Dispatch Editorial Board 

read the full article