Monday, February 12, 2024

Four long years since the shocking revelations of the $61 million bribery scandal surrounding House Bill 6 shook our state to its core we saw the indictments of former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones and former Senior Vice President of External Affairs Michael Dowling. “The Jones Racket,” as they were dubbed by Attorney General David Yost, orchestrated millions of dollars of bribes to former Public Utilities Commission Chairman Sam Randazzo, who faced additional charges today. A combined 27 felony counts have been issued against the three. Randazzo, Dowling and Jones all pleaded "not guilty."

The days of FirstEnergy executives denying their wrongdoing and escaping justice may finally come to an end, yet Ohio consumers continue to pay for the coal plant subsidies secured through illegal bribes and intimidation.

Those responsible for the dollars flowing around House Bill 6 and the attack on the regulatory structure that accompanied it may have been exposed, but no changes have resulted that protect consumers or the credibility of our state government.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Sam Randazzo was charged in an 11-count indictment related to the $61 million scandal surrounding House Bill 6, uncovered in July of 2020. 

He could face up to 20 years if convicted.

Ohio Citizen Action has been a vocal opponent of House Bill 6, a controversial energy bill that was passed in Ohio in 2019. The bill provided a bailout for nuclear and coal power plants in the state, while reducing incentives for renewable energy sources. Ohio Citizen Action has argued that the bill harms consumers and the environment.

In July 2020, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others were arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering in connection with a $61 million bribery scheme aimed at passing House Bill 6. The U.S. Attorney David DeVillers called it "likely the largest money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.The scandal rocked Ohio politics and led to calls for Householder's resignation.

Since his arrest in July 2020, Householder had refused to bow to calls for him to voluntarily resign.  After almost a year of inaction, the Ohio House voted 75-21 to expel indicted former House Speaker Larry Householder on June 16, 2021.

Ohio Citizen Action was one of several organizations that called for the repeal of House Bill 6 in the wake of the scandal. The organization argued that the bill was tainted by corruption and that it should be repealed.

There was more than $2 billion riding on whether HB6 remained Ohio law. The law required payments by customers across Ohio:

  • $1.3 billion to subsidize nuclear power plants owned by Energy Harbor, through 2027;
  • $444 million to subsidize coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp. through 2030;
  • $355 million in ‘decoupling’ revenues to FirstEnergy through 2024.

In October 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill that partially repealed House Bill 6. The new law eliminated the bailout for nuclear plants, but kept other provisions of the original bill intact. Ohio Citizen Action criticized the partial repeal as insufficient and continued to call for the full repeal of the bill.

When Ohioans were shut out of committee hearings, we worked with the Ohio Environmental Council, The Ohio Sierra Club and others to host virtual public hearings.  

FirstEnergy finally admitted in July 2021 that it paid millions of dollars to elected state officials so they would pursue nuclear bailout legislation and other policies. FirstEnergy agreed to pay a $230 million fine for bribing former House Speaker Larry Householder and former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio chairman Sam Randazzo.  According to the deferred prosecution agreement, FirstEnergy and one of its subsidiaries together paid more than $61 million to the dark money nonprofit which the company knew was operated for the benefit of Larry Householder.

Court filings confirmed that FirstEnergy paid a $4.3 million bribe to former Public Utility Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo in exchange for Randazzo’s help developing a strategy and legal language for House Bill 6. Randazzo was forced to step down as PUCO chairman after an FBI-raid on his home.

More about Sam Randazzo and the PUCO at watchingPUCO

On March 9, 2023, a federal jury found Larry Householder and Matt Borges guilty of felony racketeering charges in connection with the billion-dollar utility bailout.

The scandal and Householder's trial have exposed deep corruption in the state's political system and has damaged public trust in Ohio's government. The trial has also raised questions about the role of money in politics and the influence of special interests on the legislative process. The costly coal subsidies and provisions gutting our clean energy standards implemented by House Bill 6 remain in effect today, costing ratepayers millions every day and dragging down economic growth.

On June 29, 2023 the maximum sentence was handed down to hold Householder accountable for his actions and bring him to justice. The very next day, former Ohio GOP Party Chairman Matt Borges received a five-year sentence. 

We continue to call for a full repeal of House Bill 6

House Bill 6 has forced Ohioans to pay more than $140.4 million in subsidies to bail out the OVEC coal plants: The Kyger Creek coal plant in Gallia County, Ohio, and Clifty Creek coal plant in Indiana. Over that same period the two plants have spewed more than 17 million tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

The Householder conviction could have far-reaching consequences for Ohio politics. One could be that we could finally repeal the OVEC coal subsidies.