Federal prosecutors on July 21 arrested the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry Householder, and four lobbyists and political consultants for their involvement in an alleged $61-million corruption and racketeering scheme aimed at guaranteeing passage of H.B. 6, the Ohio Clean Air Program Act—the measure that rescued Ohio’s Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants from premature closure. If convicted, Householder et al. face up to 20 years in prison.
Signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine on July 23, 2019 (NN, Aug. 2019, p. 9), H.B. 6 established a seven-year program to charge the state’s electricity consumers fees to support payments of about $150 million annually to the plants’ operator, Energy Harbor Corporation, then known as FirstEnergy Solutions. FES had announced in March 2018 that it would be forced to close Davis-Besse and Perry without some form of support from the state.
The charges: According to the 82-page criminal complaint, from March 2017 to March of this year, Householder and his associates received more than $60 million from “Company A entities”—reportedly FES and an affiliate—through Generation Now, a purported 501(c)(4), which is the Internal Revenue Services’ designation for a tax-exempt social welfare organization. In exchange for the payments, “Householder’s Enterprise” helped pass H.B. 6 and then worked to “corruptly ensure” that the bill would not be repealed by a ballot initiative organized by H.B. 6 opponents.
“Householder’s Enterprise then used the bribe payments to further the goals of the enterprise, which include (1) obtaining, preserving, and expanding Householder’s political power in the state of Ohio through the receipt and use of secret payments; (2) enriching and benefiting the enterprise, its members, and associates; and (3) promoting, concealing, and protecting purposes 1 and 2 from public exposure and possible criminal prosecution,” the July 17 complaint stated.
The prosecution: “This is likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio,” said U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, whose office will be leading the prosecution of the case. “This was bribery, plain and simple. This was a quid pro quo. This was pay-to-play.”
Reaction: Governor DeWine has issued a statement asking Householder to step down. “I am deeply concerned about the allegations of wrongdoing in the criminal complaint issued today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” DeWine said. “Every American has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Because of the nature of these charges, it will be impossible for Speaker Householder to effectively lead the Ohio House of Representatives; therefore, I am calling on Speaker Householder to resign immediately.”
In an op-ed published in the Columbus Dispatch, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio) said, “There is much to be learned in the coming days about the latest apparent pay-to-play scheme in the Ohio statehouse. Ohioans deserve honest and visionary leadership. The arrest of the Republican Speaker of the Ohio House . . . undermines public confidence and underscores the corrosive impact money has on our politics. While these matters are adjudicated, Ohioans should demand a top-to-bottom reform of Ohio's ethics and campaign finance system to put an end to pay-to-play in the Buckeye State.”
In addition, various media outlets are reporting calls for a repeal of H.B. 6. According to the Toledo Blade, three Democrats from northeast Ohio, Reps. Michael O’Brien and Gil Blair and Sen. Sean O’Brien, were to introduce legislation to that end on July 23, as would two Republicans, Reps. Mark Romanchuk and Laura Lanese. Also, DeWine has called for H.B. 6 to be repealed and replaced, according to Reuters.
ANS statement: Craig Piercy, the executive director/chief executive officer of the American Nuclear Society, issued a statement on behalf of ANS regarding the Ohio matter. The statement is available here.