FirstEnergy Secretly Paid $2.5 Million to Support DeWine's 2018 Ohio Governor Campaign

FirstEnergy secretly paid $2.5M to support Ohio Gov. DeWine's 2018 campaign, linked to controversial nuclear bailout law. Raises concerns over dark money influence in state politics.

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Ayesha Mumtaz
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FirstEnergy Secretly Paid $2.5 Million to Support DeWine's 2018 Ohio Governor Campaign

FirstEnergy Secretly Paid $2.5 Million to Support DeWine's 2018 Ohio Governor Campaign

New documents reveal that FirstEnergy, an Ohio utility company, secretly paid $2.5 million to support Mike DeWine's successful 2018 campaign for Ohio governor. The payments, which were never publicly disclosed, were funneled through dark money groups affiliated with the Republican Governors Association, such as State Solutions.

FirstEnergy's support for DeWine was linked to the controversial House Bill 6 (HB 6), an energy bailout law that benefited the company by providing subsidies for two nuclear power plants owned by its subsidiary. After winning the election, DeWine signed HB 6 into law in July 2019. "Company executives pushed for the candidate's victory, in part because he would be in a position to sign legislation that included a $1 billion ratepayer bailout of the company's two nuclear power plants," according to the newly released documents.

The secret $2.5 million payment is connected to a larger $61 million bribery scandal involving former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, lobbyist Matt Borges, and others. FirstEnergy admitted to bribing Householder and his associates to secure the passage of HB 6. While DeWine has not been implicated in the bribery scheme, the records show the extent of FirstEnergy's efforts to secretly support his campaign and influence the nuclear bailout legislation.

Why this matters: The revelation of FirstEnergy's secret campaign contributions to Governor DeWine raises serious questions about the influence of dark money in Ohio politics and the role of utilities in shaping energy policy. The scandal highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in campaign finance to ensure that elected officials serve the public interest, not the interests of their corporate donors.

In the wake of the HB 6 scandal, parts of the law have been repealed, but the subsidies for two coal-burning power plants, including one in Indiana, remain in place. Householder was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison for his role in the bribery scheme, while Borges received a 5-year term. DeWine has defended his staff and aides despite the revelations of FirstEnergy's extensive financial ties to his campaign and administration.

Key Takeaways

  • FirstEnergy secretly paid $2.5M to support DeWine's 2018 Ohio governor campaign.
  • DeWine signed HB 6 into law, which provided $1B in subsidies to FirstEnergy.
  • FirstEnergy admitted to bribing former Ohio House Speaker Householder to secure HB 6.
  • The scandal highlights the need for greater transparency in campaign finance.
  • Parts of HB 6 have been repealed, but subsidies for coal plants remain.