A bribery scandal involving the GOP Speaker of the House in Ohio, four associates, and nuclear power plant owner FirstEnergy Solutions, erupted Tuesday.
The scandal involved $60 million dollars funneled through a phony issue group run by two lobbyists. Generation Now was the vehicle for laundering the money. This issue group ran campaigns in support of the bailout of FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants according to the court affidavit. This $1.3 billion nuclear bail out eventually passed. The new law forces the state’s power customers to fund this bail out through fees on their power bill.
The bribe money provided by FirstEnergy was used for efforts to pass the nuclear bail out, run Householder’s political campaign to become Speaker and paid the conspirators significant sums of money.
Those arrested so far include:
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder
Former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges
Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth
Lobbyist Neil Clark
Lobbyist Juan Cespedes.
On the surface this was an effort by Householder to regain the Speaker’s position and to pass a nuclear bail out law to benefit FirstEnergy.
“The federal complaint describes a years-long bribery campaign to build support for Householder’s bid to become House speaker and then pass the nuclear bailout law with his help. Householder won the speakership in January 2019, and the bailout passed in July 2019. It went into effect in October.”
The entire thing was apparently the idea of the group arrested who approached FirstEnergy.
“DeVillers said there’s a “strong inference” in the complaint that Householder and his allies approached FirstEnergy, rather than the other way around. “This enterprise went looking for someone to bribe them,” DeVillers said.”
So far no one at FirstEnergy has been charged but this may change as the case evolves.
In addition to passing the law, Householder’s phony interest group received another $38 million dollars to foil an effort to put the nuclear bail out law to a public vote. Lobbyist Neil Clark made sure the public effort to collect signatures wouldn’t succeed.
“They also included spending $450,000 in a single day to hire 15 signature collection firms so they had a conflict and could not collect names for a proposed ballot measure to overturn HB6, agents said. The lobbyist was also involved in schemes to bribe workers to stop collecting signatures and provide inside information to Householder allies, the FBI said.”
Lobbyist Juan Cespedes worked on behalf of FirstEnergy in this conspiracy and was directly involved in the effort to squash the ballot initiative.
“Cespedes also coordinated with the enterprise to defeat the ballot referendum after he received word from Borges that groups opposing the bailout had hired firms to collect signatures from voters to put a referendum overturn the legislation on the November 2019 ballot. Cespedes urged the Generation Now to hire all the major firms so the opposition could not, and offered to “up the budget” to Generation Now, the records show. Investigators also recovered documents showing Cespedes was tracking which firms the Generation Now hired.”
Matt Borges, who was working as a lobbyist for NextEnergy bribed someone from a nuclear opposition group $15,000 for information about the effort to put the law to a public vote.
“The affidavit also says that Borges called Cespedes immediately before and after he offered to pay a $15,000 bribe to a member of the opposition group for inside information.”
The strange tale of bribing someone in the referendum group is even stranger in the details.
“To prevent that, Borges sought out a person working for the referendum campaign and requested inside information on the group – for a price. He sought to help the person financially, even offering to pay off debts, the FBI said in a document unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati. “I promise this will be worth your while,” Borges told the person, who was actually working as an informant for the FBI. He paid the informant $15,000, the document said. He also threatened to “blow up” the person’s home if word of the payment ever got out, according to the allegations.
Borges was in similar legal trouble 16 years ago when he was implicated in a financial fraud scandal involving the public to private sector.
The defendants all appear to be out of jail currently but were required to surrender all firearms, passports and to not leave the district they reside in, in Ohio.
Pro nuclear faux environmentalist Michael Shellenberger was intimately active in the effort to convince the public in Ohio to pass the nuclear bail out law. This new set of indictments raises fresh questions about who paid him for his extensive PR work for this cause.
The scandal in Ohio is likely not an anomaly. Questionable nuclear projects, bail outs and publicly funded contracts in the US abound. The potential for other such scandals is significant.
This article would not be possible without the extensive efforts of the SimplyInfo research team
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