“It Will Only Get Worse:” DeWine’s Deep Ties to FirstEnergy Put Him at the Center of Bribery Scandal
August 2, 2021
Columbus, OH — In case you missed it, Brent Larkin for Cleveland.com laid out how harmful recent revelations in the largest public corruption scandal in state history are for Mike DeWine and Jon Husted. Larkin outlines the various ways that DeWine’s longstanding ties to FirstEnergy as well as his connections to the GOP bribery scandal spell trouble for DeWine’s political future.
“It would have been the height of naiveté for DeWine to think he was incapable of being tainted by decades of catering to the dark and dirty influence of the heavy-handed electric utility. And he surely knew FirstEnergy would want something in return for the $1 million it spent on DeWine’s behalf since 2017,
“Knowing the risks, DeWine nevertheless built a gubernatorial team top-heavy with FirstEnergy acolytes. And he gave FirstEnergy what it wanted – the chairmanship of the all-powerful state agency that regulates public utilities,” writes Larkin.
Last last month, the Acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio outlined various ways that DeWine is connected to the scandal, including top-level staff with direct ties to the scandal that DeWine continues to stand behind even today. DeWine has tried to avoid answering questions on his ties to the scandal and what he knew and when, but Ohio voters deserve full transparency and accountability.
The connections between DeWine and the scandal run deeper, however, as he also took hundreds of thousands of dollars from FirstEnergy and even more from executives tied to the scandal. He also took part in a private meeting with FirstEnergy executives in both Oct. 2018 and Dec. 2018, two meetings which he has not discussed the contents of publicly. He also solicited campaign donations for his daughter’s Greene County Prosecutor’s race, and appointed individuals directly connected to the HB 6 scandal to high-level state positions, including Michael Dowling, a former FirstEnergy VP, and Matt Borges and Juan Cespedes, both of whom were charged in the case.
Read more from Larkin HERE and below:
- DeWine’s relationship with FirstEnergy Corp. dates back to the early 1990s. He surely knew support from the Akron-based energy giant, once known to all of Northeast Ohio by that smiling Reddy Kilowatt face, always comes with a price.
- It would have been the height of naiveté for DeWine to think he was incapable of being tainted by decades of catering to the dark and dirty influence of the heavy-handed electric utility. And he surely knew FirstEnergy would want something in return for the $1 million it spent on DeWine’s behalf since 2017.
- Knowing the risks, DeWine nevertheless built a gubernatorial team top-heavy with FirstEnergy acolytes. And he gave FirstEnergy what it wanted – the chairmanship of the all-powerful state agency that regulates public utilities.
- But it’s now indisputably clear the governor’s 2019 appointment of Sam Randazzo to the powerful post as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio was an enormous mistake.
- Most damaging to DeWine was that, in its admission of wrongdoing, FirstEnergy said it paid a $4.3 million bribe to Randazzo weeks before DeWine named Randazzo to the powerful PUCO job.
- And as detailed in a July 25 story by Plain Dealer and cleveland.com reporter Andrew J. Tobias, Justice Department documents include damning text messages between former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones and Randazzo that provide circumstantial evidence of motives that were far less than pure.
- Strangely, DeWine has consistently stopped short of criticizing Randazzo, at times praising him and regularly saying he was unaware of the $4.3 million payment from FirstEnergy when he named Randazzo the state’s top utility regulator.
- But FirstEnergy’s admission that it paid a $4.3 million bribe to the man DeWine put in charge of the Public Utilities Commission and, by extension, of the state Power Siting Board will surely complicate his path to a second term as governor.
- DeWine has put himself in political peril. If the indictments continue, it will only get worse.