Mike DeWine’s Appointment of Sam Randazzo Kept Money Out of Ohioans’ Pockets
November 9, 2021
Columbus, OH — In case you missed it, The Ohio Capital Journal released new text messages today showing the former top utility regulator (and Mike DeWine appointee) helped FirstEnergy line its own pockets at the expense of hard-working Ohioans. The new messages put Shady Sam back in hot water, showing he provided FirstEnergy a myriad of favors from inside the DeWine administration, including dropping a few key sentences into the 2019 state budget that saved FirstEnergy millions of dollars and prevented Ohioans from receiving refunds based on the major profits the company received. DeWine appointed Randazzo to lead PUCO despite warnings about his close ties to Big Energy — close ties that ended up costing Ohioans dearly.
“PUCO’s stated mission is to ensure Ohioans can access utility services like electric distribution, in a monopolistic market, at fair prices. The texts, however, suggest that PUCO’s chairman worked behind the scenes so utilities could pocket hefty margins from captive customers instead of refunding them,” writes Jake Zuckerman with The Ohio Capital Journal.
“While Sam Randazzo was helping FirstEnergy keep money out of the pockets of hard-working Ohioans, Mike DeWine was praising Randazzo for the ‘good work’ he was doing. Ohioans deserve a government that is looking out for them, not big, special interests. It’s time for a new direction for Ohio,” said Matt Keyes, spokesperson for the Ohio Democratic Party.
You can read more from Ohio Capital Journal here and below:
- Ohio’s top utility regulator quietly lobbied lawmakers to include a provision in the state budget that saved tens of millions for FirstEnergy Corp., text messages from company executives show.
- Court records indicate prosecutors have mostly focused on two outputs from Randazzo to benefit FirstEnergy: his backstage role shaping HB 6, and his steering of PUCO decisions.
- The obtained text messages, however, suggest Randazzo also helped convince lawmakers to slip into the 2019 budget a short few sentences worth millions to FirstEnergy.
- “Senate kept SEET in — thanks to ty and Sam Randazzo,” FirstEnergy Senior Vice President of External Affairs Michael Dowling texted to the company’s CEO Charles Jones on June 19, 2019, according to messages provided to The Ohio Capital Journal.
- The texts don’t identify “ty.” However, lobbying records show FirstEnergy’s director of state affairs, Ty Pine, registered to lobby on the budget.
- PUCO’s stated mission is to ensure Ohioans can access utility services like electric distribution, in a monopolistic market, at fair prices. The texts, however, suggest that PUCO’s chairman worked behind the scenes so utilities could pocket hefty margins from captive customers instead of refunding them.
- The change allowed FirstEnergy, technically the parent company of three Ohio utilities, to group its three subsidiaries together in determining whether their profits were “significantly excessive.”
- This allowed FirstEnergy’s Ohio Edison utility, which serves more than 1 million residents, to run up what its critics call a significantly excessive profit margin, so long as lower returns from the other two brought down the aggregate rate.
- “FirstEnergy has used the SEET law change to avoid customer refunds and also to obfuscate what Ohio Edison’s earnings are, so that interested parties, regulators, and policymakers cannot determine how much excessive profit they are keeping,” wrote two consultants in a 2020 memo for the Ohio Manufacturers Association, which represents large-scale electricity customers.
- The obtained text messages add new detail alongside other previously known Randazzo interventions in PUCO cases and lobbying lawmakers to FirstEnergy’s benefit.