A year ago to the day, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB 6, a gift of a bill to bail out coal and nuclear power. Earlier this week, though, the Republicans that championed the bill are at the center of a major FBI investigation over bribery and racketeering.
DeWine initially stood by the controversial bill despite repeal efforts launched by state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. But now the governor is calling for the HB 6's repeal as well. This whole situation is a messy mess that highlights everything that is wrong with politics, showing how elected representatives are in the pocket of private interests and the power of money ($60 million in this case, to be exact).
The drama started on Tuesday when the FBI arrested Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, lobbyist Neil Clark, political consultant and Householder adviser Jeff Longstreth, and lobbyist Juan Cespede for allegedly taking $60 million in bribery money from a company the FBI has yet to name. All signs point to FirstEnergy, a utility that got a multimillion-dollar windfall as a result of the bill’s passage. The FBI is alleging that this group of Republicans funneled money from the company through Generation Now, a dark money group that supported HB 6 and that Householder secretly ran, according to the arrest documents.
While the secret corruption is bad, there’s also plenty of widespread legal stuff happening right out in the open. Tyler Buchanan, a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal, noted on Twitter that 77 of 99 state representatives and 32 of 33 state senators have taken money from FirstEnergy at some point in their political careers.
If this is all true, then it’s pretty clear Householder didn’t champion the bill because it would benefit his constituents. He championed the bill because he was being paid to. That, of course, puts the entire integrity of the bill in question, which is why other state lawmakers are looking to repeal it. Republicans touted the bill as a measure to support clean air because of a minor investment it would make to solar projects the state had already planned (they even went ahead and called it the “Ohio Clean Air Program”). The heart of the bill, however, was to give FirstEnergy Solutions, which is now Energy Harbor, millions of taxpayer dollars to bail out its failing coal and nuclear plants.
While the secret corruption is bad, there’s also plenty of widespread, totally legal stuff happening right out in the open. Tyler Buchanan, a reporter for the Ohio Capital Journal, noted on Twitter that 77 of 99 state representatives and 32 of 33 state senators have taken money from FirstEnergy at some point in their political careers.
Given all this, repealing HB 6 feels like a no-brainer given all that we know about it now. Apparently, DeWine needed a day to get his head right on the matter.
“While the policy in my opinion is good, the process by which it was created stinks,” DeWine said during a news conference Thursday. “It’s terrible. It’s not acceptable.”
So sounds like the governor still wants to see taxpayers foot the bill of a failing energy company and its ability to continue getting government handouts to run dirty coal plants but without all the bribery and corruption. Got it.
He wants to see the bill replaced through a transparent process. You know what he should do instead of sending money to dirty energy companies? Invest in more clean energy. Work with the federal government to mitigate a toxic nuclear waste site in the heart of the state. Prepare flood prevention plans and strengthen Ohio’s infrastructure for the worsening climate crisis. The state is projected grow warmer and wetter and see more heavy downpours, but DeWine is doing little to brace for all that.
Update, 7/23/20, 9:10 p.m.: Clarifying language has been added to identify who was arrested as part of the bribery case.