Ohio Republicans' SIXTY MILLION DOLLAR Bribery Trial Powered By Nuclear Energy
Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R), when he held the House. Screenshot, NBC4 Columbus on YouTube

The former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and the former head of the state Republican Party went on trial in Cincinnati this week on federal racketeering charges involving a scheme in which they and others were allegedly bribed by FirstEnergy to pass a bill that would bail out two money-losing nuclear plants owned by the company. Former state Speaker Larry Householder and lobbyist Matt Borges, who used to chair the state GOP, are accused along with three others — and "a dark money group called Generation Now" — of taking $60 million in what the AP describes as

an elaborate scheme, secretly funded by FirstEnergy Corp., to secure Householder’s power, elect his allies, pass legislation containing a $1 billion bailout for two aging nuclear power plants, and then vex a ballot effort to overturn the bill with a dirty tricks campaign. [...]

Under a deal to avoid prosecution, Akron-based FirstEnergy admitted to using dark money groups to fund the scheme and to bribing the state’s top utility regulator. Sam Randazzo, at the time the chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, resigned after an FBI search of his home. He has not been charged and denies wrongdoing.

On Wednesday, the trial was temporarily put on hold because one of the jurors tested positive for COVID; it's expected to resume on Monday.

Householder insists this is all just a big misunderstanding and that he looks forward to the trial bringing him "redemption." In opening statements on Monday, however, Assistant US Attorney Emily Glatfelter didn't sound very redeemy, saying that "Larry Householder sold the Statehouse. [...] He ripped off the people he was elected to serve and made backroom deals to exchange his power for money." We hope they've got a notarized thank you note saying "Thanks for the bribe, which I intend to use for unlawful purposes," after the Supreme Court decided bribing elected officials was awesome, actually!

ACTUALLY AWESOME! Supreme Court: Isn't That $175,000 Bribe Really Just $175,000 'Speech'?

Glatfelter explained to the jury that the defendants were charged under RICO, the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, and that the case was "about defendants committing crimes like bribery and money laundering to further their goals."

Householder's lead attorney, Steven Bradley, insisted that Nuh Uh, No He Never, because there wasn't any bribery, just campaign contributions the way God and the Roberts Court intended, saying, "Larry never entered into any corrupt illicit agreement with First Energy. Larry never entered into any promise, no quid pro quo exchange," especially since Householder wasn't stupid enough to notarize that thank you note.

The legislation Householder helped pass, the "Ohio Clean Air Program," bailed out two FirstEnergy nuclear plants that were unable to compete with the price of cheaper natural gas. It would have added surcharges to electric customers' power bills statewide, which would have made the plants profitable again. After the alleged bribery scheme came to light, the bill was partly repealed and the surcharges were never collected.

FirstEnergy pleaded guilty to its part in the racket in 2021, and agreed to pay $230 million in fines. In exchange, the company will be a witness for the prosecution in the bribery trial. On Tuesday, FirstEnergy treasurer Steven Staub testified that in 2016, "The company was just bleeding cash," although Staub also said he was unaware of the alleged money laundering and bribery scheme. The jury also began hearing from an FBI agent who led the investigation into the scheme.

And then there's this fun sideshow, as reported by the Guardian:

Another company that paid $700,000 into Generation Now, American Electric Power, was allowed to charge Ohio electricity customers $1.50 a month to subsidize ailing coal plants it owned. It has not been charged. A spokesman for the company said it “actively participate(s) in the political process in an ethical and lawful manner”.

After the bill passed, Householder and his four co-conspirators are accused of using further millions of FirstEnergy cash to defeat a ballot referendum that would have disarmed major provisions of the bill.

“The millions paid into the entity were akin to bags of cash,” a federal criminal affidavit reads. “They were not regulated, not reported, not subject to public scrutiny.”

There sure does seem to be a lot of cash out there aimed at propping up fossil fuel and nuclear energy producers, like how utilities in several sunny states have lobbied to make home solar more expensive for folks who stay connected to the grid.

LIKE THIS: Dumb New Mexico Hippies Refusing To Burn Their Fair Share Of Coal

In Louisiana, the state Democratic Party last year initially endorsed a candidate for a seat on the Louisiana Public Service Commission who promised to push utility companies to meet their obligations to invest in grid maintenance and to speed up adoption of renewable energy. But then the leadership of the party turned around and funneled contributions from big utilities into the campaign of a longtime supporter of fossil fuel energy, angering climate activists in the party. Surprise! The chair of the party, Katie Bernhardt, is the president of a gas and oil bidness, and may be planning to run for governor. But hooray, the green energy guy won the Public Service Commission seat anyway.

If Householder and Borges are convicted of racketeering, they could face up to 20 years in prison. Maybe they could build solar panels or something useful.

[AP / Guardian / News5 Cleveland]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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