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Marietta can do better than First Energy

By now, everyone has heard of the arrest of Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder and four of his associates. According to the federal criminal complaint, over a three-year period, a “Company A” secretly and illegally funneled over $60 million into a “dark money” organization controlled by Householder. The money was used to influence the 2018 election by providing campaign cash to Householder allies and securing their support for legislation eventually introduced as HB 6. The legislation, which passed in 2019, provides a billion dollars to the company, paid by Ohio citizens in the form of a surcharge on their electric bills.

“Company A” is First Energy, known after its 2018 bankruptcy filing as Energy Harbor and a variety of subsidiaries. The company holds Marietta’s current electric aggregation contract and is almost certain to bid for renewal. As the city prepares to accept bids, it may want to consider certain details from the 82-page federal criminal complaint, which is available online.

In 2016, First Energy stated in a shareholder report that it would seek “legislative and regulatory solutions for generation assets.” Specifically, its two nuclear generating plants in Ohio were losing money.

In March 2017, First Energy began making quarterly payments of $250,000 directly to Larry Householder. The payments continued until this year.

Householder and allies created Generation Now, the enterprise named in the criminal complaint. Generation Now used millions of dollars in secret payments from First Energy as undocumented campaign funds for candidates in the 2018 Ohio elections.

Legislators who received “dark money” from Generation Now voted for HB 6, which was supported by First Energy.

The legislation provides a billion dollars to First Energy, paid from the pockets of Ohio citizens.

When a citizens group sought a ballot initiative to repeal HB 6, First Energy funds were used in an attempt to pay signature collectors $2,500 each and plane fare to stop gathering signatures for the ballot initiative.

First Energy lobbyist Matthew Borges has been charged with racketeering for his role in this conspiracy.

Marietta has worked with First Energy and its representatives for several years now, and our city officials are right to seek the best price on electricity for Marietta residents. However, the bribing of lawmakers and the bilking of taxpayers should not be rewarded with municipal contracts. Given that bidding on the aggregation contract closes on July 31, before any criminal trials can be held, I urge Marietta City Council to reject any electricity aggregation bids by First Energy/Energy Harbor and its affiliated companies. We can do better.

Rebecca Phillips

Marietta

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