FirstEnergy Solutions is facing heightened scrutiny as Ohio politicians grapple with allegations of racketeering in connection to a nuclear bailout law passed last year.
The energy company has donated thousands to campaigns and candidates across the political spectrum in recent years, including several Northeast Ohio legislators who supported House Bill 6, according to documentation filed with the Ohio Secretary of State.
FirstEnergy’s political action committee (PAC) has donated a total of $3,500 to state Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) since the start of 2019. Now Upchurch plans to donate those funds.
“With what’s going on, I don’t feel comfortable keeping the contribution,” Upchurch said. “I have full intentions of donating it to charity.”
While he is looking into charity options, Upchurch also plans to co-sponsor legislation that would repeal the nuclear bailout law.
“If we’re going to pass comprehensive energy legislation, it cannot be fueled by allegations of corruption,” Upchurch said. “We’ve got to do this right.”
Upchurch is not the only Ohio official donating to charity in light of the $60 million public corruption racketeering conspiracy case. Gov. Mike DeWine says that any money donated to his campaign by someone charged in the case will be donated to charity, although he hasn't given specific details on how much or where.
State Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) has already donated $1,000 to a Lake County Heating Energy Assistance Program, which assists residents who are having difficulty paying utility bills.
“Unlike what has been alleged about some of my colleagues and suggested within the media today, to be clear, I have received no personal benefit because of my vote for or because of my actions on HB6 or any other legislation I have voted on,” Rogers told ideastream via email.
Rogers received small donations, totaling $850, from FirstEnergy in 2017 and 2018.
“My vote was an effort to prevent the adverse economic consequences to the region and the tremendous financial losses faced by the employees and their families, the respective communities and area service providers, in the event the Perry and Davis-Besse Power plants ceased to operate,” Rogers said. “I have no qualms about revisiting the legislation to address any of the perceived negatives in the bill as enacted and to be frank would be supportive of any efforts to do so.”
State Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord), an HB6 co-sponsor, received a total of $13,300 from a FirstEnergy PAC in a series of donations made between 2018 and February of this year. Callender also received more than $7,000 from the Friends of Larry Householder committee.
FirstEnergy’s PAC also donated to state Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and state Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) multiple times between October 2018-April 2020. Galonski received four donations totaling $4,000, and Patton received five donations for a total of $6,100. Patton also received a one-time donation of $2,000 from the utility PAC in 2016.
State Rep. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield) received $2,500 from FirstEnergy’s PAC between October 2018-August 2019, as well as roughly $10,221.85 from the Friends of Larry Householder in 2018 – two $5,000 donations and one for $221.85.
The energy PAC also contributed $3,000 to state Rep. Dick Stein’s (R-Norwalk) campaign between October 2018-March 2020.
Other representatives who received contributions from a FirstEnergy PAC and voted in support of HB6 include state Rep. Stephen Hambley (R-Brunswick), state Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) and state Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson). A majority of the contributions to the Hambley and Patterson campaigns were made in 2016, while the Kick campaign received one $1,000 donation in October 2019.
The energy bill at the heart of the scandal sends $150 million a year to the Davis-Besse and Perry power plants, which were owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. That company, originally a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., emerged from bankruptcy protection earlier this year and is now known as Energy Harbor.