FirstEnergy has poured money, food, and beverages into the race for governor in Ohio, where Republican candidate Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray have both voiced general support for efforts to bail out nuclear power plants owned by the utility’s bankrupt subsidiaries.

DeWine received a large in-kind contribution of food and beverages for a campaign event from the CEO of FirstEnergy Corp. in October. Outside lobbyists and political operatives employed by the bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions also gave thousands of dollars to Cordray’s campaign last month.

Cordray and DeWine met separately with FirstEnergy at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in September. Both candidates also offered statements supportive of efforts to prop up the plant over the summer, after DeWine made an earlier visit in July. FirstEnergy Solutions announced plans to close Davis-Besse and its Perry nuclear plant in March, unless it receives financial support for the plants from state lawmakers in Ohio.

One bailout plan that FirstEnergy pushed in the Ohio House and Senate could cost consumers $300 million. Ohio’s current governor, Republican John Kasich, has opposed the plan. Politico has reported that the Trump administration recently shelved plans for a federal bailout of faltering coal and nuclear power plants that analysts warned could cost billions of dollars.

The support from DeWine and Cordray offers a political lifeline to FirstEnergy Solutions efforts to secure a bailout for its nuclear power plants; both candidates have remained silent on the key related issue of whether or not they would support a bailout for the utility’s coal plants in Ohio.

Mike DeWine: $12,700 in “Event food and Beverage” from the CEO of FirstEnergy, and more

The DeWine campaign received an in-kind contribution of “Event food and Beverage” valued at $12,700 in October from Charles Jones, the CEO of FirstEnergy Corp. 

FirstEnergy’s political action committee contributed $12,707 to DeWine’s campaign in May, the maximum amount allowed under Ohio’s limits on campaign contributions.

DeWine also received $500 in October from John E. Sununu, the former Senator from New Hampshire who now works as an Adjunct Senior Policy Advisor for Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. The major lobbying and law firm racked up over $15 million in fees and expenses for its work for FirstEnergy Solutions from March 31 to July 31 alone, according to a September filing in the utility’s bankruptcy case.

Akin Gump has billed FirstEnergy Solutions over $720,000 for its state government affairs work on a “potential policy solution” to the closure of the utility’s nuclear power plants in Ohio and Pennsylvania (that total includes $365,278 for March 31 to July 31, another $171,796.50 for August and $183,033.50 for September).

Michael McGarey, director of state outreach for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), contributed $200 to DeWine’s campaign last month, bringing his total contributions to DeWine to $500 for the year. Nuclear Matters, NEI’s advocacy arm, is campaigning in support of FirstEnergy’s nuclear bailout bills in Ohio.

Richard Cordray: $3,000 from political operatives hired by FirstEnergy Solutions to run “an advocacy campaign” in Ohio

Cordray received a total of $3,000 in campaign contributions in October from executives and staff at the Dewey Square Group, which FirstEnergy Solutions hired to “provide management of an advocacy campaign in support of legislation related to nuclear energy in Ohio and Pennsylvania…”

Charles Baker and Michael Whoeley, co-founders of the Dewey Square Group, each gave $1,000 to Cordray’s campaign. Baker and Whoeley have worked on a number of top Democratic presidential campaigns. COO John Giesser gave another $500.

Geisser signed a bankruptcy case filing where the Dewey Square Group disclosed a monthly fee of $98,500 for two of its staff, Jason Cohen and Jonathan Drobis, to work on the FirstEnergy Solutions campaign. Cohen and Drobis each contributed $250 to Cordray’s campaign in October.

The Dewey Square Group is involved in the newly formed Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance, a group “powered by FirstEnergy Solutions” to secure subsidies for its nuclear power plants from state lawmakers.

A bankruptcy case document filed in October by Alvarez & Marsal North America, LLC, which is serving as a restructuring advisor to FirstEnergy Solutions, revealed the firm’s work “with Dewey Square Group to discuss certain nuclear vendors joining the Ohio Clean Energy Jobs Alliance…”

Sitrick & Company, the public relations firm employed by FirstEnergy Solutions, also discussed the launch of the coalition with Drobis of the Dewey Square Group in September. The PR firm helped to draft a thank you note to DeWine after his visit to Davis-Besse in July, and a separate letter to Corday in September.

Richard Cordray: Thousands of dollars from outside lobbyists and attorneys at Akin Gump employed by FirstEnergy Solutions

The Cordray campaign received thousands of dollars in campaign money in October from Akin Gump lobbyists and attorneys, including several employed by FirstEnergy Solutions.

Lobbyist Sean G. D’Arcy contributed $1,000 to Cordray’s campaign last month, and has contributed a total of $4,000 to the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018.

A monthly billing statement filed by Akin Gump in FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy case disclosed that on September 5, D’Arcy traveled from Washington, D.C., to “participate in client meeting at Davis Besse” in Ohio. FirstEnergy officials met with Cordray’s opponent, Mike DeWine, that week at Davis-Besse.

Another Akin Gump filing revealed D’Arcy’s “work related to a candidate meeting in Ohio” on April 11, the same day another Akin Gump lobbyist logged a call to discuss a “Cordray FE visit.”  

Akin Gump lobbyist Henry A. Terhune gave $1,000 to Corday’s campaign in October. Terhune’s work in September included a “mid-term election assessment” for FirstEnergy Solutions.

Scott L. Alberino, an Akin Gump attorney, also gave $1,000 to the Cordray campaign last month, after working for FirstEnergy Solutions on “lobbying issues” in September.

Top photo is of a cooling tower at FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear power plant by Joseph Varnum obtained on Wikipedia CommonsCreative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License 

Posted by Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is the policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Dave has been working at the nexus of clean energy and public policy since 2008. Prior to joining the Energy and Policy Institute, he was an outreach coordinator for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is also an alumnus of the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Protection (now the Climate Reality Project). Dave’s research has helped to spur public scrutiny of political attacks on clean energy and climate science by powerful special interests, such as ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). His work has been cited by major media outlets, such as CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, and he has served as a speaker on panels at national solar industry conferences. Dave holds a MA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire, where he also received a BA in Humanities.