FirstEnergy secretly ‘engaged’ Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to lobby President Trump to deliver a public bailout for the utility company’s coal and nuclear power plants in 2017-2018, subpoenaed records released yesterday by the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel show.
Lewandowski never registered as a federal lobbyist during the Trump administration, and has for years denied that he worked for FirstEnergy as the company lobbied to secure a federal bailout at the public’s expense. Lewandowski repeated that denial just yesterday to the Cincinnati Enquirer, which was the first to report on the newly released records.
The Energy and Policy Institute also obtained copies of the records via an Open Records Law request filed with the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC).
In a May 2, 2017 email to FirstEnergy’s CEO Charles Jones, the company’s VP of external affairs Michael Dowling listed “Corey Lewandowski” among the “Outside consultants engaged” to work on FirstEnergy’s “DOE Team” at a time when the Department of Energy was the main target of FirstEnergy’s bailout campaign.
The following month, Dowling received an email about a “Contract for Lewandowski Strategic Advisors, LCC” from Mike Rubino, another Trump campaign veteran who worked with Lewandowski. A copy of the contract was originally attached to the email, but was not included in the records released yesterday.
“Great seeing you on Monday! Corey is waiting for the final ok from POTUS on the meeting,” Rubino said in the email. “Attached is the contract and invoice we talked about on Monday for the new company.”
Other email messages show Jones, Dowling, Lewandowski and Trump campaign official Robert Paduchik celebrated a year later when Trump ordered the Department of Energy to stop the closure of coal and nuclear power plants.
“Well done Bob and Corey,” Dowling responded. “We had to respond fast and we did, thanks to you both!”
Text messages from later that summer show Rubino and Lewandowski arranged an opportunity for Jones to press Trump to deliver on the bailout during a photo op with the president.
“Message delivered,” Jones texted afterwards. “He said, ‘We’re going to do it, period.’”
Trump ultimately failed to deliver the promised bailout, and in 2019 Paduchik supported FirstEnergy’s renewed lobbying campaign to secure bailouts for the company’s nuclear and coal plants in Ohio through House Bill 6.
The records released yesterday are among hundreds of thousands of files FirstEnergy has turned over to the OCC in response to subpoenas issued in four Public Utilities Commission of Ohio cases related to the ongoing federal corruption investigation into the passage of HB 6. Those records include emails, text messages and documents FirstEnergy previously turned over to federal investigators at the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission.
The newly public records confirm that Lewandowski was among the unnamed “consultants with close connections to federal officials” hired by FirstEnergy in 2017 and 2018 described in a “Statement of Facts” that the company agreed to as part of its deal with federal prosecutors last year:
In 2017 and 2018, FirstEnergy Corp. attempted to seek relief for its nuclear power generation facilities through a federal solution for its energy generation business. To further a federal solution, certain FirstEnergy Corp. executives met with federal officials and hired consultants with close connections to federal officials to lobby and assist in securing official action to subsidize the nuclear and coal plants through DOE action and the FERC rulemaking process. FirstEnergy Service also approved a $5,000,000 wire to a 501(c)(4) entity connected to federal official(s), on or about May 1, 2017, shortly after hiring a consultant with close connections to those federal official(s).
Evidence made public earlier this year by Solar United Neighbors and the Maryland Office of the People’s Counsel in a related Maryland Public Service Commission investigation indicates the 501(c)(4) described in the now-deferred criminal case in Ohio is America First Policies, Inc., a dark-money group aligned with Trump.
Trump, Lewandoswki, Paduchik, and Rubino have not been charged in the ongoing federal criminal investigation in Ohio, nor have Jones or Dowling.
Jones and Dowling were terminated by FirstEnergy in 2020 as part of an internal investigation the company launched after the company was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors.
Federal prosecutors charged FirstEnergy with bribery in connection with the money the company paid to influence Householder and Randazzo. The charge did not include the money paid to America First Policies, the 501(c)(4) organization connected to Trump.