Bank records subpoenaed by the Cleveland City Council have revealed previously secret payments to convicted former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s dark money group Generation Now from donors in the fossil fuel industry and multiple other sectors.
Earlier this month, a jury found Householder guilty of participating in a racketeering conspiracy that involved $60 million in bribes paid by FirstEnergy. In return, Householder and several co-conspirators secured a since-repealed $1.3 billion bailout for two nuclear plants owned by a bankrupt FirstEnergy subsidiary through the passage of House Bill 6. The 2019 Ohio law also rolled back the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for electric utilities, standards FirstEnergy had long fought to eliminate.
A jury also found lobbyist Matt Borges guilty of participating in the scheme. Prosecutors had already secured guilty pleas from Generation Now, its president Jeff Longstreth and lobbyist Juan Cespedes before the trial. FirstEnergy reached a deferred prosecution agreement with federal prosecutors in which the utility company admitted it paid the $60 million to influence Householder and agreed to pay a $230 million legal penalty.
Generation Now was at the center of a web of nonprofit and for-profit entities used to conceal FirstEnergy’s funding of the criminal enterprise. Money from FirstEnergy was used to support Householder-backed candidates during the 2018 elections and secure Householder’s return as speaker in early 2019. FirstEnergy then secretly funded multi-million dollar campaigns to pass HB 6 and later block a voter referendum aimed at repealing HB 6 from reaching the ballot. More than half a million dollars was used for Householder’s personal financial benefit.
Shortly after Householder’s arrest and indictment in 2020, the Cleveland City Council authorized an investigation into the murky entities involved in the federal criminal investigation. The investigation was led by the City Council’s then-President Kevin Kelley and publicly issued a number of subpoenas in early 2021, but then went quiet ahead of Kelley’s loss to Justin Bibb in Cleveland’s mayoral election that November.
The Energy and Policy Institute filed a public records request with the City of Cleveland seeking copies of records obtained during the City Council’s investigation. The city’s response included copies of subpoenaed bank records for two Generation Now accounts that the City Council obtained from Fifth Third Bank. Federal investigators used info from the same two accounts in their case against Householder.
The Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) is publishing the Generation Now bank records here for the first time, with account numbers redacted. Included in the collection are copies of monthly bank statements for the two Generation Now accounts, which can be found here and here. Also included are copies of the deposited checks and check payments, as well as details about incoming and outgoing wire payments that the City Council obtained from Fifth Third Bank.
EPI annotated the bank records after reviewing and cross-referencing the information found in each document and compiled a spreadsheet listing the payments received by Generation Now from identifiable sources.
While FirstEnergy was charged by prosecutors, none of the other donors to Generation Now described below have been charged with a crime. The federal corruption investigation remains ongoing, according to a letter U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio Kenneth Parker sent to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio last month.
FirstEnergy provided over 90 percent of Generation Now’s funding
The bank records confirm that FirstEnergy provided $60 million of Generation Now’s more than $64 million in funding, as prosecutors detailed in the Householder case. Most of the money was wired to Generation Now by the FirstEnergy Service Company and Partners for Progress, a dark money group that was solely funded and controlled by FirstEnergy.
A copy of a $400,000 FirstEnergy check to Generation Now that was hand-delivered to Householder during an October 10, 2018 meeting with FirstEnergy lobbyists is included in the bank records.
The name of FirstEnergy’s treasurer Steven R. Staub appears in the signature line. Staub testified during Householder’s trial that his job as FirstEnergy’s treasurer involves processing, not approving, payments made by the utility company.
Other donors from the utility, coal, and gas industries contributed nearly $1.3 million to Generation Now
$700,000 from a dark money group funded by American Electric Power
The bank records also confirm that Empower Ohio, Inc. (also known as Empowering Ohio’s Economy) paid a total of $700,000 to Generation Now, as previously reported by the Energy and Policy Institute. American Electric Power (AEP), a major investor-owned utility company, has publicly admitted that it secretly paid $8.7 million to fund Empower Ohio.
Generation Now deposited a total of six checks from Empower Ohio dated between September 2017 and December 2019. Empower Ohio’s largest payment to Generation Now of $250,000 came in a check dated April 8, 2019, just four days before Householder publicly announced House Bill 6 at a press conference.
AEP is the largest shareholder in the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation, which owns two coal-fired power plants that continue to be subsidized by Ohio ratepayers under unrepealed provisions of HB 6.
AEP is under investigation by the SEC’s Division of Enforcement in connection with HB 6.
$275,000 from coal producer Wayne Boich and a little-known Boich company called Resource Fuels
Resource Fuels wired $250,000 to Generation Now in April of 2018, one of four previously unreported payments from donors in the fossil fuel industry. Householder was asked about the Resource Fuels payment during his trial.
“I don’t know who Resource Fuels are,” Householder testified when asked about the payment by his own defense lawyer at his trial, according to a court reporter’s transcript.
Coal producer Wayne Boich’s name appears on the incorporation records for Resource Fuels in Ohio and Florida, and the Columbus address listed for Resource Fuels in the wire payment details is shared with Boich Companies and other Boich ventures.
Also included in the bank records is a copy of a $25,000 check to Generation Now from Wayne and Cynthia Boich, a 2017 payment first reported by Randy Ludlow in the Columbus Dispatch shortly after Householder’s arrest in 2020.
$250,000 from Karen Buchwald Wright, the then-CEO of Ariel Corporation
Generation Now also received a previously unreported wire payment for $250,000 from the Karen Buchwald Wright Revocable Trust in October of 2018. At the time, Buchwald Wright was the president and CEO of Ariel Corporation, a global manufacturer of compressors utilized by the methane gas industry that was founded by Buchwald Wright’s father during the 1960s.
Buchwald Wright and her spouse Tom Rastin are now involved in The Empowerment Alliance (TEA), a dark money group formed in 2019 by Generation Now fundraiser Brooke Bondey and treasurer Eric Lycan. TEA was behind a Super PAC that spent over $1 million on ads and mailers supporting Republican candidates in Ohio during the 2022 elections. After the elections, the Washington Post reported on emails that revealed Rastin and TEA were involved in pushing legislation that defined methane gas as “green” energy under Ohio law. Governor Mike DeWine signed the “gas is green” bill into law earlier this year, just a few weeks before Householder’s trial began.
$50,000 from Mountain Valley Pipeline LLC
Another previously unknown $50,000 check to Generation Now from “MVP, LLC” is dated October 30, 2019. The check lists a P.O. Box in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania also used for political contributions that Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP) LLC and Equitrans Midstream Corp. made in other states around the same time. The name Janice Brenner, who is Equitrans’ treasurer, appears on the signature line of the check.
Equitrans is the largest of five equity holders in MVP, LLC. The other equity holders include NextEra Energy, Alta Gas, Ltd., Con Ed and RGC Resources, Inc.
$10,000 from Gulfport Energy
A $10,000 check from Gulfport Energy to Generation Now, also previously secret, is dated from May 2018. Gulfport has drilling operations in the Utica Shale in Ohio. Gulfport filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2020, and emerged as a reorganized company the following year.
Labor organizations paid over $1 million to Generation Now
$250,000 from ACT Ohio
Checks from labor organizations deposited by Generation Now included a previously unreported payment of $250,000 from the Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio Foundation made in April of 2018. ACT Ohio is a 501(c)(4) organization associated with the Ohio Building & Construction Trades Council.
Matt Szollosi, the executive director of ACT Ohio, later testified in support of HB 6 at a legislative hearing in 2019.
The Energy and Policy Institute separately obtained a copy of an email that Szollosi sent to contacts at multiple unions on July 22, 2020, two days after Householder’s arrest, in which Szollosi wrote:
Given our significant support for the Speaker the last several years, particularly in early 2018 when he was trying to get over the top in the Speaker’s race, it is likely that we will be contacted at some point for the purposes of the investigation as well as by the media. As far as the media goes, it is quite alright to simply say no comment. In certain instances it is perfectly fine to state that we strongly supported Householder because he demonstrated a true commitment to working class people in Ohio. If and/or when we are contacted by the investigative side, we will tell the truth and fully cooperate.
Our interest in HB 6 was the preservation of the jobs at the plants, both the direct jobs as well as the construction jobs for shutdowns and maintenance. There was no quid pro quo, period…
$260,000 from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America and affiliates
Generation Now deposited a check for $210,000 from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC) in March of 2018 that was previously reported by Kathiann Kowalski for the Energy News Network.
A $25,000 cashier’s check made out to Generation Now in July of 2018 also listed the Indiana Carpenters Political Fund as the remitter. The Indiana Carpenters Political Fund, a tax-exempt 527 political organization, reported $77,550 in total revenue for that year. $75,000 of that total came from the Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters, a UBC affiliate that later reported lobbying on HB 6 in 2019.
$570,000 from AFL-CIO affiliates
AFL-CIO Ohio sent Generation Now a $175,000 check in April of 2018.
AFL-CIO Ohio President Tim Burga was subpoenaed by Householder’s lawyers to testify for the defense at the trial. In a motion to quash the subpoena, Burga’s lawyer revealed AFL-CIO Ohio had received $1.4 million from Generation Now in 2019 to fund the labor organization’s ad campaign opposing a ballot referendum petition campaign that aimed to repeal HB 6. Burga later withdrew his motion, but was not called to testify at the trial.
The political arm of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18, an AFL-CIO affiliate, was the most frequent contributor to Generation Now among the labor organizations. Generation Now received a total of $395,000 from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18’s PAC, paid over nine checks dated between April 2018 and February 2020. Those payments were publicly disclosed in campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.
$733,000 from the nursing home industry
Reporter Jake Zuckerman published a story for the Ohio Capital Journal that first revealed Generation Now had received $135,000 from 55 Green Meadows in 2017 and 2018. 55 Green Meadows is a 501(c)(4) group associated with the Ohio Health Care Association, which represents the nursing home industry in Ohio.
The bank records show the payments from 55 Green Meadows continued beyond 2018. All told, 55 Green Meadows contributed $515,000 to Generation Now paid across fifteen checks dated from October 2017 through April 2020.
As Zuckerman reported, an FBI affidavit filed after Householder’s arrest described a secretly recorded phone call that took place in January of 2018, in which Householder and lobbyist Neil Clark described contributions from payday lenders and nursing homes. The bank records subpoenaed by the Cleveland City Council include a $30,000 check from 55 Green Meadows from October 19, 2017 that matches the affidavit’s description of a $30,000 check received from “another industry’s” 501(c)(4).
Clark was a defendant in the Householder case, but committed suicide near his home in Florida about two years before the trial began.
IGM Investments, which is located at the same Olmstead, North Carolina address as the nursing home company Foundation Health Services, wrote a check for $98,000 to Generation Now in June of 2019.
Health Care Facility Management LLC, which does business as the Communicare Family of Companies, also cut a check for $10,000 to Generation Now in October 2018.
Sports betting interests paid $315,000 to Generation Now
Penn National Gaming, Inc. wrote several checks totaling $125,000 to Generation Now between October 2017 and September 2019.
Jack Entertainment cut two checks totaling $75,000 to Generation Now in March 2018 and September 2019. A $15,000 check from Eldorado Gaming is dated from November 2019.
During Householder’s trial, the jury heard audio from secretly recorded conversations between Clark and undercover FBI agents who posed as real estate developers interested in legalizing sports betting in Ohio. DeWine signed legislation legalizing sports betting in Ohio in December of 2021, five months after Householder’s arrest.
$315,000 from political advertising and lobbying firms
Strategic Media, an ad placement shop that’s part of Republican political consultant Rex Elsass’s firm The Strategy Group, wired $300,000 to Generation Now in August of 2019.
Elsass’s firms were paid millions of dollars by Generation Now, most of which was for HB 6-related political ads that aired in 2019, the bank records show. The Strategy Group also rented office space to Generation Now.
Megan Fitzmartin, who raised money for Householder and later testified at his trial, described Elsass as a member of Householder’s “kitchen cabinet” while under questioning by federal prosecutor Emily Glatfelter at Householder’s trial.
Generation Now also received a check for $2,500 from Joseph P.A. Jarabek, who runs the Columbus-based corporate political consulting firm Jarabek & Company, in August 2017.
The lobbying firm Byers, Minton and Associates wrote a $10,000 check to Generation Now in January 2018. Focused Capitol Solutions, another lobbying firm, cut a check for $2,500 to Generation Now in December 2019.
$210,000 from the telecommunications industry
Charter Communications contributed a total of $125,000 to Generation Now through five checks dated between October 2018 and February 2020.
Clark wrote in a tell-all book that after his arrest, he told federal investigators that “Charter Communications believed and vocalized that they were owed by Householder.”
Clark’s book also described “sister bills” introduced in the Ohio House that benefited “other utilities or the cable industry in return for their silence on HB 6.”
AT&T contributed a total of $75,000 to Generation, paid across four checks dated between April 2018 and March 2020.
The Ohio Cable Telecommunications Association (OCTA) contributed $10,000 in two checks between December 2017 and January 2018.
A 2021 audit report for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) found FirstEnergy’s Ohio utilities improperly included $82,500 in costs connected to the House Bill 6 scheme in pole attachment rates paid by cable and Internet providers to use FirstEnergy’s poles. The OCTA filed comments with the PUCO that generally supported the audit’s finding that FirstEnergy’s utilities included unrelated costs in the pole attachment rates, but the OCTA made no mention of how those costs related to the House Bill 6 scheme.
$60,500 from payday lenders
Generation Now received $60,000 from payday lenders that prey upon the poor with high-interest, short-term loans that come with hefty fees.
The largest of those payments came in the form of a $25,000 check from NCP Finance Ohio, LLC in October 2017.
The FBI affidavit that first laid out the criminal case against Householder described a recorded conversation in which Householder and Clark discussed a $25,000 check written by the president of a payday loan company on October 18, 2017. The date and amount match the check from NCP Finance. The signature on the check is not clearly legible, but the president of NCP Finance is Lee Schear, a top Republican donor in Ohio.
Generation Now also received a total of $28,000 from individuals and corporate entities behind CashMax, including two wire payments for $10,000 each from the Financial Service Center of Ohio and DMP Investments in April of 2018. The remainder came in the form of two checks for $4,000 each from DMP Investments’ CFO John Humphrey and officer Douglass Dwight Pruett, both of Texas, written in August of 2017.
Former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned in April of 2018 while under investigation by the FBI. The investigation included a search warrant seeking communications and information concerning payday lending legislation and bribes.
“Team Householder” members in the Ohio House wrote checks to Generation Now for “Brown Tix” and “Big 10 Tickets”
Generation Now deposited nine checks totaling $1,800 from members of “Team Householder” in February of 2020. Prosecutors used the term “Team Householder” to refer to the individuals who worked for Householder, as well as Householder-backed Ohio House members and candidates who benefited from the influx of secret money from FirstEnergy that Generation Now used to support their campaigns.
The nine checks were all for $200 and were written in January 2020. Eight checks came from “Team Householder” members in the Ohio House, including Householder himself, Jon Cross, Jay Edwards, Douglas Swearingen, Donald Wilkin, Philip Plummer, Jeffrey Lare, and Brian Baldridge. The ninth came from Brian Gray, who worked for Householder.
The check from Edwards included the phrase “Brown Tix” in the memo line. Memos on checks from Householder, Gray, Wilkin, and Plummer mentioned the “Big 10” championship. “Football” was written in the memo line on Balridge’s check.
Others who paid money to Generation Now
Nationwide Mutal Insurance wrote a check for $25,000 to Generation Now in January 2020.
Generation Now received a check for $20,000 from Jim Walton in April 2018. Walton is the son of Walmart founder Sam Walton and currently runs the Arvest Bank Group.
Giant Eagle, which owns a multi-state chain of supermarkets, provided Generation Now with a check for $25,000 in June 2020.
Illinois businessman John R. Burgess and spouse Sharron St. Clair gave a check for $25,000 to Generation Now in November 2019.
Geraldine Warner, a regular contributor to Republican candidates and organizations, contributed $25,000 to Generation Now in February 2019.
Scott D. Farmer, then the CEO of Cintas Corporation, cut a check for $5,000 to Generation Now on March 1, 2019. Farmer still serves on Cintas’ board of directors. A $5,000 check from Robert Coletti, a Cintas director, is dated the same day as Farmer’s check.
A $10,000 check to Generation Now from George R. Joseph is also dated March 1, 2019. Cintas’ annual proxy report for 2019 described Joseph as an in-law of Farmer and Coletti, and said Joseph’s automotive group “engages Cintas for a variety of services.”
The checks from Farmer, Coletti and Joseph listed Generation Now as “℅ Chip Gerhardt” in the memo line. Gerhardt is an Ohio lobbyist who represented Cintas from 2010-2018. He lobbied for multiple clients on HB 6 in 2019.
Rai Services, which is part of the tobacco company R.J. Reynolds, contributed $5,000 to Generation Now in October 2018.
CC Procurement, a marijuana company based in Massachusetts, wrote a check for $1,000 to Generation Now in January 2020.