The timing of a 2017 meeting with Larry Householder listed on Mike DeWine’s calendar raises new questions about when the Ohio governor first knew about Householder’s secret financial relationship with FirstEnergy, which is now at the center of a federal racketeering case that’s made headlines around the nation.
DeWine met with Householder on May 15, 2017, according to a copy of DeWine’s calendar obtained from the Ohio Attorney General’s office via a public records request from the Energy and Policy Institute. DeWine was Attorney General at the time of the meeting; he announced his campaign for governor a month later.
Two days after the meeting, on May 17, FirstEnergy secretly wired $250,000 to Generation Now Inc., according to a detailed 82-page federal criminal complaint against Householder that was first made public last summer.
The criminal complaint referred to the sender of the money as “Company A Service Company,” but FirstEnergy has since admitted in court filings that the FirstEnergy Service Company paid $250,000 to Generation Now on May 14, 2017, which would place the payment one day before DeWine’s meeting with Householder.
FirstEnergy also admits it paid $250,000 to Generation Now in March of 2017, about two months before the meeting. Those admissions by FirstEnergy came in response to related lawsuits filed by Ohio ratepayers, as captured in the screenshot below:
DeWine’s calendar (pictured below) listed the location of the meeting as 65 East State Street, Suite 2540, a Columbus address that Householder’s campaign paid to sublet from the Strategy Group, a firm helmed by political consultant Rex Elsass that also worked on DeWine’s campaign for governor.
The same address was later listed as the address for Generation Now and its principal officer JPL & Associates on the group’s annual Form 990 report to the IRS for 2017 (pictured below). JPL & Associates is the name of the consulting firm run by Jeff Longstreth, Householder’s longtime political strategist.
Longstreth and Generation Now were both indicted alongside Householder last year, and have since pleaded guilty to participating in a racketeering conspiracy. Householder is fighting the charges. The Ohio House, controlled by Republicans, voted earlier today to expel Householder from office.
At the time of the May 2017 meeting, DeWine was raising money for his widely anticipated run for governor. Householder was a rank-and-file state representative plotting to reclaim his old job as speaker, which he left in 2004 after facing an earlier, unrelated investigation by the FBI.
Prosecutors in the current case against Householder say the racketeering conspiracy he’s charged with participating in involved $60 million that was secretly paid to Generation Now by an energy company identified in the criminal complaint as Company A, though the evidence presented in the case made it clear that Company A was FirstEnergy. The money helped Householder regain the speakership in 2019. Later, Householder and five other defendants originally charged in the case used the money to secure and defend House Bill 6, which DeWine signed into law in 2019. The new law forced ratepayers to fund a bailout for two nuclear power plants in Ohio long sought by FirstEnergy. It also provides bailout money for coal plants and rolled back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards for electric utilities.
FirstEnergy now admits its service company was the source of $56.6 million that flowed to Generation Now starting in 2017, when FirstEnergy was already aggressively lobbying to pass legislation to subsidize the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants in Ohio.
FirstEnergy has not been charged in the case, but has been subpoenaed, and the utility company is seeking to reach a deferred prosecution agreement with prosecutors.
DeWine has not been charged or directly implicated in any wrongdoing in the case, but has been drawn into the broader political scandal over HB 6, as evidence has surfaced revealing his own secret fundraising from FirstEnergy and American Electric Power, another utility that benefited from the coal subsidies included in the bailout bill.