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Speaker of Ohio House Arrested in Bribery Scheme by Nuclear Power Plant Owners

2020-07-21

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested on Tuesday morning, hours ahead of a planned announcement of a $60 million bribe investigation by federal prosecutors. Householder is seen here in March 2019.  Associated Press

The NPR (National Public Radio) website published an article July 21 about this man, who was arrested along with four others by the FBI this morning “in connection with a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly involving state officials and associates.”

The scheme involved Generation Now, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit secretly controlled by Mr. Householder, which obtained nearly $2 million from a company described in the indictment as “Company A”, which in fact is “Energy Harbor” (previously FirstEnergy Solutions) to support his and the others’ candidacies for State House seats.

The money flowed between March 2017 and March 2020.  Some of it was also spent on personal expenses by the alleged offenders.  An opponent of the bill estimated the actual cost to have been $15 million.

After obtaining the Speakership, Mr. Householder pushed through a law that provided “bailout” money to the company, which operated nuclear power plants, and gutted subsidies to renewable energy projects:

Last year’s nuclear bailout law tacked on a charge to residents’ power bills, sending $150 million a year to the nuclear power plants. They are owned by the company Energy Harbor, which was previously known as FirstEnergy Solutions.  The law also included an additional subsidy for two coal plants.

By the way, Mr. Householder is a Republican.  Company A is expected to be indicted in the near future.

This is only the tip of the iceberg.  Lobbyists for numerous companies operate hand-in-glove with government regulators.  For example, Polaris, a company which makes off-road vehicles, engaged in a scheme with lobbyists that involved federal officeholders (elected by the people) who made personal appeals to regulators who eventually provided them with exemptions from tariffs for parts such as aluminum wheels (which could have been made in the US) imported from China.

The scheme by Polaris is apparently perfectly legal, but involves people like  Democratic Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, who personally contacted the office of the US Trade Representative to obtain special treatment for Polaris.  Others, like  Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, who opposes tariffs, wrote numerous letters on behalf of other companies seeking relief.

The reason for this activity?  Campaign donations from the companies involved.  A quid pro quo cannot directly be established, so laws do not appear to have been broken.  This is the process of lobbying for one’s constituents that is a large part of Congress-people’s work.  People who make large monetary contributions to political campaigns receive special favors, while those who cannot afford to pay get little or no attention.

This is a perversion of the process of representation which is so common that it is impossible to control by investigating individual cases.  There is a cost to this form of government: the people elected to high office, whether state or federal, do nothing for people who cannot afford to contribute to their campaigns.  As a result, the voters receive nothing but good wishes from the people they elect, and the rich people and companies who bankroll their campaigns get special treatment, including relief from taxes and “burdensome” regulations.

This is why poor people and minorities still suffer at the hands of those who are supposed to take care of them.  One possible answer?  Public financing of election campaigns, free airtime for people who qualify in low-level contests like primaries, and prohibiting contacts between regulators and Congress-people.  We will soon discover what laws, regulations, and taxes really do when they are applied equally across the board to all citizens and companies.  Perhaps equal treatment would induce Congress to pass laws that equally affect everyone.

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