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Holding Government Officials, Lobbyists and Corporate Management Accountable to the Public
Updated: 1 week 23 hours ago

Ohio convictions end one chapter of long-running corruption saga

Fri, 03/17/2023 - 09:01

The conviction of former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and state Republican Party chairman Matt Borges in a $61 million bribery trial ends just one chapter in a long-running saga of corruption in Ohio that Checks & Balances Project has uncovered over the last decade.

At the heart of the scandal is FirstEnergy, a fossil fuel-dominated utility that desperately needed a $1.3 billion bailout for its uncompetitive nuclear power and coal plants.

Prosecutors successfully detailed how $61 million was funneled into accounts controlled by Householder for his political and personal use. Much of that money was spent fighting a statewide ballot proposal that would have overturned HB6, the bill that bailed out the power plants.

Although FirstEnergy was not identified by the FBI as the company behind the bribes, the Justice Department did note that FirstEnergy agreed to pay a $230 million fine for “conspiring to bribe public officials.”

Ohio public officials have spent much of the last 10 years blocking attempts to promote renewable energy in the state, often at the behest of fossil-fuel interests.

“The Randazzler”

Sam Randazzo, Ohio’s former top energy and utility regulator, was a longtime partner at the law firm of McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC. Nicknamed the “The Randazzler” for his extensive connections to state politicians, Randazzo spent decades regularly attacking energy efficiency and renewables while promoting the fossil fuel industry. He was described by his firm as the chief guide on Ohio utility legislation.”

During his 10-year service on the Public Utilities Commission Nominating Council, Randazzo was close to Householder. He also had longstanding ties to another disgraced former Speaker, Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned amid an FBI investigation into his “lavish lifestyle” and “relationships with lobbyists and donors.”

Ten days after Householder was elected House speaker on January 7, 2019, Randazzo resigned from the PUC Nominating Council, and Householder replaced him with Randazzo’s business partner Scott Elisar. Nominating Council Chair Michael Koren, a lobbyist for FirstEnergy’s $1.3B bailout bill HB6, nominated Randazzo to be chair of the PUC. And on February 4, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Randazzo’s appointment.

As PUC Chair, Randazzo has defended FirstEnergy $1.3 billion bailout of uncompetitive nuclear power and coal plants and favored polluting fossil fuels and utilities over energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Company admits bribes

In 2021, FirstEnergy admitted in a deferred prosecution agreement with the Justice Department that it paid Randazzo $4.3 million in bribes. The company said Randazzo aided their effort to shape regulations that helped them save hundreds of millions of dollars while he led the PUC.

Randazzo also worked with William Seitz, a Republican Ohio legislator who long sought to dismantle the state’s renewable energy requirements.

Seitz: No regrets

When reached by C&BP, Seitz said he had no regrets about supporting HB6, despite FirstEnergy’s conduct and the convictions of Householder and Borges.

“No, I do not,” Seitz said in an email. “The bill saves the ratepayers $2.3 billion over its life, per the Legislative Service Committee, the official arbiter of bill fiscal impacts. That sum increased to $3.4 billion after we repealed the nuclear subsidy and the decoupling language, again per LSC (not me).”

Other analysts have challenged the LSC estimates, however.

Seitz, who was the first defense witness to testify for Householder. During the trial, he said he backed HB6 as part of an effort to protect the diversity of Ohio’s electric-generation system, which included coal and nuclear plants.

He told C&BP he had no regrets about his testimony.

“I was subpoenaed to testify and did so truthfully,” he told C&BP. “I voted to remove Householder as speaker (in fact, I made the motion) but I voted against his removal as a House member because you are innocent until proven guilty and because his conduct did not fit the statutory description of ‘disorderly conduct.’ Finally, I cannot speak to First Energy’s conduct because I had nothing to do with Generation Now or any of the other 501(C)(4)’s mentioned in the trial.”

Seitz, the current House majority leader, has had a long and sometimes controversial history as a legislator. In 2018, C&BP reported on his comments at a goodbye celebration for the chief of staff of Ohio’s departing House speaker.

The March 18, 2018 report said: “When Seitz took the podium at the event, he joked about former state Sen. Cliff Hite, who resigned last October after admitting that he had “sometimes asked for hugs and talked with [a state employee] in a way that was not appropriate for a married man, father and grandfather like myself.” Yet, a complaint by the employee said she had rejected Hite’s advances more than a dozen times over two months.

“Seitz, at the microphone, declared that Hite’s story could be set to Marvin Gaye’s song, ‘Let’s Get It On.’ Pausing for laughter, he added, “Or better yet, ‘The Answer Is Blowing in The Wind.’” He demeaned another female colleague in the legislature, saying she wears a “tin-foil hat.”

“At least one female legislator in attendance walked out. An Ashtabula County Republican candidate for state treasurer, along with four female Democratic legislators, have called for Seitz to resign. The husband and campaign manager for a female Republican state Senator called Seitz and Sen. Matt Huffman, who had also made inappropriate comments, “drunken bullies.”

Leaving the event, Seitz fell and broke his ankle.”

You may also want to read:

Powerful Lobbyist Steered Seitz Effort to Block Ohio Wind Power Jobs

Ohio PUC Chair Randazzo’s Ties to Players in $61M FirstEnergy Scandal Raise Questions

Randazzo Secretly Bought 5 Ohio Properties Starting in 2013


Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.

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Categories: F. Left News

Second group follows C&BP in filing FEC complaint against Santos

Thu, 01/12/2023 - 06:49

A second watchdog group has followed the Checks & Balances Project (C&BP) in filing a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., and his campaign treasurer connected to potentially false statements in his campaign accounts.

The Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed its complaint Jan. 9, claiming that Santos hid did the true source of campaign and illegal spent money donated to his campaign.

The CLC complaint followed C&BP’s December 29 complaint, which cited the $705,000 allegedly lent by Santos to his 2002 campaign – as well as other financial disclosure reports that showed that Santos had only a fraction of that mount in assets.

Starting on Dec. 19, The New York Times and other news organizations have published multiple reports about the variety of lies Santos told about his education, business relationships and family relationships during his 2022 campaign. On Wednesday, the Times published an article about the lies Santos told Long Island Republican leaders in 2020 and included a copy of the fake resume he gave them.

Santos has acknowledged many of those lied, but he has not commented on many of the alleged financial misstatements. Some reports have shown the Santos campaign has filed hundreds of finance statements that showed $199.99 in payments, the maximum statements allowed without receipts.

Meanwhile, two Democratic House members from New York, Ritchie Torres and Daniel Goldman, filed official complaints with the House Ethics Committee against Santos, and a series of local Republican officials, including a fellow House member, have called on Santos to resign.


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Categories: F. Left News

Checks and Balances Project files FEC complaint against Rep.-Elect George Santos

Thu, 12/29/2022 - 06:08

The Checks and Balances Project (C&BP) has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission seeking an investigation into the finances of the successful 2022 campaign of Rep.-Elect George Santos, R-N.Y.

Santos’ campaign reported receiving $705,000 in loans from the candidate for the 2022 campaign, but recent reports in the New York Times show no signs that Santos had enough resources to lend his campaign that much money.

That raises the issue that Santos received funds from individuals or organizations in excess of federal campaign donation limits or that he failed to report the source of those donations, which would be a violation of federal campaign law.

Federal campaign finance laws exist to ensure that the public knows the source of money supporting the campaigns of federal candidates in order to help determine if elected officials are serving the interests of their donors, not the people they represent.

C&BP believes accurate reporting of campaign donations is essential to a well-informed electorate. Over the years, C&BP has reported the use of dark money in political campaigns.

Santos admits lying about his resume

Following the Dec. 19 Times report about his false claims about his education and employment history, Santos has given a few interviews in which he acknowledged lying about his education and jobs.

However, he declined to provide details of how he managed to donate so much money to his campaign when his previous financial disclosure form listed an income of only $55,000 a year.

“There is a very real possibility that George Santos committed financial crimes. In 2020, he reported an income of $55,000, yet two years later he’s wealthy enough to contribute $700,000 to his campaign?” Nassau County Legislator Joshua Lafazan told CBS News.

Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks and Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.

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Categories: F. Left News

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