Several valley lawmakers denounce campaign contributions from First Energy
Some Valley lawmakers, from both parties, are angrily denouncing reports that appear to link them to what has been called the largest fraud in Ohio's history.
It all centers around a flurry of cash that First Energy may have had earmarked for lawmakers just days before the scandal broke over alleged payments to Ohio's former House speaker and others.
On Friday, a press release sent out from a democratic group, Progress Ohio, led with the line: "Mahoning Valley GOP Candidates Implicated in New FirstEnergy Scandal Analysis.'
The claim is based on a recent First Energy campaign finance report, that shows Republican Senator Mike Rulli and Representative Al Cutrona both received one-thousand dollar donations. Those donations, while completely legal, came just days before Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was indicted for allegedly taking bribes in exchange for pushing a bill that would take money from customers to prop up failing nuclear plants
"First Energy hates me. I lead the opposition. I was the leader," said Rulli.
Rulli said while he received the money, it was immediately donated to Second Harvest Food Bank. He also notes that he voted against House Bill 6, which the scandal centers around.
"They did it to smack me in the face, they wanted to show who was the victor and who was the spoils," claims Rulli.
Cutrona said he never received the campaign donation, wasn't in office at the time House Bill 6 was in play, and questions the misinformation.
"I really believe this is just an aim at a seat, and when I say 'they' I'm really referring to the radical left, they're really trying to collect several seats and they're taking aim at mine," said Cutrona.
And it's not just Republicans caught up in the mix. On Friday, a letter sent to the Secretary of State was signed by thirteen House Democrats, who also are listed as receiving money, including Michele Lepore-Hagan said the finance report "contains dramatically inaccurate information."
"We're demanding the Secretary of State open an investigation and get to the bottom of this," said Lepore-Hagan.
A statement from First Energy said:
"After several months of limited contributions due to the lack of fundraising events during the coronavirus shutdown, the FirstEnergy Political Action Committee (FEPAC) resumed contributions to Republican and Democrat candidates and officeholders in July 2020. FEPAC provides full disclosure and a monthly report of contributions to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and OH Secretary of State. Donations are included in the report once they are put into the accounting system to generate a check.
FirstEnergy opted to hold checks not yet mailed after the July 21 announcement of the Department of Justice investigation. Holding the checks allowed the company more time to investigate and assess the situation. FirstEnergy has canceled the unmailed checks from July 2020 out of an abundance of caution. Future reports to the FEC will properly reflect these voided checks.
FEPAC will continue to make contributions to candidates and officeholders whose interests align with those of our customers, employees and shareholders in Ohio and other states and will fully disclose and report them according to established federal and state and requirements."