On today's BradCast: Five arrests and a massive, $61 million criminal bribery scheme allegedly headed up by Ohio's Republican House Speaker in cahoots with GOP lobbyists and dirty energy company payouts help explain, yet again, why we can't have nice things. That's especially true for residents of the Buckeye State who keep electing Republican officials who play them for chumps, take all their money, and make them sick in the bargain. It's also true for Floridians, Georgians, Texans and now Missourians, but we'll get there as well today. [Audio link to show follows below.]
"We're here today to announce the arrest of Larry Householder, the speaker of the House of the state of Ohio and four other defendants for racketeering in relation to what is likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme every perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio," announced U.S. Attorney David DeVillers during a news conference in Columbus on Tuesday afternoon. "The conspiracy was to pass and maintain a $1.5 billion bailout in return for $61 million in dark money that was used for various things. One: to line the pockets of defendants. Two: to build a power base for Larry Householder. And three: to further the conspiracy. That is to further the affairs of this Enterprise."
The explosive story is rocking Ohio today, though many should have seen it coming. A year ago, in July of 2019, Vox's longtime energy and climate reporter David Roberts wrote a must-read deep-dive article on the passage of House Bill 6 (HB 6) --- the legislation at the center of this massive con --- describing it at the time as "the most counterproductive and corrupt piece of state energy legislation I can recall in all my time covering this stuff."
The measure forced Ohio's ratepayers to subsidize bailouts of two supposedly failing nuclear plants (the Davis-Besse plant near Oak Harbor and the Perry plant east of Cleveland) owned by FirstEnergy and two failing coal plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (a collective owned by several large utilities), while wiping out previously successful state incentives for renewable energy and efficiency projects that saved the state's ratepayers both money and lives.
"Despite a tsunami of dark money supporting the bill," Roberts reported last year, "HB 6 was overwhelmingly opposed by ratepayer groups, business groups, free market conservative groups, environmental groups, and Ohioans generally. Its only support came from its only beneficiaries: the utilities that own the bailed-out plants, the employees of the bailed-out plants, the communities where the bailed-out plants are located, and possibly President Trump, who doesn't want to see coal plants closing during his reelection campaign."
Well, apparently there were a few more "beneficiaries": Ohio's House Speaker Householder and his political allies inside and out of the state legislature. That "tsunami of dark money", as it turns out, was used to blanket the airwaves with propaganda in support of HB 6 --- describing it misleadingly as a fight for jobs and "clean energy" in a battle between "Big Oil and Ohio" --- by a group calling itself Generation Now. That dark money group, as it turns out, was run by Householder himself with "bags of cash" from the nuke plants' supposedly bankrupt owners, FirstEnergy of Ohio. According to today's criminal complaint [PDF], his "Enterprise" used a series of unregulated passthroughs to move millions and "freely spent the bribe payments to further the Enterprise's political interests and to enrich themselves" with "unlimited" funds that came in to Generation Now from FirstEnergy in payments described by one of the defendants as "Monopoly money."
Despite the wildly unpopular HB 6's narrow passage in the state legislature, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed it quickly after passage. He was not indicted today, though he did cancel a scheduled COVID-19 press conference after the announcement, before calling for Householder's resignation.
It's an incredibly sordid story which we report in detail today. It's also one that should remind everyone exactly what they can expect when they put corrupt politicians like this in power who did the bidding of major corporate interests, rather than the public's.
In not entirely unrelated news today, Couy Griffin, the idiot who heads up a group called "Cowboys for Trump", is calling for Americans to take their masks off because they --- as opposed to the coronavirus --- are making everybody sick. And while we'd love to ignore Griffin and the "Cowboys," it turns out he's also an elected Republican official in New Mexico and the same jerk who posted a video back in May which began by announcing that "the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat." And while we'd love to ignore that as well, that video was then retweeted by the President of the United States that month, along with the message "Thank you Cowboys. See you in New Mexico!"
Idiot elected "cowboys" and Presidents of the United States may be one thing we've come to expect by now. But with the coronavirus smashing records in at least 31 states, we'd hoped we'd get better from the Governors who have been left to handle the pandemic after Trump decided he had better things to do, despite some 4 million infected Americans and 144,000 U.S. deaths now from COVID-19 over the past six months.
But our hopes have been dashed. By Florida's very Trumpy Governor Ron DeSantis who's made a jackass of himself over the past month as cases, hospitalizations and deaths skyrocket in his state --- now overwhelming hospitals with at least 50 having run out of ICU beds --- while ordering kids back to in-person classes next month; By Georgia's Trumpy Governor Brian Kemp, who is suing cities in the state for instituting mask mandates as the Peach State also breaks single-day case records and death records; By Texas' Trump-loving Governor Greg Abbot, who wonders where he went wrong in reopening up the state so early, now that hospitals in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and elsewhere are overwhelmed and calling in refrigrator trucks to serve as overflow morgues to hold all of the extra dead bodies.
But now we now have Missouri's woeful Governor Mike Parson declaring he's just fine with kids in his state becoming infected in the classroom. "These kids have got to get back to school," Parson told a local radio station recently. "They're at the lowest risk possible. And if they do get COVID-19, which they will --- and they will when they go to school --- they're not going to the hospitals. They're not going to have to sit in doctor's offices. They're going to go home and they're going to get over it."
Whether Parson, who replaced the state's previous Republican Governor after he resigned in a sexual coercion, abuse and blackmail scandal, realizes that those kids go home to parents and grandparents who they will infect in turn (not to mention all of the teachers and staff at those schools) is unclear. Hopefully Missourians, however, understand it by now, and will consider replacing Parson this November with state Auditor Nicole Galloway, the Democratic candidate for Governor. Maybe then the good folks of Missouri can begin to have nice things again.
Finally, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with a few too many disasters than we can possibly detail at the end of a summary like this one...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)