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DeWine denies wrongdoing in connection with campaign money he solicited from FirstEnergy

Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine talks to reporters after an event in Delaware Ohio on June 17, 2024
Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau
Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine talks to reporters after an event in Delaware Ohio on June 17, 2024

Gov. Mike DeWine is defending his actions after texts surfaced showing he solicited campaign contributions from FirstEnergy in the last month before his 2018 election. It’s the latest in the bribery and corruption scandal involving the nuclear power plant bailout law House Bill 6, which DeWine signed in seven months after he was inaugurated in 2019.

Texts released by FirstEnergy show DeWine texted then-CEO Chuck Jones in October 2018. In the texts, DeWine asks Jones to call him and notes that the Ohio Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, put a million dollars into the campaign of his Democratic opponent Richard Cordray. After being contacted by DeWine, records show the utility gave $500,000 to State Solutions, a dark-money group connected to the Republican Governors’ Association.

DeWine beat Cordray to win the governor’s office a month later by just under four percentage points.

Talking to reporters following an event in Delaware Monday, DeWine said he didn’t remember the call but added he reached out to a lot of campaign donors then.

“If that call was made, and I have no doubt it was made, I don’t remember it. But I was making a ton of calls every single day,” DeWine said.

DeWine would have been prohibited by law from soliciting contributions for his campaign for the dark money group.

DeWine said he did not engage in any wrongdoing. And he said voters should trust him on that because of his record.

“Forty-five years in public office, 45 years of trying to do the best that I can do, 45 years without any kind of personal scandal,” DeWine said.

DeWine has not been charged with any crimes.

Republican former House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges were convicted of racketeering for passing HB 6 and stopping a repeal effort. Householder is serving a 20-year sentence and Borges is spending five years behind bars. Several other Republicans have entered plea agreements with federal prosecutors.

Earlier this year, Jones and former FirstEnergy executive Michael Dowling were indicted for paying a $4.3 million bribe to Sam Randazzo, the former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Randazzo, who had been appointed to his position by DeWine, was in charge of the utility regulating board at the time lawmakers passed and DeWine signed the billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout that benefitted FirstEnergy.

Randazzo died by suicide earlier this year as prosecutors were preparing his trial. Jones and Dowling have entered not guilty pleas.

Copyright 2024 The Statehouse News Bureau