Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Ohio lawmakers donate campaign contributions tainted by bribery scandal

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Following a bribery and money-laundering scandal that allegedly involved former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, Ohio representatives are donating money tainted by the scandal — including Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro), who co-sponsored House Bill 6, a piece of energy legislation that sought to bail out two nuclear and two coal plants.

Like many of his colleagues, Wilkin said he has rid himself of campaign contributions that came from Householder and FirstEnergy. According to Wilkin, he donated $24,000 to local entities that support the youth of the 91st House District.

Wilkin’s 91st Ohio House District includes Clinton, Highland and Pike Counties as well as a portion of Ross County.

Wilkin said the money was “distributed based on the population per county of the district” and went to various 4-H and Junior Fair organizations throughout his district.

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The Associated Press reported that some Ohio Democrats have also begun shedding “tainted” campaign contributions.

Akron Democrat Rep. Tavia Galonski recently announced she would donate her FirstEnergy contributions to charity.

Likewise, Rep. Lisa Sobecki of Toledo told The Toledo Blade that her $1,500 in FirstEnergy contributions would be donated to Lucas County Children’s Services.

Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan of Youngstown, who backed Householder for speaker but was a vocal opponent of the bailout bill, said she had donated her FirstEnergy campaign dollars to the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (ACTION).

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Wilkin told The Times-Gazette, a Hillsboro news publication, that he and House Bill 6 co-sponsor Rep. Jamie Callendar (R-Concord) each waived their executive privilege concerning records of communications between House lawyers, themselves and their aides.

Householder and four associates were arrested on July 21 and charged with secretly receiving money from FirstEnergy.

Householder and his associates were charged with conspiracy to enhance themselves both politically and personally, to secure and return Householder to his position of House speaker, and then to use money and political pressure to pass what has come to be known as a $1 billion bailout bill, and finally bring to bear whatever political means would be deemed necessary to prevent its repeal.

In a recent letter, Wilkin wrote, “First and foremost, I had absolutely no knowledge that any of the alleged actions were taking place. My campaign received contributions from many of my supporters, including FirstEnergy PAC [Political Action Committee] and Friends of Larry Householder. All contributions I have received have been completely legal and reported, as required with Ohio campaign finance laws.”

In his letter, Wilkin adds that he thought of Householder as a good friend, but admitted that if the federal allegations of corruption prove to be true in court, “then it was not so.”

As for the embattled House Bill 6 measure, Wilkin wrote, “There is no doubt that the allegations against Householder are terrible and have absolutely no place in Ohio’s legislative process.”

Wilkin said while he was proud of the energy measure that he and Callendar had worked on, this pride was tainted with disappointment.

“I am disappointed and angry that a bill that carries my name and the work of many other good and hardworking people has been tarnished,” Wilkin wrote. “However, I am also so very grateful for the texts and phone calls of support from people throughout the district. All I can do at this point is continue to work hard for you all in Ohio’s 91st House District, and that is exactly what I intend to do moving forward.”

Wilkin said that the legislation he co-sponsored reduces and eliminates energy mandates, and he has no doubt there were scores of people both for and against it.

“Is the legislation a perfect energy bill?” Wilkin wrote. “No, not perfect, but overall, I do believe the bill contains good energy policy for Ohioans. Due to the recent allegations surrounding this legislation, I believe there is only a need for repeal if there is a simultaneous bill to replace it.”

Due to the complexity of energy policy and the legislation that pertains to it, Wilkin encouraged anyone who would like to discuss the policy surrounding House Bill 6 to call 614-466-3506 or email him at [email protected]

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