Checks and Balances Project Launches “The Randazzo Accountability Project”
In July 2020, the FBI arrested former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four lobbyists in a $61M bribery case bankrolled by Akron-based utility FirstEnergy. The racketeering and corruption case is the largest in the history of a state that is too familiar with corruption in government. The scheme was driven by FirstEnergy’s successful quest to get taxpayers to cover a $1.3B bailout of the utility’s uncompetitive nuclear power and coal plants. According to prosecutors, the $61M went into accounts controlled by Householder for his political and personal use. Few outside the FBI know the range of people involved.
Ohio’s top energy and utility regulator, Sam Randazzo was, until recently, a partner and at the firm of McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC. Nicknamed the “The Randazzler” for his extensive connections to state politicians, Randazzo for decades regularly attacked energy efficiency and renewables while promoting the fossil fuel industry. He was described by his firm as the “chief guide on Ohio utility legislation.”
Randazzo was also a representative of House Speakers for a decade on the Public Utilities Commission Nominating Council. One of them was former Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned amid an FBI investigation into his “lavish lifestyle” and “relationships with lobbyists and donors.”
Randazzo resigned from his firm on the last day of 2018. 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 $1.3B bailout of uncompetitive nuclear power and coal plants and favored polluting fossil fuels and utilities over energy efficiency and renewable energy. He appears to be unable to serve as a neutral referee.
C&BP to Build on Past Investigations
Randazzo’s web of connections to those involved in the scandal deserve deeper public scrutiny. That’s why Checks and Balances Project is launching The Randazzo Accountability Project, which will build upon several years of our previous investigative work into various players in Columbus’s culture of corruption.
Chairman Randazzo could cut our investigation short by immediately releasing a comprehensive compilation of all his contacts with First Energy – both as a lobbyist and in his current role. C&BP calls upon him to do so.
We suspect, however, he will not. We’ll report back to our readers what we learn as we proceed.
Do you have information to share? Send us a note through our confidential tip line.
Scott Peterson is executive director of 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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