Republican Mike DeWine continues to raise the most money from fossil fuel and utility interests in Ohio’s race for governor, but Democrat Richard Cordray has also received campaign contributions from the coal industry and lobbyists for FirstEnergy.
The Energy and Policy Institute reviewed post-primary campaign finance reports filed by the DeWine and Cordray campaigns on June 15, 2018, and also found several earlier pre-primary contributions to the candidates from fossil fuel and utility industry lobbyists that have not been previously reported. Information about the contributions and expenditures each campaign has reported so far this year can found on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website.
Ohio is at the center of a national debate over President Donald Trump’s order for Secretary of Energy Rick Perry to take immediate steps to bail out struggling coal and nuclear power plants, a move that came after months of lobbying by the electric utility FirstEnergy and coal producer Murray Energy. State lawmakers are also considering several bills to bail out coal and nuclear power plants in Ohio. Opponents have warned that a federal bailout for the coal and nuclear industries could cost consumers billions of dollars.
Ohio’s electric utilities are fighting another bill that would fix the “no refunds” loophole in state law that recently cost customers of the utility FirstEnergy $42 million.
Also up for debate is a bill to roll back Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards, a bill that’s backed by the coal industry. Ohio’s onerous setback rules for wind turbine siting continue to limit new investment wind power in the Buckeye State, while major fossil fuel projects like the Nexus and the problem-plagued Rover pipeline move forward despite local opposition.
Cordray has made clean energy a priority in his campaign, and has a plan to “double Ohio’s renewable energy and energy efficiency targets by 2025.” He’s vowed to fix Ohio’s “heavy-handed government blockade to developing wind energy.” But Cordray has also voiced support for coal and received the endorsement of the United Mine Workers.
While more than 750 candidates nationally have now taken a No Fossil Fuel Money Pledge and the Democratic National Committee has adopted a similar resolution, Cordray has received campaign contributions this year from the coal industry and several lobbyists for FirstEnergy. One of those FirstEnergy lobbyists was involved in planning for a meeting between the utility and Cordray, according to documents filed in FirstEnergy Solutions’ bankruptcy case.
DeWine has been relatively tight-lipped about energy issues on the campaign trail, and his campaign website makes only vague reference to “a plan to reduce burdensome regulations in the state and maximize investments in the energy sector.” As attorney general of Ohio, DeWine has a mixed record that includes siding with fossil fuel and utility interests to fight against stronger limits on pollution, and lawsuits against companies that have violated existing environmental laws.
DeWine disclosed receiving $75,000 from fossil fuel and utility interests in an earlier pre-primary campaign finance report that was filed on April 24, according to a Bloomberg analysis, a trend that continued in the latest round of reporting.
FirstEnergy’s PAC gave money to DeWine, and so did some of the utility’s lobbyists
The Cordray and Dewine campaigns recently declined to take positions on the slated closure of FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear power plant, according to the Sandusky Register. Ohio’s current Governor John Kasich, a Republican, voiced opposition to proposals to bail out FirstEnergy’s nuclear plants last year.
“Reliable, low-cost energy for consumers should always be the driver of policy – the answer should never be to have the government pick winners and losers in the economy,” DeWine spokesperson Joshua Eck told the Sandusky Register when asked about the slated closure of FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear power plant.
“Instead, Mike DeWine supports an all-of-the-above, diverse energy strategy for Ohio,” Eck said.
The issue dates back to 2014, when FirstEnergy sought to secure a bailout for some of its coal and nuclear power plants through the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Clean energy, consumer, and environmental groups have called on DeWine to oppose bailouts for FirstEnergy, but as attorney general he has been largely missing in action on the issue.
“To my knowledge and memory, DeWine never responded to our request,” said Rachael Belz, the executive director of Ohio Citizen Action. “I also have no knowledge of him playing any role whatsoever in the bailout efforts. It was left up to Ohio Citizen Action, the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign and others to fight.”
The DeWine campaign also received $12,707.79 on “05/10/2018” from Michael Koren, a lobbyist at M&K Consulting whose clients include FirstEnergy. Another $5,000 came on that same date from Daniel McCarthy, a lobbyist at the Success Group who also counts FirstEnergy among his clients.
Koren and McCarthy’s names appeared on FirstEnergy’s latest lobbying report, which disclosed lobbying on various bills to roll back Ohio’s clean energy standards, and bail out the utility’s nuclear power plants in Ohio. Last year, their names were included on reports where FirstEnergy disclosed lobbying on the bill to fix the “no refunds” loophole that recently cost the utility’s customers $43 million.
FirstEnergy and DeWine have both fought to roll back the Clean Power Plan, the Obama-era rule which established the Environmental Protection Agency’s first-ever limits on carbon dioxide pollution from power plants.
FirstEnergy gave $56,750 to DeWine’s campaigns from 2009 to 2017, which was topped among DeWine’s donors only by DeWine himself, state and county Republican party organizations, and two political consulting firms, according to FollowtheMoney.org.
Cordray also received campaign contributions from lobbyists who now work for FirstEnergy
Earlier this year, Cordray received a $1,000 campaign contribution from Sean G. D’Arcy, an attorney and lobbyist at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
D’Arcy’s contribution was dated March 22, 2018, just six days before Akin Gump registered D’Arcy and several others as federal lobbyists for FirstEnergy Solutions. Even before then, Akin Gump was working for FirstEnergy Solutions and Nuclear Operating Company on “scenario planning, including a potential restructuring.”
Akin Gump disclosed D’Arcy’s “work related to candidate meeting in Ohio” on April 11, 2018, in a bankruptcy case filing where the lobbying firm detailed its monthly fees and work for FirstEnergy Solutions.
Two days earlier, on April 9, another Akin Gump lobbyist named Geoffrey K. Verhoff had a, “Call with OH counsel re: Columbus landscape and Corday interaction in advance of FE meeting…”
Verhoff’s work also included an April 11 “call with J. Oxley to discuss OH assembly issues including FES Columbus visit, resignation of OH speaker, and Cordray FE visit.” Juan Cespedes of The Oxley Group is a registered lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions in Ohio.
The Cordray campaign did not respond to a request for comment on whether a meeting with FirstEnergy took place. The DeWine campaign did not comment on a similar request regarding whether Mike DeWine has met with FirstEnergy or its lobbyists in 2018.
“Mr. D’Arcy has been active in national Democratic politics for over two decades,” according to Akin Gump’s website, which notes the role D’Arcy has played in Democratic campaigns in Ohio, including those of Senator Sherrod Brown.
The Cordray campaign then received a $1,500 contribution dated April 12, and a $1,000 donation dated April 13, both from Daniel McCarthy of the Success Group, the same FirstEnergy lobbyist who later donated $5,000 to DeWine’s campaign.
McCarthy also contributed $250 to the Cordray campaign in February, as did Rick Ayish, another lobbyist for FirstEnergy at the Success Group.
Corday received campaign money from a top executive for the Boich Companies, and one of the coal producer’s lobbyists gave money to the DeWine’s campaign
Wayne Michael Boich, Jr., the CEO of the Boich Companies, donated $10,000 to the Cordray campaign in May. The Boich Companies and FirstEnergy Ventures are partners in a coal mining operation called Signal Peak Energy, a subsidiary of the Global Mining Holding Company, LLC.
In 2017, the Boich Companies and Signal Peak Energy backed Secretary of Energy Rick Perry’s proposal to bail out coal and nuclear power plants, a bailout that would have benefited FirstEnergy and cost consumers billions. Perry’s proposal was rejected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in January, and the Trump administration has been developing a new bailout plan.
Michael Koren, the lobbyist for FirstEnergy who contributed $12,707.79 to the DeWine campaign, also represents the Boich Companies.
Murray Energy and the Ohio Coal Association targeted DeWine with campaign contributions
A one-pager found on the website of the office of the Ohio Attorney General boasts of “Attorney General Mike DeWine’s Fight Against Federal Overreach” and his opposition to “Multiple regulations under the Clean Air Act.”
“For states with coal plants such as Ohio, it would be all pain and no gain,” according to the one-pager, a line lifted straight out of the coal industry’s playbook.
“Thanks @realDonaldTrump for ending the war on coal,” DeWine Tweeted last year when President Trump signed an executive order targeting the Clean Power Plan for rollback. “It will help #OhioCoal.”
In May, the DeWine campaign received a $5,000 campaign contribution from the Murray Energy PAC and $2,000 from the Ohio Coal PAC, with the “event date” listed as “5/24/18” and the “contribution date” as “5/25/18” for both contributions.
Employees of Murray Energy and its subsidiaries also made more than 200 individual contributions to DeWine’s campaign totaling just over $25,000, all with a “contribution date” of “5/24/18” but no “event date” listed.
Mike Carey, the vice president of government affairs for Murray Energy, serves as the chairman of the Ohio Coal Association, which is behind the Ohio Coal PAC.
DeWine is a member of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which in 2016 counted Murray Energy and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (ACCCE) among its top donors. Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, has served on ACCCE’s board of directors.
In 2015, RAGA hosted a fundraiser for DeWine’s campaign for attorney general at its summer meeting, according to documents obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy.
The same 2015 RAGA meeting also included a “Private meeting with Murray Energy” for “Attorneys general and staff only,” and a briefing on “The Dangerous Consequences of the Clean Power Plan and Other EPA Rules” that was led by representatives from Murray Energy and ACCCE.
The DeWine campaign received “Food & Beverage” for a campaign meeting from a lobbyist for the Ohio Coal Association and Duke Energy
The DeWine campaign also received an in-kind contribution of “Campaign Meeting Food & Beverage” in May from Brooke Cheney, a lobbyist for the Government Policy Group who represents the Ohio Coal Association and Duke Energy. Cheney’s in-kind contribution was valued at $173.21.
A bio found on the Government Policy Group’s website highlights Cheney’s past work for the tobacco industry.
Cheney also gave $1,000 to DeWine’s campaign in March. His latest lobbying for Duke Energy and the Ohio Coal Association has included work on the bills to roll back Ohio’s clean energy standards, fix the loophole that has allowed Ohio utilities to avoid paying billions in refunds to customers, and bail out coal-fired power plants under the pretense of national security.
Duke Energy has publicly opposed the bill – HB 247 – that would fix the “no refunds” loophole. Another lobbyist for Duke Energy provided draft testimony used by the sponsors of the bill – HB 239 – to bail out two coal plants that the utility owns shares of through the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation.
The Ohio Coal Association has called for Ohio’s clean energy “mandates” to be eliminated.
DeWine owned stock in Duke Energy in 2017, according to a financial disclosure form he filed in 2018. The form does not include information on DeWine’s current financial interests. In 2016, DeWine was involved in securing a guilty plea and $1 million fine from Duke Energy for a spill that released 9,000 gallons of diesel oil into the Ohio River.
A pipeline of campaign cash to Dewine from the companies behind the Nexus Pipeline
DeWine made headlines last year when it was revealed that he had personally invested in Energy Transfer Partners, one of the companies behind the Rover Pipeline project. At the time, DeWine was under pressure to sue the Rover Pipeline for $2.3 million in unpaid fines developers owed to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for illegal discharges and spills. DeWine claimed that he had sold his stock in Energy Transfer Partners earlier in the year, and he soon announced a lawsuit to recover the unpaid fine from the Rover Pipeline.
Two of the companies involved in the Nexus Pipeline project donated to DeWine’s campaign in May. DTE Energy contributed $2,500 and Enbridge kicked in $5,000. The project is now underway amidst local opposition.
The Halliburton PAC contributed $10,000 to DeWine in May. Halliburton is involved in fracking operations in the Utica Shale, which covers Ohio.
A 2013 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists warned of the risks that Ohio’s over-reliance on coal and natural gas for electricity could pose to the climate and consumers.
Top photo is of a cooling tower at FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear power plant by Joseph Varnum obtained on Wikipedia Commons. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License