Ohio Governor Mike DeWine received $25,500 in campaign contributions from American Electric Power’s PAC and some of the electric utility’s top executives one month after AEP revealed it received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) connected to a growing corruption scandal. 

In a statement released on June 8, AEP revealed it recently received a subpoena from the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. The subpoena seeks documents related to the financial benefits AEP received from House Bill 6, the same Ohio law at the center of the federal criminal investigation that forced FirstEnergy to admit to paying millions of dollars in bribes to state officials

While state lawmakers repealed some of the provisions of H.B. 6 that most benefited FirstEnergy earlier this year, AEP continues to benefit from increased coal subsidies under other parts of the 2019 law that remain in place. 

DeWine has been silent on the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation coal plant subsidies that have forced Ohio ratepayers to pay nearly $135 million to AEP, Dayton Power & Light, and Duke Energy since January of 2020 according to a tracker found on the website of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel

On July 26, DeWine received a $10,000 contribution from AEP’s political action committee (PAC) for his re-election campaign, according to state campaign finance records. The contribution was for a fundraising event on July 22, the same day the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio announced charges against FirstEnergy and made public the deferred prosecution agreement that FirstEnergy reached with federal prosecutors.

DeWine also received $15,500 in individual campaign contributions earlier in July from top executives at AEP, including $5,000 from the utility’s CEO Nicholas Akins. 

The campaign contributions were included in a mid-year campaign finance report filed on July 31 by DeWine’s campaign.

DeWine signed H.B. 6 into law during his first year as governor of Ohio, and since then evidence has emerged that the governor has benefited from dark money spending by AEP and FirstEnergy

DeWine is now facing mounting criticism over his ties to FirstEnergy from his Republican primary opponent Jim Renacci and Democratic gubernatorial candidates governor Nan Whaley and John Cranley. 

DeWine is the only candidate for Ohio governor who received campaign money during the first half this year from AEP or any other major electric utility in Ohio, according to a search of the latest campaign contributions numbers available online from the Ohio Secretary of State. 

Earlier this year, AEP published an updated Anti-Corruption Policy that counts political contributions as possible forms of bribes and kickbacks. Based on the new Anti-Corruption Policy, AEP employees are supposed to err on the side of caution when it comes to offering “things of value” to government officials.

“A ‘Bribe’ means offering, promising, giving or authorizing others, such as lobbyists and political consultants, to give anything of value, tangible or intangible, either directly or indirectly, to any individual – including Government Officials – to gain an unfair business advantage or to influence improperly an official’s decision-making with respect to the Company,” AEP’s Anti-Corruption Policy states.

“The term ‘anything of value’ is intentionally broad to ensure that careful consideration and scrutiny is given to interactions with Government Officials,” the policy also says.

DeWine received another $5,000 from Dayton Power & Light in connection with a fundraising event held on July 28, according to his campaign finance report. 

FirstEnergy has paused making political contributions as it deals with the fallout from the H.B. 6 scandal. None of the candidates for Ohio governor reported receiving campaign money in the first half of this year from FirstEnergy’s PAC or employees.

Posted by Dave Anderson

Dave Anderson is the policy and communications manager for the Energy and Policy Institute. Dave has been working at the nexus of clean energy and public policy since 2008. Prior to joining the Energy and Policy Institute, he was an outreach coordinator for the climate and energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. He is also an alumnus of the Sierra Club and the Alliance for Climate Protection (now the Climate Reality Project). Dave’s research has helped to spur public scrutiny of political attacks on clean energy and climate science by powerful special interests, such as ExxonMobil and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). His work has been cited by major media outlets, such as CBS News and the Wall Street Journal, and he has served as a speaker on panels at national solar industry conferences. Dave holds a MA in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire, where he also received a BA in Humanities.