COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Newly released text messages show that Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor had conversations with First Energy officials linked to the state’s nuclear bribery scandal.
That scandal involved allegations that First Energy paid millions of dollars in exchange for lawmakers to pass House Bill 6, a billion-dollar buyout for nuclear plants. The buyout would be at the cost of rate payers, where they would get charged an additional 85 cents per month over seven years.
Federal attorneys called it the largest bribery scandal in the state’s history. But, in an exclusive NBC4 interview, Husted said he was acting as a middleman to relay information.
“I did share information that I believe is important for policymakers to consider,” Husted said. “The lieutenant governor doesn’t have a vote in this, I was advocating for the policy of saving nuclear power plants.”
When Husted was asked what information he did share, this is how he responded: “Other than just sharing the facts of what all sides were saying about what it was going to take to save the nuclear power plants,” Husted said. “Beyond that I wasn’t really involved.”
In 2019 text messages, Michael Dowling, First Energy Senior Vice President, writes to CEO Chuck Jones, “Just had long convo with JHusted…JH is working on the ten years, he’s afraid it’s going to end up being eight.”
These messages refer to House Bill 6 — legislation that would boost First Energy’s earnings at the cost of their customers. Here you can see a meme Jones made, that says “HB 6, F**** anyone who ain’t us.”
“The people who did wrong, we’ll see what happens to them,” Husted said. “But what I did was perfectly appropriate and frankly my responsibility to share information about the debate that was going on.”
More 2019 messages between First Energy executives do mention the governor, saying things like, “When this is over – which may be as early as tomorrow – gov, is likely to call.”
In a statement, the Ohio Democratic Party said this “only raises more questions about what Mike DeWine and Jon Husted knew about the $80 million dollar bribery scandal.”
But a spokesperson for DeWine’s office told NBC4 the governor has not been subpoenaed, was not involved and these texts do not support any alleged involvement.
When NBC4 asked Husted if he denies saying he is ‘fighting to the end,’ for First Energy, this is what he said: “Well first of all, I haven’t seen any of the reports on this. I will tell you this and I’ve said this all along — I wanted to save nuclear power plants.”
In a statement, First Energy said: “FirstEnergy’s Board and leadership have taken swift action to address events that have occurred over the past few years and to ensure a culture of strong ethics, integrity and accountability at the company. That includes terminating employment of former executives that were in violation of FirstEnergy policies and code of conduct, bringing in a number of new senior officers and board members, and building a strong ethics and compliance program.”
In a statement, Ohio Republican Party spokesperson Dan Lusheck said: “Nan Whaley worked for a dark money organization and the FBI investigated her for taking thousands of dollars in bribes, but Democrats continue trying to push a conspiracy about a bill that 12 of their members voted for.”