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Renacci Says He Wants Investigation Into FirstEnergy Donations To DeWine

Former Congressman Jim Renacci, who's also the Medina County Republican Party chair, held a press conference on the Medina County Courthouse steps.
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Former Congressman Jim Renacci, who's also the Medina County Republican Party chair, held a press conference on the Medina County Courthouse steps.

Ohio Democrats have been talking up last week’s plea deal from FirstEnergy as proof of Republican corruption in state government. But now Gov. Mike DeWine’s main opponent in next year’s GOP primary is joining in.

Standing on the steps of the Medina County Courthouse, former U.S. Congressman Jim Renacci said the scandal that brought indictments against former House Speaker Larry Householder and others, the $230 million plea deal from FirstEnergy and now questions about former Public Utilities Commission chair Sam Randazzo has made Ohio "the most corrupt state in the country".

“I'm calling on state auditor Keith Faber to conduct a full investigation into the monies DeWine received from this pay-for-play scandal," Renacci said.

In its plea deal with federal prosecutors, FirstEnergy admitted to bribing then-House Speaker Larry Householder, who pushed forward the nuclear bailout law known as House Bill 6.

The Akron-based utility also admitted to paying a $4.3 million bribe to Sam Randazzo a few weeks before he became chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio in 2019. DeWine said he didn't know about the bribe until just before Randazzo resigned late last year, and said Randazzo's past work with FirstEnergy was common knowledge. But some lawmakers are disputing that.

Renacci, who is opposing DeWine in next year's Republican primary for governor, also wants an investigation into FirstEnergy’s contributions to DeWine’s 2018 campaign for governor. That includes money given by the utility to the Ohio Republican Party, which Renacci notes was one of DeWine's largest contributors.

Renacci spoke in front of a group of reporters and supporters, and was asked who was chairing the Ohio Republican Party during this period. He noted it was Jane Timken, who is now running for the GOP nomination for the US Senate seat being vacated by Rob Portman (R-OH).

Renacci also said DeWine should return all the money he got from FirstEnergy back to the utility. 

"What he should do is give it all back to FirstEnergy so the public utility customers get the credit for the money that was spent. In this way, the money needs to be returned where it came from," Renacci said.

DeWine has said he’ll donate to charity around $100,000 in donations he received from FirstEnergy and its executives.

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