AEP-backed black money group spent over $ 1.5 million in 2020

Empowering Ohio’s Economy, a group funded solely by American Electric Power, paid more than $ 1.5 million to black money groups in 2020, according to the organization’s tax returns.

The source of funding for Empowering Ohio’s Economy was kept under wraps until last year, when the group found itself trapped in the public corruption scandal surrounding Ohio’s Bill 6, the 2019 law that increased and expanded taxpayer-funded subsidies for the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation’s coal-fired power plants. property of the AEP. Nicholas Akins, CEO of American Electric Power (AEP), admitted during an earnings call in August 2020 that AEP had contributed $ 8.7 million to Empower Ohio’s Economy since 2015, which was the entire group financing from 2019.

Empowering Ohio’s Economy contributed a total of $ 700,000 to Generation Now Inc., a “so-called” 501 (c) (4) welfare group linked to former Ohio President Larry Householder, from 2017 to 2019. Generation Now pleaded guilty earlier this year to racketeering in connection with nearly $ 60 million in bribes secretly paid by another Ohio utility, FirstEnergy, involved in the passage of HB 6 Householder was also indicted last year and is awaiting trial next year.

AEP announced in June that it had received a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission seeking documents related to HB 6. The utility is also facing several lawsuits from shareholders related to the scandal, and a federal judge is on the verge. to hear arguments on AEP’s motion to dismiss. one of those trials on Tuesday.

The Energy and Policy Institute has obtained from the group a copy, marked “DRAFT,” of Empowering Ohio’s Economy Annual Form 990 for 2020. 501 (c) (4) groups are legally required by the Internal Revenue Service to provide Form 990 to the public upon request.

Empowering Ohio’s Economy reported no new income in 2020, which means all the money it spent last year came from contributions the AEP made to the group in previous years.

The group spent more than $ 1.6 million in 2020, most of which went to the $ 1.5 million in contributions Empowering Ohio’s Economy made to other 501 (c) (4) groups, which did not are not required to disclose their donors.

Open Road Path: a black money group that ended 2020 with $ 3 million from AEP

A 501 (c) (4) group, called Open Road Path, received over $ 1 million from Empowering Ohio’s Economy in 2020. At the end of last year, Open Road Path had a close bankroll. $ 3 million, according to a copy of the group’s 2020 Form 990.

Empowering Ohio’s Economy also contributed $ 2 million to Open Road Path in 2019, which means all known funding for Open Road Path came from AEP-backed Empowering Ohio’s Economy.

Open Road Path reported little spending in 2019, when the group was formed, and in 2020.

Open Road Path’s board of directors included attorney JB Hadden, who served as the outside counsel for the AEP. Tom Froehle, who was the public service’s vice president of external affairs, also served on the group’s board of directors.

Hadden and Froehle both served on the board of directors of Empowering Ohio’s Economy.

AEP announced this summer that Froehle will retire from the company after 11 years of service. The ad made no mention of Froehle’s role in Empowering Ohio’s Economy and Open Road Path, or the HB 6 corruption scandal.

$ 500,000 to support Larry Householder’s attempt to remain president of Ohio House by weakening Ohio mandates

Coalition for Term Limits Inc., another 501 (c) (4) group, received $ 500,000 from Empowering Ohio’s Economy in 2020, as first reported in July by Laura Bischoff for the Columbus Dispatch. The group was formed in March 2020 as part of an effort to change Ohio’s current term limit law so that Householder, who was still the Ohio House Speaker at the time , can keep his seat in the House until the age of 16.

New details on the term limitation program were revealed this summer when federal prosecutors reached a deferred prosecution agreement with FirstEnergy. As part of the deal, FirstEnergy admitted to secretly paying $ 2 million to support Householder’s attempt to remain president for the remainder of his political career.

The $ 500,000 contribution to the Coalition for Term Limits that Empowering Ohio’s Economy reported on its Form 990 confirms the AEP’s link to the effort’s failure.

Householder was kicked out of Ohio House in June, nearly a year after his arrest and dismissal as a speaker.

$ 100,000 to a group that spent money on ads targeting a Republican State Senate race

Liberty Ohio Inc. received $ 50,000 in 2020 from Empowering Ohio’s Economy. The group, yet another 501 (c) (4), also received $ 50,000 from Empowering Ohio’s Economy in 2019, for a total of $ 100,000.

Last year, Liberty Ohio was behind a website and ads targeting the Ohio 4th District Senate Republican primary. The group attacked candidate Candice Keller, who, as a member of Ohio House in 2019, voted against HB 6. Keller lost the primary to fellow state representative George Lang, who voted for HB 6 and received campaign funds from AEP PAC.

Liberty Ohio raised over $ 1 million in 2019, of which approximately $ 150,000 goes to FirstEnergy.

No more secret spending on AEP

The Energy and Policy Institute also obtained a copy of the 2020 annual report filed with the IRS by the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Office Foundation, another 501 (c) (4) that counts Hadden as a member of its board of directors. administration.

Governor Mike DeWine and key members of his staff said they received gifts, food and drink from the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Office Foundation in 2019 and 2020.

In 2020, the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Office Foundation raised just $ 23,500 in contributions, up from $ 372,000 in 2019.

Empowering Ohio’s Economy donated $ 25,000 to the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Office Foundation in 2019. The group’s other sources of funding remain a mystery.


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