By FARNOUSH AMIRI Report for America/Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio lawmaker leading the charge to repeal a nuclear bailout bill was unsuccessfully pressured by the former House speaker to vote in favor of its passage, newly released records show.
In late May 2019, former House Speaker Larry Householder texted his fellow GOP colleague Rep. Dave Greenspan to ensure he had his vote for the bill that is now at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe, according to a series of text messages released by the Ohio House on Thursday.
Federal prosecutors in July accused Householder and four others of shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the polls. All five men have pleaded not guilty.
“I really need you to vote yes on HB6, it means a lot to me,” Householder wrote in the text messages released Thursday. “Can I count on you?”
The bill in question would send more than $1 billion to two Ohio nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo now owned by Energy Harbor, a former subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp.
It just so happened that Greenspan was sitting down for an interview with FBI agents when he received the text message from Householder, according to the criminal complaint, which identified Greenspan as “Representative 7.” Greenspan, a Westlake Republican, responded no to Householder’s request, citing “significant challenges” with the bill.
Householder replied, “I just want you to remember – when I needed you – you weren’t there. ….twice.”
The text messages between Greenspan and Householder were first reported by Cleveland.com.
The lawmaker went on to show federal agents the text and later provided screenshots of their correspondence even though the criminal complaint cites Greenspan being pressured by an unnamed intermediary to delete the messages on behalf of a top Householder political aide.
“Standing up for what one believes to be right, even against opposing political headwinds, is the cornerstone of honorable representation,” Greenspan said in a statement Thursday.
While FirstEnergy Corp., the former subsidiary of the two nuclear plants, has denied wrongdoing and has not been criminally charged, federal investigators say the company secretly funneled millions to secure the $1 billion legislative bailout for the plants.
Days after the federal affidavit was released, Greenspan and GOP Rep. Laura Lanese introduced a bill to repeal the now-tainted legislation, which has since had three hearings in the House.
Photo: In this Sept. 10, 2020 file photo, House lawmakers, from left, Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, and Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, testify before the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight in Columbus, Ohio. Greenspan was identified Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020 to be the lawmaker who spoke with FBI agents about the passage of the legislation now tainted by a $60 million federal bribery probe. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins, File)