Testimony at Cleveland Heights Democracy Day Public Hearing

Video of full hearing at at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eYstCiLOOY&t=721s

My testimony begins at 7:15 minute mark.


January 28, 2021 | Greg Coleridge

Happy Democracy Day Cleveland Heights.

First Energy Corporation was implicated last year in “likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio” according to U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, who charged Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and four others with racketeering last July.

The arrests came one year after the passage of House Bill 6, which increased utility rates for consumers by $1.3 billion to bailout 2 antiquated nuclear plants and 2 dinosaur coal plants (one in Indiana) — as well as to gut state renewable energy standards and energy efficiency standards.

This political, economic and ecological travesty is due to both illegal and legal bribery layered on top of corporate constitutional rights.

The illegal bribery scheme of $61 million dollars to Householder ended up in a dark money group that he controlled, Generation Now. What didn’t end up in the personal pockets of those arrested was doled out to 21 candidates during the 2018 Ohio House of Representatives election, which ultimately helped Householder replace Ryan Smith as Republican House speaker. Millions were also spent lobbying for HB6. Millions more were spent for ads against the referendum to overturn the bill and still millions more to hire people to harass citizens gathering signatures. It’s estimated about ¼ of the $61 million came directly from First Energy. It’s unknown where the rest came from since Generation Now is a “social welfare” organization that didn’t have to disclose their donors.

But there’s also legalized bribery – also known as mega campaign contributions

Ohio’s energy industry as a whole gave nearly $36 million to statewide campaigns from 2012 through 2018. Ohio utilities, coal interests, and affiliated donors gave more than $12.5 million to Ohio political campaigns during that period. Nearly $3 million of that came from FirstEnergy. Directors, employees and others affiliated with the company gave an additional $575,384.

It’s no wonder many Ohio legislators, even before HB 6, have been de facto employees of First Energy corporation.

All of this is possible, of course, because of the twin bizarre and undemocratic constitutional doctrines that “money equals free speech” and “corporate personhood,” shorthand for corporate constitutional rights — including the First Amendment so-called “right” for corporations to donate to political causes.

Efforts to force disclosure of documents from First Energy have met with resistance from the company. It’s unknown whether First Energy will claim one of two potential additional constitutional shields to prevent turning over documents in the ongoing investigation: their First Amendment right not to speak and Fourth Amendment search and seizure rights — both of which were intended to apply exclusively to human persons but have been hijacked by corporations entities scores of times across the country for decades.

First Energy’s political influence has not abated. They’ve funneled money to Consumers Against Deceptive Fees, a nonprofit created to discredit Cleveland Public Power, a goal of theirs for decades. They also will be making political investments to City of Cleveland candidates in 2021.

None of this will ever change unless we abolish money as political speech and corporate constitutional rights — the twin pillars of Move to Amend’s We the People Amendment.

The amendment is a way to power up people (us) to have the authority to decide what goes on in our communities, state, and country — and to protect what remains of our ecosystem. It’s also a way to

politically pull the plug on the First Energy corporations of the state and nation that seek to serve their interests at the political, economic and ecological expense of us all.

Thank you.

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