My question was asked at the 37 min, 15 sec mark on holding FirstEnergy accountable by dissolving the company
NOVEMBER 23, 2022
President Abraham Lincoln warned about the growing power of corporate entities in 1864 when he prophetically stated:
“…I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”
Though the election results were disappointing in hoping that a newly-composed state legislature might seek appropriate accountability of FirstEnergy Corporation over the bribery scandal to pass House Bill (HB) 6, there are other tracks that can and must be pursued.
It’s been more than two years since FirstEnergy’s scheme was exposed of spending more than $60 million to bribe former House Speaker Larry Householder and other top government officials to pass energy legislation potentially worth $1.3 billion to the corporation — described as “likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio” by U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers, who charged Householder and four others with racketeering. Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges have pleaded not guilty.
Despite FirstEnergy’s admission of guilt that it — the corporation — was responsible for funneling the $60 million in bribes, the company has, to date, not been held accountable proportionately for its magnitude of democratic damage. The will of the people for clean energy to ensure a livable earth, for their voices to be heard by public officials not corrupted by bribes and to overturn HB6 via a citizen-driven referendum were all squashed by the admitted bribery of FirstEnergy Corporation.
The announced federal fine of $230 million last year to the company is a joke. While it may sound impressive to the average person, the fine is less than the $334 million in FirstEnergy earnings in the third quarter of 2022 alone.
An appropriate response to the scale of the harm to Ohioans, our communities and to democracy itself is nothing short of dissolving the company — a fairly common action by the Ohio legislature and courts in the past.
In one decision, The State ex rel v. The C.N.O. & T.P Ry. Co , to dissolve a company, the Ohio Supreme Court stated:
The corporation has received vitality from the state; it continues during its existence to be the creature of the state; must live subservient to its laws, and has such powers and franchises as those laws have bestowed upon it, and none others. As the state was not bound to create it in the first place, it is not bound to maintain it after having done so, if it violates the laws or public policy of the state, or misuses its franchises to oppress the citizens thereof.
This is the language of self-governing people who understand that we possess the ultimate power and authority over our legal creations that transcend mere fines or other weak measures.
Attorney General David Yost filed suit in September 2020 in Franklin County against FirstEnergy, several of its top executives and other entities under the Ohio Corrupt Practices Act. It calls for “each Defendant business entity and nonprofit entity to be dissolved…”
The state suit has been on hold since late last year, due to the concern that the depositions of some individual defendants might adversely affect federal case against these same individuals.
Waiting and stalling are common tactics among the power elite to avoid accountability in the political and judicial arenas. The further away from the actual unjust, violent or illegal action when the public is paying attention and/or mobilized to call for accountability, the easier it is to strike a deal for minimal penalties.
That can’t happen in this case. FirstEnergy’s actions have been too extreme, destructive and undemocratic not to demand appropriate accountability — dissolution of the corporate entity.
Two options are called for.
1. Attorney General Yost needs to refile the lawsuit, separating the dissolving of FirstEnergy and other defendant business entities from the civil actions against the named individual defendants. This separation will allow the proceeding against FirstEnergy to move ahead.
2. If Yost is unwilling to take such action, then there needs to be a separate suit by one or more individuals who have standing (i.e. FirstEnergy customers).
If the first option is pursued, the filing by Yost will by definition have to eliminate all references to other options listed to hold FirstEnergy accountable. This includes not only to dissolve the company, but the inadequate option that the company be “reorganized such that no agent, officer or representative found to have engaged in actions in furtherance of retains a position within the defendant business or nonprofit entity,” among other sections addressing individual defendants as opposed to the corporate entity itself.
Corporate executives and attorneys have for more than a century hijacked several Constitutional Amendments intended to apply solely to human beings claiming never-intended corporate “constitutional rights” — that is, that the corporate entity is a separate legal “person” apart from individuals connecting to it.
While individual FirstEnergy defendants have claimed their innocence, the corporate entity has admitted its guilt, no doubt expecting that a small fine and housecleaning of a few executives and board members will be sufficient “punishment.”
Individuals connected to the historic FirstEnergy bribery scandal absolutely must be held accountable. So does the self-described corporate “person.” The appropriate response to affirm the power, authority and right of We the People to define and hold accountable our legal creations is the dissolution of the corporation.
August 23, 2022
Presentation by and discussion with Dennis Kucinich
Former Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio State Senator, U.S. Congressperson and Presidential Candidate
Author of The Division of Light and Power
Sponsored by Ohio Move to Amend
Background to the scandal and the call for dissolving the charter (license) of FirstEnergy Corporation
March 2, 2022
April 1, 2022
August 5, 2022
August 17, 2022
August 18, 2022
August 25, 2022
In the Aug. 11 edition of The Messenger, Fromal and others urge the Ohio Attorney General to pursue a “Quo Warranto” action to do just that. Maybe that would be a good thing. Maybe it is the only appropriate response to the egregiously illegal activity of First Energy – the biggest bribery event in Ohio history.
Corporations are chartered by the state to serve the public good. Corporate criminal behavior is not changed by levying fines. For a large corporation, it is just another business expense. A bigger stick is needed. Corporations intentionally breaking the law should not simply be fined; their charters must be revoked. Otherwise, the public has no protection against being pickpocketed by corporations, especially utilities like First Energy.
As Greg Coleridge noted in the March 2 Oho Capital Journal, and documented extensively in Citizens Over Corporations (https://poclad.org/BWA/2003/BWA_2003_WINTER.html), it was once common in Ohio for the state to revoke charters of corporations acting illegally. Quo warranto proceedings were
used routinely as a tool by Ohio legislatures and courts to affirm the sovereign power of We the People over corporations, which are, in fact, creations of government. Charter revocation follows a strong historical precedent already set in our state. It is not resorting to a radical act. The truly radical act is a rogue corporation bribing public officials to get the public to cover their losses. Charter revocation is perhaps the only way to protect Ohio taxpayers and democracy in Ohio from corporate dominance through corporate corruption. It will serve as a deterrent to others from extorting wealth from Ohioans through illegal activity intended to manipulate government officials, corrupting our democratic republic.
There are other private business corporations as well as public cooperatives which can provide electricity for Ohioans. FirstEnergy has forfeited its public privilege to continue. It is time for public officials to demand that the Ohio Attorney General initiate a Quo Warranto case against First Energy.
John Howell, Athens
by Greg Coleridge
March 2. 2022
Unpublished letter to cleveland.com submitted several weeks ago…
I agree that the state needs to end HB6 coal subsidies and investigate utility influence of PUCO – as proposed in your January 9 editorial. Also needed are criminal investigations against public officials and leaders at FirstEnergy corporation. But also essential is for Ohio Attorney General David Yost to initiate proceedings to revoke FirstEnergy’s corporate charter. This was demanded in a recent letter to Yost by seven groups, based on the corporation’s admitted involvement in the $60 million bribery and money laundering scheme that defrauded taxpayers, bailed out climate-destroying coal plants and threatened representative democracy.
Corporations receive charter from governments, which grants them certain privileges and powers. Corporations that admittedly break the law so stunningly should not simply be fined, but have their charters terminated.
Charter revocation was once common in Ohio in response to companies that acted “beyond their authority.” It was a democratic tool by legislatures and courts to affirm people’s sovereign power over these government creations. The most famous historic example was the effort by Ohio AG David Watson, a Republican, to revoke Standard Oil of Ohio’s charter.
FirstEnergy has forfeited its privilege to exist. Yost, like his Republican predecessor, needs to take immediate action to protect people, the environment and democracy.
Outreach Director, Move to Amend
July 3, 2021
[click on article to enlargen]
FirstEnergy should be put out of business
Columbus Dispatch, July 3, 2021
USA Today Network
It was long overdue that former speaker Larry Householder was expelled from the Ohio House following his indictment on charges he orchestrating the $60 million nuclear power bribery scheme.
The next step is for the House and the entire legislature to “expel” FirstEnergy corporation, FirstEnergy Service Company and Energy Harbor (formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions) for their alleged roles in the bribery scheme.
This also goes for FirstEnergy for wielding political influence over decades in the Statehouse and across Ohio at the expense of consumers, the environment and democracy through legalized bribery – otherwise known as political campaign contributions.
Specifically, the corporate charters of one or more of the “First Energies” should be revoked, meaning these companies should be dissolved.
Corporate charters, or licenses, are issued by the state to allow incorporated entities to conduct business. They were originally issued one at a time by our state legislature with specific conditions to ensure these public legal creations would be publicly accountable. Corporate entities possessed only privileges, not rights.
The Ohio Legislature and Ohio Supreme Court in scores of instances dissolved corporations that acted “ultra virus” – or beyond the authority of their charter’s terms.
Electricity can be supplied publicly, as in many states, or by cooperatives rather than private business corporations.
FirstEnergy has lost its public privilege to exist.
Failure to prevent FirstEnergy from continuing operations ignores former Cleveland Mayor Tom Johnson who a century ago warned against monopolies that provide public services, “because if you do not own them they in turn will own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.”
Of course, such an effort to protect the public from profound corporate abuses will be met with the claim that corporations have “constitutional rights.”
But corporations aren’t mentioned in the Constitution – corporate constitutional rights are Supreme Court inventions. The corporate hijacking of the First, Fourth, Fifth, and 14th Amendments, intended solely for human beings but undemocratically applied to corporations, have created massive harm to people, places and the planet.
We have been culturally conditioned to believe that we have no alternative. Corporations have and need basic statutory rights, which are created by legislatures. Their constitutional rights, however, must be abolished.
Enacting the We the People Amendment would shift the power to make corporate entities publicly accountable back from the judicial to the legislative arena – and by extension to the public.
We must democratically push back against the privatization/corporatization of public assets and services.
This includes the proposed “asset recycling” (i.e. the sale or lease of public assets to the private sector for new investments) contained in the proposed federal bipartisan infrastructure plan.
People must be in charge of our legal creations to make decisions affecting our lives. The time has still not arrived when the created is greater than the creator.
Greg Coleridge of Cleveland Heights is Outreach director of the national Move to Amend campaign. The organization aims to end so-called corporate personhood. Coleridge is author or “Citizens over Corporations: A Brief History of Democracy in Ohio and Challenges to Freedom in the Future.”
Letter to the Editor, Akron Beacon Journal, August 5, 2020
Those involved in the $60 million bribery scandal linked to the bailout of former FirstEnergy Corp. (now Energy Harbor) nuclear plants will be, hopefully, held accountable for their actions if guilty – including prison time.
What about First Energy? The corporation hasn’t been indicted, but the legal entity, distinct from its employees, is connected to funding the alleged money-laundering scheme and taking $1.3 billion from ratepayers. This is on top of tens of millions of dollars invested over decades in political campaign contributions to candidates and incumbents from the company’s PAC to ensure its corporate interests are served.
How should the corporation be held publicly accountable if it’s indicted and found guilty – beyond repealing HB 6? Simply fining it would only result in a tax write off.
An excellent step is to act in the spirit of former Cleveland Mayor Tom Johnson who declared: “I believe in the municipal ownership of all public service monopolies because if you do not own them they in turn will own you. They will rule your politics, corrupt your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.”
This precisely describes the anti-democratic impact of FirstEnergy and why its corporate charter should be revoked toward its conversion to municipal/democratic ownership.
A critical action toward legitimate corporate accountability is to abolish all their constitutional rights that were intended solely for human beings, the goal of the We the People Amendment [House Joint Resolution 48], co-sponsored by 73 Congresspersons, including Rep. Marcia Fudge. The corporate hijacking of constitutional amendments include First Amendment political free speech “rights,” permitting corporate entities to invest in political campaigns, and Fourth Amendment search and seizure “rights,” which shield corporations from regulatory inspections. Could FirstEnergy have wielded its political power and shielded their financial conditions without these Supreme Court-invented “rights”?
It’s time to reassert democratic authority over these legal, artificial creations.
Outreach Director, Move to Amend Coalition
It’s bad enough we have a system of legalized bribery (huge political “donations” — more like investments from the super wealthy and corporations) in this country backed up by the courts (led by the Supremes), but this decision affirms legalized price gouging of consumers. Nice going Ohio Supreme Court in giving the A-OK to First Energy Corporation — responsible for the 20013 Northeast United States blackout — for overcharging ratepayers for the purchase of electricity generated by renewable technologies. And from where did some of First Energy Corporation’s overly expensive (which were passed on to consumers) electricity purchases come from? Why, of course, from one of its own affiliates — First Energy Solutions corporation. It’s all legal of course — legitimized now by the Ohio Supreme Court.
Listen to podcast here
We summarize last week’s activities; share upcoming events for next week and interview Nathan Rutz, Organizer for the Communities United for Responsible Energy, a project of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, on proposal of First Energy Corporation before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to increase fees to pay for their obsolute and polluting power plants (length: 38:43).