Butler County lawmaker says he will donate contribution to charity amid state investigation

One Ohio House member from Butler County received a campaign contribution from FirstEnergy, the company implicated in the $60 million racketeering scandal resulting in Ohio Speaker Larry Householder’s arrest.

Ohio Rep. Geroge Lang, R-West Chester Twp., said he plans to donate a $5,000 contribution that was received a month after House Bill 6 went into effect to charity, and he is supporting the repeal effort of the billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout bill.

“Given the data that we know now, what it took to pass it, and more concerning to me, how they stopped it from going to the ballot. Given all that, I think House Bill 6 needs to be repealed and I think we need to start all over,” said Lang.

Introduced in April 2019 and signed into law by Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in July 2019, the bill makes several changes to Ohio’s energy law. It waters down renewable energy standards that had been in place for a decade.

It also provides two bailouts: one for the Ohio Valley Electric Corp., which is partially owned by DP&L, AEP and others; and another for Akron-based FirstEnergy Solutions, which owns two aging nuclear power plants along Lake Erie. FirstEnergy Solutions emerged from bankruptcy and is now named Harbor Energy.

Lang said the FirstEnergy PAC donation on Nov. 19, 2019, was irrelevant to his July 23, 2019, vote, but he said he will donate it to a yet-to-be-determined charity, most likely one that benefits children.

Lang, who has a business-first focus when it comes to his legislative duties, has received nearly $160,000 since 2017 from business-based political action committees, $14,000 of which came from energy company PACs in 2019. Lang announced in July 2019 that he would run for the 4th Ohio Senate District seat, and he won the Republican primary. His opponent, Kathy Wyenandt, a Democrat from Liberty Twp., said, “There’s an ingrained culture of corruption that’s based on money for votes” and believes “Ohio voters have had enough of it.”

“People I’ve talked to about it in both parties are amazed by the arrogance, and the sheer dishonesty,” she said of the Householder scandal. “There’s an ingrained culture of corruption that’s based on money for votes. I think, I hope, that Ohio voters have had enough of it. We deserve better.”

Ohio Rep. Sara Carruthers said she’s “saddened” by allegations against Householder, a person she calls “a friend and strong leader for the state of Ohio.”

“The reported depth of the contrivance, if proven in court, would to me be a professional and personal betrayal,” she said.

Carruthers, who believes Householder shouldstep down as speaker, said she does “pray he is innocent of these charges.”

She defended her support for House Bill 6.

“My vote in favor of HB 6 was solely because the independent Legislative Service Commission determined that it would save ratepayers over $2 billion and save thousands of Ohio jobs,” she said. “Like many of my colleagues in the House and the Senate, my opinion on the legislation’s value has not changed."

Carruthers did not receive any campaign contributions from FirstEnergy. The first-term House member has received more than $38,000 from business and organizational political action committees, none of which were energy companies.

Lang said when House Bill 6 was first introduced, “it was a really bad bill,” but he supported it after changes even though he disagreed with the bailout of a private business with public funds

“The only thing I didn’t like was government interfering in free markets,” said Lang, referring to the bailout. “I believe, for the most part, the private sector should stand on its own.”

The bill impacted Ohio’s 4.8 million electricity ratepayers. Previously, 12.5 percent of a company’s energy must be from a renewable resource, and 0.5 percent must be from solar energy. The bill eliminated the solar requirement and rolled back the 12.5 percent requirement to 8.5 percent, and then eliminates the requirement by 2026. Lang said he’d also like to keep the sunset provision.

Lang said that while Householder should step down as speaker, he shouldn’t resign his legislative seat if Householder believes he is innocent.

“The speaker is considered innocent until proven guilty. If Larry thinks he is innocent, I encourage him to stand and fight with every bit of energy that he has,” he said.

However, Householder can no longer be effective as speaker because his criminal case “is going to suck all the oxygen out of the room,” Lang said.

“I do not see how he can continue to be our speaker while he’s going through this,” he said.

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