The public uproar over FirstEnergy’s dark money payments to nonprofits controlled by ex-Speaker Householder, and a motion by the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC), prompted the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to open a docket to determine whether “the costs of any political or charitable spending in support of Am. Sub. H.B. 6, or the subsequent referendum effort were […] included, directly or indirectly, in any rates or charges paid by ratepayers in this state.”

This purpose sounds pretty broad, but based on FirstEnergy’s view of the proceeding, the Company has already been absolved of any wrongdoing because it is illegal to charge ratepayers for political or charitable spending. Let’s think about that for a moment:

FirstEnergy gave money to the ex-Speaker so he could buy a speakership and pass legislation providing $1.5 billion to subsidize two nuclear plants it was trying to sell. The FBI says that is illegal and has indicted 5 individuals, including Householder.

However, FirstEnergy protests that it has not recovered the $60 million given to nonprofits controlled by Householder and his minions from ratepayers because that would be illegal. Seems to me that if you’re willing to do something illegal to get $1.5 billion, you might also be willing to violate the law to pay for it. But then that’s just me.

FirstEnergy also wants to deny almost all interested parties the ability to participate in the proceeding. FirstEnergy has filed to oppose OPAE’s motion to intervene, along with seven other parties as diverse as the Ohio Hospital Association, Ohio Environmental Council, a marketer, and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association Energy Group. The only two groups that FirstEnergy wants to involve are the Industrial Energy Users-Ohio and the Ohio Energy Group. These two organizations represent the largest industrial customers, who’s members gain significant benefits from HB 6 and rate deals with FirstEnergy.

The Commission has adjusted the case schedule, delaying comments while issues of intervention and discovery are resolved. OPAE has filed several discovery requests, focusing on the campaign contributions the FirstEnergy operating companies – Cleveland Electric Illuminating, Ohio Edison, Toledo Edison – or the holding company. We also asked about contributions to Generation Now, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit that distributed the dark money.

A decision is expected next month on how extensive the inquiry will actually be, and whether interested parties will be allowed to participate.