- American Electric Power's share price tumbled about 10% at the beginning of the week and had still not completely recovered by the end of the day Tuesday, following published reports that the company had contributed to the dark money committee, Generation Now, in its $61 million, multi-year campaign to bail out nuclear plants formerly owned by FirstEnergy Corp.
Nicholas Akins, AEP's CEO, issued a statement stating that neither the corporation nor its subsidiaries contributed to Generation Now. He said the company contributed to Empowering Ohio's Economy, AEP's wholly-owned, tax-exempt committee promoting business development in Ohio.
But Empowering Ohio's Economy then contributed $150,000 to Generation Now and $200,000 to another non-profit group also under federal investigation. AEP's chief lobbyist, who testified in favor of the bailout legislation, is a director of Empowering Ohio.
AEP's efforts to stay as far away from the federal bribery investigation that has all but named FirstEnergy and its former power plant subsidiary, now called Energy Harbor, came this week as FirstEnergy CEO Charles Jones issued a new public statement clarifying remarks he made to analysts during the company's second quarter earnings call on Friday.
Jones' statement underscored previous comments to analysts, that the company's subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions began acting independently in November 2016 when it created its own board of directors, and that while FirstEnergy continued to offer FES support services — including advice on external affairs — "that support decreased over time, particularly, as the FES [March 2018] bankruptcy approached. FES made its own decisions after its new board was in place with respect to its external affairs strategy."
Jones also told analysts that FirstEnergy contributed about 25% of the nearly $61 million Generation Now received for its efforts to lobby for passage of the legislation. But he noted that FirstEnergy "would not get a single dollar of the House Bill 6 funding for those plants."
Both AEP and FE issued their statements this week just a day before Republican lawmakers, in a private a caucus Tuesday, agreed to remove Rep. Larry Householder, R, as speaker of the House in Ohio. Election of a new speaker, yet to be identified, would occur in a public meeting of the House.
FBI agents last week arrested Householder and four others following an investigation that lasted more than a year. Federal prosecutors simultaneously released an 81-page complaint alleging that Householder created Generation Now as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization that used bribery as early as 2016 with the goal of ultimately winning passage of the bailout legislation, House Bill 6, approved last year.
Generation Now financed the election campaigns of Ohio House and Senate members through several election cycles, creating "Team Householder," that is, House and Senate members beholden to the speaker.
When HB 6 was introduced in April 2019, it was done at a news conference in Householder's offices. Subsequently Householder was able to control committee assignments, hearing schedules and the passage of the bill.
HB 6 also allows the state's power companies, including AEP, to continue subsidizing two old coal plants with charges on monthly bills through 2030. This subsidy alone costs residential consumers $1.50 per month and businesses much more. The nuclear plant subsidy will cost residential customers about $0.85 a month through 2027.
Lawmakers are considering introducing legislation to repeal HB 6.