After the unveiling of what is being called the biggest political corruption scandal in Ohio history, state representative candidate Gary Click (R-Vickery) is resisting the calls of several leaders around the state and says he is opposed to repealing the legislation at the center of the scandal.
Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and four political operatives — Matt Borges, Neil Clark, Juan Cespedes and Jeffrey Longstreth — all face racketeering charges and are accused of participating in a $61 million bribery scheme in order to get a $1.3 billion nuclear bailout bill, known as House Bill 6, passed into law to benefit the former FirstEnergy Solutions.
The federal criminal complaint outlined that the Akron company funneled millions of dollars over several years through “dark money” groups controlled by Householder. This money was used to elect Householder-friendly candidates to the state legislature, get Householder elected as House speaker, then secure support for the bailout bill introduced and passed in 2019. Those involved then allegedly worked to stymie a petition effort that had worked to get the law repealed.
Despite all of that, Click says he believes repealing House Bill 6 and going back to the drawing board for energy policy in the state would be a “knee-jerk reaction.”
“Yes, something does need to be done. But it must be well though out, deliberative, and good for Ohio. Mr. Householder and others involved will face the music on their own but there is no value in punishing the rest of Ohio because of a few corrupt personalities,” Click wrote in a post to his campaign Facebook page Wednesday.
Click’s former GOP primary opponent for the 88th district state representative seat and current Seneca County Commissioner Shayne Thomas (R-Clinton Twp.) chimed in on Click’s post, saying House Bill 6 “must” be repealed.
“HB6 must be repealed if for no other reason than Ohio voters were fraudulently denied their right for a referendum. We are pro-referendum. Correct?” Thomas wrote to Click.
“Once repealed we can support an all of the above energy policy,” Thomas said. “It must include financial disclosure from the nuclear industry. HB 6 never required the industry to prove that they needed the money. In fact they immediately issued a huge stock buyback while paying the CEO over $20 million a year which in my mind cast a bit of doubt.”
Thomas said Ohio legislators should “debate the new bill on its merits free from illegal interference,” and has previously called on state Rep. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) and other lawmakers to repeal House Bill 6, calling the process of crafting and passing the legislation “corrupt.”
“Arguments to keep air emission free power generation in Northwest Ohio can be made during a subsequent debate,” Thomas, a supporter of industrial wind turbine projects, said to Click. “The dedicated employees of Davis Besse certainly deserve that advocacy.”
Click thanked Thomas for sharing his thoughts but maintained that House Bill 6 was “good legislation, tainted by a bad process.”
“An immediate repeal would raise every consumers rates, threaten our nuclear power plants and the jobs that go with them,” Click claimed. “But I do believe that the current legislature will have a thoughtful solution soon.”
Thomas fired back, saying “HB 6 costs the average family $7 a month, businesses much more.”
“We need to be transparent on the cost of this to Ohio ratepayers. FirstEnergy needs to be transparent with you [as well]. You don’t make a loan without proper financials and don’t commit hard working Ohioan’s money without full financial disclosure. This is nonnegotiable,” Thomas said.
Thomas lost to Click, a controversial Baptist preacher, in a three-way Republican primary race for the 88th Ohio House district, which includes all of Sandusky County and the majority of Seneca County.
Click is currently facing off against Fremont City Councilman Chris Liebold (D) for the state representative seat, which is being vacated by Rep. Bill Reineke as he runs for the state senate. Reineke was a cosponsor of the original House Bill 6.