FirstEnergy Chief Executive Steve Strah told Wall Street analysts on Thursday that the company ceased making political contributions, including contributions to 501(c)4 groups that are not required to disclose their donors, and is evaluating how to move forward.
Partners for Progress, a nonprofit linked to FirstEnergy Corp., poured more than $13 million into Ohio political groups in 2019, according to IRS documents.
“You can count on us not contributing to any 501(c)4 that is politically focused,” Strah said. He pledged that FirstEnergy’s future legislative and political advocacy will include more oversight and more disclosure.
Partners for Progress has not disclosed its 2020 activities.
“We have taken the approach from the beginning that cooperating with folks at DOJ and SEC — and full cooperation — is the right approach,” said Chris Pappas, executive director of the FirstEnergy Board of Directors. “...I would say the cooperation is just one of the cornerstones of the shift and change in this company that Steve and others are driving.”
Multiple government agencies are investigating FirstEnergy Corp:
U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation: Federal prosecutors allege that utility companies funneled more than $60 million through nonprofit groups to elect Republican Larry Householder as Ohio House speaker, who in turn helped pass and defend a $1.3 billion bailout bill. Prosecutors didn’t specifically name FirstEnergy and its former affiliate FirstEnergy Solutions but both companies have said they are cooperating with the investigation. Householder and four others were arrested. Two have pleaded guilty. Householder and two other men have pleaded not guilty to federal racketeering charges.
Securities and Exchange Commission: The SEC opened an investigation in August into possible violations of securities laws.
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission: Investigators gave notice to FirstEnergy on Jan. 21, 2021, to preserve and maintain all documents and information related to an ongoing audit.
Public Utilities Commission of Ohio: The PUCO is examining FirstEnergy’s political and charitable spending, auditing the corporation and ordering the company to submit to a rate case.