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PUCO investigation could shed light

Nearly two months after former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder was arrested by federal agents charging him with participating in a $60 million bribery scheme, a key question remains unanswered, officially, at least. Federal prosecutors still have not identified the “Company A” their documents indicate funneled money to Householder and a few cronies.

Householder and the other defendants are accused of taking the money in exchange for help in pushing through a law — still on the books but on the verge of being repealed — to help a former affiliate of FirstEnergy Corp. The measure provides a taxpayer-funded bailout, with an estimated price tag of $1 billion, to help the affiliate’s two nuclear power plants. Another section of the law aids a pair of coal-fired power plants.

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio members are being asked to pursue an investigation of FirstEnergy to learn whether it used money from consumers improperly in connection with the bail-out law.

Such a probe seems obvious, given the appearance that “Company A” is FirstEnergy. In fact, it has been reported the company’s CEO admitted recently that about 25 percent of the $60 million referred to in the Householder case came from the firm.

Where, one wonders, did the remaining $45 million originate?

Though federal investigators have been tight-lipped about the matter, they clearly are looking into FirstEnergy. Why, then, should the PUCO pursue a separate probe?

Because the FBI’s interest is in finding evidence of crimes — not necessarily in making Ohio energy consumers whole if their money was used to pay bribes. Leave it up to the feds, then, to prosecute and perhaps punish any corporate officials involved in wrongdoing.

A PUCO investigation should be launched to connect all the dots regarding whether consumers’ utility payments were used for bribes — and how to hold any corporate interests accountable for repaying the money.

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