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FirstEnergy Dissolution Testimony

May 29, 2024 - Ohio State House


Greg Coleridge - FirstEnergy Accountability Coalition

Good morning. My name is Greg Coleridge. I’m Co-Director of the national Move to Amend Campaign. This event is sponsored by the FirstEnergy Accountability Coalition, representatives of environmental and democracy, good government organizations and consumers. We are calling today to metaphorically “unplug”, more specifically, dissolve, FirstEnergy Company. 

We believe it’s time to hold FirstEnergy corporation accountable in proportion to the scale of its historic admitted crime of a $61 million payment in 2021 to a nonprofit secretly operated by former GOP Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder (now in prison) and another $4.3 million payment to the state’s top utility regulator, Sam Randazzo, who was recently indicted and is now deceased. The bribes were intended to pass House Bill 6 (HB6), a $1.3 billion bailout of two FirstEnergy antiquated, failing nuclear power plants, which would have cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Today is  the fifth anniversary of passage of HB6 by the Ohio House of Representatives.=

Numerous individuals connected to FirstEnergy have been and are appropriately being prosecuted. But the admitted corporate criminal, FirstEnergy, has yet to be held legitimately accountable. Simply paying a fine to the federal government is nowhere near the equivalency in magnitude to FirstEnergy corporation’s admission of guilt in what’s been called the largest bribery scheme in the 221year old history of the State of Ohio. It’s time for the State to take action. Attorney General David Yost has the power and authority to call for the dissolution of the company. Yost has filed a civil suit that includes that possibility. FirstEnergy’s corporate charter or license should be revoked.

Corporations are legal creations of the state. Corporate charters or licenses were originally meant to define corporate actions to ensure that the state’s corporate creations obeyed all laws, served the common good and provided useful goods or services. When corporations failed to follow the provisions of their charter, including upholding the law, their charters were often revoked – less as a punishment to the company than to protect Ohioans and our direct and representative democracy.

There is a long and proud history of both the Ohio State Legislature and Ohio Supreme Court revoking corporate charters. 

In one instance, the Supreme Court in 1900 stated in revoking a corporate charter 

The time has not yet arrived when the created is greater than the creator, and it still remains the duty of the courts to perform their office in the enforcement of the laws, no matter how ingenious the pretexts for their violation may be, nor the power of the violators in the commercial world.

In the present case the acts of the defendant have been persistent, defiant and flagrant, and no other course is left to the court than to enter a judgment of ouster and to appoint trustees to wind up the business of the concern.

In 1892, the Ohio AG, David Watson, filed suit to revoke the charter of the Standard Oil Company, the most powerful U.S. corporation of the time, for forming a trust. Watson stated:

Where a corporation, either directly or indirectly, submits to the domination of an agency unknown to the statute, or identifies itself with and unites in carrying out an agreement whose performance is injurious to the public, it thereby offends against the law of its creation and forfeits all right to its franchises, and judgment of ouster should be entered against it.

It should be noted that David Watson was a Republican. 

Following the brief statements from several members of the FirstEnergy Accountability Coalition, we will march across the street to the office of Attorney General Yost. We have sent him a letter seeking a meeting to urge him to do his job to protect all Ohioans, as well as the environment and whatever amount of democracy we have in Ohio, by dissolving FirstEnergy Company. 

Read more

FirstEnergy Dissolution Media Coverage


Renee Fox / WOSU News

Coalition that wants the state to dissolve FirstEnergy to gather at Statehouse to apply pressure
WOSU 89.7 NPR News | By Renee Fox
Published May 28, 2024 at 5:00 AM EDT
https://www.wosu.org/politics-government/2024-05-24/coalition-that-wants-the-state-to-dissolve-firstenergy-to-gather-at-statehouse-to-apply-pressure

Coalition urges Ohio AG to dissolve FirstEnergy for bribery scandal
WOSU 89.7 NPR News | By Renee Fox
Published May 29, 2024 at 7:46 PM EDT
https://www.ideastream.org/2024-05-29/coalition-calling-for-an-end-to-firstenergy-left-in-the-cold-by-ohio-ag-yost

Calling on Attorney General Yost to dissolve FirstEnergy
https://columbusfreepress.com/article/calling-attorney-general-yost-dissolve-firstenergy

Group calls on Ohio attorney general to ‘unplug’ FirstEnergy
By Jenna Jordan Ohio
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM ET May 30, 2024
https://spectrumnews1.com/oh/columbus/news/2024/05/29/ohio-firstenergy-bribery-scandal-

Activists ask Ohio's attorney general to scrap FirstEnergy's business license over HB 6 scandal
The Statehouse News Bureau | By Karen Kasler
Published May 31, 2024 at 2:00 PM EDT
https://www.statenews.org/government-politics/2024-05-31/activists-ask-ohios-attorney-general-to-scrap-firstenergys-business-license-over-hb-6-scandal

Activists ask Ohio’s attorney general to scrap FirstEnergy’s business license over HB 6 scandal
By: Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau
Posted on: Saturday, June 1, 2024
https://woub.org/2024/06/01/activists-ask-ohios-attorney-general-to-scrap-firstenergys-business-license-over-hb-6-scandal/

 

 

 


Coalition Calls for Dissolving FirstEnergy Corporation for Its Admitted Bribes to Pass House Bill 6

FirstEnergy Accountability Coalition
c/o [email protected]

NEWS RELEASE 
For immediate release, May 20, 2024

Contacts: 
Greg Coleridge, [email protected] | Sandy Bolzenius, [email protected] 

Coalition Calls for Dissolving FirstEnergy Corporation for Its Admitted Bribes to Pass House Bill 6 

A group of environmental and democracy good government organizations and consumers will hold a press conference on Wednesday, May 29 to call for the dissolution of FirstEnergy Corporation. The conference, sponsored by the FirstEnergy Accountability Coalition, will take place at the Governor Thomas Worthington Center, ground level at the Ohio Statehouse, corner of Broad and High streets in Columbus, beginning at 11:30 am.

FirstEnergy Accountability Coalition members believe it’s time to hold FirstEnergy accountable in proportion to the scale of its historic admitted crime of a $61 million payment in 2021 to a nonprofit secretly operated by former GOP Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder (now in prison) and another $4.3 million payment to the state’s top utility regulator, Sam Randazzo, who was recently indicted and is now deceased. The bribes were intended to pass House Bill 6 (HB6), a $1.3 billion bailout of two FirstEnergy antiquated, failing nuclear power plants, which would have cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars. 

Dissolving the corporation is the proportionate action to respond to the scale of its historic bribery scheme, according to the Coalition.

Press conference speakers will address the harms FirstEnergy has caused to the environment, consumers and to democracy in Ohio. Speakers will also address the historical frequency of corporate charter/license dissolution when companies have violated the terms of their charters/licenses, which have been done to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public and to preserve democratic self-governance over the corporate creations of the state.

Following the press conference, attendees will march across the street to the office of Attorney General David Yost. The march will feature banners, signs and handouts calling for Yost to “Unplug FirstEnergy.”

Yost has filed a civil suit against FirstEnergy Corporation, calling for it to be dissolved or reorganized pursuant to the Ohio Revised Code 2923.34(B)(3). 

A request has been sent to Yost asking for a meeting with Coalition members urging him to proceed with corporate dissolution of the single contributor to the single largest bribery scheme in Ohio history.

May 29 marks the fifth anniversary of passage of HB6


Cleveland Hts. OH: June 13 Democracy Day Public Hearing Testimony

WATCH ON YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkYkqg11qoE 

EXPLANATION

CHAPTER 183
Political Influence by Corporate Entities
https://clevelandheightsoh.portal.civicclerk.com/event/250/files/attachment/1311

TESTIMONY

Greg Coleridge

It’s been 11 years since Cleveland Heights voters passed Issue 32, calling for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution declaring:

  1. Only human beings, not corporations, are legal persons with Constitutional rights, and
  2. Money is not equivalent to speech, and therefore, regulating political contributions and spending does not equate to limiting political speech.

In many respects, little has changed.

Political money spent in elections - much of it donated or invested by the super rich and corporate entities, continue to increase, with more of it being “dark money” from sources and places that are unknown. The problem is not only federally, but increasingly at the state and even local levels. Legalized bribery has never been more legal and corrupting – with the voices of people who can’t invest in politicians less heard and responded to. 

Additionally, Cash spent on lobbying from special interest groups continues to rise

In both cases, the super rich and corporations have hijacked First Amendment Free speech rights

Communities and states continue to be unable to mandate corporations to include information on food products or renewable energy since it violates corporate First Amendment right “not to speak”

Communities continue to be unable for the most part to conduct surprise inspections on corporate property to protect workers, consumers and the environment since it violates corporate “Fourth Amendment “search and seizure” rights

Efforts to seriously call for keeping fossil fuels in the ground and not burned to prevent further climate destruction is deterred by the prospect that fossil fuel corporations will claim that unmined, drilled or fracked fossil fuels are lost future profits and violate their Fifth Amendment “takings” rights.

And communities continue to be unable to provide preferential treatment of local business over chain stores or to prevent cell phone towers in their communities since such actions are discriminatory, violating corporations Fourteenth Amendment “equal protection” rights

Yet, at the same time, much has changed in 11 years. 

The explosion of money in politics and abuses and harms of corporations to people, places and the planet are becoming ever more blatant, hideous, systemic and unacceptable. Greater realization that simply electing better people, passing better laws, enacting better regulations or declaring better executive decisions are not proportionate in scale to the magnitude of the breadth and depth of corporate rule and money in politics. Merely putting out fires while ignoring the arsonists are just reactive, responsive and defensive. They will never, ever help us create a more just, peaceful, sustainable and democratic community, nation and beyond. 

Discussion about constitutional renewal is becoming more mainstream on many fronts. That includes ending the constitutional doctrines that  a corporation is a person and money is free speech.

The We the People Amendment, HJR 54, have never had more support. Over 518,000 individuals have signed our Motion to Amend. 706 communities have passed resolutions and/or citizens driven ballot initiatives – of which CH has done both. 8 states have done the same. 770 organizations – local, regional and national – have endorsed. And 85 Congresspersons have endorsed, including in April, Shontel Brown. 

We’re under no illusions. Amending the Constitution is a virtual impossibility – the most difficult of any on the planet. In fact, t’s been done 27 times before, often when several were enacted in a relatively short period of time when external conditions warranted them.

Yet, we’re under no illusions. External conditions warrant constitutional change. Our political crisis has reduced the trust in government. Without trust, you can’t have a viable government. And our political economy is based on exploiting people and the planet by promoting perpetual economic growth on a finite planet without severe political, economic or environmental consequences. Talk about fantasy. 

Changing the law is always preceded by changing the culture. “Nothing else in the world…not all the armies…is so powerful as an idea whose time has come.” said Victor Hugo.

The time is rapidly coming to have a just, peace sustainable and democratic community, nation and beyond. The We the People Amendment is one part of what will inevitably become constitutional renewal.

What follows are testimonies on the impact of money in politics and corporate rule on our community and beyond – along with sharing a few notable historical events in June that related to corporate power, money in elections, democracy and the power to define corporate entities.

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Local volunteer addresses Troy City Council re: corporate personhood

Heather Sturgill, a volunteer with Move to Amend Miami County, Ohio, made the following statement at the May 6 Troy City Council meeting:

So I haven't lived here long, but one of the things that I really like about the people that I've met so far, is the strong sense of fairness. If people recognize that something seems unfair they want to get involved and make it right. 
And I know this isn't a specific local city issue. But, here's where people go to learn about things and get involved in things. So, I want to draw your attention to the fact that some companies are exploiting something called "corporate personhood."
Back on May 10th of 1886 the Supreme Court established that, under the 14th Amendment, a corporation is a person with “equal protection of the laws” in the case called Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. 
Since that time corporations have pushed that concept to the point that they're now getting all of the Rights and benefits of "personhood." But, my problem is that they're not having to face any of the consequences.
The biggest case in point is First Energy (now called Energy Harbor). The actions of people on behalf of that company caused the biggest bribery scandal in Ohio history. And, only flesh and blood people have faced the consequences of that; a couple of employees and some elected officials have gotten, or might get, some jail time. 
But the company has still been free to operate business as usual, and even be awarded sweetheart aggregation contracts ...including from Troy.
There isn't corporate jail, or corporate death penalty, anything like that. The most that ever happens to corporations is a fine, and quite frequently that's just rolled into the cost of doing business, and sometimes even taken off of their taxes as an expense. 
And while this isn't directly a city issue, we can spread the word about supporting the “We the People Amendment.” At the Federal-level it's House Joint Resolution 54, and at the State level it's called House Resolution 56.

“Democracy Day” Public Hearing held in Toledo

Democracy Day 2024 in Toledo was held Wednesday March 20 in the Council Chambers, One Government Center. Forty-four people were in the audience. 

Last year there were 4 council members present, this year 7 members attended. There were 19 presenters including music and messages from labor, health care, climate, redistricting to correct for gerrymandering, constitutional conventions, highway expansion through a community and Gaza crisis.

Read more

City fulfilled Democracy Day obligations in 2021, law director says

https://www.scriptype.com/2023/04/19/city-fulfilled-democracy-day-obligations-in-2021-law-director-says/

April 19, 2023

by Melissa Martin

March 7 city council meeting

Brecksville City Council and the city’s legal department said there will not be a city-sponsored Democracy Day in 2023, even though the ballot issue, approved by voters in 2012, specified a 10-year term.

The determination was made March 7 after city resident Bob Belovich questioned council and the administration about city ordinance 129.03. The ordinance stipulates the “biennial public hearings will continue for a period of 10 years through February 2023, or until a constitutional amendment reflecting the principles set forth in section 129.02 is ratified by three quarters of the state legislators.”

Democracy Day is a biannual public hearing before city council and the mayor. It examines the impact of political contributions of corporations, unions, PACS and super-PACS on the city.

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Letter to the Editor: Move to Amend Miami County Shares Responses

To the editor:

People are increasingly concerned about big money in politics and the influence large corporations have on policies that affect us at the local level, such as rail transportation safety and toxic substance disposal.

In advance of the March 19 primary, members of Move to Amend Miami County surveyed candidates on the ballot for Congressional Districts 8 and 15 and Ohio House District 80. We asked candidates to answer “yes” or “no” to this question: “I support amending the U.S. Constitution to make clear that corporations and other artificial entities do not have constitutional rights and that money is not speech and campaign spending should be limited through regulation.”

Here are the responses:

• Congressional District 8, Republican race: Kay Rogers answered “yes.” Incumbent Warren Davidson did not respond.

• Congressional District 8, Democratic race: Dr. Vanessa Enoch and Nathaniel Hawkins both answered “yes.” David Gelb did not respond.

• Congressional District 15, Republican race: Incumbent Mike Carey, running unopposed, did not respond.

• Congressional District 15, Democratic race: Zerqa Abid answered “yes.” Adam Miller did not respond.

• Ohio House 80: Johnathan Newman, running unopposed for the Republican nomination, did not respond. Melissa VanDyke, running unopposed for the Democratic nomination, answered “yes.”

The candidates’ full responses can be found at www.movetoamend.org/pledge2024

Move to Amend Miami County is an affiliate of the national, nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of people and organizations promoting the proposed We the People Amendment, reintroduced last spring in the 118thCongress, to affirm that constitutional rights belong to natural persons only and money spent on campaigns at all levels of government shall be regulated. You can read the proposed amendment at www.movetoamend.org/amendment.

Move to Amend neither supports nor opposes candidates, regardless of their response or nonresponse to the survey. Rather, volunteers work to educate the public about the need for the proposed amendment and explain what the amendment will and will not do.

Thank you.

Dede Wissman

Troy


Greater Dayton Move to Amend Honors Young Artist

Corinne Simpson, a 10th grader at Archbishop Alter High School in Kettering, was honored March 9, 2024 for her entry in the We the People Art Contest, presented by Greater Dayton Move to Amend in partnership with the Dayton International Peace Museum.

Titled “We All Deserve to Be Heard,” Corinne’s submission captured the spirit of the contest theme, “The Democracy We Want,” and was beautifully executed using pen, alcohol markers and acrylic paint. She had entered the contest at the encouragement of her AP Government teacher, Brad Clough, who said Corinne routinely produces creative covers for assignments.

Corinne said she enjoys class discussions about different forms of government and hearing different perspectives on what needs to change in society. As she thought about entering the contest, she considered what could be improved in our democracy.

“Some people think they don’t have a voice in what’s going on,” she said. “I wanted to put that as the title because I don’t think everyone is getting heard.”   

The art contest was open to Dayton-area students in grades 9-12, with cash prizes to be awarded in three categories: visual arts, performing arts, and political cartoons. Corinne’s artwork, however, was the only submission.

“We were disappointed to find that our outreach to the schools fell short,” said Mary Sue Gmeiner, affiliate co-coordinator. “Fortunately, her entry is awesome, and so we are awarding her all of the prize money in the visual arts category and having her artwork framed.”

Two local artists also provided written critiques of Corinne’s artwork, which will be on display at the Peace Museum through April 6.

Although Corinne was unable to work art into her busy schedule this year, she intends to be back in the art room with art teacher Eric Hall, who, along with Clough, attended the reception held at the Peace Museum.

Corinne is the daughter of Tania and Roderick Simpson of Miami Township. In addition to enjoying art, she runs track and cross country. She also plays the violin and is a member of the Miami Valley Symphony Orchestra Youth Strings.

“Corinne, while our contest turned out not to be a contest, we consider you a winner,” said Deb Hogshead, contest coordinator. “And we want to remind everyone that change often begins with one person stepping up and taking action.”

For more information about our pilot art contest and what we learned from the experience, contact Hogshead at [email protected].


Letters: Money is not free speech and a corporation is not a person

Akron Beacon Journal | Jan 28, 2024

Jan. 21 marked the 14th anniversary of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. The ruling increased the amount of money spent in political elections from the very rich and corporate entities, drowning out the voices of people to be heard by elected representatives who didn’t politically contribute. 

Many, if not most, people believe Citizens United was the first time the court ruled that “money equals free speech,” as well as the constitutional right of corporate entities to donate politically. It wasn’t. 

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