(Plain Press, January 2021) On Christmas Eve 2020, Cleveland City Council released the following statement about Consumers Against Deceptive Fees, a group that did a number of mailings to Cleveland residents this past year:
Recent tax filings from the dark money group Partners for Progress clearly establish that dark money interests that funded the HB 6 bribery and corruption scandal also funded another dark money group, Consumers Against Deceptive Fees, in an attempt to destabilize Cleveland Public Power(CPP).
Consumers Against Deceptive Fees received $200,000 from an organization called Partners for Progress. A federal affidavit filed states that Company A (officials say resembles FirstEnergy) had given Partners for Progress $20 million in 2019. Partners was organized as a “social welfare” nonprofit. Such groups are called “dark money” entities because they are not required to disclose their donors.
“This is a serious development,” said Council President Kevin Kelley. “This filing confirms that Consumers Against Deceptive Fees received dark money and its intent was to attack our publicly owned utility.”
Earlier this year council passed a resolution (605-2020) to investigate, including subpoenaing organizations, any link between the dark money groups named in the indictments involved in the HB 6 corruption probe as those actions relate to and impact the city of Cleveland.
“My belief that there was an outside attempt to destabilize Cleveland Public Power proves correct,“ Council President Kelley said.
The resolution stated that “Council has reason to believe that Company A has other long-term public policy goals specific to the City of Cleveland: to restrict or destroy Cleveland Public Power and to influence or control the City’s legislative body as well as its executive branch.”
The myriad of dark money groups funded by Company A and who received that funding is still being investigated. But Consumers Against Deceptive Fees specifically worked against the interests of CPP. And though its website and Facebook pages are deactivated, they worked against the Icebreaker Wind Project – wind turbines in Lake Erie – that will generate power CPP has committed to purchasing.
That same sentiment was held by Sam Randazzo, former chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and chairman of the Ohio Power Siting Board which initially killed the Icebreaker project before reversing itself and before Randazzo resigned after the FBI raided his house. At about the same time FirstEnergy reported that former company executives made an improper payment of $4 million to an entity associated with an unnamed person who subsequently was hired by the state to regulate utilities. Randazzo did work for FirstEnergy Solutions, then a FirstEnergy subsidiary before he was appointed by Gov. DeWine.
“We will continue our investigations,” Council President Kelley said. “We know Consumers Against Deceptive Fees received other money based on tax paperwork it filed.”