Kenneth Parker, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, has asked the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to put a six-month hold on its investigation of the $60 million bribery scandal behind a billion dollar bailout for FirstEnergy.
The PUCO must follow that request as the federal prosecutor says the substantial discovery underway by the utility regulators “may interfere or impede an ongoing investigation.”
Parker is newly appointed to his position, and perhaps that’s part of the problem, but it’s been more than two years since Ohio was shocked by Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization — RICO Act charges — at the Statehouse.
The U.S. Justice Department dropped the bombshell news on Ohioans that their state government was running akin to organized crime — the RICO Act target — with no solid facts on the rest of the story before a major election this fall.
Amazingly, the placid bureaucracy controlled by Ohio’s one-party state government has been more aggressive on getting to the bottom of the FirstEnergy scandal — while voters have an opportunity to do something about it — than the U.S. Department of Justice.
Federal law enforcement has been long on high-profile announcements, first the charges against the Statehouse five, including then House Speaker Larry Householder, next a $230 million fine and deferred plea agreement with FirstEnergy.
But telling us our utility admits paying bribes to get the bailout bill passed into law, without charging those who paid the bribes or accepted the bribes, looks like chapter one of the book on two-tiered justice.
The PUCO has collected important information for reform efforts in Ohio. Reading the texts and emails between FirstEnergy executives and Ohio public officials has been about the only thing keeping the biggest political scandal in state history from being all but forgotten.
It was pressure from the Ohioans they answer to more than watchdog DNA that pushed the PUCO to take the action that must now be stopped for the Justice Department.
U.S. attorneys who make Ohio utility regulators look aggressive should be embarrassed. And, the President they work for should be put on notice he’s responsible.