Cleveland City Council subpoenas for dark-money documents in anti-CPP effort go unanswered

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The City Council issued the subpoenas under authority granted in Cleveland’s charter – a power not exercised in more than two decades. That organization, now defunct, refused to comply with the council’s demand, citing an infringement on the organization’s rights of free speech. Kelley and his council colleagues want to know the source of $351,000 that Consumers Against Deceptive Fees got in in 2018. They have said they suspect the money originated from FirstEnergy, CPP’s competitor.

Kelley said the council will consult lawyers to determine what, if anything, happens next. Attempts to reach Generation Now for comment were not immediately successful.

City Council previously had subpoenaed records from Consumers Against Deceptive Fees, a dark-money nonprofit that was publicly critical of CPP and sent residents leaflets disparaging the rates and service of the city-owned electric utility. “They just haven’t responded,” City Council President Kevin Kelley said Thursday in an interview with cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer.

In February, Generation Now admitted its part in the scandal and signed a guilty plea to a charge under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. In a plea agreement, the dark-money nonprofit said it was set up to “receive undisclosed donations to benefit Householder and advance Householder’s efforts to become speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives.” An FBI affidavit and tax filings show Partners for Progress got $20 million from FirstEnergy and its affiliates. Partners for Progress gave $13 million to Generation Now as well as smaller contributions to Consumers Against Deceptive Fees and other groups.

Records have shown that Consumers Against Deceptive Fees received $200,000 in 2019 from that pass through, Partners in Progress. It was part of a larger sum of money the pass through received from FirstEnergy. Links between FirstEnergy and Consumers Against Deceptive Fees were revealed in the fallout of the statehouse bribery scandal surrounding H.B. 6, a legislative bailout of nuclear and coal-burning power plants.

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