COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio House Democrats called for more accountability Thursday from Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, as news of his administration being potentially tied to the House Bill 6 bribery scandal has come out.
However, the governor pushed back.
Representatives Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, and Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, took shot after shot at DeWine, and said he isn't responding seriously enough. The Democratic duo also said heads need to roll.
"The only solution to this unprecedented level of corruption is to demand, as we are doing here today, an equally unprecedented level of transparency and accountability to match," said Crossman.
Crossman and Weinstein want DeWine to fire his former chief of staff and current counselor, Laurel Dawson, and Legislative Affairs Director Dan McCarthy.
"Gov. DeWine has surrounded himself with folks who are deeply involved in this scandal. It’s past time for them to go and for DeWine to come clean," said Weinstein.
Dawson is being accused of waiting weeks to tell the governor about a $4.3 million payment FirstEnergy made to former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo weeks before DeWine nominated him to his position in 2019.
McCarthy, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist, is accused of creating a dark money group which later funneled millions of dollars to help pass House Bill 6, the $1 billion taxpayer-funded bailout of two nuclear power plants in Ohio once operated by FirstEnergy Solutions now called Energy Harbor.
“The people of Ohio deserve to know whether the DeWine-Husted administration is full of crooks or whether the DeWine-Husted's in the largest public corruption scheme in Ohio history simply demonstrated a colossal failure of judgement,” Crossman said.
The Democrats also want DeWine to release all documents his administration has in regards to House Bill 6 and the appointment of Randazzo.
"It's up to DeWine and [Lt. Gov. Jon] Husted to come forward with all the information and let the public judge for themselves whether or not they engaged in any wrongdoing," said Crossman.
Randazzo, who resigned as PUCO chair after his home was raided by the FBI in November, has not been charged with a crime.
Yet as Democrats come after DeWine, the Ohio Democratic Party, Crossman and other statehouse lawmakers all received money from FirstEnergy. The ODP and Crossman said they are donating the money to charity.
The Ohio Republican Party also received donations from the company, but did not return requests by Spectrum News about what they are doing with the money.
Political analyst Paul Beck said it is normal for a company to give money to both sides.
"Because they're never quite sure who's going to be in power when they need to have a friendly ear to talk to about things that concern them," said Beck, Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University Political Science Department.
Crossman and Weinstein were also among the 26 Democrats that helped Larry Householder become speaker in 2019. Householder was expelled from the Ohio House of Representatives in June. He was removed as speaker in July 2020 just nine days after he and four others were arrested on federal racketeering charges surrounding House Bill 6.
"I was lied to about what his real motives were and what was behind his effort to become speaker," said Weinstein.
DeWine said Thursday he has no plans to fire Dawson or McCarthy.
"I have confidence in the people that work for me and that's really about it," said DeWine.
When asked by Spectrum News if he felt he had any issues about whether he can effectively lead with this scandal hovering around his administration, DeWine responded, "Oh, I can lead. Yeah, I can lead."
DeWine's main primary challenger and former Congressman Jim Renacci has called on State Auditor Keith Faber to look into any and all donations made to the DeWine campaign.
Crossman agreed that is a good idea as well.
Weinstein added if DeWine does not fire his staffers, he and the rest of the Democrats will still continue to demand accountability.