In his marquee segment on HBO’s Last Week Tonight on May 15, host John Oliver mocked former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones and recounted some of the most garish highlights of the HB6 scandal to dramatize the corruption and perniciousness of American utility companies.
Oliver’s segment largely concerned the monopolistic power of privately owned utilities. Over the course of the 20+ minute deep dive, Oliver detailed how utilities pursue costly construction projects to guarantee profits for shareholders, saddling poor communities with enormous bills and legally barring them from green alternatives, all while neglecting decades-old infrastructure.
Later in the segment, he pointed out the ineffectiveness of state public utility commissions across the country, arguing that often, these commissions are “outmatched” by the powerful utilities. In fact, Oliver turned to Ohio, (at about the 15:45 mark in the video below), to show how public utility commissions are “fully in the pockets” of the utilities themselves.
On the subject of HB6, Oliver mocked the 501(c)4 Generation Now — the nonprofit to which FirstEnergy allegedly funneled $60 million so Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder could buy off legislators and win support for HB6 — and noted the absurdity of former PUCO chief Sam Randazzo receiving millions of dollars in “consulting fees” (aka bribes) from FirstEnergy, one of the utilities he was supposed to be regulating. FirstEnergy has admitted to paying a $4.3 million bribe to Randazzo to secure favorable PUCO rulings.
Oliver featured reporting from the Ohio Capitol Journal’s Jake Zuckerman, and a text from Chuck Jones to Randazzo on the day HB6 was passed, which read, “HB 6 F–K ANYBODY WHO AINT US.”
According to Zuckerman’s reporting, the text was actually a “digitally altered image” that showed Randazzo, FirstEnergy’s Senior VP (and known briber) Michael Dowling, FirstEnergy’s Director of State Affairs Ty Pine, and “Company C executive” superimposed on Mount Rushmore with the text beneath.
The John Oliver segment is worth watching in full if you’ve got time over lunch. (And Zuckerman’s story is worth a read as well. It’s a fantastic summation of Randazzo’s relationship with FirstEnergy.)
A version of this story was originally published by CityBeat sister newspaper Cleveland Scene.
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