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FBI Searches Columbus Home Of Public Utilities Commission Chair Sam Randazzo

The Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station on Lake Erie.
Ron Schwane
Associated Press

The FBI conducted a search Monday morning at the Columbus home of Sam Randazzo, chair of the agency that regulates Ohio utilities.

FBI agents were seen carrying boxes out of Randazzo's home. An FBI spokesman says the raid was related to a sealed federal search warrant, and there were no arrests and none expected.

While it’s unclear why Randazzo’s home was searched, the Public Utilities Commission is currently auditing FirstEnergy, the electric utility believed to be at the center of an alleged $61 million bribery scheme.

Federal prosecutors say FirstEnergy funneled funds through dark money groups to Republican former House Speaker Larry Householder and others for the personal and political benefit, in exchange for helping to pass HB6, the nuclear bailout law, and defend it from a civilian referendum. Federal racketeering charges have been pressed against Householder and four associates, two of whom have pleaded guilty.

PUCO is currently reviewing the political expenditures of FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries. Instead of hiring an independent auditor, PUCO asked FirstEnergy to itself show that utility ratepayers did not pay "directly or indirectly" for lobbying in favor of HB6 – a move that the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel argues is too lenient.

Randazzo was appointed to the position in April 2019, and is also chair of the Ohio Power Sitting Board.

Before heading the PUCO, Randazzo was a lobbyist for Industrial Energy Users-Ohio, representing large energy users such as Marathon Gas and McDonald’s franchises.

During recent testimony on an HB6 repeal bill, state Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) criticized Randazzo for "personal skin in the game," pointing to public records that show Randazzo owns a company that's a creditor for Energy Harbor, the former FirstEnergy subsidiary that now owns Ohio's two nuclear plants.

Randazzo said he never did legal work or lobbied for a utility regulated by the PUCO.

"I'm old school on clients, and will not disclose clients I may have had in the past," Randazzo said.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Gabe Rosenberg joined WOSU in October 2016. As digital news editor, Gabe reports breaking news and edits all content for the WOSU website, as well as manages the station's social media accounts.