The organizers of Generation Now, an Ohio-based political group, have pled guilty in federal court to participating in a $60-million racketeering conspiracy to aid a major utility provider.
The charges involve funds sent to Generation Now— a 501(c)4 group defined by the IRS as a “social welfare organization”— from FirstEnergy Corp. and its affiliates. The money was then used for political donations to help secure the votes of state House members in support of a 2019 bill that bailed out two nuclear power plants formerly owned by FirstEnergy.
The plants were in danger of closing.
Generation Now’s leaders pled guilty to one count of racketeering on behalf of the nonprofit in U.S. District Court in Columbus, Ohio, on Feb. 19.
The political group Generation Now is not related to a 501(c)3 nonprofit of the same name based in Cincinnati that offers training, professional development and networking for young professionals.
‘Social Welfare’ Group
Jeffrey Longstreth, 44, a longtime campaign and political strategist to Ohio House Rep. Larry Householder, the former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, signed the plea document on behalf of the nonprofit, which Longstreth co-founded.
According to court documents, Generation Now was allegedly at the center of Householder and others receiving millions of dollars in exchange for specific official actions. Householder and his enterprise received approximately $61 million in donations through Generation Now, which was initially created as a social welfare organization.
However, according to Longstreth’s plea agreement, the real purpose of the nonprofit was to receive undisclosed donations that benefited Householder.
Longstreth pled guilty to the same charge as an individual in Oct. 2020, in a case brought by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, David DeVillers.
The bailout of the two plants that FirstEnergy received cost taxpayers $1.1 billion.
As part of the conspiracy, Generation Now allegedly engaged in financial transactions to conceal the source of payments. Longstreth, Householder and three other men accused of participating in the conspiracy face up to 20 years in federal prison for bribery.
As part of the plea, Generation Now agrees to forfeit its assets, including nearly $1.5 million seized from organization’s bank accounts. The parties involved in the case have recommended probation for the nonprofit for up to five years.
Commenting on Generation Now and the conspiracy, Jeff Deyette, director of state policy and analysis in the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said, “It just demonstrates a new low in terms of how a utility will exercise its power and dollars and influence.”