COLUMBUS – A dark money political group that was used in a $ 60 million bribery program to help Ohio pass nuclear weapons saving laws, authorities pleaded guilty on Friday.

Generation Now Inc. has also agreed to forfeit $ 1.5 million from two bank accounts in federal court in Cincinnati.

Jeffrey Longstreth, a co-defendant in the case who had previously pleaded guilty to his involvement in the program, represented Generation Now during the hearing on Friday.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Black has postponed an investigation and sentencing before the verdict pending the settlement of all defendants.

According to federal investigators, former Ohio House spokesman Larry Householder, Longstreth, and three others used the nonprofit Generation Now as a $ 60 million lead funded by Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. secretly provided. The money was reportedly used to secure householder power, elect allied lawmakers, and legislate approving the rescue of two $ 1 billion nuclear power plants operated by a FirstEnergy subsidiary.

The five men were charged with extortion in July. The head of household pleaded not guilty and is waiting for the trial. He has been stripped of his leadership post, but remains a state official who ranks elected officials from his heavily Republican district who have pushed for his removal.

Also on Friday, the Ohio Nominating Council’s Public Utilities Commission announced the names of four new finalists for the position created by then-PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo in November to Republican Governor Mike DeWine.

They are:

– Jenifer French, an attorney who lost a re-election bid to the Franklin County’s Common Pleas Court in November

– Virginia King, Associate Attorney General at Marathon Petroleum Corp. in Findlay, focused on the company’s sustainability efforts

– Daniel Shields, who worked for PUCO for 30 years, including as federal energy attorney, and for the last seven years with the Office of Consumer’s Counsel

– Melissa Shilling, a 17-year-old member of the State Environmental Auditing Appointment Board

In a rare move, DeWine declined the initial list sent to him on Jan. 27 and sent a letter to the panel stating that all candidates were in attendance “appropriate,” he preferred “To consider additional capable candidates” before making his decision. The move was quickly criticized by consumers who viewed at least one of the candidates as highly skilled.

The second list of semi-finalists did not contain duplicate names from the first list, which DeWine had rejected.

Randazzo was not charged in the bribery investigation. His resignation came days after the FBI and FirstEnergy searched his Columbus townhouse and found that former executives paid $ 4 million to the firm at an official meeting in Ohio that contained Randazzo’s description of terminating an alleged consulting contract. The payment came just before DeWine appointed Randazzo as PUCO chair.

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Gillispie reported from Cleveland.

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