Dennis Kucinich fuels potential run for Cleveland mayor with cash from longtime FirstEnergy supporter Tony George


CLEVELAND, Ohio – Dennis Kucinich, who made a name for himself to save Cleveland Public Power’s predecessor, is investigating yet another run for the Cleveland Mayor with funding from CPP’s adversary, the scandalous FirstEnergy.

Westlake businessman Tony George and his family donated $ 28,000 in the final days of December as seed money for Kucinich’s potential campaign. Kucinich, who said he didn’t choose to search for the office, has received $ 51,000, according to campaign funding filings filed last week.

George, whose family owns the Barley House and the Harry Buffalo, has been on FirstEnergy’s side for years. He is a close friend of Charles Jones, former chief executive officer of Akron utilities, and former Ohio House spokesman Larry Householder, who, according to interviews and financial reports, is at the center of the Statehouse bribery scandal.

The fact that Kucinich would accept contributions from a supporter of FirstEnergy, CPP’s main competitor, seems to contradict the former mayor. In 1978, Kucinich fought to save Cleveland Municipal Light, which later became the CPP. The city fell behind after Kucinich refused to sell the utility company and lost the mayor’s office a year later.

Kucinich said George’s campaign contributions are based on a longstanding friendship that began when the two men met on a fundraiser for Bill Clinton, then an aspiring White House candidate.

“I have friends who may be close to FirstEnergy, but that’s their cross,” said Kucinich. “This is not a nodding acquaintance. Tony George has been a friend of mine for 30 years. Nobody is buying my friendship and nobody is buying my opinion. And no one ever bought my vote. “

George said he has supported numerous candidates, including others who are considering a possible mayoral run. These include Basheer Jones and Kevin Kelley, Cleveland City Council members, and Sandra Williams, Cleveland Senator for the Democratic State. He has also contributed to former Alderman Zack Reed, whose name has emerged as a possible candidate for the race.

Kucinich, he said, stands out.

“Dennis and I have always been friends,” said George. “He’s not just a friend. He is a family friend. My family and I have been very generous to many candidates. I have no agenda other than good government. “

George and his family’s contributions come from an FBI investigation and intensified review of candidates with ties to FirstEnergy.

In spring 2019, Householder helped draft House Bill 6, a $ 1.3 billion bailout package for two nuclear power plants, as a spokesperson. FirstEnergy sought help when its subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions owned the systems. The subsidiary went bankrupt in 2018 and the facilities are now owned by Energy Harbor.

In return for helping Householder, the company and its affiliates have given more than $ 60 million to a nonprofit that Householder and its allies have been controlling, according to federal court reports. The head of the household and four other people were charged with federal extortion. The company was not charged, despite severing ties with Jones and other top executives.

George and his family donated nearly $ 120,000 to Householder from 2016 to 2019, records show.

Kucinich stressed that George had never tried to dissuade him from the former mayor’s support for the CPP.

“I’ve lived standing up for public power for more than half a century, so political contributions have no bearing on my work,” said Kucinich. “If the test of my friendship with someone were the same, I would have a smaller circle of friends.”

George said he was not against CPP, although he often fought with city guides.

“I support good energy policy,” he said. “I’m a businessman who wants affordable prices.”

Kucinich must decide before June 16 when candidates can register for the race. The impartial primary is September 14th, with the top two contestants competing in the general election on November 2nd.

In addition to the possible candidacies of Kelley, Jones, Reed and Williams, nonprofit leader Justin Bibb has announced that he will also seek the mayor’s job. Incumbent Frank Jackson has not said whether he will seek a fifth term.

Kelley has more than $ 530,000 in campaign contributions for the potential run. Kucinich has a small fraction of it.

“I was overwhelmed by every election I won,” said 74-year-old Kucinich, who served two years in the Ohio Senate and 16 years in the US Congress. “As soon as I’m in the race, it will be like that.” easier to raise money. But I didn’t make that announcement. “

In addition to the George family, Cleveland real estate investor James Kassouf, who was pardoned in December by former President Trump in connection with a 1989 tax case, made an important contribution to Kucinich. He and his family gave $ 20,000 in the last few days of December.