John Kasich’s now-famous “get on the bus” comments, made days after being elected Governor of Ohio, set the tone for the past two years of his administration. The comments were aimed at Ohio’s businesses and trade/industry groups and the point was very clear: if you want to deal with THIS Governor’s office, then you better get on board by publicly supporting Kasich, hiring the Governor’s friends and providing as much financial support as possible.
American Electric Power and its leadership, for reasons that will be clear in a moment, were likely on Kasich’s mind as he made these comments. And despite the many very expensive public and private attempts to win back favor with the Governor’s office, AEP still appears to be at the top of Kasich’s shit list.
The company started out behind the eight ball. AEP CEO and then-President Michael Morris supported Strickland during the 2010 Gubernatorial election as he had for many years. And when the Ohio Chamber of Commerce endorsed Kasich over Strickland during the gubernatorial campaign, AEP quit in protest.
Morris, who has personally donated $18,000 to Strickland since 2005, was also the Chair of the Ohio Business Roundtable, an organization that supported Governor Strickland’s education reform plans.
And a month before the election, AEP and Strickland announced the Turning Point Solar project,” a 49.9 MW solar array to be built on strip-mined land adjacent to The Wilds nature conservancy” that would create 600 new jobs for Ohio and put our state at the forefront of solar development in the Midwest.
Kasich won the election in November 2010 and he immediately made it clear things would be changing in Columbus. The bus comments were a warning to Ohio’s business leaders. AEP got the message. By December, they had announced Morris would be replaced as AEP President by Nicholas Akins, a big Kasich donor.
Akins and his wife had collectively given $6,375 to Kasich for his 2010 campaign.
But it seems that wasn’t enough for Kasich.
Morris was then forced to publicly support Kasich by joining and helping to fund, along with other CEOs who supported Strickland, One Ohio United – a propaganda machine for Kasich’s first budget tied to a Kasich campaign staffer.
But the personal shakedown of Morris and the changing of AEP presidents STILL wasn’t enough for Kasich.
As Joe Vardon reported today in the Dispatch, AEP also hired Kasich’s friends Donald G. Thibaut, Rex Elsass and Chan Cochran as a lobbyists AND the company was shaken down for another $2 Million in donations to JobsOhio.
And what has AEP received for all of their efforts?
In July Kasich called up his appointees at PUCO to help kill an unpopular rate increase AEP was asking for. And earlier this week, Kasich let his climate change-denying PUCO appointees kill the AEP solar project that would have created 600 jobs, against the advice of PUCO staff.
When the self-proclaimed “Jobs Governor” kills your plans create hundreds of new jobs in Ohio, for purely political reasons, you really have to wonder if all that time, effort and money you spent over the past two years could have been focused on something more useful.