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First Energy Bribe an Affront to the Poor

By Rev Marc A. Tibbs

Reporter guest columnist

Not much national attention has been paid to the recent public corruption convictions of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former Republican party chair Matt Borges.

What with the war in Ukraine, bank failures in Silicon Valley and the Trump investigations du jour, Householder and Borges barely got mentioned in national newscasts. The two were convicted of taking bribes to grease the skids to pass House Bill 6, which would have facilitated a bailout of First Energy to the tune of about $1.3 billion.

In exchange for their cooperation, First Energy spent $61 million in undisclosed bribes to help Householder and Borges gain power in Columbus. Governor Mike DeWine signed House Bill 6 into law apparently without regard for the huge First Energy bailout. The governor has declined comment on the recent convictions.

Maybe the story got so little attention because big money corporations buying off local politicians has become par for the course. We live in a country where corporations and labor unions can contribute untold sums of money to large political action committees. These Super PACS blindly support the candidates of their choice, or the pet issues of those candidates, and never disclose where the money came from. It’s money laundering made legit.

But those among us who are unfazed by the Householder/Borges scam might be a bit more incensed over the matter if we held a more Biblical understanding of bribery.

Bribery is an affront to the poor. By its very nature, bribery favors the rich – those who are capable of making such illicit payments. While Householder and Borges were sucking up First Energy money, they were at the same time turning their backside to the poor.

Let me put some Bible on that.

Bribery was so scandalous amongst the children of Israel; God warned their rulers against it. Isaiah 1:23 perfectly describes the motives of scoundrels like Householder and Borges:

“Your leaders are rebels, the companions of thieves. All of them love bribes and demand payoffs, but they refuse to defend the cause of orphans or fight for the rights of widows.” (New Living Translation)

Widows and orphans were the marginalized in the ancient world. The leaders of Isaiah’s day were taking bribes from the rich while shafting the poor. God intends for the strong to bear the infirmities of the week. He demanded of Israel that they make provisions for the poor in their midst. Indeed, God’s blessing was contingent upon Israel doing right by the poor.

“There will always be some in the land who are poor. That is why I am commanding you to share freely with the poor and with other Israelites in need. (Deuteronomy 15:11)

What’s so scandalous about what Householder and Borges did wasn’t so much the money they took; it was the people they ignored.

Rev. Marc Tibbs, veteran journalist, is special columnist for The Reporter. He the pastor of the Centenary United Methodist Church in Akron.


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