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Update: Salango wants Justice to return First Energy contributions

Published: Jul. 22, 2020 at 6:28 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va.- (WTAP) The Democratic candidate for governor in West Virginia’s November election wants Governor Jim Justice to return contributions made the company that operated a power station whose tax incentive the governor supported last year.

The governor backed a repeal of Business and Occupation taxes for the Pleasants Power Station-incentives local leaders, lawmakers and the governor said were needed to keep the plant from being closed.

Democratic candidate Ben Salango issued a statement Friday saying the governor should return reported contributions from the company-at the center of a scandal in Ohio involving incentives keeping two nuclear power plants open.

Salango Wednesday called for an investigation to determine whether there was a “quid pro quo” involving the donations and the tax breaks.

The issue wasn’t raised during the governor’s news briefing Friday afternoon. Justice Wednesday called Salango’s comments “ridiculous” and politically motivated.

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PARKERSBURG, W.Va (WTAP) - Governor Jim Justice’s opponent in the November election says Justice needs to “come clean” about his relationship with the operators of the Pleasants Power Station.

Democrat Ben Salango is making his claims a day after the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives was accused of accepting bribes from the same company.

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others face bribery charges involving the 2019 bailout of two northern Ohio nuclear power plants operated by First Energy company-plants that, like the Willow Island coal-fired plant, were facing closing at that time.

At Governor Justice’s urging, the West Virginia Legislature approved a tax incentive, similar to the “bailout” approved by Ohio lawmakers, keeping open the Pleasants Power Station.

“When the news was announced in Ohio, certainly we saw some similarities in West Virginia,” Salango said Wednesday in an interview with WTAP, “and we saw campaign contributions go to the governor from the First Energy PAC, all we’re asking for is there be an investigation.”

The five individuals including Householder, are accused in Ohio in a money laundering scheme that funneled money to First Energy.

“All we’re asking for is that there be an investigation, full disclosure,” Salango said. “I think the more the public knows and the more documents that are released, the better. So all I’m calling for is full disclosure from the governor.”

An article published by Ogden Newspapers at the time of Justice’s visit in July, 2019 also said Justice’s coal companies owed First Energy millions of dollars.

Steven Adams, the reporter of that story, asked Justice at his news briefing Wednesday about Salango’s comments.

“From the standpoint of hinting towards that I would take a campaign donation, and do it inappropriately, is so ridiculous it’s off the chart,” Justice replied. “If anybody doesn’t think we don’t fully vet with all the lawyers every single donation that comes in, you’re just absolutely whistling through the whatever.”

Justice went on to say his campaigns are self-funded. Salango told us his contributions come mostly from individual donations.

Salango is calling for an federal investigation, similar to the one leading to the charges in Ohio.

Copyright 2020 WTAP. All rights reserved.

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