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Government & Politics

PUCO Looking Into FirstEnergy Stadium Naming Rights Deal

 FirstEnergy Stadium
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
House Democrats are seeking an answer to this question: Did First Energy use money collected from ratepayers to fund its naming rights deal at the stadium?

Some Ohio lawmakers are calling for an investigation into FirstEnergy Stadium, the home of the Cleveland Browns. House Democrats want to know if the utility company is breaking any rules with its naming rights agreement for the stadium.

But FirstEnergy has been in the middle of scandal, admitting to bribing public officials to get a nuclear power plant bailout.

Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) sent a letter to Jennifer French, chair of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, asking that the PUCO investigate "if any ratepayer dollars were used for the ongoing promotional expense of renaming Cleveland Browns Stadium."

Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) says if the stadium naming rights deal isn't illegal, it's at least inappropriate.

"Why would a company that's going into bankruptcy spend $6 million a year to keep their name on a stadium and at the same time they're turning around asking taxpayers for additional funds to operate their company," Crossman said.

Promotional advertising is not allowed to be part of utility rates.

Matt Schilling, PUCO public affairs director, says, "I do expect the PUCO to initiate efforts consistent with Rep. Smith's request."

Jennifer Young, FirstEnergy spokesperson, responded with a written statement saying, "Naming rights costs for the Browns stadium are incurred by the parent company, FirstEnergy Corp., and none of the costs are allocated to or incurred by any of our regulated utilities."
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