Attorney and political activist in Kentucky in connection with the Ohio bribery scandal

An attorney closely related to Kentucky Republican politics and super-PACs is linked to a political scandal in which the former Ohio House spokesman was charged with a $ 60 million bribery scheme.

Eric Lycan was until recently General Counsel of the Republican Party of Kentucky and headed several Super-PACs and other nonprofits that shaped Kentucky’s politics. He is also the treasurer of Generation Now, a nonprofit and a defendant in the Ohio federal bribery case.

Lycan was not charged in the Ohio case and is referred to only as an “attorney” in the affidavit. The Federal Bureau of Investigation says Energy companies have given money to former House Speaker Larry Householder and other Ohio politicians using Generation Now and a network of other secret nonprofits led by Lycan as treasurers.

Robert Maguire, the director of research at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a DC-based campaign funding watchdog, said it was very easy to hide political money in the existing legal structure of nonprofits. The unique thing about the Ohio case, according to Maguire, is that investigators have drawn attention and found a paper trail.

“If you have enough money to spend millions of dollars on politics, you have enough money to hire the best lawyers and accountants in the country to cover your tracks,” said Maguire. “We know that the householder problem is not the only instance where these groups are used for corrupt purposes. We just don’t know the full extent because these groups are so easily monitored across the country.”

Lycan, who has not responded to requests for comment, has made a career in Kentucky creating nonprofits similar to those he served as treasurer and currently under review in Ohio. Maguire said these nonprofit networks are tailored to allow political contributions with limited disclosure. Surveillance of such groups is rare, making it difficult to determine the true extent of their political activity. However, in the recent Kentucky election, at least four political action committees and three Lycan-affiliated social welfare organizations were active.

Organizations affiliated with Lycan have accepted submissions from business tycoons and individuals with large businesses before the state, including the future chairman of Braidy Industries. The groups have spent millions since 2014 to support some of the most powerful politicians in the state, including Senator Mitch McConnell and Rep. Andy Barr.

Lycan’s career in Kentucky

Eric Lycan speaks at a 2018 Kentucky Chapter conference of the Federalist Society.

Eric Lycan is Attorney at Embry Merritt Shaffar Womack PLLC, a law firm in Lexington. Lycan’s biography there has “more than two decades of experience strategically advising a wide range of industries, organizations, candidates, and officials on law and public policy, including campaign and issue advocacy, government ethics, and regulatory compliance.”

Prior to joining Embry Merritt Shaffar Womack, Lycan was a partner in the Dinsmore and Shohl law firm and general counsel of the Kentucky Republican Party.

He is currently General Counsel of the Kentucky House Republican Leadership, a role he has held since January 2018, according to its Linkedin page.

Kentucky House spokesman David Osborne said in a statement emailed that the Republican caucus is aware of the Ohio investigation.

“To our understanding, no allegations have been made that Mr. Lycan participated in any illegal activity. The majority at Kentucky House expect our employees to be of the highest standard of ethical behavior, and we have no evidence to suggest otherwise, ”Osborne said. “The Caucus continues to strive to represent the people of Kentucky in a legal, ethical, and fair manner, and it is important to note that our state’s code of ethics is among the strictest in the nation.”

According to a McConnell campaign spokesman, Lycan was doing legal work for McConnell’s 2014 re-election campaign, which mainly focused on election day issues. Throughout his career, McConnell has steadfastly blocked or pushed back attempts to require more disclosure of campaign funding.

Political Action Committees

Lycan serves as the treasurer for several political action committees, many of which have focused on or been active in Kentucky politics. Super-PACs like these can raise unlimited money for elections, but they must report to the Bundestag Electoral Commission, so their political activity is easier to track than other types of political nonprofit.

He was the treasurer of the Kentucky Rise PAC in 2014. The group supported both Andy Barr and McConnell during this cycle.

In 2016 he was treasurer of Stand for Truth Inc., a super PAC who spent over $ 10 million in support of Texas Senator Ted Cruz during the presidential primaries. The Bundestag Election Commission received a complaint from the Campaign Legal Center Stand for the truth in 2016 and sent letters to Lycan. According to the complaint, Stand for Truth accepted campaign contributions of $ 250,000 from a limited company in an attempt to disguise the true identity of the donors. The FEC reached a dead end according to party-political standards and took no action. Democratic Commissioner Ellen Weintraub said in your opinion The LLC donations were “the latest example of allegations that someone is using an LLC as a straw donor and has no impact”.

In the 2018 election, Lycan was an officer of two other PACs: He was the treasurer of the Kentucky Patriot PAC, who spent most of his $ 66,000 in support of Andy Barr for Congress by attacking Democrat Amy McGrath.

And it was him the named agent and deputy treasurer for the group Kentucky tomorrowwho supported Governor Matt Bevin working behind the scenes Helping Republicans in competitive counties, according to the Paducah Sun. Donors include great energy company executives such as Midland Energy CEO S. Javaid Anwar and Murray Energy CEO Robert Murray.

Charles Price, chairman of the board of directors at Braidy Industries, gave Kentucky Tomorrow $ 30,000. Braidy Industries is the troubled company struggling to build a $ 1.5 billion aluminum factory in eastern Kentucky.

Lycan is no longer listed on Kentucky Tomorrow’s filings filed with the FEC as of 2019, but the group reports that it paid Lycan Law firm $ 4,000 for 2020 Election cycle.

Social welfare organizations

In addition to the political action committees required to disclose their donors to the FEC, Lycan is the registered agent of several 501 (c) 4 not-for-profit organizations operating in Kentucky. These “social welfare organizations” do not have to disclose their donors as long as they are not primarily and directly involved in political campaigns. Therefore it is more difficult to get information about these groups.

Often times, these groups act as intermediaries between audience-shy donors and super PACs or campaigns who need to report more details about their finances.

Lycan was the registered agent for the 2018 Kentucky Chamber Advocacy Committee, Inc.when it was submitted Incorporation Papers with the Kentucky Secretary of State. The committee is based in the office of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and is chaired by Ashli ​​Watts, the current CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

“Eric Lycan was the Kentucky Chamber’s legal advisor in 2018 when we formed the Kentucky Chamber Advocacy Committee, Inc.,” said Sawyer Coffey, communications manager for the Kentucky Chamber, in an email.

Coffey said Lycan was not involved in the group’s operations and the chamber’s professional relationship with Lycan ended in April 2019 when he left Dinsmore and Shohl.

Other social organizations that Lycan has acted as a registered agent for are the Coalition for Wealthy Kentucky and the Judicial Fairness Committee Inc. and Kentucky Strong Inc..

These companies have all of the hallmarks of what CREW’s Maguire said are a policy of dark money: They claim to have little or no full-time staff and do not keep a record of their spending. The Judicial Fairness Committee and Kentucky strong Both were dissolved in October 2018. Maguire said such nonprofits avoid shutters to be checked before the end of election season and reports are due to the IRS.

The Ohio case

The Ohio bribery allegations paint a picture of how networks of nonprofits like this one can be used to hide contributions from companies seeking favor with politicians.

The investigation was led by FBI Special Agent Blane Wetzel, who, according to an affidavit, had worked for a member of the Michigan House of Representatives before joining the FBI. He said in the court record that FirstEnergy Corp. Donated $ 60 million to Generation Now, a 501 (c) 4 Welfare Benefit that does not have to disclose its donors. According to tax documents, Generation Now contributed to Coalition for Growth and Opportunity, another social welfare organization, and Growth and Opportunity PAC, a 501 (c) 3 political action committee.

Unlike Generation Now, PAC must disclose its donors for growth and opportunity, but can spend money promoting political issues. The PAC spent millions during the 2018 election cycle running ads and other ways to support Ohio candidates like Householder, the former House Speaker, who was arrested on July 21. The groups then spent money in 2019 to support House Bill 6, a law that relaxed utility regulations and effectively bailed out troubled power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions of Akron, Ohio.

The The FBI charges Generation Now, Head of household and four others with blackmail. The defendants are charged with conspiring to channel money from companies like FirstEnergy into clandestine nonprofits run by Lycan, including Generation Now and the PAC for Growth and Opportunity, with the aim of electing industry-friendly politicians and legislation that would benefit the energy industry financially.

In May 2019 when Generation Now funded ads in support of HB 6, including Some ads here in KentuckyLycan signed the papers to create another unit in Ohio, a not-for-profit limited company called People Like Me LLC. Filed with the Ohio Secretary of State List People Like Me LLC’s mission to promote “Clean and Affordable Power Generation in Ohio.”

Correction: David Adkisson is no longer a director of the Kentucky Chamber Advocacy Committee, as stated in an earlier version of this story. Adkisson was removed from the group’s leadership following his retirement in 2019. Contact Jared Bennett at [email protected].

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