Federal officials investigating the House Bill 6 bribery scandal subpoenaed records from Attorney General Dave Yost’s office the day before arresting then-House Speaker Larry Householder and four allies.
The subpoena, issued July 20, sought records related to an attempt to stage a statewide referendum to overturn HB6, a controversial energy law, according to a copy of the document acquired by ProgressOhio, a left-leaning interest group. The subpoena also demanded AG’s office records related to Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts and Ohioans for Energy Security — the main groups for and against the referendum, respectively.
Yost initially rejected the proposed language of the referendum in August 2019. While he approved a revised draft about three weeks later, HB6 opponents cited the delay as one reason they couldn’t get enough voter signatures by an October deadline to put the measure on the ballot.
Yost, a Columbus Republican, told reporters Thursday that the subpoena was a “very routine kind of thing,” suggesting it’s “similar to a bank providing bank records when there’s been a theft or an embezzlement from a company or an individual.”
He noted that neither he nor his office has been targeted by federal investigators, who claim that Householder and his associates used $60 million in bribe money from FirstEnergy Corp. to secure passage of HB6, which – among other things – provides a $1.3 billion ratepayer bailout for two nuclear power plants owned by Energy Harbor, a former FirstEnergy subsidiary.
Since the arrests, Yost has taken an active role in the HB6 scandal, filing a lawsuit seeking to stop the nuclear bailout money from being paid out and urging state lawmakers to compel testimony and records from FirstEnergy and Energy Harbor.
ProgressOhio disagreed that the subpoena was issued just to gather information about the HB6 referendum campaign. “The FBI is also seeking information about how Yost’s office dealt with it,” the group stated in a release.
The group also noted that Matt Borges, one of the four arrested along with Householder, ran Yost’s 2014 re-campaign for state auditor.
ProgressOhio Managing Director Michael McGovern stated that the revelation that Yost’s office was subpoenaed shows that Yost should appoint a special prosecutor to investigate HB6.
“Attorney General Yost owes Ohioans answers,” McGovern stated.