Tuesday, October 27, 2020

FBI arrests Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder in $60 million bribery case

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Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested Tuesday morning ahead of an announcement about a $60 million federal racketeering case related to Ohio’s new nuclear bailout law, according to sources and media reports.

FBI agents, who were assisted by the Perry County Sheriff’s Department, were deployed to Householder’s property in Glenford, the Dayton Daily News reported. The investigation centers on House Bill 6, the $1 billion-plus ratepayer bailout of two Ohio nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy Solutions (now Energy Harbor) that Householder helped push through last year with the help of millions in dark money, according to the Toledo Blade.

Besides Householder, four others have been arrested, according to sources and media reports: former Ohio Republican Party Chair-turned-consultant Matt Borges, prominent lobbyist Neil Clark, FirstEnergy Solutions lobbyist Juan Cespedes, and Householder aide Jeff Longstreth. All are currently in custody, according to a source.

All five are set to appear via video conference before federal Magistrate Judge Stephanie Bowman in Cincinnati at 1 p.m., according to the judge’s clerk.

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The news comes as the FBI and U.S. Attorney David M. DeVillers called a news conference in Columbus at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday to announce charges related to $60 million bribe to a “state official” and “associates.”

The campaign to pass HB6 — as well as their brutally successful effort to stop opponents from hold a statewide referendum to overturn it — included a wave of campaign donations from FirstEnergy Corp., as well as a multi-million-dollar ad campaign paid for with dark money.

It’s not the first time the FBI has looked into Householder’s activities. In 2004, during the Republican’s first stint as speaker, the FBI opened an investigation into Householder after receiving an anonymous tip that the speaker and aides received kickbacks from vendors doing business with the Ohio House GOP’s campaign arm. That investigation closed in 2006 without any charges being filed.

A Householder spokeswoman did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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Around 11 a.m., media members had gathered outside Householder’s Perry County farm. One said he passed a caravan of federal officials earlier in the morning, but the property was largely empty.

Phone calls to spokespeople with FirstEnergy Corp. and Energy Harbor were not immediately returned.

It’s the second time in about two years that federal agents have shown up on the property of an Ohio House speaker. In May 2018, FBI agents raided the Clinton County home of Cliff Rosenberger shortly after he resigned amid an investigation into possible pay-to-play activities involving the payday loan industry. No charges have yet been filed against Rosenberger.

Original article on cleveland.com

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