Friday, October 23, 2020

Ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, allies face 162 campaign finance violations in bribery scandal


Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and his allies face 162 violations of state campaign finance laws in connection with allegations of a nearly $61 million bribery scheme.

Householder and his associates are accused of influencing elections without disclosing donors and spending as required under state election law. On Thursday, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose referred the alleged violations to the Ohio Elections Commission in a 118-page complaint.

The complaint alleges they illegally used corporate money or property to support and oppose candidates. Most violations are connected to Householder’s bid to become speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, helping to elect House candidates in 2018 and 2020.

“Today’s referral to the Ohio Elections Commission is the next step in continuing to hold Representative Householder and his cronies accountable,” LaRose said in a statement.

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The campaign finance violations come a month after Householder and four others were arrested in connections with orchestrating a nearly $61 million scheme to help Householder win control of the Ohio House of Representatives, pass a $1.3 billion bailout for two nuclear plants and defend that law against a ballot initiative to upend it.

Everyone accused of federal racketeering offenses – Householder, his political consultant Jeff Longstreth, FirstEnergy Solutions lobbyist Juan Cespedes, former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges and lobbyist Neil Clark – was also named in LaRose’s complaint.

LaRose also accused the federal investigation’s “Company A,” believed to be FirstEnergy Corp., of concealing or misrepresenting contributions that should have been reported.

Other groups named in the complaint include:

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‒ Householder-aligned Growth and Opportunity PAC, which spent money on behalf of Householder-aligned candidates over several years.

‒ Hardworking Americans Committee and Hardworking Ohioans Inc., a for-profit corporation run by The Batchelder Company that supported Householder candidates in November 2018.

‒ Generation Now, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that allegedly funneled money from corporate donors to Householder’s efforts.

‒ Coalition for Growth and Opportunity, which spent money promoting Householder candidates.

‒ Ohioans for Energy Security, a limited liability company that spent money to block the effort to stop nuclear subsidies.

‒ Longstreth’s companies, JPL and Associates and Constant Content Co.

‒ Cespedes-aligned companies, The Oxley Group and 614 Solutions LLC.

‒ Borges’ 17 Consulting Group LLC.

‒ Clark’s Grant Street Consultants LLC.

‒ Partners for Progress, a 501(c)(4) that funneled money from Company A, believed to be FirstEnergy, to Householder’s groups. At one point, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s now legislative director was president of the dark money group.

‒ Company A Corp, Company A-1 and Company A Service Co., which are believed to be FirstEnergy Corp. and affiliated businesses.

It’s not clear what the maximum fine or penalty would be for 162 violations, Ohio Elections Commission executive director Phil Richter told The Enquirer.

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“It could be substantial given the number of allegations,” said Richter, adding that some elements could be referred to a local prosecutor.

The Ohio Elections Commission will investigate the complaint, but any hearing on the matter could be delayed by the federal investigation, he said.


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