The speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry Householder (R), was arrested in an FBI raid on his farm, part of a bribery and racketeering probe into an alleged $60 million in illicit transactions with energy lobbyists.
Householder and four associates were taken into custody on Tuesday following FBI raids, the Department of Justice said, among them lobbyists and Ohio GOP functionaries, who US attorneys say are behind a string of shady deals beginning in March 2017.
The speaker is accused of conspiring with the others to commit wire fraud and money laundering while taking in millions in bribes, with US Attorney David DeVillers alleging Householder personally benefited from $400,000 of the funds, used to pay legal fees, credit card debit and to finance a new home in Florida.
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder walks out of federal court facing public corruption charges connected to Ohio’s nuclear power plant bailout. When asked if he’ll resign he answered “no comment” pic.twitter.com/dIKDU8YTg8
The alleged bribery scheme involved a tax-exempt corporate entity, Generation Now, which was secretly controlled by Householder and took in around $60 million in contributions from an unidentified energy firm. In exchange, Householder and his accomplices worked to “corruptly ensure” the passage of a $1 billion bailout package, which rescued two failing Ohio power plants affiliated with the energy firm.
“The millions paid into the entity were akin to bags of cash,” federal prosecutors said in a criminal complaint. “Unlike campaign or PAC contributions, they were not regulated, not reported, not subject to public scrutiny – and the enterprise freely spent the bribe payments to further the enterprise’s political interests and to enrich themselves.”
Householder is also accused of using the bribe money for “obtaining, preserving and expanding Householder’s political power,” further “enriching and benefitting” the speaker and his accomplices and insulating themselves from prosecution.
Following the arrests, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost insisted Householder was “unfit to wield the Speaker’s gavel,” calling for his immediate resignation, though he maintained that Householder should be presumed innocent until he sees his day in court.
The presumption of innocence applies only to criminal charges, and @HouseholderOH is entitled to it.But the federal affidavit filed today — backed up with wiretaps! — makes clear that Householder is unfit to wield the Speaker’s gavel. He needs to resign now.
The speaker returned to state politics in 2016 after a more than 10-year hiatus, originally departing after reaching a term limit. When he left office in 2004, Householder and several top advisers were under federal investigation for irregular campaign practices and money laundering, however the government closed its case without any indictments. It is unclear if the previous probe has any connection to the current bribery case.
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