Larry Householder: Ohio house speaker arrested over $60m bribery plot

‘This was pay-to-play,’ says US attorney David DeVillers

James Crump
Wednesday 22 July 2020 00:00
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Ohio House speaker Larry Householder was arrested on Tuesday in connection with a $60m (£47.15m) bribery scheme that allegedly involved other top state officials.

Mr Householder was one of five arrested, along with his adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, former Ohio Republican party chairman Matt Borges, and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes, according to NPR.

The five men were arrested for suspected “public corruption racketeering conspiracy,” according to a federal complaint.

They have all been subsequently charged with “conspiracy to participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of an enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity.”

The men arrested on Tuesday face a maximum of 20 years in prison if they are convicted of the charges.

The complaint alleged that Mr Householder and the other men were involved in a bribery campaign to help him get elected and to pass a nuclear bailout bill for two local plants.

Mr Householder, who is a Republican, won the speakership in January 2019 and then passed legislation to bail out the plants in June that year.

Generation Now, a social welfare enterprise that is described in the complaint as being secretly run by Mr Householder, has also been charged in relation to the claims.

NPR reported that nuclear power company FirstEnergy Solutions appeared to pay the organisation, that is exempt from paying tax, $60m from March 2017 to March 2020.

US Attorney David DeVillers told reporters on Tuesday that the money that was given to the organisation, was spent towards the bailout of the plants and on Mr Householder’s campaign, to the detriment of other candidates attempting to become Ohio’s House speaker.

Prosecutors allege that in return for the money towards his campaign, Mr Householder helped pass the bailout in June and made sure it went into effect in October, amid local pressure and a ballot to stop it.

Mr DeVillers told reporters that the alleged scheme is “likely the largest bribery money-laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.”

He said: “Make no mistake, these allegations are bribery. Pure and simple,” and added: “This was pay-to-play. I use the term pay-to-play because that’s the term they’ve used as alleged in the affidavit.”

After the house speaker was charged on Tuesday, governor Mike DeWine said Mr Householder should resign in a post on Twitter.

“I am deeply concerned about the allegations of wrongdoing issued today by the US Attorney’s Office,” Mr DeWine tweeted.

“Because of the nature of these charges, it will be impossible for Speaker Householder to effectively lead the Ohio House of Representatives; therefore, I am calling on speaker Householder to resign immediately. This is a sad day for Ohio.”

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