The bribery scheme also included former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes, according to NPR. It was tied to a controversial 2019 energy law, that added fees to every Ohioans electric bill, regardless of where their energy was derived, which would then be used to cover up a $170 million tax-funded bailout of failing nuclear and coal power plants in the state. With Householder’s help, the bill also eliminated incentives for more green energy solutions.
The federal complaint describes a years-long bribery campaign to build support for Householder’s bid to become House speaker and then pass the nuclear bailout law with his help. Householder won the speakership in January 2019, and the bailout passed in July 2019. It went into effect in October.
The charges against the five include “conspiracy to participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of an enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity,” and carry a maximum 20-year sentence. The FBI also says Householder was secretly controlling the 501(c)(4) non-profit Generation Now, which received a reported $60 million between 2017-2020 from FirstEnergy Solutions. FirstEnergy Solutions was in bankruptcy court at that time, dumping money into attempts to get the state to bail it out. Back in April 2019, the Energy and Policy Institute combed through FirstEnergy’s bankruptcy statements to see how they were spending the money they claimed they didn’t have.
FirstEnergy and its network of lobbyists poured money, food, and drinks into last year’s state-level elections in Ohio. Governor Mike DeWine and Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, both beneficiaries of FirstEnergy’s largesse, are vocal supporters of legislation to prop up the utility’s two nuclear plants in Ohio, which are currently slated for closure. DeWine chose Dan McCarthy, who last year lobbied for FirstEnergy and contributed to DeWine’s campaign, as his director of legislative affairs.
U.S. Attorney David DeVillers accuses Householder of using the Generation Now bank account to spread around the wealth to hurt opponents of the bill, while enriching supporters of the backwards legislation. According to the complaint filed against Householder and his associates, the money began flowing between secret companies in March 2017, “a couple months after he took a trip on Company A’s private jet.” Company A in this case is believed to be FirstEnergy, renamed Energy Harbor after getting out of bankruptcy court.
Fun Fact: That “trip on Company A’s private jet” was from Ohio to … Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, D.C.
On Tuesday, the day before Householder was expelled, he sat down and gave his argument for why he should be allowed to remain a Buckeye State representative. “Just think of the precedent this will set: Allegations are enough to remove anyone from office. That’s absurd.” This, coming from a member of the political party trying to overthrow the national elections based on actually debunked “allegations.”
Prosecutors say that Generation Now was a real racket: “akin to bags of cash—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 isn’t simply accused of being the bagman for fossil fuel interests; according to the Associated Press, Householder wet his beak quite a bit, with little ticket items like “more than $100,000 paid costs at the speaker’s Florida home.”
The Cincinnati Enquirer says Householder’s expulsion is only the second time in the state’s history that a representative has been removed using this provision in the Ohio Constitution. The last time was in 1857, when state Rep. john P. Slough slugged a fellow representative. Slough probably did far less damage to Ohio’s citizens, or even the recipient of his punch, than Householder.