Southern Ohio US Attorney Dave DeVillers has announced the arrest of Republican Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder in connection with “what is likely the largest bribery-money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.” Lobbyists Juan Cespedes and Neil Clark, along with former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges and Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth were also arrested by the FBI in connection with the conspiracy.
In his announcement Tuesday, DeVillers outlined the scheme by saying that:
The conspiracy was to pass and maintain a $1.5B bailout in return for $61M in dark money, used for various things. One, to line the pockets of the defendants. Two, to build a power base for Larry Householder. And three, to further the conspiracy… These allegations are bribery, pure and simple. This was a quid pro quo.
DeVillers alleged that “Company A,” known to be Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., filtered millions of dollars through the 501(c)(4) non-profit Generation Now. Organizations classified as 501(c)(4) non-profits are meant to promote social welfare, and as such an organization, Generation Now was not required to report donors.
In turn, Generation Now passed money to “dozens of enterprises” to “hide that the money was coming from Generation Now.” Those enterprises then funded “Team Householder” directly. “Team Householder” was comprised of 21 candidates running in the 2018 primary and general elections. Those candidates allegedly used the campaign funds to get elected by running TV ads and sending out mailers. DeVillers described those efforts as “very successful.”
Every candidate in “Team Householder” that was elected to the Ohio House subsequently voted for representative Householder as Speaker. All but one of the candidates also went on to vote in favor of a $1.3B bailout for FirstEnergy. This bailout, part of House Bill 6, passed 51-38, and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed it into law last year.
Flowing from these charges, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose further referred 19 alleged campaign finance violations to the Ohio Elections Commission. He also added that “[t]hese nineteen items likely do not represent a comprehensive list of violations of Ohio laws by the named defendants.”