Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Republican, and four other men with ties to state politics were arrested on Tuesday in a $60m federal bribery case, in one of the largest corruption cases in the state’s history, a United States prosecutor said.
US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers said during a news conference that the five men were charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering, accused of a bribery scheme involving a nuclear power company that sought $1.5bn in bailout legislation passed in 2019.
Former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges and longtime Householder adviser Jeff Longstreth along with lobbyists Juan Cespedes and Neil Clark were also charged, DeVillers said.
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
— Andy Chow (@andy_chow) July 21, 2020
Borges recently founded a Republican-backed anti-Trump super PAC called Right Side.
DeVillers did not identify the power company involved in the scheme, but FirstEnergy Corp, which was seeking a state bailout for its nuclear plants, matched his description.
The company, DeVillers said, gave $60m to Generation Now, a charitable organisation operated by the five men.
The money was then used to get the legislation passed, defeat a ballot incentive against the measure through bribery and line their pockets, he said.
DeVillers said it was likely the largest bribery, money-laundering scheme in state history.
“These allegations were bribery pure and simple. … This was pay to play,” DeVillers said.
There is important work for the state legislature to do on behalf of the people of Ohio. That work can’t get done with the Speaker under arrest in an ongoing federal investigation.@HouseholderOH, do the right thing for the people of our state and resign today.
— Frank LaRose (@FrankLaRose) July 21, 2020
Shares in the company, which spun off its bankrupt power generating subsidiary, were down 17 percent on Tuesday at the close of trading.
Republican Ohio Governor Mike DeWine called for Householder to resign immediately. “This is a sad day for Ohio,” DeWine said in a statement. Householder’s office was not immediately available for comment.
FBI agents and local authorities were at Householder’s farmhouse early Tuesday in Perry County, just east of Columbus, the state’s capital city.
FBI agents were carrying out “law enforcement activity” on Householder’s property in Glenford in southeastern Ohio, FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said, without providing details. The Perry County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed it was assisting the FBI at Householder’s farm.