Embattled Ohio Republican Removed as House Speaker

CINCINNATI (CN) — Ohio Republican lawmaker Larry Householder was indicted on federal racketeering charges Thursday and removed as speaker of the state House, following his arrest last week in connection with a $60 million bribery scheme.

The Ohio House of Representatives voted 90-0 to remove Householder, 61, from his position, shortly after an indictment was handed down by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of Ohio.

Householder, who was not present for the vote, was one of nine members that did not cast a vote.

Ohio State Representative Larry Householder sits at the head of a legislative session on Oct. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

He was indicted by a grand jury alongside four other individuals and the nonprofit organization Generation Now, which was allegedly used to funnel millions of dollars in bribes to help pass House Bill 6, a taxpayer bailout of two nuclear power plants.

A 501(c)(4) nonprofit, Generation Now was classified as a “social welfare entity” and was not required to disclose the personal information of its donors, which allowed Householder and his coconspirators to funnel “dark money” into the enterprise, according to the indictment.

A press release from U.S. Attorney David DeVillers detailed the scheme.

“In March 2017,” the statement said, “Householder began receiving quarterly $250,000 payments from the related-energy companies into the bank account of Generation Now. The defendants allegedly spent millions of the company’s dollars to support Householder’s political bid to become Speaker, to support House candidates they believed would back Householder, and for their own personal benefit.”

“Dark money is a breeding ground for corruption,” DeVillers said. “This investigation continues.”

Court documents say Householder and the other defendants took millions in bribes to ensure the passage of HB 6 and to defeat a ballot initiative that would have repealed the bill after it was signed into law by Republican Governor Mike DeWine.

Householder allegedly used some of the money to pay personal legal fees, finance media campaigns related to his candidacy and the ballot initiative, and to make repairs on a home he owned in Florida.

Conversations between members of “Team Householder” are detailed in the indictment, including a discussion involving Neil Clark, another defendant who operates the Columbus-based lobbying firm Grant Street Consultants.

In a recorded conversation, Clark allegedly described Generation Now as Householder’s “secret.”

“Nobody knows the money goes to the speaker’s account, it is controlled by his people, one of his people, and it’s not recorded. A (c)(4) is non-recorded,” he said, according to the indictment.

Jeffrey Longstreth, a Householder campaign strategist, was also named as a defendant in the 43-page indictment. He is accused of transferring $1 million of Generation Now money into his personal brokerage account in 2020. Matthew Borges and Juan Cespedes, both lobbyists, were also charged in the indictment.

Each of the individual defendants faces up to 20 years in prison if they are convicted.

As for the now-vacant speaker position, any replacement will need at least 50 votes to secure the job, and it remains unclear whether any of the potential candidates have the required support. There are 99 members in the Ohio House.

Republican State Representative Bob Cupp, a former justice on the Ohio Supreme Court, is a frontrunner, along with Speaker Pro Tem Jim Butler.

“I am grateful for the support from my esteemed colleagues today,” Cupp said in a statement. “It is imperative that we begin to rebuild public trust in our chamber, and serve the people of Ohio with the integrity they deserve.” Householder was elected to the position in January 2019 with the support of 26 Democrats, but it remains to be seen whether a Republican candidate will garner the same type of support this time around.

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