Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four other individuals were arrested and accused of being involved in a bribery scheme. Two lobbyists, Juan Cespedes and Neil Clark were also arrested. Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth and former Chairman of the Ohio Republic Party Matt Borges were also arrested.
Getting Larry Householder Elected as House Speaker
According to the criminal complaint, the parties took part in a $60 million bribery scheme that lasted for several years. The scheme began with having Householder elected as House Speaker.
From March 2017 through March 2020, entities related to Company A paid $60 million to Generation Now. FirstEnergy Solutions is thought to be Company A.
Generation Now is a 501(c)(4) entity that is controlled by Householder. The money paid to Generation Now was used for personal gain, but also to support Householder’s bid to become House Speaker.
During 2018, Generation Now supported House candidates in primary elections who would support Householder for the Speaker’s position. The parties involved believed that these candidates would follow the direction of Householder once they were elected and Householder became Speaker.
The Scheme Worked as Planned
The complaint states that candidates who received money from Householder’s company worked to elect Householder as Speaker. Householder introduced House Bill 6 within three months of being elected Speaker. The legislation was worth an estimated $1.3 billion to the company that paid Householder’s Generation Now.
Some of the money paid to Generation Now was used to promote House Bill 6. The bill was passed and signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine. After that, concerned parties began a ballot initiative to overturn the law.
More money poured into Householder’s company from accounts controlled by Company A. Householder’s company received $38 million from July through October 2019. According to prosecutors, the payments to Householder’s company were “bags of cash” that were bribery payments.
The payments to Householder’s company were not reported, regulated, or subject to public scrutiny in the same way as PAC contributions and campaign contributions. No charges have been filed against Company A, but the matter remains under investigation.
The nuclear bailout law passed by Householder and his associates added a charge to residential power bills that pays nuclear power plants $150 million per year. Energy Harbor, previously known as FirstEnergy Solutions, owns the nuclear power plants.
Governor DeWine Calls for Householders Resignation
Householder faced allegations of corrupt activity in 2004, although he did not face criminal charges then. Because of the current allegations, Gov. DeWine called for the Speaker’s resignation stating that he cannot effectively lead the Ohio House of Representatives.
Ohio Offenses Against Justice and Public Administration
The offenses against former Speaker Householder are federal charges. The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio has the case. The federal charges are related to the conspiracy to participate in racketeering activity.
It is illegal to give, promise, or offer a public official or public servant anything of value to influence the public official. It is illegal for a public official or public servant to accept or seek anything of value to influence the public official’s duties or decisions. Using family members or others as a third party to accept bribes is also illegal.
The Code broadly defines public servants and public officials. The roles include almost every person who is elected to office or appointed to serve in a government position or public office.
Bribery of a public official is a third-degree felony. A person convicted of felonies in the third degree can face up to three years in prison. The person may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.
Some qualifying third-degree felonies may result in prison sentences of up to five years. Also, public officials convicted of bribery cannot hold any position of trust, public office, or employment in Ohio.
White Collar Crimes Have Serious Consequences
Bribery of an official can rise to a white collar crime. Because white collar crimes do not involve violent acts, many people do not take the charges seriously. However, some white collar crimes could result in decades in prison.
It is best to consult with a criminal lawyer immediately if you are under investigation for a white collar crime. If you are arrested, do not answer questions without an attorney present. Giving statements and answering questions without a lawyer could hurt your defense.