The multi-million dollar racketeering and bribery investigation at the Ohio Statehouse that targeted the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, Larry Householder, has direct ties to the Miami Valley.
Federal prosecutors point to what happened here in late 2018 as a “the clearest example” of how Householder illegally used a dark money group to influence campaigns, win elections and boost his own drive to become Speaker of the Ohio House..
It came in the race for the Ohio House 43rd district, made up of North Dayton, Trotwood, and much of western Montgomery county, along with Preble County. Incumbent Rep. J. Todd Smith was being challenged by then Montgomery County Commissioner Dan Foley, a Democrat. Given the fairly even number of Democrat and Republican voters who make up the district it was viewed as a tossup race with either candidate the possible winner.
Very late in the campaign, Foley held a slight advantage until an attack ad began appearing on TV against him. At the time, the organization behind the commercial was secretive and did not disclose its donors. Election law permits some groups to keep donors private.
Federal prosecutors now say it was Householder who was responsible for the commercial and he had illegally used money from an energy company to fund the commercial.
In an interview with News Center 7, Foley now says he is a victim of Householder’s illegal scheme. “Frankly I would not have lost if they had played by the rules. And I should be the Statehouse member right now for the 43rd District. So really, not to sugar coat it, I feel like I was robbed,” Foley said.
Smith told News Center 7 the ad came from an independent group that he had no connection to and he was unaware of how it was funded.
“I did not raise that money. I did not spend that money. The first time I saw that commercial was 7 am when everyone else saw it,” Smith said.
Smith is not named in the federal case but the 80 page charge against Householder and four others refers to “Representative 2.”
Smith said that is a reference to him. The charge goes on to allege how Householder illegally used money from an unnamed company to fund an organization identified only as “Dark Money Group 1” to launch a last-minute ad campaign against multiple candidates who were running against Householder-backed candidates. The feds pointed out that the scheme worked and Representative 2 won. Smith beat Foley by just 137 votes. Until Tuesday, no one except Householder, others who are now facing charges and the perhaps the donor company knew who was the real force behind the attack ad.
Foley finally found the answers in the charge against Householder.
“Given what I read in the affidavit I believe I should be the Statehouse member right now. I believe I won that race. And so, am I angry?
Absolutely. Did my opponent win that race fair and square? After I read that affidavit, absolutely not.” Foley said.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday that he had no suspicion of Householder’s involvement in illegally using dark money to influence House campaigns and eventually help him win the Speakership. “I didn’t know about this illegal activity,” DeWine said, “I quickly read the document that you (reporters) all have seen that came from the U-S Attorney’s office. It’s a very sad, sad story.”
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