COLUMBUS — The Ohio Speaker of the House was arrested Tuesday and charged in a federal racketeering conspiracy involving about $60 million paid to a social welfare organization to pass and uphold a billion-dollar nuclear plan bailout, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Larry Householder, 61, of Glenford, Ohio, is accused of conspiring to violate the racketeering statue through honest services wire fraud, receipt of millions of dollars in bribes and money laundering. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers said Householder personally benefited from more than $400,000, including money used to pay off a lawsuit, pay for a home in Florida and credit card debt.
“All forms of public corruption are unacceptable,” said FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman. “When the corruption is alleged to reach some of the highest levels of our state government, the citizens of Ohio should be shocked and appalled.”
Here is the complaint in full:
The FBI said additional search warrant and subpoenas are being served in connection to the investigation in the coming days.
“This is the end of the beginning,” Hoffman said.
Four other people were also arrested:
- Mathew Borges, 48, of Bexley, a lobbyist who previously served as chair of the Ohio Republican Party.
- Jeffrey Longstreth, 44, of Columbus, who was Householder’s longtime campaign and political strategist.
- Neil Clark, 64, of Columbus, a lobbyist who owns and operates Grant Street Consultants and previously served as budget director for the Ohio Republican Caucus.
- Juan Cespedes, 40, of Columbus, who is a multi-client lobbyist.
Generation Now, a corporate entity registered as a 501 (c)(4) social welfare organization, also was charged.
According to an 80-page complaint unsealed in federal court today, from March 2017 to March 2020, the enterprise received millions of dollars in exchange for Householder’s and the enterprise’s help in passing House Bill 6, a 1.5 billion bailout that saved two failing, Ohio nuclear power plants from closing.
The five defendants in the case are accused of working to corruptly ensure that HB 6 went into effect by defeating a ballot initiative to overturn the legislation. The enterprise received approximately $60 million into Generation Now from an energy company and its affiliated during the period, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
In February 2017, Longstreth incorporated Generation Now, a social welfare entity that was started to promote energy independence and economic development. However, the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleged that the entity was secretly controlled by Householder.
In March 2017, Householder is accused of beginning to receive 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,” a release read.
According to the affidavit, in 2018, the enterprise spent money deposited into Generation Now’s account on approximately 21 different state candidates - 15, including Householder, in the primary and six additional candidates in the general election.
“The Enterprise spent more than one million in fall 2018 alone to flood the airways with negative ads against enterprise opponents,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office wrote in a release. “Most of these candidates won the 2018 general election. All who won voted for Householder as Speaker.”
Money from Generation Now’s account also was used to pay Householder’s campaign staff, the U.S. Department of Justice said.
The enterprise also is accused of paying $15,000 to an individual to provide insider information about the ballot initiative and offered to pay signature collectors for the ballot initiative $2,500 case and plane fare to stop gathering signatures.
The crimes as charged are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
The case will now be presented to a grand jury for consideration on an indictment. A preliminary hearing is set for a date in August.
UPDATE @ 10:40 a.m.:
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others have been arrested by federal officials, according to reports from multiple media outlets.
Also arrested Tuesday were Neil Clark, founder of Grant Street Consultants, former Ohio Republican Party chair and consultant Matthew Borges, Juan Cespedes, co-founder of The Oxley Group in Columbus, and Jeffrey Longstreth, adviser to Householder, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
Reports of the five arrests comes as federal agencies plan to announce charges stemming from a $60 million bribe to a state official and associates.
Previously, an FBI spokesperson confirmed to News Center 7 the agency was involved in an investigation at Householder’s farm in Perry County.
The U.S. Department of Justice and FBI plan to announce the charges and more details in the investigation during a 2:30 p.m. press conference in Columbus.
The press conference forced the cancellation of Gov. Mike DeWine’s coronavirus briefing, a spokesperson for the governor’s office confirmed.
We’ll continue to update this story with the latest as it becomes available.
The U.S. Department of Justice has announced a 2:30 p.m. press conference to announce charges related to a $60 million bribe to a state official and associates.
The press conference announcement comes after the Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed an active law enforcement investigation at Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s farm in Perry County.
The FBI spokesperson told News Center 7 the agency was “conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity” at Householder’s property.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine cancelled his scheduled 2 p.m. coronavirus briefing due to the DOJ and FBI’s press conference.
Additional details surrounding the investigations were not immediately available.
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