Following a news conference by U.S. Attorney David DeVillers in Columbus Tuesday afternoon announcing a criminal complaint against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and others for an alleged $60 million bribery scheme, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) is calling on Householder to resign immediately.
“I am deeply concerned about the allegations of wrongdoing in the criminal complaint issued today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Every American has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Because of the nature of these charges, it will be impossible for Speaker Householder to effectively lead the Ohio House of Representatives; therefore, I am calling on Speaker Householder to resign immediately,” DeWine said in a statement. “This is a sad day for Ohio.”
It is alleged that Householder, 61-years-old, and his enterprise conspired to violate the racketeering statute through honest services wire fraud, receipt of millions of dollars in bribes and money laundering.
Four other individuals were also arrested and charged, including:
- 48-year-old Matt Borges, of Bexley, a lobbyist who previously served as chair of the Ohio Republican Party
- 44-year-old Jeffrey Longstreth, of Columbus, Householder’s longtime campaign and political adviser
- 67-year-old Neil Clark, of Columbus, a lobbyist who owns and operates Grant Street Consultants and previously served as budget director for the Ohio Republican Caucus
- 40-year-old Juan Cespedes, of Columbus, a multi-client lobbyist
Generation Now, a corporate entity registered as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization and controlled by Householder, was also charged.
The five individual defendants had initial appearances via video conference at 1 p.m. today, at which time the case was unsealed.
According to the 80-page criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday, 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 billion-dollar bailout that saved two failing Ohio nuclear power plants from closing.
The defendants then also allegedly worked to corruptly ensure that HB 6 went into effect by defeating a ballot initiative to overturn the legislation. Householder’s enterprise received approximately $60 million into Generation Now from FirstEnergy and its affiliates during the relevant period.
As alleged, in February 2017, Longstreth incorporated Generation Now as a 501(c)(4) social welfare entity purporting to promote energy independence and economic development; however, the entity was secretly controlled by Householder.
As Clark stated in a recorded conversation, “Generation Now is the Speaker’s (c)(4).”
Pursuant to federal law, the names and addresses of contributors to 501(c)(4)s are not made available for public inspection.
In March 2017, 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.
When asked how much money was in Generation Now, Clark said, “it’s unlimited.”
The affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint also alleges that in 2018, the enterprise spent energy company-to-Generation Now money on approximately 21 different state candidates — 15 (including Householder) in the primary, and six additional candidates in the general election.
Householder’s enterprise spent more than one million in fall 2018 alone to flood the airways with negative ads against opponents of Householder and his allies. Most of these candidates won the 2018 general election. All who won voted for Householder as Speaker of the House.
Money passed from FirstEnergy through Generation Now was used to pay for Householder campaign staff, which would otherwise have been paid by Householder’s candidate committee, Friends of Larry Householder.
Householder received more than $400,000 in personal benefits as a result of the payments into Generation Now, including funds to settle a personal lawsuit, to pay for costs associated with his residence in Florida, and to pay off thousands of dollars of credit card debt.
Householder’s enterprise paid $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 cash and plane fare to stop gathering signatures.
The racketeering conspiracy as charged in this case is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
A judge agreed to release Householder on bond with conditions, including no firearms, no contact with others listed in the criminal complaint and some travel restrictions. Householder has been ordered to surrender his firearms by 5 p.m. tomorrow.
“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.”
Householder is the state representative for Ohio’s 72nd House District and is the two-time and current Speaker of the Ohio House. His district includes Coshocton and Perry counties, as well as about half of Licking County. Householder previously served the same district from 1997 to 2004, including as Speaker from 2001 to 2004. Householder was elected to return to the Statehouse in 2016 and selected to serve again as Speaker on January 7, 2019.