Things just got very interesting in Ohio politics this morning as GOP state House Speaker Larry Householder was busted by the FBI as part of a $60 million bribery case involving the $1.5 billion bailout of Ohio's two nuclear power plants that Householder made possible last year.
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s political operation accepted more than $60 million in bribe money from FirstEnergy Corp. to secure the company a $1.3 billion public bailout, according to a federal complaint filed Thursday.
Householder, chief political aide Jeff Longstreth, and lobbyists Matt Borges, Neil Clark, and Juan Cespedes used the bribe money to expand the speaker’s political power and enrich themselves by millions of dollars through a “web” of dark-money groups and bank accounts, including the 501(c)(4) Generation Now, according to the complaint.
Householder and the four others were charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering. Each could face up to 20 years in prison and a maximum $250,000 fine, court officials said Tuesday.
“(It) is likely the largest bribery, money-laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people in the state of Ohio,” said David DeVillers, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, during a news conference Tuesday.
In all, Householder received more than $500,000 for his personal benefit, according to DeVillers.
More than $100,000 of the bribe money from FirstEnergy Corp. was used to pay costs associated with Householder’s Florida home, and at least $97,000 was used to pay expenses for Householder’s 2018 House campaign, the complaint stated.
The complaint does not mention FirstEnergy Corp. by name. Nor does it name FirstEnergy Solutions -- FirstEnergy Corp.‘s then-subsidiary which operated the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants (and continues to operate them under the name Energy Harbor after splitting from FirstEnergy earlier this year.
Instead, the complaint refers to them both under the collective name “Company A.” There are numerous giveaways that FirstEnergy is “Company A,” including that the complaint quotes public comments from former FirstEnergy Corp. President/CEO Charles Jones, labeling him “Company A Corp. president and CEO.”
DeVillers said there’s a “strong inference” in the complaint that Householder and his allies approached FirstEnergy, rather than the other way around.
“This enterprise went looking for someone to bribe them,” DeVillers said.
Borges, a former Ohio Republican Party chair, had $1.62 million transferred to his lobbying firm’s account, and he paid himself about $350,000, the complaint stated. Borges also allegedly offered someone on the pro-referendum side $15,000 to become a mole within the pro-referendum campaign and hired a private investigator, which the complaint states is consistent with efforts to investigate petition collectors.
Longstreth, Householder’s chief political strategist, transferred more than $10.5 million in bribe payments to his firm, JPL & Associates, as well as another $4.4 million through indirect means, according to the complaint. Longstreth also allegedly benefitted personally, receiving more than $5 million in bribe money, including at least $1 million transferred to his brokerage account in January 2020.
Cespedes, FirstEnergy’s main lobbyist for HB6, served as a “key middleman” for the operation, according to the complaint. He allegedly received about $600,000 from Team Householder and $227,000 from FirstEnergy.
Clark, a prominent Capitol Square lobbyist who described himself as Householder’s “hit man,” got $290,000, according to the complaint.
The bottom line is that FirstEnergy created a dark money PAC, Generation Now, for the specific purpose of hiding their transfer of $61 million to Householder and Republicans who would support him as Ohio's House Speaker. Householder pocketed some of this money directly, and most of the rest was given out as bribes to Ohio Republicans to support House Bill 6 creating the bailout, to create ads supporting House Bill 6 to give the Republicans political cover, and to defeat the planned ballot initiative overturning House Bill 6 (which died because there weren't enough signatures by the October 2019 limit).
They spent $61 million to get twenty times that in taxpayer cash.
And it was so obvious, even the FBI was able to build a two-year case and nail Householder. His squad of utterly corrupt officials took home millions, they were bought and paid for, and the FBI promises more arrests are coming.
Complete, cartoonish corruption, breathtaking in scope, and they believed they had gotten away with it from the start, money they would use to remain in power for years.
This is what happens when you put Republicans in charge. They're all corrupt. I guarantee you that Republicans in every state are running some version of this same 401(c)(4) dark money PAC scam. They were specifically designed for it.
Vote them all out in November.