LaRose refers 162 campaign finance violations against Householder and others in FirstEnergy scandal

By: - August 28, 2020 12:55 am

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, at podium. Photo from Ohio House website.

The Ohio Secretary of State’s office has identified more than 150 alleged campaign finance violations related to former Speaker of the House Larry Householder and the House Bill 6 scandal.

Householder and four others were arrested July 21 as part of a federal investigation called the largest bribery scheme in Ohio history. Secretary of State Frank LaRose had reported an initial slate of campaign finance issues on that day, noting his office was continuing to investigate.

On Thursday, LaRose announced he had referred a total of 162 alleged violations to the Ohio Elections Commission for review. 

“Our campaign finance & elections team has spent countless hours digging deep into campaign finance reports — connecting the dots and building on the work done by the FBI as detailed in their criminal complaint,” LaRose said in a provided statement. “Today’s referral to the Ohio Elections Commission is the next step in continuing to hold Representative Householder and his cronies accountable.”

Householder and four political operatives — Matt Borges, Neil Clark, Juan Cespedes and Jeffrey Longstreth — all face racketeering charges and are accused of participating in a $61 million bribery scheme in order to get a $1.3 billion nuclear bailout bill passed into law to benefit the former FirstEnergy Solutions.

The federal criminal complaint outlined that the Akron company funneled millions of dollars over several years through “dark money” groups controlled by Householder. This money was used to elect Householder-friendly candidates to the state legislature, get Householder elected as House speaker, then secure support for the bailout bill introduced and passed in 2019. Those involved then allegedly worked to stymie a petition effort that had worked to get the law repealed. 

Besides the political purposes, some of the corporate money was allegedly used to benefit some of the conspirators personally. 

A news release from LaRose’s office lays out some of the main campaign finance allegations:

  • The individuals solicited and received corporate money to aid candidates in the 2018 and 2020 elections
  • The individuals (and other entities named) established shell companies in order to “conceal or misrepresent contributions given and received”
  • The individuals converted political funds for personal use and gave some of the money to others
  • The individuals circulated and filed a misleading petition and failed to file required disclosures about the petition

In total, LaRose’s referral includes 13 alleged violations from Householder and another 11 involving his Friends of Larry Householder campaign committee. There are 13 others for Longstreth, a Householder aide; and nine apiece for the trio of lobbyists in Clark, Cespedes and Borges. 

There are also violations listed for various groups that were named in the federal criminal complaint or later identified by news reports, including the Growth and Opportunity PAC, the Coalition for Growth and Opportunity, Partners for Progress, and Generation Now. 

The Ohio Elections Commission is made up of seven members, six of which are appointed by the governor representing both the Democratic and Republican Parties. 

Householder was unanimously removed as speaker following his arrest, but the Glenford Republican continues to represent the 72nd District. He is unopposed on the ballot for another term in office, though a number of others have filed to compete as write-in candidates. 

The full complaint can be read here

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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.