Calfee Update on Ohio House Speaker Householder Arrest
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others caught up in an FBI corruption sting are facing charges of conspiracy to commit racketeering, up to 20 years in prison and fines of at least $250,000. The charges involve an alleged $60 million bribe related to the passage of House Bill 6 last year. The FBI also confirmed that its agents arrived at House Speaker Larry Householder's Perry County residence around 6:15 a.m. Tuesday morning to collect evidence.
The charges stem from the involvement of the speaker and others in the passage of House Bill 6, which served to among other things bail out the state’s nuclear plants. The federal complaint indicates authorities' review of the speaker's activities have been ongoing for some time.
US Attorney David DeVillers of the Southern District of Ohio addressed the press this afternoon, calling this the largest bribery case in Ohio political history. He described the scheme as intended to benefit the defendants and create a power base to ensure passage of the legislation. DeVillers said the funds were used to support Householder’s candidacy for Speaker, which included supporting candidates favorable to Householder in the 2018 election, which lead to support of House Bill 6 last year. The funds were also used for media supporting passage of the legislation and to defeat the petition drive to put a referendum on the ballot to repeal the bill, including bribing groups/individuals to not participate in the signature gathering effort.
DeVillers said the investigation is ongoing, that FBI agents will now be interviewing individuals that they could not before due to concern that the alleged conspirators would learn of the investigation and attempt to evade prosecution. DeVillers said that today’s affidavit is the tip of the iceberg. While he would not say who else was under investigation, he did say that there is currently no evidence of involvement by Governor DeWine.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman, of the Cincinnati Office, added that this is the first time that Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) charges have been brought against a public official in the Southern District. He encouraged anyone with additional information to contact his office.
Earlier this afternoon a federal magistrate imposed travel restrictions on the Speaker and ordered any firearms in his possession be removed during a preliminary video hearing. The same conditions apply to Jeff Longstreth, an adviser for the speaker, and Matt Borges, a political operative who previously served as chairman of the Ohio Republican Party. Lobbyists Juan Cespedes and Neil Clark, also arrested in connection with the probe, were still in the process of their hearings.
The magistrate released Speaker Householder and Messrs. Borges and Longstreth without bond on the condition that they not travel outside of the Southern District of Ohio without permission. They also requested defendants be prevented from contacting their codefendants in the case.
Governor DeWine postponed his COVID press conference until tomorrow due to today’s events. Following the press conference, the Governor released a statement, saying: “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. This is a sad day for Ohio.”
Maryellen K. Corbett
Attorney at Law
Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP
1200 Huntington Center
41 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-3465