Republican Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested by federal agents on Tuesday, along with four others as part of a $60 million racketeering and bribery investigation.
The case involved the controversial $1 billion ratepayer bailout last year of two Ohio nuclear plants, which was led by Republicans including Householder. The criminal complaint, unsealed Tuesday, accuses Householder, 61, of a mammoth bribery enterprise in which he attempted to funnel millions of dollars to himself and colleagues who were in on the plot.
“The millions paid into the entity were akin to bags of cash,” the complaint reads. “Unlike campaign or PAC contributions, they were not regulated, not reported, not subject to public scrutiny — and the enterprise freely spent the bribe payments to further the enterprise’s political interests and to enrich themselves.”
Federal authorities also arrested four others, including Matt Borges, the former chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, Jeffrey Longstreth, a longtime political strategist for Householder, and two lobbyists, Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes.
U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, who is leading prosecution of the case, called it “likely the largest money laundering operation ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.”
“This was bribery, plain and simple. This was a quid pro quo. This was pay to play,” DeVillers said.
The “dark money” nonprofit Generation Now, which lobbied for the bailout, was also charged with racketeering.
“Company A entities paid Householder’s enterprise $60,886,835.86 in secret payments over the approximately three-year period in exchange for the billion-dollar-bailout. The enterprise concealed the payments … to receive the bribe money and then transferring the payments internally to a web of related entities and accounts,” the complaint stated, although it did not name the specific companies.
The arrests come after a nearly two-year FBI investigation into bribery and money laundering.
Householder faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. He previously escaped charges in 2006 when the FBI ended a separate investigation into whether Householder accepted kickbacks from vendors and took campaign contributions in exchange for legislation.