Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder goes on trial next week in the highest-profile reckoning yet to arise from a $60 million federal bribery investigation that federal prosecutors call the largest corruption case in state history.
The 2 1/2 years since the Republican’s arrest have seen the toppling of a Fortune 500 energy company’s CEO and other executives, the resignation of Ohio’s top utility regulator amid FBI scrutiny, and Householder’s ouster as speaker and his subsequent expulsion as state representative — the first in Ohio in 150 years.
Emerging details have brought the case ever closer to the office of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine — though without implicating him personally or hurting Ohio Republicans’ electability — and made clear the case’s potential for clarifying federal law on operating a 501(c)4 “dark money” group.
When it comes to a dark money group, “the two things it’s not supposed to be: Its primary activity’s not supposed to be political, and it’s not supposed to be used to the benefit of a particular individual,” former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, who initially brought the case, said at a forum Wednesday.
An indictment alleged Householder, former Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges, three other people and a dark money group called Generation Now orchestrated an elaborate scheme, secretly funded by FirstEnergy, to secure Householder’s power, elect his allies, pass legislation containing a $1 billion bailout for two aging nuclear power plants, and then vex a ballot effort to overturn the bill with a dirty tricks campaign.
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Under a deal to avoid prosecution, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. admitted to using dark money groups to fund the scheme and bribing the utility regulator. It has also fired half a dozen executives and regrouped.
Two Householder associates and a related nonprofit pleaded guilty to their roles and await sentencing. A third defendant who pleaded not guilty died by suicide.
A jury to be selected Friday in Cincinnati now must decide whether Householder, 63, and Borges, 50, are guilty of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise involving bribery and money laundering. They pleaded not guilty and maintain their innocence.
Each faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The trial could last six weeks.
Householder and Borges were arrested along with the other defendants in July 2020.
During his defiant…
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