Mar 10, 2023 - Politics

Larry Householder found guilty in corruption trial

Photo illustration of Larry Householder with lines emanating from him.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: The Ohio Channel

Larry Householder and his legal team insisted his behind-the-scenes dealings as a lawmaker and Ohio House speaker were political in nature, not criminal.

  • A jury disagreed yesterday, convicting him and former Ohio GOP chair Matt Borges of racketeering for their involvement in what prosecutors described as a $60 million legislative bribery plot.

Why it matters: Yesterday's verdict is the biggest shockwave to date in one of the largest government scandals in state history, one that has spurred continued efforts to reform our state's political spending laws.

Driving the news: Householder, Borges and two political associates were found to have participated in a corrupt scheme to receive millions of dollars from FirstEnergy Corp. in exchange for the 2019 passage of a $1.3 billion nuclear bailout bill.

What they're saying: Gov. Mike DeWine, whose administration has been linked to the scandal but has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing, reportedly declined to comment on the convictions.

  • David M. DeVillers, the former federal prosecutor who first brought charges against Householder, cheered the verdict:
Former federal prosecutor David M. DeVillers tweeting, "The line between influence peddling and bribery will now be drawn by the rule of law and not by politicians, lobbyists and corporations.  Congratulations to the entire trial team."
Via Twitter.

State of play: Householder's conviction caps the downfall of a career politician who was raised on a rural Ohio farm before becoming one of the state's biggest power players.

  • His roller coaster in politics included more than a decade in the Statehouse and a speaking slot at the 2016 Republican National Convention.
  • But his two stints as House speaker each ended with a federal investigation. He avoided criminal charges on pay-to-play allegations the first time, but not the second.

The big picture: State lawmakers repealed the controversial nuclear bailout a year after Householder's arrest, but the resulting scandal could still lead to broader government reforms.

  • The bribery enterprise centered on use of "dark money" groups that aren't required to disclose their donors or spending receipts. This money was used in part to defeat a petition campaign against the bailout.
  • Lawmakers from both parties, along with Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, have since pushed to make campaign spending more transparent ā€” with little success to date.
  • While the verdict was pending, state Reps. Jessica Miranda (D-Forest Park) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Westlake) announced plans to again pursue the legislation this term.

Between the lines: Swift passage of these reforms could lead to a more transparent public debate surrounding issues like abortion access, gerrymandering and a minimum wage increase ā€” all could reach the statewide ballot this year or next.

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