In one of the largest bribery scandals in U.S. political history, the Republican speaker of the Ohio House was arrested Tuesday along with four others, and faces charges of federal corruption and campaign finance violations.
House Speaker Larry Householder stands accused of being involved in a $60 million bribery scheme involving two nuclear power plants that were bailed out by taxpayers, according to The Associated Press. U.S. Attorney David DeVillers described the alleged crimes as possibly the largest instance of bribery and money laundering that had “ever been perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio.”
FBI agents, local police, and county sheriffs raided Householder’s farm in southeastern Ohio during the early morning hours of Tuesday. Also arrested were one of Householder’s advisers, a political lobbyist in the Statehouse, a former Ohio Republican Party chairman, as well as the co-founder of a consulting firm in Columbus. The five were charged as an enterprise in the federal complaint.
The case centers on the bailouts of two nuclear power plants owned by FirstEnergy, legislation for which Householder helped push through after years of unsuccessful lobbying on the part of the company. House Bill 6 slapped a monthly fee on the utilities bill of Ohioans to pay for the bailout.
The federal complaint alleges that in exchange, Householder and his associates received $60 million, which was funneled through “Generation Now,” a dark money group Householder controlled and used to advertise in favor of the bill. Householder then allegedly used that money to increase his political power by backing candidates who would support him for speaker. Generation Now also allegedly spent $15 million in an ad campaign to keep controversial House Bill 6 from being placed on the ballot to be approved by voters.
“Nuclear bailout supporters of House Bill 6 have stooped to unprecedented and deceitful depths to stop Ohioans from exercising their constitutional rights to put a bailout question on the ballot for voters to decide,” Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts spokesman Gene Pierce said at the time.
Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Ohio have already begun to plan ways to get the bill repealed. Republican state Reps. Mark Romanchuk and Laura Lanese requested co-sponsors on Wednesday morning for legislation “that will fully repeal House Bill 6,” according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.
“Corruption has no place in our government, regardless of political party. When corruption is revealed, it is important we act quickly to fix what has been broken,” Democratic state Rep. Mike Skindell said.
Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine called on Householder to resign, as did the head of the Ohio Republican Party, the state attorney general, the Senate president, and the protesters outside the Columbus courthouse when Householder appeared. He was released on his own recognizance and made to surrender his passport.
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