by J.D. Davidson
A nonprofit organization has become the latest to enter a guilty plea in a $60 million bribery and racketeering scheme involving Ohio’s taxpayer-funded energy company bailout and the former speaker of the House.
Generation Now pleaded guilty in federal court, admitting it was used to funnel millions of dollars in bribes from a utility company to former Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, in relation to the passage of House Bill 6. In the plea agreement, Generation Now allowed the government to take nearly $1.5 million from two bank accounts and received five years of probation.
Jeffrey Longstretch, a former Householder adviser, signed the plea agreement on behalf of Generation Now, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Friday.
House Republicans and Democrats have introduced legislation to repeal HB 6.
Introduced by state Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, House Bill 18 repeals the energy bailout legislation and restores Ohio’s energy policy to pre-HB 6 regulations. Lanese introduced the same legislation in the last General Assembly. After four hearings, it failed to move out of committee.
“House Bill 6 was unsound public policy from the state, which is why 42 of my House colleagues voted against it in the first place,” Lanese said. “And since the passage of legislation, a laundry list of legal actions has been taken to protect consumers from the detrimental consequences of HB 6 and the bribery scandal surrounding it.”
Democrats introduced similar legislation, calling for the immediate repeal of HB 6 after the most-recent guilty plea.
“[The] news that General Now is pleading guilty to federal racketeering charges makes it abundantly clear that we must repeal House Bill 6 immediately,” state Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, said. “Corruption has no place in our politics, and this bill is the most corrupt piece of legislation I’ve seen in my time in the Legislature. We must act to overturn HB 6 to restore the public trust and protect taxpayers dollars.”
Householder, along with four co-conspirators, were charged seven months ago in what federal prosecutors called the largest political corruption case in state history. Three of the six entities charged have pleaded guilty. Householder has pleaded not guilty. He was removed as speaker but won reelection to the Ohio House in November.
Also charged are former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges and lobbyist Neil Clark. Juan Cespedes, co-founder of The Oxley Group, and Longstretch also have pleaded guilty.
HB 6 created a new Ohio Clean Air Program to support nuclear energy plants and some solar power facilities. Electricity consumers were to fund the program with a surcharge that ran through 2027.
The fee, which was scheduled to begin Jan. 1, was stopped by the Ohio Supreme Court in late December. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost also reached a deal with FirstEnergy to stop what would have been a $120 million windfall for the company this year based on another part of HB 6.
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An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is the Regional Editor of The Center Square in Ohio.