by J.D. Davidson
A federal jury found former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder and former state Republican Party leader Matt Borges guilty of racketeering conspiracy in what federal prosecutors have called the largest public corruption case in state history.
The two each face up to 20 years in prison and will be sentenced in the coming months. Appeals could also be filed.
“As presented by the trial team, Larry Householder illegally sold the statehouse, and thus he ultimately betrayed the great people of Ohio he was elected to serve,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker said in a statement. “Matt Borges was a willing co-conspirator, who paid bribe money for insider information to assist Householder. Through its verdict today, the jury reaffirmed that the illegal acts committed by both men will not be tolerated and that they should be held accountable.”
The two men were convicted in the bribery and racketeering scheme that surrounded $61 million in bribes regarding House Bill 6, the state’s billion-dollar FirstEnergy nuclear power plant bailout.
Householder lost his speakership and was expelled from the House in June 2021.
As previously reported by The Center Square, FirstEnergy agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their investigation, admitting it conspired with public officials, others and entities to pay millions of dollars to public officials in exchange for specific official action to help FirstEnergy.
Householder, along with four co-conspirators, were charged in 2020. Also charged were Borges, lobbyist Neil Clark, the Oxley Group co-founder Juan Cespedes and strategist John Longstreth.
HB6 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 the surcharge that ran through 2027.
The fee, which was scheduled to begin Jan. 1, 2021, was stopped by the Ohio Supreme Court in late December 2020. 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 HB6.
Ohio House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, said justice was served by the verdict.
“Justice was served today, and it now closes this chapter on Ohio’s largest corruption scandal in history,” Russo said. “However, the issue of unlimited dark money and pay-to-play bribes being funneled through our political systems undoubtedly remains. We owe it to all Ohioans to rip these roots out permanently so taxpayers are never on the hook like this again, and so the government can regain the trust of the people.”
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. Davidson is a regional editor for The Center Square.