The high-profile arrest of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four others in July has brought state-level campaign finance — and the ways it can be misused on a grand scale — to national prominence. Householder’s arrest by federal officials in conjunction with a $60 million racketeering and bribery investigation has been called the largest money laundering scheme to have possibly “ever been perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio” by the lead prosecutor.
The charges against the Ohio speaker are tied to what has been described as a criminal enterprise, intent on bailing out two nuclear power plants in northern Ohio. The bailouts — pushed through the Ohio House by Householder — added a new fee to every electricity bill in the state of Ohio, and directed over $150 million per year through 2026 to the two plants. In total, the cost to the state’s utility ratepayers is expected to be around $1 billion.
Some of Householder’s campaign contributions were implicated in the scheme after the initial hearing as Ohio’s Republican elections chief announced the referral of 19 potential campaign finance violations to the Ohio Elections Commission. Violations include allegedly converting campaign funds for personal use.
FirstEnergy Corp.— whose former subsidiaries owned the nuclear plants — has been a significant donor to Householder’s campaigns and to his supporters in the House. Although the identity of the company that purportedly gave 60 million in exchange for a bailout quickly became known, FirstEnergy was not directly named in the affidavit released by the FBI.
The recently unsealed 82-page criminal complaint points the finger at Householder, accusing him and others of building an enterprise to collect large sums of money, expand their political power, and conceal a criminal conspiracy. It also alleges a nonprofit which federal prosecutors link to Householder and his adviser through various payments and contributions—Generation Now—received approximately $60 million in exchange for help pushing the passage of the bailout legislation and blocking a ballot initiative to overturn the legislation.
The lead prosecutor said the arrests are not the end of the road for the investigation. Agents continue to interview potential witnesses and execute search warrants.
Also charged in the investigation alongside Householder:
Neil Clark, a well-connected Ohio lobbyist and founder of Grant Street Consultants;
Matthew Borges, former Ohio Republican Party chair and consultant;
Juan Cespedes, co-founder of The Oxley Group in Columbus;
Jeffrey Longstreth, adviser to Householder;
Generation Now, a nonprofit that federal prosecutors link to Longstreth and Householder, also faces racketeering charges.
As prosecutors and agents continue to pursue the charges, Ohio residents can use Transparency USA’s database to follow the trail of campaign finance donations and expenditures for themselves. Search the specific candidates, donors and PACs involved in the ongoing investigation, and narrow down the timeframe using our advanced search tool as this story continues to develop.
Transparency USA keeps you informed about the money in all of Ohio state-level politics. Subscribe to get the latest updates in campaign finance delivered straight to your inbox.