The powerful Republican speaker of the Ohio House and four associates were arrested Tuesday in a $60 million federal bribery case connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants.
Hours after FBI agents raided Speaker Larry Householder’s farm, U.S. Attorney David DeVillers described the ploy as “likely the largest bribery scheme ever perpetrated against the state of Ohio.”
Gov. Mike DeWine, also a Republican, called on Householder to resign immediately, saying it would be impossible for him to be an effective legislative leader given the charges against him.
Householder was one of the driving forces behind the nuclear plants’ financial rescue, which added a new fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year through 2026 to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo.
Also arrested were Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, longtime Statehouse lobbyist Neil Clark, former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matthew Borges and Juan Cespedes, co-founder of The Oxley Group, a Columbus-based consulting firm.
Previous attempts to bail out the nuclear plants had stalled in the Legislature before Householder became speaker. Months after taking over, he rolled out a new plan to subsidize the plants and eliminate renewable energy incentives. The proposal was approved a year ago despite opposition from many business leaders and the manufacturing industry.
Generation Now, a group that investigators said was controlled by Householder and successfully fought an effort to put a repeal of the bailout law on Ohio’s ballot, was charged as a corporation in the case.
A criminal complaint filed by the FBI says Generation Now received $60 million from an unidentified company over the past three years. In exchange, Householder and the other defendants worked to pass the nuclear plant bailout and block attempts to overturn it.
Householder and the others used the money to preserve and expand his political power in Ohio, the complaint said.
FirstEnergy Corp., whose former subsidiaries owned the plants, donated heavily to Householder’s campaigns and his backers in the Ohio House. The utility’s political action committee contributed $25,000 to Householder’s campaign in 2018, according to an analysis by Common Cause Ohio, a government watchdog.
Householder flew to President Donald Trump’s inauguration on the company’s plane in 2016. Just months later, Householder began receiving quarterly payments of $250,000 from the unidentified company sent through Generation Now, the complaint said.
The group then spent millions backing Ohio House candidates who would back Householder’s bid for speaker and support the bailout legislation.
FirstEnergy Solutions, the subsidiary which has since changed its name to Energy Harbor and now operates the nuclear plants as an independent company, spent millions on lobbying and campaign contributions while trying to persuade federal and state officials to give the nuclear plants a lifeline.
FBI agents were at Householder’s farm in Glenford on Tuesday morning in rural Perry County. FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said only that they were carrying out “law enforcement activity.” The Perry County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that it was assisting.
Attempts to reach Householder, Borges and Clark were unsuccessful. A message seeking comment was also left with the House communications office.