DeWine: Speaker of the House Larry Householder should resign

Leaders from both political parties — including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine — called Tuesday for the resignation of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder after the Glenford Republican and four others were charged in federal court with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme.

“I am deeply concerned about the allegations of wrongdoing in the criminal complaint issued today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” DeWine said. “Every American has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Because of the nature of these charges, it will be impossible for Speaker Householder to effectively lead the Ohio House of Representatives; therefore, I am calling on Speaker Householder to resign immediately.”

DeWine called it “a sad day for Ohio.”

Also charged were former Ohio GOP chairman Matt Borges, 48, of Bexley, lobbyist Neil Clark, 67, of Columbus; lobbyist and Ohio Civil Rights Commission member Juan Cespedes, 40, of Columbus; and political consultant Jeffrey Longstreth, 44, of Columbus. Generation Now, a 501(c)(4) non-profit the government alleges is controlled by Householder, was also charged.

All five men were arrested on criminal complaints and made initial appearances via video conference before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie K. Bowman in Cincinnati. They did not submit pleas.

Neither Householder nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

“This pay-to-play scandal would have been stopped in its tracks if Ohioans were able to see who was behind efforts to influence their opinions and votes — if they could ‘follow the money,‘” said Catherine Turcer, Common Cause Ohio executive director. “We shouldn’t need an FBI investigation to connect the dots. If we had had strong campaign finance disclosure rules, Larry Householder would not have been able to pervert our political system the way that he did.”

She said the Ohio legislature needs to reform campaign finance disclosure rules and increase the transparency of political spending.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said if Householder doesn’t resign he should be ejected by the House under the rules of the Ohio Constitution.

“Larry Householder sold out the people of Ohio in exchange for power and dirty money. The 81-page sworn affidavit filed today shows plainly he cannot be trusted to act in the public interest, or trusted with public authority,” Yost said. “He is entitled to a presumption of innocence regarding the criminality of his acts, but he is entitled to no presumption of continuance in office.”

Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose called for Householder to “do the right thing for the people of our state and resign today.” Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, and Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also called for Householder’s resignation.

“Ohio is in the midst of a pandemic response and economic downturn, and the institution of the House of Representatives must remain operational, and the integrity of the office and the institution must be restored,” Husted said.

House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes, D-Akron, said the charges will “no doubt lead to the further deterioration of the public’s trust in our institutions.”

Sykes and Ohio Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, said Householder should immediately resign .

“Ohio has been under one-party rule for most of the past two decades,” Yuko said. “This has allowed certain politicians to feel untouchable and caused a culture of corruption to spread among our government institutions. This is a culture that we must eradicate.”

Leaders of both Democratic and Republican state parties also demanded Householder step down.

“The revelations contained in today’s criminal complaint against the Republican Speaker of the House and his associates tell the tale of conspirators who have been at this for a long time and know how to evade accountability for their corrupt actions,” said David Pepper, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. “That’s because, for decades, the culture of Columbus and the Ohio Statehouse under GOP leadership is fundamentally one of corruption, kickbacks and pay-to-play.”

Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jan Timken said she was “disheartened by these shocking revelations” and added, “the Ohio Republican Party strongly condemns this corrupt system that has far too long reared its ugly head in Columbus. As a party that prides itself in leading the right way, the political elite have failed too often by allowing these corrupt and shameful individuals to have a place in our party.”

“All Republicans need to take a hard look at who they surround themselves with and root out this type of corruption and greed from our party,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, LaRose’s office announced he had referred 19 “apparent or alleged violations of Ohio campaign finance laws to the Ohio Elections Commission,” all related to the criminal complaint filed against Householder and the others.

LaRose alleges violations of campaign finance laws regarding direct corporate contributions, campaign finance statements and converting campaign funds for personal benefit.

“These nineteen items likely do not represent a comprehensive list of violations of Ohio laws by the named defendants,” said spokeswoman Maggie Sheehan. “Secretary LaRose, his elections law team, and his campaign finance division will continue to review the relevant campaign finance reports and make additional referrals as violations become known.

Other stories by Lynn Hulsey