Ohio House leader confirms his calls intercepted by feds

State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, is a member of GOP legislative leadership.
State Rep. Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, is a member of GOP legislative leadership.

Cincinnati Republican state Rep. Bill Seitz said he received notice that federal authorities conducting electronic surveillance of others picked up his communications.

“I was never wiretapped; they simply said that in the course of tapping others’ phones they picked up communications with me,” said Seitz, who is the House GOP majority floor leader. “This happened from October 2017-March 2018, and from the numbers they gave me, it was all related to payday lending issues.”

The FBI has been investigating former Ohio House speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, and a payday loan reform bill for more than two years. An FBI spokesman on Tuesday said the investigation is ongoing.

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Seitz, an attorney at Dinsmore’s Cincinnati office, has been a state lawmaker since 2000 and is known for his forceful arguments and colorful floor speeches.

Seitz is in the midst of trying to negotiate a legislative fix for House Bill 6, a controversial energy law at the center of another FBI investigation. As of deadline, lawmakers had not agreed upon a fix.

Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. and its former subsidiary, Energy Harbor, as well as the Ohio Valley Electric Corp. benefit from fees, subsidies and other language in HB6. Federal prosecutors, without specifically naming the companies, allege that $60 million in bribes was funneled to former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and his allies to elect pro-Householder lawmakers, position him to return as speaker and in turn pass and defend HB6.

Now lawmakers are deadlocked over whether to repeal it, partially repeal it, delay the start of subsidies or take some other action.

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Seitz is advocating that Energy Harbor, which has signaled that it may no longer want the HB6 subsidies, be given a choice on whether to accept the $150 million a year in ratepayer assistance.

When asked why he’s helping Energy Harbor, Seitz said in an email: “No corruption charges have been leveled against Energy Harbor or any member of the General Assembly except Rep. Householder. In fact, Energy Harbor did not even exist during the time period of the alleged corruption. I am working to preserve carbonless generation in Ohio and doing so with respect to an asset that has many years left on its useful life.”