Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation are searching former Ohio House speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s house in Clarksville and at a storage facility in Wilmington this morning.
“We are conducting law enforcement activities in those areas,” said FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren. He declined further comment.
Agents dressed in khakis and navy blue polo shirts and wearing gloves and holstered weapons could be seen walking in and out of Rosenberger’s house on State Route 350 in Clarksville, which owned by his parents, and 761 South Nelson in Wilmington. The Wilmington address houses businesses, including the Wilmington News Journal.
Rosenberger could not be reached for comment.
His criminal defense attorney, David Axelrod, said in a written statement: “Speaker Rosenberger and I are cooperating with authorities. We previously offered to provide the material sought today by warrant, and today voluntarily provided additional material not covered by the warrant. Speaker Rosenberger has also complied with a requirement to file legal disclosure forms regarding gifts, meals and travel. Speaker Rosenberger has acted lawfully and ethically and looks forward to a positive resolution of the matter.”
Rosenberger resigned in April after disclosing that he hired Axelrod to handle an FBI inquiry. He said that all his actions have been lawful and ethical. The FBI is reportedly looking into a four-day trip Rosenberger took to London in August 2017 that was partially underwritten by payday lending interests. This newspaper found that Rosenberber made three international trips — China, London and Normandy — with payday lenders as well.
House Bill 123, which would institute the most sweeping reforms to payday lending in a decade, stalled in the House under Rosenberger’s leadership. While it gained momentum after Rosenberger’s resignation, the bill is now in limbo because of an internal fight over who will replace Rosenberger as speaker for the remaining seven months of the two-year legislative session.
The House on Wednesday cancelled its sessions for the remainder of this week. No bills can pass until a new speaker is picked.
Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, a trusted lieutenant of Rosenberger, said he was unaware of the FBI raids and that agents were not searching state properties.
A source who works for the Ohio House said Rosenberger’s campaign treasurer, Bret Dixon, supervised the removal of items from Rosenberger’s state offices and conference room on May 11. Dixon is a developer and former economic development director for Clinton County.
In his 2017 financial disclosure statement, Rosenberger reported taking more than $43,000 in free travel and receiving free meals and drinks from half a dozen sources. The disclosure was made to the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee — a body Rosenberger used to lead as speaker.
In the filing, Rosenberger also noted that he owed at least $1,000 to five entities, including Northbank 503 LLC, which is controlled by Virginia Ragan, a wealthy heiress and GOP donor. Northbank owns a luxury condo in downtown Columbus that Ragan allowed Rosenberger to rent. Neither has ever disclosed how much rent he was charged for use of the 2,237-square-foot condo overlooking the Scioto River. Ragan bought the property in March 2014 for $660,000.
Rosenberger, who is single and has no children, does not own real estate and stays at his parent’s house on State Route 350 in Clarksville. The three-bedroom, two-bath home is valued at $101,820 and has 1,300-square-feet, according to Clinton County Auditor records.
HOW WE GOT HERE
FIRST TO REPORT THE STORY
On April 6, our Columbus Bureau reporter Laura Bischoff was the first reporter in Ohio to report that House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger had hired a defense attorney. Now Rosenberger is the first Ohio speaker in more than 50 years to resign. Follow Laura on Twitter at @lbischoff. Get the latest from our political team on our Ohio Politics Facebook page
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