A year ago, Republican Cliff Rosenberger stunned his fellow lawmakers when he announced he was resigning his Ohio House seat and speakership and that he had hired a criminal defense attorney.
A month after he stepped down, the FBI raided his home and storage unit in southern Ohio. But so far no charges have been filed.
“Our only comment would be that the case remains ongoing,” said Todd Lindgren, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation office in Cincinnati.
Rosenberger’s defense attorney David Axelrod said he has no sense of where the investigation stands. “This needs to go away,” he said.
Axelrod added that he wants the U.S. Department of Justice to issue a “clearance” letter once the case is closed. “He was so publicly dragged through the mud that when he is vindicated, which I’m sure he will be, he’s entitled to public vindication,” Axelrod said.
A federal search warrant and subpoena issued to the Ohio House on May 22 and released to the public in August showed that federal authorities have been trying to build a public corruption case against Rosenberger and three payday lending industry representatives. The search and seizure warrant detailed documents federal investigators believe contain evidence of extortion and bribery.
While Rosenberger was speaker, a payday lending reform bill — House Bill 123 — was opposed by the industry and stalled in the Ohio House. After his departure, lawmakers adopted the bill and Republican John Kasich signed it into law in early August.
Rosenberger, of Clarksville, has maintained that all his actions as speaker were ethical and lawful.
Current House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, was the focus on a federal investigation into allegations of political corruption in 2004. In 2006, the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice announced that its investigation concluded with no charges being filed. Householder returned to the Ohio House in 2017 and re-captured the speaker post this year.
Meanwhile, Rosenberger has been spotted from time to time around Columbus. “He is trying to maintain his sanity with the sword of Damocles over his head and I think he’s doing a super human job,” Axelrod said.
Laura Bischoff is our Columbus bureau reporter and covers politics and state government. She keeps a close eye on elected leaders, public employees and taxpayer money. Bischoff tries to write stories that inform voters, hold leaders accountable and strengthen democracy.