Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger

Ohio House speaker hires defense attorney over FBI questions

“Quite frankly, I’ll be up front: I think politics is a pretty dirty place right now. I have not been subpoenaed,” Rosenberger told this newspaper in an exclusive interview. “And as far as I know I have not been told I’m under investigation,”

He added “As a precautionary measure, I went ahead and hired David Axelrod because I had been made aware and understand that the bureau is asking questions about things I may have been involved in. But that is only from a precautionary standpoint. I’m not going to answer any more questions than that.”

FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said “As a matter of policy we cannot confirm or deny the existence of a potential investigation.”

Axelrod, who could not be reached for comment, is a partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick and focuses on white collar criminal cases and other matters. A former federal prosecutor, Axelrod represented former Ohio State University band director Jonathan Waters when the university dismissed him in July 2014.

Related: Former OSU band director sues university over firing

News of an FBI inquiry is the latest challenge facing Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, as he finishes his final year as House speaker. Vying to replace him are former speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, and Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith, R-Gallipolis.

An upstart blog — Third Rail Politics — is peppering Team Rosenberger with public records requests, posting “rumor alerts” under headlines such as “Is the House GOP Caucus in Trouble?” and criticizing Rosenberger’s spending.

Related: Ohio House Speaker rents luxury condo from prominent GOP donor

Rosenberger has also faced embarrassing news reports over a handful of Republican caucus members, including Wes Retherford of Hamilton being found passed out drunk in his truck in a McDonald’s drive through, Wes Goodman of Cardington resigning in November after being confronted about reports that he had sexual contact with a man in his Riffe Center office and a complaint by Republican challenger Jocelyn Smith about the alleged behavior about her opponent, incumbent state Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek.

Rosenberger, an Air Force veteran and a 2012 Wright State University graduate, has not disclosed what his employment plans are when he leaves office in December.

Thank you for reading the Dayton Daily News and for supporting local journalism. Subscribers: log in for access to your daily ePaper and premium newsletters.

Thank you for supporting in-depth local journalism with your subscription to the Dayton Daily News. Get more news when you want it with email newsletters just for subscribers. Sign up here.