Speaker of the House Investigation: Here’s what we know

The public corruption case against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates is detailed in an 82-page affidavit signed by FBI Agent Blane Wetzel.

Here is what we learned from that document:

In January 2017, Perry County Republican Larry Householder hitched a ride to President Trump’s inauguration on a corporate jet. The corporation is unidentified in the court records but Akron-based FirstEnergy said Tuesday it received subpoenas and is cooperating with the investigation.

Shortly after that, Householder and his associates planned and executed Householder’s political comeback, using more than $60 million from the energy corporation and its entities, an 82-page criminal complaint alleges.

“Householder’s Enterprise” allegedly spent FirstEnergy money to position House candidates to win primary and general elections, putting them in legislative seats where they could and would vote for Householder as speaker and follow his lead and vote for a bailout bill to help FirstEnergy.

Householder’s candidates by and large won, Householder became speaker in January 2019, and FirstEnergy got its bailout package worth $1.3 billion when House Bill 6 was signed into law in July 2019.

From March 2017 to March 2020, Akron-based FirstEnergy and its entities paid Householder’s Enterprise nearly $61 million in secret payments in exchange for the billion-dollar bailout, according to federal prosecutors.

How did the feds find this out?

They have lobbyists, lawmakers and others on tape. They subpoenaed bank records. They looked at text messages and phone records. They interviewed legislators and informants.

The money was funneled through Generation Now, a dark money 501(c)4 organization controlled by Householder, the complaint says.

“The millions paid are akin to bags of cash — unlike campaign or PAC contributions, they were not regulated, not reported, not subject to public scrutiny — and the Enterprise freely spent the bribe payments to further the Enterprise’s political interests and to enrich themselves,” wrote Wetzel, a former legislative aide who worked in the Michigan House of Representatives.

Opponents of HB6 — a coalition of environmental groups, free market advocates and competing utilities — launched a referendum campaign to ask Ohio voters to overturn the new law.

FirstEnergy and Householder’s Enterprise fought back. From July 24 to Oct 22, 2019 — the window for the referendum campaign — the energy corporation wired more than $38 million to Generation Now to defeat the ballot initiative, prosecutors said.

That cash was used to mount a fierce counter-campaign that included ads, mailers, alleged bribes and pay offs for referendum signature collectors.

The referendum campaign failed to gather enough signatures within its deadline.

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