One of Ohio’s top political leaders is the subject of a federal bribery investigation, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office is set to hold a press conference on the matter within hours.
FBI agents and sheriff’s deputies have raided Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder’s farm in the Perry County Village of Glenford, bureau sources confirm to 3News. Multiple media outlets report the speaker has since been arrested in connection to what the U.S. Department of Justice is calling a “$60 million bribe to [a] state official and associates.”
The Columbus Dispatch reports the inquiry is connected to House Bill 6, which bailed out Ohio’s two fledgling nuclear power plants (including the Perry Nuclear Generating Station in Lake County). Householder pushed hard for the bill’s passage, and offered praise when it narrowly cleared the General Assembly last July over the objections of even several of his Republican colleagues.
The plants in both Perry and Oak Harbor were at one time operated by FirstEnergy’s subsidiary FirstEnergy Solutions until the latter was spun off as its own independent company known as Energy Harbor following bankruptcy proceedings. Following the news of the investigation, FirstEnergy’s stock market share price was down more than 11% as of 1 p.m., while Energy Harbor slid more than 20%.
According to a media alert prepared by the DOJ, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David M. DeVillers and FBI Special Agent in Charge Chris Hoffman will speak at 2:30 regarding an investigation into “a public corruption racketeering conspiracy.” Householder’s name was not mentioned, but officials clarified to us that today’s law enforcement presence is indeed related.
Householder was elected in 2019 to serve in his second term as Ohio’s House speaker, a position he first held from 2001-04. Near the end of that initial term, he and others were also under investigation for alleged money laundering, but no charges were ever filed and he left the House due to term limits before being reelected in 2016.
Besides Householder, The Dispatch reports four others were arrested as well, including former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges. Borges was ousted three years ago following the election of President Donald Trump and has since organized a Super PAC in support of current Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.
Householder is the second Statehouse leader to face a criminal probe in the last two years: Back in 2018, then-Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned amid similar allegations of corruption that prompted an FBI search of his own home. Charges have yet to be filed against him, and Ryan Smith took his place as permanent speaker before Householder regained his old job last January.
The FBI could not specifically confirm today’s arrests, but did say any persons arrested would appear at U.S. District Court in Columbus at 1:30 p.m. this afternoon.
Householder’s office could not be reached for comment. In response to the impending remarks from the U.S. Attorney, Gov. Mike DeWine has postponed his regular 2 p.m. coronavirus press briefing until Wednesday.