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Federal bribery trial begins for Larry Householder, Matt Borges

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) – The federal trial in what prosecutors say is likely the largest bribery and money laundering scheme in Ohio history is expected to begin Monday.

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges. are accused of running a criminal enterprise that received nearly $61 million in bribes, funneled from First Energy through the nonprofit organization Generation Now, to position Householder as a speaker and then pass and defend Bill 6 of the House of Representatives, a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout.

Federal officials have said Householder was a driving force behind the financial bailout that added a new fee to every electricity bill in Ohio and directed more than $150 million annually through 2026 to plants near Toledo and Cleveland.

FORMER: Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder Arrests 4 Others in $61 Million Bribery Case

The householder and Borges have pleaded not guilty to extortion conspiracy.

Lawmakers stripped Householder of his speaking position shortly after he was impeached in July 2020 and he won re-election that fall.

In June 2021, nearly a year later, House lawmakers voted for the second time in state history to oust a sitting member.

The bipartisan vote went 75 to 21 with opposition from several local Republican lawmakers: Bill Seitz of Green Township and Sara Carruthers of Hamilton.

“I will have my day in court,” Householder told fellow lawmakers before the vote. “I am sure that when a jury of my peers hears all the evidence, they will return a verdict of not guilty.”

Two other men charged in the case, Jeffrey Longstreth, Householder’s longtime campaign and political strategist, and Juan Céspedes, a lobbyist, pleaded guilty in October 2020 to extortion, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

They will testify at trial and will be sentenced once the case is over.

The fifth man charged with Householder in July 2020, Neil Clark, committed suicide in a Naples park in March 2021. Clark was a longtime lobbyist who owned and operated Grant Street Consultants. He also previously served as budget director for the Ohio Republican Caucus.

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Generation Now pleaded guilty in February 2021 to one count of involvement in an organized crime conspiracy.

As part of the guilty plea, Generation Now has agreed to forfeit its assets, including nearly $1.5 million seized from the organization’s bank accounts, federal officials say.

Read the accusation:

Court records allege that in February 2017 Longstreth incorporated Generation Now as a 501(c)(4) social welfare entity that purports to promote energy independence and economic development; however, the entity was secretly controlled by Householder.

Clark stated in a recorded conversation: “Generation Now is speaker (c)(4),” court records show. The names and addresses of 501(c)(4) filers are not available for public inspection, as required by law.

In March 2017, Householder began receiving quarterly payments of $250,000 from energy-related companies into Generation Now’s bank account, according to federal court documents.

The defendants allegedly spent millions of company dollars to support Householder’s political bid to become House speaker, to support House candidates they believed would endorse Householder, and for their own personal gain.

Asked how much money was in Generation Now, Clark said, “it’s unlimited,” court records show.

The affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint also alleges:

  • In 2018, the company spent money from the energy company to Generation Now on approximately 21 different statewide candidates: 15 (including head of household) in the primary election and six additional candidates in the general election. Enterprise spent over $1 million in the fall of 2018 alone to flood the airways with negative ads against the company’s opponents. Most of these candidates won the 2018 general election. All who won voted for the Head of Household as Speaker.
  • The money that passed from the energy company through Generation Now was used to pay Householder’s campaign staff, which would otherwise have been paid by Householder’s candidate committee, Friends of Larry Householder.
  • The householder received more than $400,000 in personal benefits as a result of the payments to Generation Now, including funds to settle a personal lawsuit, pay costs associated with his Florida residence, and pay off thousands of dollars in credit card debt.
  • The company paid $15,000 to a person to provide inside information on the ballot initiative and offered to pay ballot initiative signature collectors $2,500 in cash and airfare to stop collecting signatures.

When federal officials announced the arrest of Householder and the four in July 2020, they emphasized that the investigation is ongoing.

“We are not done with this case,” said then-U.S. Attorney David DeVillers. “There are a lot of federal agents knocking on a lot of doors.”