Advertisement

‘Dark money’ group admits involvement in Householder bribery scandal

Ohio Speaker of the House, Larry Householder is in the center of an FBI investigation of...
Ohio Speaker of the House, Larry Householder is in the center of an FBI investigation of bribery, corruption and racketeering that might involve HB 6, a bailout of FirstEnergy Solutions.(Source: OhioHouse.gov)
Published: Feb. 5, 2021 at 12:11 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

COLUMBUS, Ohio (FOX19) - Representatives of a dark-money political action committee signed a guilty plea Friday admitting involvement in a massive bribery scheme in Ohio to protect a $1 billion nuclear plant bailout, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The plea agreement comes seven months after the arrest of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and several others on charges of participating in what federal prosecutors describe as the largest political corruption case in Ohio history.

Prosecutors say the political group, Generation Now, received tens of millions of dollars that Householder and others used to pay bribes, fund his own political activities and run a public campaign supporting the nuclear bailout.

Generation Now was set up as a social welfare entity, which allowed it to avoid disclosing donors. Federal authorities have said Generation Now’s real purpose was to protect the nuclear plant bailout and enrich Householder and others.

A former Householder advisor, Jeffrey Longstreth, signed the plea deal on behalf of Generation Now. It acknowledges Generation Now was part of a criminal conspiracy with Householder and the others. As part of the agreement, the PAC will forfeit potentially millions of dollars in assets.

Householder oversaw the controversial, Republican-led bailout of the two northern Ohio nuclear plants, both owned by FirstEnergy Solutions. Known as House Bill 6, the measure was approved by state lawmakers and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine last July.

House Bill 6 allowed FirstEnergy Solutions, now known as Energy Harbor, to use fees from Ohio ratepayers to cover the cost of the $1 billion bailout of nuclear plants in Perry and Oak Harbor.

The bailout stirred an immediate backlash from consumer rights advocates, who attempted to repeal House Bill 6. Householder and Generation Now responded with a massive statewide campaign to protect the bailout, which included ads warning Ohioans that the Chinese would take over the state’s power grid if the repeal was successful.

Prosecutors have said FirstEnergy Solutions, which federal authorities have identified only as “Company A,” poured more than $60 million in secret payments over three years into Householder’s “criminal enterprise.”

The enterprise concealed the payments and then transferred them “to a web of related entities and accounts,” prosecutors said in July.

FirstEnergy, which spun off FirstEnergy Solutions in bankruptcy proceedings, also gave more than $1.1 million directly to Ohio politicians, including Householder, between 2017 and 2019. FirstEnergy Solutions was later renamed Energy Harbor Corp.

Along with Householder, federal authorities in July also charged four others in connection with the scheme. They are Longstreth; Matt Borges, a former Ohio Republican Party chairman; Neil Clark, a lobbyist and the founder of Grant Street Consultants in Columbus; and Juan Cespedes, co-founder of The Oxley Group in Columbus.

Cespedes, a lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions and Energy Harbor, and Longstreth separately pleaded guilty in October to participating in a racketeering conspiracy. They face up to 20 years in prison.

Sentencing in those cases has been postponed until the other cases are resolved.

Copyright 2021 Cincinnati Enquirer. All rights reserved.