‘I pleaded not guilty because I am’: Indicted Rep. Householder defends himself against calls for removal
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Ohio House Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) adamantly denied bribery accusations in front of his colleagues who are considering removing him from office nearly a year after his initial arrest.
The House Rules and Reference Committee did not vote Tuesday on whether to send the resolution to the full chamber. A two-thirds vote (66 votes) is needed from the House to remove Householder from office. The resolution brought before lawmakers Tuesday is sponsored by two Republicans and has support from members of both parties.
“I’ll have my day in court,” Householder said. “I’m confident that when a jury of my peers hears all the evidence, they’ll return a not guilty verdict.”
Householder was arrested in July 2020 and later indicted by a federal grand jury in what prosecutors called the largest corruption scandal in Ohio’s history. They accuse him of being at the center of a “pay-to-play” scandal that included utility companies paying more than $60 million to help make him speaker in order to help pass a $1.3 billion bailout bill for nuclear power plants, including Davis-Besse in Oak Harbor.
He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
“I have not, nor have I ever taken a bribe or solicited, or been solicited for taking a bribe,” he said.
He did not address the details about his charges, as per a federal order. His lawyers advised him as he answered - and sometimes declined to answer - questions from lawmakers after reading a pre-written speech. He hasn’t spoken much publicly since his arrest, but when it came to defending his seat in the House, Householder didn’t hold back Tuesday.
He said to call removing him from office “unprecedented” would be an “understatement.” The only time an Ohio lawmaker was expelled was in 1857 when a representative punched another lawmaker during a floor debate.
Householder used that instance as one of his primary defenses: That member was removed because of “disorderly conduct.”
The Ohio Constitution says, “Each House may punish its members for disorderly conduct and, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elected thereto, expel a member, but not the second time for the same cause.”
Householder said that, because he hasn’t been convicted of a crime or committed an act of disorderly conduct, he should not be removed from office. He compared his situation to President Trump’s impeachment trials, calling the process “politically motivated,” while also suggesting impeachment might be a more appropriate route to remove him instead of the current resolution to expel him.
He also warned that if lawmakers expel him, it would change the definition of “disorderly conduct,” allowing future parties to use him as a precedent to expel members of the opposition party if they do something viewed as unfavorable.
“Just think of the precedent this will set,” Householder said. “Allegations are enough to remove someone from office? That’s absurd.”
House Resolution 69 suggests that the FBI’s investigation, Householder’s indictment, and other guilty pleas in the case are enough to warrant expulsion. It argues Householder can’t defend himself while effectively serve in his position. It also says expelling him would avoid “causing a disturbance to the transaction of the business of the House of Representatives.”
Householder, in an interview with WXIX in Cincinnati before the hearing and during his testimony, suggested that one of the sponsors of the bill, Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) is funded by George Soros. Stewart called that a “tinfoil hat conspiracy theory.”
“Has anyone ever thumped the Ohio Constitution harder while simultaneously ignoring the plain text of what it says?” Stewart wrote in a separate Tweet Tuesday.
Another argument Householder made for why he should keep his seat is his 2020 general election victory, which came after the indictment was announced.
“The voters in the 72nd House District affirmed that they wanted me to remain their representative,” Householder said.
But he ran unopposed in that election. 29% of the vote went to write-in candidates.
He said he also wouldn’t resign his seat because he felt he has a duty to those voters who sent him to Columbus.
Rep. Paula Hicks Hudson (D-Toledo) asked him what makes his case different than the four Toledo City Council members arrested on bribery charges who had to suspend their terms.
“When you sit there and say what do I do when I go to Toledo? I’d say to them, ‘You, the people, gave me the authority to only expel a member in the event of disorderly conduct,” Householder said.
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