Ohio legislator charged in racketeering case

23 July 2020

Five people, including the Speaker of Ohio's House of Representatives, have been charged in a federal racketeering conspiracy involving USD60 million related to legislation passed last year to provide financial support to two nuclear power plants.

US Attorney David DeVillers briefs the media on the arrests (Image: US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio)

According to the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio, it is alleged that Speaker Larry Householder "conspired to violate the racketeering statute through honest services wire fraud, receipt of millions of dollars in bribes and money laundering."

The four other individuals arrested and charged are: lobbyist and former Ohio Republican Party chair Mathew Borges; campaign and political strategist Jeffrey Longstreth; and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes. The Generation Now corporate entity has also been charged.

According to the criminal complaint against the defendants, the enterprise from March 2017 to March 2020 received millions of dollars in exchange for help in passing House Bill 6. The bill, which was passed last July by Ohio's House of Representatives and signed into law by Governor Mike DeWine, provides clean energy credits to zero-emission power producers, including nuclear power plants. "The defendants then also allegedly worked to corruptly ensure that HB 6 went into effect by defeating a ballot initiative to overturn the legislation," the Attorney's Office said.

It is alleged that the enterprise received about USD60 million into Generation Now, a corporate entity registered as a social welfare organisation, from "an energy company and its affiliates" during the relevant period. The defendants allegedly used the money "to support Householder's political bid to become Speaker, to support House candidates they believed would back Householder, and for their own personal benefit."

Following the passage of the bill, FirstEnergy Solutions in July 2019 rescinded deactivation notices for the Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants, which it had previously said would close in 2020 and 2021 respectively in the absence of financial help from the state. FirstEnergy Solutions became Energy Harbor in February this year after completing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring.

The racketeering conspiracy as charged in this case is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, the Attorney's Office said, and the case is being investigated by the FBI.

FirstEnergy Solutions' former parent company, FirstEnergy Corporation, confirmed it has received subpoenas in connection with the investigation. "We are reviewing the details of the investigation and we intend to fully cooperate," the company said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News