‘Stain on the House’: Ohio reps oust GOP speaker amid probe

Former Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder. AP File Photo.

Rep. Larry Householder is the first Ohio House speaker ever removed by the chamber, according to the Ohio History Connection. For now, he still retains his seat in the GOP-led Legislature.

Posted: Jul 30, 2020 11:22 AM
Updated: Jul 30, 2020 3:40 PM

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In a historic, unanimous and bipartisan vote Thursday, the Ohio House ousted its Republican speaker as the chamber’s top leader following his indictment in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme.

Rep. Larry Householder is the first Ohio House speaker ever removed by the chamber, according to the Ohio History Connection. His nametag was unscrewed from the speaker’s dais shortly after the vote, but he still retains his seat in the GOP-led Legislature.

Remaining members of Householder’s leadership team said lawmakers didn’t take the decision on his removal lightly, “but it was clear that Mr. Householder is unable to effectively lead the House.”

GOP Rep. Bob Cupp called the vote “the most important thing” the House could do Thursday.

“There is no doubt that people feel betrayed, used, and it’s been a stain on the House, and people want to make sure we begin anew,” Cupp told reporters following the vote.

Cupp, a former Ohio Supreme Court justice, and Householder’s No. 2, Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Jim Butler, are potential candidates to be the next speaker. Cupp didn’t respond to questions about that.

Householder, of Glenford, and four associates were identified in a July 21 federal affidavit as allegedly taking part in a pay-to-play scheme involving corporate money secretly funneled to them for personal and political use in exchange for helping to pass House Bill 6 to financially bail out two Ohio nuclear plants.

Householder was one of the driving forces behind the legislation, which included a fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year through 2026 to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

The House session Thursday morning took a matter of minutes, with 90 representatives voting in favor of vacating the office of the speaker. Nine didn’t vote, including Householder, who was not present.

Most — but not all — House members were wearing masks as they gathered amid the coronavirus pandemic. They sat socially distanced for the vote, but many shook hands and fraternized as colleagues reunited after weeks of summer break.

Householder, his long-time adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes could each face up to 20 years in prison if they’re convicted for their alleged work to pass the bailout and block attempts to overturn it, according to a criminal complaint filed by the FBI.

A federal grand jury formally indicted the five on Thursday, charging each with a single count of racketeering.

“Dark money is a breeding ground for corruption. This investigation continues,” said U.S. Attorney David DeVillers, referring to legal campaign funds that don’t have to report the source of their donations.

Borges involvement in the case “has been wildly overstated,” said his attorney, Karl Schneider.

“The accusations against him are wrong and unfortunate and the case against him is on shaky ground out of the gate,” Schneider said. “He was never part of any would-be enterprise and we expect when the facts play out this attempted over-reach to include him will fail.”

Messages were left with the other defendants’ attorneys seeking comment.

Householder is the second speaker to be under criminal investigation by the FBI in recent years. Former speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned abruptly in April 2018 after saying he was aware federal agents were asking questions about his activities and had protectively hired a criminal defense attorney.

Rosenberger wasn’t charged, and a lawyer for him has said the former lawmaker did nothing wrong.

Jai Chabria, a Republican strategist in Ohio, called the vote about Householder expected but said what the GOP does next is more important now.

House lawmakers scheduled a Thursday afternoon caucus where they planned to discuss the next steps for the chamber, including who replaces Householder.

Three other potential candidates to be the next speaker — Reps. Rick Carfagna, Tim Ginter and Craig Riedel — withdrew from the race Wednesday and threw their support to Cupp.

“Out of chaos comes opportunity, and the leadership they elect today will be able to course correct and hopefully set a positive agenda for the state,” said Chabria, who also served as senior adviser to former GOP Gov. John Kasich.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 363304

Reported Deaths: 6020
CountyCasesDeaths
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Montgomery19636225
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Stark8529197
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Lorain623697
Clermont563946
Delaware540335
Licking535875
Fairfield523763
Trumbull5159144
Greene510563
Clark501064
Allen460685
Marion457751
Wood4394107
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Miami416465
Pickaway396448
Columbiana339597
Portage334471
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Wayne314993
Richland306732
Mercer284737
Ross239259
Hancock232736
Muskingum231910
Auglaize223230
Putnam221449
Erie217165
Darke217058
Ashtabula215753
Geauga197351
Scioto193615
Union18658
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Shelby184815
Athens18454
Seneca173118
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Madison156218
Sandusky152327
Preble148421
Huron147518
Defiance137921
Holmes137739
Logan123613
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Fulton122025
Crawford119116
Ottawa118930
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Ashland102722
Williams10238
Jefferson10124
Highland99517
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Brown9644
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Jackson90312
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Pike7261
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