DeWine, Party Leaders Call for Householder’s Resignation

Updated 4:12 p.m.- Statements from Ohio Republican Party chairwoman Jane Timken, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper.
6:26 p.m.- Statement from Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof and announcement of campaign finance violations by Secretary of State Frank LaRose added.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Following Tuesday afternoon’s press conference by U.S. Attorney David DeVillers announcing a criminal complaint against Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and others for an alleged $60 million bribery scheme, Gov. Mike DeWine called for the speaker’s resignation.

“I am deeply concerned about the allegations of wrongdoing in the criminal complaint issued today by the U.S. Attorney’s Office,” DeWine said in a prepared statement. “Every American has the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Because of the nature of these charges, it will be impossible for Speaker Householder to effectively lead the Ohio House of Representatives; therefore, I am calling on Speaker Householder to resign immediately.

Added Lt. Gov. Jon Husted: As a former House Speaker, it makes me incredibly sad. With the announcement of today’s criminal complaints, the Speaker can no longer effectively perform his duties and should resign.

“Ohio is in the midst of a pandemic response and economic downturn,” he continued. “The institution of the House of Representatives must remain operational, and the integrity of the office and the institution must be restored.”

Hours after FBI agents raided Householder’s farm Tuesday morning, DeVillers described the ploy as “likely the largest bribery scheme ever perpetrated against the state of Ohio.”

Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko, D-Richmond Heights, echoed DeWine’s demand for Householder’s resignation.

“Ohio has been under one-party rule for most of the past two decades. This has allowed certain politicians to feel untouchable and caused a culture of corruption to spread among our government institutions. This is a culture that we must eradicate,” Yuko said in a prepared statement. “Speaker Householder has dishonored the legislature and tarnished the reputation of public officials across our state. He violated his oath of office and must resign immediately.

“Ohioans work hard and play by the rules. They want to be represented by elected officials who do the same. Senate Democrats are committed to restoring people’s trust in state government,” Yuko said.

In a statement, Ohio Republican Part chairwoman Jane Timken followed those sentiments, saying that while every American has the right to be tried in court, “there is no right to hold public office. This is a privilege extended by the people of Ohio to officeholders. It’s a higher calling and requires a higher level of responsibility.

“If he is acquitted, he will have a chance to serve again by running for office and letting the voters decide,” she continued. “When Mr. Householder worked closely with Democrats in the House to achieve the votes necessary to become Speaker, I realized that he does things his own way. He will now face his own reckoning.” 

Timken also called on the other men arrested alongside Householder – Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, longtime Statehouse lobbyist Neil Clark, former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matthew Borges and Juan Cespedes, co-founder of consulting firm The Oxley Group – to leave the political sphere.

“Greed, lust for power, and disdain for ethical boundaries are not unique to any particular political party. If our country is going to endure these difficult and divisive times, we must unite in the notion that people who break the law should be held accountable,” she said. “As a party that prides itself in leading the right way, the political elite have failed too often by allowing these corrupt and shameful individuals to have a place in our party. All Republicans need to take a hard look at who they surround themselves with and root out this type of corruption and greed from our party.”

Across the party line, Ohio Democratic Party chairman David Pepper used the arrests to call the state GOP’s methods “pay to play.”

“The revelations contained in today’s criminal complaint against the Republican Speaker of the House and his associates tell the tale of conspirators who have been at this for a long time and know how to evade accountability for their corrupt actions. That’s because, for decades, the culture of Columbus and the Ohio Statehouse under GOP leadership is fundamentally one of corruption, kickbacks and pay to play,” he said.

Pepper added that “Our greatest hope for Ohio is that those officials who have defrauded the taxpayers and abused the people’s trust finally have a moment of accountability, whether that comes from the legal system or at the ballot box this November.”

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said Householder’s arrest and charges are “very detailed, they are very serious, and they are very troubling to me, and undoubtedly, to the people of Ohio.

“Every member of the Ohio legislature has a sacred trust with the citizens of this state, and the people deserve the honest services of their elected representatives,” he said. “The seriousness and gravity of the allegations cast a dark shadow over the People’s House. It is clear that he cannot continue to lead the Ohio House of Representatives. He should resign.”

In addition to the criminal charges against Householder, Secretary of State Frank LaRose referred 19 apparent or alleged Ohio campaign finance law violations to the Ohio Elections Commission, including acceptance of direct corporate contributions, failure to file a complete and accurate campaign finance statement and converting campaign funds for personal benefit.

“For those of us who answer the call to public service with a sincere desire to serve as good stewards of the public trust, today’s events are deeply disappointing,” said LaRose in a statement. “Sadly, today’s criminal complaint is a reminder that some enter public life seeking to accumulate personal power and to enrich themselves. Those who do so are not fit to hold public office.”

LaRose also said that the 19 items referred to the commission “likely do not represent a comprehensive list” of campaign finance violations and that the office would continue monitor the charges and refer them to the Ohio Elections Commission as needed.

Householder, R-72, and four associates are connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of the Davis-Besse plant near Oak Harbor and the Perry plant east of Cleveland, owned by FirstEnergy Solutions, now Energy Harbor. Householder was one of the driving forces behind the bailout, which added a new 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 defendants appeared in court and were not required to enter a plea. The judge ordered Householder released on his own recognizance and directed him not to obtain a passport, to restrict his travel to the southern half of Ohio and not to contact any other defendants. The judge also ordered him to remove any guns from his home.

Similar restrictions were imposed on Longstreth. The next hearing was tentatively set for Aug. 6.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pictured: In this Dec. 13, 2019, file photo, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks about his plans for the coming year during an interview at the Governor’s Residence in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio’s Republican governor was hailed as prophetic for his decisive steps to shut down schools and stop the state’s presidential primary election early during the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, he’s found navigating a path out of the state’s pandemic shutdown to be a bumpy one. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.