Larry Householder addresses reporters June 16 after lawmakers voted to expel him from the General Assembly. Photo by Jake Zuckerman.
Federal prosecutors accused the men of secretly accepting $61 million from FirstEnergy Corp
The Ohio House voted Wednesday to expel Larry Householder, arrested on charges of public corruption nearly one year ago, from the chamber his Republican — and even some Democratic — colleagues thrice elected him to control.
The expulsion could mark the end of Householder’s decades-long political career, which has included a previous tenure as speaker of the House in the 2000s that was derailed by a separate FBI investigation. No charges were filed.
The House voted 75-21 to eject Householder. All but one Democrat voted in support.
Wednesday’s vote extinguishes Householder’s political flame, but he remains innocent until proven guilty as his criminal trial draws nearer. Both he and former Ohio Republican Party chairman turned lobbyist Matt Borges await trial.
Jeff Longstreth, Householder’s former political adviser, and Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist, both pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. Neil Clark, a lobbyist and once a towering figure in Ohio politics, was charged as well but pleaded innocent. He died by suicide before trial.
Federal prosecutors accused the men of secretly accepting $61 million from FirstEnergy Corp via a dark money, pass-through entity. They allegedly used the funds for personal enrichment and to engineer the passage of House Bill 6, a coal and nuclear bailout worth an estimated $1.3 billion to the company.
After his July 2020 arrest, House lawmakers quickly dethroned Householder as speaker. However, all but a handful of Republicans voted down an effort from Democrats to expel him. Speaking to House leadership on Tuesday, a confident Householder denied the allegations against him. On Wednesday, he listened from the House floor in silence as lawmakers publicly debated his fate.
Those seeking his ouster emphasized the House is not a courtroom and thus can apply its own professional standards. They said the 43-page indictment and the plea deals entered into by two allies (and one dark money political entity) warrant his ouster from public office.
“If selling legislation does not count as disorderly conduct, then frankly, nothing does,” said Rep. Brian Stewart, R-Ashville, who sponsored the expulsion resolution along with Rep. Mark Frazier, R-Newark.
Rep. Kyle Koehler, a Republican who voted against HB 6, dismissed those trying to reduce Householder’s indictment as “allegations.” He identified himself as the anonymous “Representative 6” in the indictment itself, which describes the unnamed lawmaker subjected to political pressure funded by FirstEnergy for his vote.
“These things occurred,” Koehler, one of few who have publicly demanded Householder’s ouster in recent months. “They’re not accusations. They’re not speculations.”
Householder’s defenders argued it’s premature to punish Householder before he faces trial. Some argued that the allegations against him don’t qualify as “disorderly conduct,” the undefined Constitutional threshold for expulsion.
“This is about due process. It’s about the Constitution. It’s not about that man sitting right over there,” said Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, pointing at Householder.
What’s more, he won reelection in November, despite the indictment against him.
“We do not get to choose who represents someone else’s district,” said Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, who chaired a committee specially created by Householder to review HB 6.
At around 3 p.m., Householder began what would be his last floor speech of the 134th General Assembly.
He reiterated a claim of his innocence, said that the allegations against him do not qualify as disorderly conduct, and criticized lawmakers for banishing from a chamber without gathering any evidence of their own.
“I have not, nor have I ever, took a bribe, or provided a bribe,” he said. “I have not, nor have I ever, solicited a bribe. And I have not, nor have I ever, sold legislation.”
After the vote, Householder approached the clerk and walked out from the chamber. He reiterated claims of his innocence to reporters gathered outside. There, he left open the possibility of a return to public office, and issued a warning to those who he feels crossed him.
“Fellow elected officials who didn’t like public citizen Householder, are really not going to like private citizen Householder,” he said.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
Jake Zuckerman is a statehouse reporter. He spent three years chronicling the West Virginia Legislature for The Charleston Gazette-Mail after covering cops and courts for The Northern Virginia Daily.