Ohio House speaker arrested on racketeering charges

Ohio House speaker arrested on racketeering charges

Larry Householder wields significant power as the House speaker in the Ohio State Legislature.

Federal investigators have added another state house speaker to their list of corruption investigations. FBI agents in Ohio arrested Speaker of the House Larry Householder on July 21 in connection with an ongoing corruption investigation.

Four of Householder’s connections also were arrested, including former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges, adviser Jeffrey Longstreth and two other lobbyists.

The FBI and U.S. Attorney charged Householder and the four associates with racketeering conspiracy related to a $60 million racketeering scheme. The case is related to a nuclear power plant bailout law passed in 2019, which was the subject of intense debate and heavy spending by both sides.

Householder, a Republican, is serving his second stint as speaker. He was first elected speaker in 2001, but left office in 2004 because of term limits after eight years as a state representative. He was investigated in 2004 for a kickback scheme, which ended without charges. He was elected to the House again in 2017 and elected to a third term as speaker in 2019.

While Householder has significant sway over the business of the state legislature, he is bound by some restraints while Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan is not. In Ohio, bills cannot be considered out of order unless a majority of members approve. In Illinois, Madigan can call bills as he pleases and is not required to notify lawmakers of a voting order or on the topic of the bills.

Householder’s arrest marks the third time in a week that federal agents acted against a state’s speaker of the house. Federal investigators are also showing interest in Illinois’ energy policies. Madigan was implicated in bribery charges filed against Commonwealth Edison on July 17.

On July 20, former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to six and a half years on bribery charges.

With strong interest from authorities, Illinois Democrats are wavering in their support for the speaker, with some calling for his resignation. In the meantime, state lawmakers should work to change Madigan’s rules, which have allowed him to accumulate unprecedented power.

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