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Ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder used $950,000 of campaign funds on legal fees following July arrest

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost tweeted Friday that he believes the expenditures were illegal and planned to file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission.
Credit: AP
Former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder speaks before Ohio Governor Mike DeWine's Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Campaign finance records show that Rep. Larry Householder (R – Glenford) has spent more than $1 million of his campaign funds on legal fees – including $950,000 that was spent since his arrest on July 21 on a federal racketeering charge.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost tweeted Friday that he believes the expenditures were illegal and planned to file a complaint with the Ohio Elections Commission.

10 Investigates took a closer look at the financial records and found that at least $660,000 in campaign funds have gone to the Cleveland law firm of Marein and Bradley, which represents Householder in his federal corruption case.

The FBI has alleged that Householder and four other men took part in a $61 million bribery scheme – using money from FirstEnergy and its affiliates to enrich themselves and help do a number of things, including: pave the path for the ascension of Householder to become Ohio House Speaker; to help elect other lawmakers – and ultimately – to use the funds to help secure the passage of House Bill 6 and defeat a ballot referendum aimed at overturning the bill.

The controversial energy bill provided a billion-dollar bailout that helped save two nuclear power plants once owned by First Energy Solutions that are now operated by Energy Harbor – the company that emerged after FES filed for bankruptcy.

Householder and his co-defendants – including lobbyists and the former state GOP chairman – have pleaded not guilty. Their federal racketeering case remains pending in U.S. District Court.

A phone message was left Friday for Householder and his attorney.

Maggie Sheehan, a spokeswoman for Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, provided this statement to 10 Investigates: “Yet again, if appears that the former speaker’s campaign spending flagrantly disregards state law and will result in another referral to the Ohio Elections Commission.”

She also pointed to a 1996 advisory opinion from the Ohio Elections Commission that found that the use of campaign finance funds for legal fees to defend against criminal acts was “not an appropriate use of those funds on behalf of the officeholder.”

Householder, who was removed from his post as Ohio House Speaker this summer, is seeking re-election for his House seat.

You can read more about that 1996 opinion from OEC here.