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Ohio House speaker arrested in connection with $60 million bribery scheme

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested on Tuesday morning, hours ahead of a planned announcement of a $60 million bribe investigation by federal prosecutors. Householder is seen here in March 2019. (AP photo)

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder was arrested on Tuesday morning at his rural farm, a spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio said.

The spokesperson, Jennifer Thornton, said Householder was taken into custody in connection with a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly involving state officials and associates.

Four others were also arrested, Thornton said: former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, Householder adviser Jeffrey Longstreth, and lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes.

Householder, a Republican, represents a district east of Columbus.

The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that charges are coming in the case, which it says is a public corruption racketeering conspiracy involving $60 million.

No details of the case have been announced so far. The US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Ohio and the FBI are scheduled to hold a media briefing in Columbus at 2:30 pm ET.

Karen Kasler of the Statehouse News Bureau reported that the charges are thought to be connected to a controversial law passed last year that bailed out two nuclear power plants in the state while gutting subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency.

The law tacked on a charge to residents' power bills, sending $150 million a year to the nuclear power plants, owned by the company Energy Harbor. It also included an additional subsidy for two coal plants.

An investigation by nonprofit journalism site Eye on Ohio found that the nuclear company, previously known as FirstEnergy Solutions, spent nearly $2 million to push the bailout bill. An opponent of the bill estimated that as much as $15 million may have been spent on it.

NPR member station WOSU reported that FirstEnergy contributed more than $150,000 to Ohio House Republicans in the run-up to the 2018 election — including over $25,000 in donations to Householder's campaign.

"According to the state lobbyist database, Energy Harbor is the only client listed for Cespedes," WOSU reported. "Borges also worked as a lobbyist for FirstEnergy Solutions, while Longstreth is connected to Generation Now, which campaigned against the bailout referendum."

Source: NPR

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