Larry Householder, a Former Speaker, Is Expelled from the Ohio House

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The 75-to-21 vote to expel Representative Larry Householder came nearly a year after he was charged in a wide-ranging conspiracy to bail out a foundering energy company.

Representative Larry Householder of Ohio told a House committee on Tuesday that he was innocent of the charges that had been brought against him.
Credit...Julie Carr Smyth/Associated Press

June 16, 2021

The Ohio House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to expel a powerful Republican lawmaker, nearly a year after he was arrested and charged in a $60 million corruption scheme while serving as House speaker.

The 75-to-21 vote to expel the lawmaker, Larry Householder, came after a vigorous debate among his fellow Republicans who control the Ohio House, some of whom argued that ousting him from office violated his right to due process.

It was the first time that an Ohio lawmaker had been expelled since 1857, when Representative John P. Slough was removed for punching another member of the Legislature, according to the Ohio History Connection, a state historical society.

Mr. Householder’s removal came less than a week after Oregon lawmakers had, for the first time in state history, ejected one of their colleagues, Representative Mike Nearman, for his role in helping a far-right crowd breach the State Capitol in December.

Mr. Householder had already been stripped of his post as speaker after he was arrested and charged by the federal authorities last July. On Wednesday, those pushing for Mr. Householder’s expulsion said the accusations against him qualified as “disorderly conduct,” which the Ohio Constitution requires for the removal of a member.

“No one can believe he is still here,” Representative Brian Stewart, a Republican who was a sponsor of the resolution to expel Mr. Householder, said on the floor. “Being here is a privilege. It’s not a right. And when your actions — bribery, money laundering, racketeering — drag the reputation of this body through the mud, that is absolutely disorderly conduct, at a minimum.”

Representative Emilia Strong Sykes, a Democrat who serves as House minority leader, said Mr. Householder had failed to live up to his promises to lead with integrity, cooperation and inclusion and to bring professionalism to the House.

“Make no mistake, there is no joy in seeing a former Ohio speaker removed from office in disgrace, but this is our opportunity to stand against corruption and to turn a page on this dark chapter in Ohio history,” she said in a statement.

Some Republicans, including Mr. Householder, argued that the House did not have the authority to oust him without holding a formal impeachment trial. Mr. Householder, 62, pointed out that the voters in his district had re-elected him in November, after he was indicted by a federal grand jury.

“In this situation, you didn’t hire me,” he told his colleagues on the House floor on Wednesday. “The people of the 72nd District hired me. They looked at my file back in November. They saw all the evidence that was out there at that time, or the lack of evidence, and they made a decision. And 72 percent of the people decided they wanted to return me to this Legislature.”

Mr. Householder’s lawyer, Steven L. Bradley, said in an email that his client’s ouster was “unprecedented and effectively denies him the legal presumption of innocence.”

Mr. Householder had been charged in what federal agents described as a scheme to bail out a foundering energy company.

In a criminal complaint, the F.B.I. described a wide-ranging conspiracy in which the energy company helped finance Mr. Householder’s election in 2018. It then bankrolled an effort led by Mr. Householder to pass a $1.3 billion bill subsidizing two troubled nuclear power plants and a campaign to defeat a 2019 referendum seeking to repeal that bill, the complaint states.

Along the way, the company also put $500,000 into Mr. Householder’s personal accounts, including more than $100,000 to pay for costs related to a home he owned in Florida, according to the complaint. Millions more were paid in bribes to Mr. Householder’s co-conspirators, the complaint said.

The conspiracy was most likely “the largest bribery, money-laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio,” David M. DeVillers, who was the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, said last July.

If convicted, Mr. Householder would face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, officials said.

In October, Jeffrey Longstreth, a political strategist for Mr. Householder, and Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist close to Mr. Householder, both pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme.

Mr. Householder is the second recent Ohio House speaker to be ensnared in a federal investigation, following Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned in 2018 but has not been charged with a crime.

Mr. Householder has pleaded not guilty. No trial date has been set.

“We look forward to the opportunity to challenge the government’s evidence at trial and are confident the outcome will result in a complete acquittal,” Mr. Householder’s lawyer, Mr. Bradley, said.

On Wednesday, Mr. Householder contended that the allegations against him did not meet the constitutional standard of “disorderly conduct” because they did not involve a “violent act, or the threat of a violent act.” He also denied any wrongdoing.

“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 — never, ever.”

Mr. Householder has been a mainstay in Ohio politics. He served as a House member from 1997 to 2004 and was speaker from 2001 to 2004, the complaint says. In 2004, he resigned from office amid news reports of corruption that had been referred to the F.B.I., which did not result in charges, the complaint says. He won his House seat back in the fall of 2016 and was elected speaker again in January 2019.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Householder hinted that he might be interested in running for office again. He vowed to remain “outspoken” and to be “out there, traveling around the state of Ohio and talking to voters and explaining to them my vision of this state,” Cleveland.com reported.

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