Larry Householder, the former Ohio House speaker convicted of bribery and racketeering for his role in a massive scheme to bail out a utility’s failing power plants, has been sentenced to 20 years in federal prison.

“You were not serving the people,” U.S. District Judge Timothy Black told Householder. “You were serving yourself. You were a bully in your lust for power.”

Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges were convicted in March for their roles in the scheme that funneled $1.3 billion to FirstEnergy, a fossil-fuel dominated utility that desperately needed a bailout for its uncompetitive nuclear power and coal plants.

FirstEnergy admitted in 2021 that it had conspired to bribe Householder through a complicated scheme involving political action committees and dummy nonprofit organizations.

A textbook case of political dark money

As The New York Times reported: “It was an almost cinematic example of how the dark money that pervades both state and federal politics slithers unseen from donor to beneficiary.”

Checks & Balances Project has spent much of the last decade unraveling the saga of FirstEnergy and the bailouts, which culminated in a bill called HB6.

In their case against Householder, prosecutors successfully detailed how $61 million was funneled into accounts controlled by Householder for his political and personal use. Much of that money was spent fighting a statewide ballot proposal that would have overturned HB6, the bill that bailed out the power plants.

Although FirstEnergy was not identified by the FBI as the company behind the bribes, the Justice Department did note that FirstEnergy agreed to pay a $230 million fine for “conspiring to bribe public officials.”

Ohio public officials have spent much of the last 10 years blocking attempts to promote renewable energy in the state, often at the behest of fossil-fuel interests.

No regrets

In March, C&BP reported on how Ohio Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican and one of the architects of HB6, said he had no regrets about his role in passing the legislation or in testifying for Householder during the federal trial.

“No, I do not,” Seitz said in an email. “The bill saves the ratepayers $2.3 billion over its life, per the Legislative Service Committee, the official arbiter of bill fiscal impacts. That sum increased to $3.4 billion after we repealed the nuclear subsidy and the decoupling language, again per LSC (not me).”

Other analysts have challenged the LSC estimates, however.

During the trial, Seitz said he backed HB6 as part of an effort to protect the diversity of Ohio’s electric-generation system, which included coal and nuclear plants.

Ray Locker is the executive director for Checks & Balances Project, an investigative watchdog blog holding government officials, lobbyists, and corporate management accountable to the public. Funding for C&BP is provided by Renew American Prosperity and individual donors.

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