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Ohio's trial of the century

Former Republican Speaker Larry Householder speaks to the media immediately after his expulsion from the Ohio House on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins
/
AP
Former Republican Speaker Larry Householder speaks to the media immediately after his expulsion from the Ohio House on Wednesday, June 16, 2021, in Columbus, Ohio.

The bribery and racketeering trial of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder—one of the biggest figures in Ohio politics over the last two decades—is set to begin this week. On this week's episode of Snollygoster, Ohio's politics podcast from WOSU, hosts Mike Thompson and Steve Brown discuss the state's largest-ever bribery scandal.

Bailout

Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges face charges they engineered the largest political bribery scheme in Ohio’s history. Prosecutors say they took $61 million in bribes from the Ohio utility company FirstEnergy. They then used it to win Householder the Speaker’s gavel and to pass a huge bailout of two FirstEnergy Nuclear Power plants.

Householder and Borges claim there was no quid-pro-quo.

Three other people were charged in the scheme: consultant Jeff Longstreth and lobbyists Juan Cespedes and Neil Clark. Longstreth and Cespedes pleaded guilty and are cooperating with prosecutors. Clark died by suicide in March of 2021.

This trial will give us a really good look at how so-called "dark money" campaigns work. How companies and wealthy people can secretly give money to non-profit groups that are not supposed to coordinate with politicians.

Snollygoster of the week

State Rep. Derrick Merrin thought he would be House Speaker until Jason Stephens plied away 22 Republican votes to combine them with Democratic votes to win.

This week he let voters know what they are missing. He gathered a group of his supporting lawmakers to unveil ethics legislation. It would force lobbyists to be more transparent about how they make their money. It would force Public Utilities Commission nominees to disclose conflicts of interest and it would keep elected officials from sitting on corporate boards.

Merrin said if he were House Speaker, this would have been the House’s first piece of legislation.

If you have a suggestion for our Snollygoster of the Week award, a question or a comment, send them to snollygoster@wosu.org.