CLEVELAND (AP) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said his office will file a complaint Friday with the state Elections Commission over the former Ohio House speaker paying more than $900,000 in campaign contributions to attorneys to defend him in a federal racketeering case.
Yost in an interview said he believes Rep. Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican, violated the law, adding that the conversion of campaign funds to pay for a criminal defense is a first-degree misdemeanor.
“It’s important to do this, to send a message to every other politician what the rules are and the fact they need to be observed,” Yost said.
Householder is accused of masterminding a $60 million bribery scheme secretly funded by FirstEnergy Corp. to win a $1 billion legislative bailout for two Ohio nuclear plants. The plants were operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of FirstEnergy when the legislation was approved in July 2019.
Householder and four others was arrested in July of this year and subsequently indicted on racketeering charges. All five men have pleaded not guilty.
The Ohio Elections Commission has issued opinions over the years that the use of campaign funds to pay legal fees for a criminal defense is not appropriate.
Householder’s campaign expenditure report, filed on Thursday, shows his campaign committee last month paid the Cleveland law firm Marein & Bradley a total of $660,000, and the Cleveland firm McCarthy Lebit Crystal & Liffman a total of $260,000.
Messages seeking comment were left with the two firms on Friday.