Lobbyist named in $60M Ohio bribery probe is found dead

By Julie Carr Smyth and Farnoush Amiri - AP/Report for America

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — A longtime Ohio lobbyist who had pleaded not guilty in a sweeping federal bribery investigation has been found dead.

In response to a request about information concerning Neil Clark’s death, the sheriff’s office in Collier County, Florida, where Clark had been living, provided a report describing a man’s body being found near a pond Monday morning by a bicyclist.

When officials reached out to the man’s wife, she said the couple was having financial issues and that she had not heard from her husband for a couple of hours, according to the report.

Clark, 67, had pleaded not guilty in August over an alleged role in a $60 million scheme in which federal prosecutors say FirstEnergy companies funneled money through a network of dark money entities to then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder in exchange for the passage of a $1 billion nuclear bailout bill.

Former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers mentioned Clark’s death during a presentation Tuesday to the board of the Office of Ohio Consumer’s Counsel, in which he was discussing the probe.

A message seeking details was left with Clark’s attorney, Bill Ireland.

Clark, a Republican, had been described by federal prosecutors as the enforcer for Householder, strong-arming supporters and providing fundraising expertise.

Before becoming a lobbyist, Clark was the finance director for the Ohio Senate Republicans, gaining inside experience in state budget-making with which he was able to help his many lobbying clients.

Clark parlayed his Senate work initially into a powerhouse bipartisan lobbying partnership with the late Paul Tipps, a former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. The two ultimately had a nasty falling-out, their firm dissolved and Clark founded his own firm, Grant Street Consultants.

“In matters in which a defendant has passed away, the process is that a ‘Suggestion of Death’ is typically filed upon receipt of a death certificate, resulting in dismissal of the decedent from the case but not impacting the rest of the case,” Acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel said in a statement. “All that will be addressed in due course. For now, we extend our condolences to Mr. Clark’s family and friends.”

By Julie Carr Smyth and Farnoush Amiri

AP/Report for America