Editorial: Larry Householder starts pre-trial legal joust


A recent editorial by the Toledo Blade:

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder is in the process of carving out a new role in state politics, as an educator on federal corruption law.

Mr. Householder’s trial on federal racketeering charges is set to begin in January. But it’s not without significant legal jousting over how Mr. Householder can structure his defense.

The Blade reported this week on a motion by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker to bar expert testimony in Mr. Householder’s defense, which would liken his action to standard campaign fund-raising practice in Washington by leaders of both political parties.

But the money funneled anonymously by FirstEnergy and other Ohio utilities to a political nonprofit, Generation Now, was not a political action committee devoted to the purpose of making Mr. Householder Ohio House Speaker. It was a dark-money fund created to achieve a billion-dollar bailout for the utilities’ economically distressed nuclear and coal fired power plants, while locking in rates at an artificial high. Electing him was a means to that end.

As the federal prosecutor’s motion points out, Mr. Householder is not charged with campaign finance violations. Letting his defense speak on campaign finance issues as if they are relevant will confuse the jury and could lead them to a conclusion that Larry Householder has been improperly charged.

This is no slam dunk case for prosecutors; even though Mr. Householder converted about $300,000 of the Generation Now money to personal use to pay for repairs to a home in Florida.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in overturning a corruption conviction against the former governor of Virginia that only direct government action made because of a bribe is illegal. Mr. Householder can plausibly argue that his support for Ohio House Bill 6 was based on economic development philosophy, not on a bribe.

Moreover, there is a good case for Mr. Householder regarding improper prosecution. FirstEnergy has entered a deferred plea agreement and paid a $230 million fine after admitting they bribed Mr. Householder and former Public Utilities of Ohio Commission Chairman Sam Randazzo for assistance in passing H.B. 6.

A shareholders suit against FirstEnergy has forced the revelation that former CEO Chuck Jones and External Relations Vice President Mike Dowling were the executives responsible for the bribes.

Mr. Randazzo, Mr. Jones, and Mr. Dowling have not been charged.

The implausibility of a one-man conspiracy is far more relevant to whether Larry Householder is being improperly prosecuted than campaign fund-raising practices in Washington.

— Toledo Blade, October 1, 2022