Former Republican Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and former state GOP chairman Matt Borges were convicted Thursday in federal court for participating in a pay-to-play bribery scheme with an energy company that wanted a state bailout. The alleged racketeering-conspiracy convictions came as a result of what officials called the biggest political corruption case in state history, the Wall Street Journal reports. The defense argued during the seven-week trial that the energy-company money amounted to ordinary political donations. Householder said he backed the bailout as a matter of good policy. Householder will “most certainly pursue an appeal,” said his attorney, Steve Bradley. Beginning in 2018, Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. secretly funneled more than $60 million through Generation Now and other nonprofits connected to Householder as it pursued a $1.3 billion state bailout of its two failing nuclear plants. Prosecutors said the scheme included helping Householder elect friendly Republican lawmakers who then made him House speaker. The bailout legislation passed and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine. Prosecutors and ethics advocates say the case illustrates the perils of undisclosed spending through nonprofits, which have multiplied after money-in-politics decisions by the Supreme Court, including the 2010 Citizens United case. Without the federal investigation—which included wiretaps, office raids, document seizures, and cooperating witnesses, the role FirstEnergy played in obtaining its own bailout would have been unclear. FirstEnergy entered a deferred prosecution agreement in 2021, paid a $230 million fine, and has been working with investigators. The company said it used nonprofits “to conceal payments for the benefit of public officials and in return for official action.” Two other political aides pleaded guilty and testified against Householder and Borges. Generation Now, led by Householder’s top political aide, also pleaded guilty and acknowledged its real purpose was to take undisclosed donations from FirstEnergy and use them to benefit Householder and others.
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