COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Nearly a year after federal agents raided the farm of the former Ohio House speaker, his colleagues met Thursday to consider resolutions to expel him from the chamber.
Rare bipartisan efforts to remove Rep. Larry Householder had their first hearing at the Ohio Statehouse, where lawmakers took the first steps in a year-long fight to address the disgraced lawmaker’s presence in the House.
“It continues to be a sad fact that it is Rep. Householder’s own conduct that makes this resolution a necessity,” GOP Rep. Brian Stewart said in his sponsor testimony for one of the resolutions. “We feel no joy in doing so and we acknowledge that this has been a difficult issue for a number of members.”
Householder and four associates were arrested last July in a $60 million federal bribery case connected to a taxpayer-funded bailout of Ohio’s two nuclear power plants. The Perry County Republican has staunchly maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Householder was one of the driving forces behind the nuclear plants’ financial rescue, which added a new fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year through 2026 to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo.
Previous attempts to bail out the nuclear plants had stalled in the Legislature before Householder became speaker. Months after taking over, he rolled out a new plan to subsidize the plants and eliminate renewable energy incentives. The proposal was approved in 2019 despite opposition from many business leaders and the manufacturing industry.
“A cloud will continue to hang over this chamber until we vote on this resolution and expel Rep. Householder,” Stewart continued.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers voted to remove Householder from the speaker role shortly after the federal affidavit was released last summer. A committee was set up soon after to address the repeal of the legislation at the center of the federal investigation, eventually dismantling two key parts of the corruption-ridden law in late March.
But even as a bipartisan effort took place to clean up the legislative disarray, a majority of Republican lawmakers continued to block Democratic attempts to remove Householder from his seat for nearly a year.
Householder’s successor, Speaker Bob Cupp, previously made clear that he believes the lawmaker should have resigned after his arrest, but would not put his weight behind any resolution. Week after week, reporters probed Cupp on the status of Householder’s standing in the chamber, and week after week, he said the same thing: “I have nothing further to report.”
Behind the scenes, the holdup was a number of GOP members who were not on board to expel him while he has not yet been convicted of the charges against him.
“This is not a witchhunt. This is not a Russiagate. This is not cancel culture,” Stewart said. “These are conservative U.S. attorneys that considered this evidence and believed a crime was committed here.”
If Householder is convicted of the federal charges against him, he could face up to 20 years in prison and automatic removal from the House.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.