Anti-corruption legislation, state lawsuit moving after HB6 guilty verdict
Fri, Mar 10, 2023 2:04 PM
By J.D. Davidson, The Center Square
In the wake of guilty verdicts in the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history, Democrats are pushing anti-corruption legislation and Attorney General Dave Yost wants to move forward with the state’s racketeering lawsuit.
Former House Speaker Larry Householder and GOP leader Matt Borges each face 20 years in federal prison following the verdict that involved a $60 million bribery scandal surrounding FirstEnergy and House Bill 6, a billion-dollar bailout of the company’s nuclear plants.
Reps. Bride Rose Sweeny, D-Westlake, and Jessica Miranda, D-Forest Park, want the General Assembly to move quickly on their Ohio Anti-Corruption Act, which failed in the previous session but is expected to be soon introduced in the new session.
“[Thursday], the people’s faith in the legal system was upheld. But our state laws remain too weak to stop corrupt, uncontrolled spending by dark money groups who want to keep buying elected officials and legislation to enrich themselves,” Sweeney said. “Ohio needs and deserves stronger anti-corruption laws. That’s why we’re calling for bipartisan support of the Ohio Anti-Corruption Act – to stop corruption in its tracks and end the outsized influence of secret interests with secret agendas in Ohio’s elections.”
The bill would close dark money loopholes, require more transparency from corporations about their true owners and strengthen a ban on foreign money.
On Friday, Yost said he asked Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Chris Brown to lift the stay on discovery in the state’s civil case, a pause Yost says is no longer needed following the verdict. Lifting the stay, according to Yost, will allow the state to continue collecting documents and to depose witnesses.
“Other wrongdoers in this scandal – especially and including the FirstEnergy executives who funded the corrupt Householder Enterprise – cannot be permitted to escape scot-free. Money is the oxygen that fuels the fire of corruption. Of course, it also requires the fuel of a corruptible public servant's heart, and an ignition source – in this case, a piece of gold-plated legislation,” Yost said. “The discovery process may yield additional information that will reveal an expanded number of defendants who participated in the corrupt Householder Enterprise.”
In August 2021, Yost added Charles Jones, the fired FirstEnergy CEO, along with former senior vice president Michael Dowling as defendants, along with former Public Utility Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo.
A year later, as previously reported by The Center Square, the PUCO stopped its HB6 investigation at the request of federal prosecutors.