COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – The Ohio Election Commission on Thursday delayed its review of a massive list of campaign finance violations brought by the state’s chief electoral officer against suspects in an alleged campaign to corruption of $ 60 million, citing the ongoing investigation.
During a virtual meeting, the panel continued its review of allegations by Secretary of State Frank LaRose against expelled former House Speaker Larry Householder and others named in the federal indictment at a future date not specified. LaRose and Householder are both Republicans.
The decision was made over objections from Republican Attorney General Dave Yost, whose lawyer Jonathan Blanton argued the panel had all the facts necessary to conduct its review of Householder’s conduct and make a criminal referral.
“There is no compelling reason to return this box at an as yet undetermined date,” he said, calling for evidence that Householder made two transfers totaling $ 920,000 from his campaign account to the lawyers defending him. in the criminal case “quite clear.”
Blanton said donors did not contribute to Householder’s political campaign so that he could defend himself against criminal allegations and that it was up to the commissioners to defend their interests.
âPeople deserve answers and they deserve actions,â he said. “This is the opportunity to give them that without in any way interfering with what is going on outside the purview of this commission.”
Commissioners disagreed in a split vote, siding with their director, Phil Richter, and Householder lawyer Nicholas Oleski, who argued Householder would be unable to defend himself due of the federal investigation.
Also on Thursday, the panel agreed to withdraw a number of the more than 180 allegations LaRose forwarded to them earlier, at LaRose’s request., and removed former Statehouse lobbyist Neil Clark, who died by suicide in March of the case.
LaRose said a routine review of state-filed documents by friends of Larry Householder showed five people exceeded legal donation limits between March 11, 2019 and January 15, 2020.
Householder was ousted from his post as speaker after he, Clark and three others were indicted in July 2020 on federal racketeering charges in what has been called the biggest corruption scandal in US history. State. Householder has pleaded not guilty and claims his innocence.
The House expelled the head of the family last week in a landmark vote, the first of its kind in 150 years, on his protests and those of his allies that the expulsion was inappropriate. Householder made two passionate pleas to retain his seat, in a committee hearing and on the House floor, noting that voters sent him back to the Statehouse in November, even knowing the allegations he was facing.
Householder is accused of running a bribery program covertly funded by the power company FirstEnergy to get a billion dollar nuclear bailout bill approved and a campaign of low blows to prevent the repeal of legislation to reach the ballot.
Two of his alleged co-conspirators – longtime political adviser Jeffrey Longstreth and lobbyist Juan Cespedes – have pleaded guilty. The third remaining, former lobbyist and Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, has pleaded not guilty.
LaRose said Cespedes is one of five donors he referred to the Ohio Election Commission. Cespedes paid Householder $ 1,000 in June 2019 and $ 13,292 in November, exceeding the overall contribution limit by almost $ 1,000.
Claims withdrawn from LaRose included donations to the Ohio House Republican Caucus Campaign Committee and treasurer, as well as the government’s âRep 3â, his campaign and treasurer. This person has been identified as State Representative Jamie Callendar, a co-sponsor of the Tainted Law.
LaRose told the commission in March that upon review, his office found that the allegations withdrawn were likely authorized contributions to the PAC rather than unauthorized corporate contributions.