FBI issued subpoena to Ohio attorney general in $60M public corruption case

Federal investigators issued a subpoena to Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s office in the public corruption case that alleges a $60 million bribery scheme.

Progress Ohio, a left-leaning interest group, submitted public records requests to statewide officeholders, asking for any federal subpoenas they had received since July 1.

Records show that the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI sent a subpoena to the attorney general’s office on July 20, the day before then House Speaker Larry Householder and four other men were arrested on racketeering charges.

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The subpoena seeks communications and documents between July 1 and Nov. 1, 2019, related to the referendum campaign against House Bill 6, the controversial energy law that is the centerpiece of the public corruption case.

“The court order asks for both external and internal communications related to the petition campaign to repeal HB 6. This is not simply about gathering information about the HB6 repeal campaign: the FBI is also seeking information about how Yost’s office dealt with it,” according to ProgressOhio.

Yost spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said in a written statement that the AG’s office reviews proposed petition language. “In the case of House Bill 6, that role went one step further and involved representing a client in subsequent litigation. We were not at all surprised to get a subpoena for documents related to those responsibilities, as we would expect the U.S. Attorney’s Office to do its due diligence and gather all documents related to House Bill 6 to establish a timeline. The U.S. Attorney has said that no one in the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is a target of the federal investigation.”

House Bill 6 was signed into law in July 2019. It provides a $1.3 billion bailout for Energy Harbor, formerly known as FirstEnergy Solutions, to keep two nuclear power plants operating; $444 million to subsidize coal plants owned by Ohio Valley Electric Corp.; and $355 million in ‘decoupling’ revenues to FirstEnergy Corp.

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Opponents of the bill mounted a campaign to force a statewide referendum vote but encountered a fierce and well-funded counter-campaign. The referendum campaign fell short of the signatures required to force a statewide vote and the law took effect in October 2019.

The AG’s office is responsible for approving referendum petition language. Working on the counter-campaign were former Yost campaign staffers, including Carlo LoParo and Matt Borges.

Borges, Householder and three others — lobbyists Neil Clark and Juan Cespedes and Householder political strategist Jeff Longstreth — were arrested July 21 and later indicted on racketeering charges in U.S. District Court. All five have pleaded not guilty.

U.S. Attorney David DeVillers alleges that Householder and his allies accepted $60 million in bribe money funneled through dark money groups that was used to elect Householder as House speaker; in turn, Householder helped pass and defend HB6.

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Federal prosecutors use pseudonyms for companies involved in the scheme but descriptions identify them as FirstEnergy and FirstEnergy Solutions, which is now called Energy Harbor.

Treasurer Robert Sprague and Auditor Keith Faber’s offices told Progress Ohio they had not received any federal subpoenas. The group is still awaiting responses from Gov. Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

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