Householder stripped of speaker post

Credit: Laura Bischoff

Credit: Laura Bischoff

Ohio House members voted 90-0 to remove Larry Householder as speaker but the Perry County Republican remains a state lawmaker and is running unopposed for re-election in November.

On July 21, Householder and four other men were charged with racketeering in what federal prosecutors called the biggest bribery scheme in Ohio history.

After several days of behind-the-scenes jockeying, the fight to replace Householder as speaker narrowed down to two men: Jim Butler of Oakwood and Bob Cupp of Lima. Butler has served as Householder’s second-in-command and leaves office in December. Cupp is a former state senator and former Ohio Supreme Court justice who is running for another term in the House.

The speaker is one of the three most powerful political posts in state government. He or she has the ability to move or block any bill and has enormous influence over the massive state budget bill. The speaker also leads the campaign efforts to elect his or her party members into legislative seats.

House Republicans are worried that campaign funds controlled by Householder won’t be available during the investigation. With less than 100 days to go and several competitive races teed up, the House Republican Campaign Committee account has $384,000 in cash on hand, according to finance reports filed in June.

An 82-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court alleges that an Akron-based utility funneled $60 million into dark money groups controlled by Householder and his allies. They used the cash to elect pro-Householder candidates to legislative seats in 2018 and engineer Householder’s return as House speaker in January 2019, prosecutors say. Householder in turn helped pass House Bill 6, which provided a $1.3 billion bailout to FirstEnergy Solutions. When a referendum campaign sought to block the bill from becoming law, Householder and his allies used the energy company cash to defeat the effort, the feds say.

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