Ohio House turns over ex-Speaker Rosenberger documents to FBI

Ohio House records provide details on ex-Speaker Rosenberger’s trips, messages

Just after midnight on May 22, 2016, the Clarksville Republican sent himself note: “How do you win a campaign? Don’t lose.”

That same month he sent a note about room assignments and the costs for a stay at the Hyatt Regency in Waikiki, Hawaii scheduled for June 2016: “Me Ben 2590.00” “Ryan Zach 2117.63” “Ginni 2590.00 ocean front.”

Ginni Ragan is a wealthy donor to the Ohio House GOP caucus and a close ally of Rosenberger. She rented her spare luxury condo in downtown Columbus to Rosenberger and provided a $209,354 mortgage to Hunter Wright, a lobbyist who is a former Rosenberger aide.

Related: Ohio House speaker rents luxury condo from top GOP donor

Related: Former aide to speaker got mortgage from wealthy donor

The trip to Hawaii was for a U.S.-China Sub-national Legislatures Cooperation Forum, organized by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, according to travel records released by the Ohio House. It was one of 50 trips Rosenberger took as speaker between 2015 and 2018.

The records released Monday provide a detailed look at Rosenberger’s daily schedule, out-of-state travel, connections to donors and other politicos and his relationship to staffers.

For example, he traveled frequently with staff members, including long-time aide Ben Webb who accompanied him to China in 2016. In a March 2016 email to himself, Rosenberger made a note of Webb’s pants size.

Webb left Rosenberger’s team in September 2016 for a job at Ohio State University. Webb did not return a message seeking comment.

Rosenberger’s travel plans and notes to himself are among tens of thousands of pages of records turned over the Federal Bureau of Investigation in response to a subpoena. The last batch was delivered Monday. The House released to the media the same records as well as a federal search and seizure warrant and subpoena.

Republican Cliff Rosenberger said he may run for state auditor in 2018, a move that may pit him against fellow lawmaker Keith Faber.
Photo: Columbus bureau

The warrant indicates that federal authorities are trying to build a public corruption case against Rosenberger, payday lending industry lobbyists Stephen Dimon of Ohio and Leslie Gaines of South Carolina and Advance America executive Carol Stewart. Dimon, Gaines and Stewart have taken trips with Rosenberger.

Rosenberger’s attorney David Axelrod said the former speaker is cooperating with investigators and looks forward to his full vindication.

Related: Payday lender took 3 international trips with ex-Ohio House speaker

Included in the newly released records is a memo detailing a March 20, 2017 meeting with Dimon and Gaines “to discuss GOPAC.”

GOPAC, a Virginia based group that seeks to elect Republicans in higher office, sponsored a four-day trip in August 2017 to London. Dimon and Gaines, who have lobbied for auto title lender Select Management Resources, went on the trip with Rosenberger.


Our Columbus Bureau reporter Laura Bischoff has been covering this story from the beginning. Like her on Twitter at @LBischoff to stay updated.

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