COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Former Republican Speaker Larry Householder was expelled from the Ohio House in a vote Wednesday following his indictment in an alleged $60 million federal bribery probe, only the second time the state Legislature has pushed out a member and the first time in 150 years.
The Republican-led House voted 75-21 to remove Householder, of Perry County, approving a resolution that stated he was not suited for office because of the indictment.
The full House voted after lawmakers forced the measure to the floor instead of waiting for the expulsion resolution to work through the committee process.
Reps. Brian Stewart and Mark Frazier, both Republicans representing districts that border Householder’s, encouraged their colleagues to “do the right thing” and vote to expel.
“This has been a distraction. This has been a stain on the institution and it is time for us to come together as one body,” Frazier said, adding that “this institution is greater than any one man.”
Householder and four associates were arrested in July in an investigation connected to legislation containing a ratepayer-funded bailout of two Ohio nuclear power plants. The $1 billion rescue would have added a new fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year through 2026 to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo.
Federal prosecutors allege Householder and his allies took FirstEnergy money in exchange for orchestrating a scheme to elect Householder speaker, put his allies into House seats, then pass the bailout bill and thwart a subsequent ballot effort to repeal it.
If he is convicted of the federal charges against him, he could face up to 20 years in prison and automatic removal from the House.
Householder has pleaded not guilty and publicly proclaimed his innocence. “I have not nor have I ever taken a bribe or solicited or been solicited for taking a bribe,” Householder told a House committee Tuesday weighing the expulsion resolution.
“Just think of the precedent this will set: Allegations are enough to remove anyone from office,” Householder said. “That’s absurd.”
Two of Householder’s co-defendants and an involved nonprofit have pleaded guilty in the case. FirstEnergy, the energy company at the heart of the latest scandal, has acknowledged in court filings making the bulk of the payments in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme.
The last time the Ohio House expelled a sitting lawmaker was in 1857 when John P. Slough was removed for punching a fellow legislator.
Then Householder went on to compare the bipartisan efforts to remove him to the attempts by Congressman Adam Schiff and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to impeach former President Donald Trump earlier this year. “This is clearly politically motivated and I think everyone in this room knows that,” he said.
In 2004, Householder left the House the first time due to term limits while he and several top advisers were under federal investigation for alleged money laundering and irregular campaign practices. The government later closed the case without filing charges.
After a nasty battle, Householder was again elected speaker in 2019.