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Ex-Ohio House speaker’s trial in a $60M bribery probe to begin

The opening statements of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder are scheduled for Monday in a trial that federal prosecutors believe is the largest corruption case in state history.

Lobbyist Matt Borges, a former chair of the Ohio Republican Party, is also being tried.

A jury selected in Cincinnati must now decide whether former Ohio House Speaker Householder, now 63, and Borges, 50, are guilty of conspiracy to participate in a racketeering enterprise involving bribery and money laundering.

They both pleaded not guilty and maintain their innocence.

Each of them faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted. The trial could last for six weeks.

An indictment alleged Householder, Borges, three other people and a dark money group called Generation Now orchestrated an elaborate scheme, secretly funded by FirstEnergy, to secure Householder’s power, to elect his allies, pass a legislation containing a $1 billion bailout for two aging nuclear power plants, and then vex a ballot effort to overturn the bill with a dirty tricks campaign.

The arrests happened in July 2020.

Under a deal to avoid prosecution, Akron-based FirstEnergy admitted to using dark money groups to fund the scheme and to bribing the state’s top utility regulator.

Then-Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair Sam Randazzo resigned after an FBI search of his home.

Randazzo has not been charged and denies any wrongdoing.

Two Householder associates and a related nonprofit have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme described by prosecutors and await sentencing while a third defendant who pleaded not guilty died by suicide.

Campaign finance experts view the case as an opportunity for the federal government to clarify the line between legal and illegal handling of the untraceable “dark” money that has flooded politics in recent years some $1 billion since the landmark Citizens United v. FEC decision of 2010, according to OpenSecrets, a nonpartisan campaign finance research organization.

Writing by Tersoo Nicholas