CIRCLEVILLE — Last week it was announced that Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder was arrested and accused of bribery. According to the U.S. Attorney General David DeVillers, Householder is charged with racketeering, along with four other parties involved in the scheme.
While these charges are playing out in Federal Court, many are questioning how his arrest and charges will affect local politicians.
Pickaway County Commissioner Brian Stewart, who is on the ballot in the November election for Ohio State Representative for the 78th District is one of many politicians throughout Southeastern Ohio who received campaign funding from Householder.
Although Stewart said he only met Householder on one occasion, he accepted over $13,000 for his campaign from the Speaker. Stewart also received funding from one of Householder’s co-defendants, Matthew Borges; and $1,000 from FirstEnergy. Although FirstEnergy is not listed in the Householder affidavit, FirstEnergy comes into question.
“I’ve met with Larry Householder only one time in my life,” stated Stewart. “He’s the sitting Speaker of the House so there’s a certain amount of everybody that’s talked to him in some respect or another just by virtue of the role he’s in. Most of the crimes listed in the affidavit were mostly from 2018 timeframe.”
Stewart explained he met with Householder to discuss the race for State Representative, and things that legislature was working on at the time, what the job of a legislator is, and what was going on with the campaign.
Stewart announced his campaign in August 2019 for State Representative in Ohio’s 78th District.
“I was not recruited to run by Larry Householder,” Stewart told The Circleville Herald. “I was not recruited to run by anybody in Columbus. I’ve been a successful county commissioner in this district for the last eight years; been a successful small business person in this district for the last 10 years; and a veteran.”
He further noted that he had overwhelming support for his campaign from the community from day one.
“As that campaign grew, a lot of people wanted to endorse us,” he added. “That was 70-plus officials, party leaders and three different counties endorsing me, the Ohio Republican Party endorsed me. The Speaker of the House decided to endorse me as well. As he did with every single candidate that he endorsed, he sent a check. In any other year, in any other state, that’s not unusual. It’s pretty typical.”
Stewart said in no way did he ask for the money; Householder just sent him the check.
“Speaker Household deserves the presumption of innocence like every American, but the allegations made public on Tuesday concern me greatly,” Stewart continued.
The local commissioner said he did not vote for Householder for House Speaker, and had no previous knowledge of the investigation that has taken the FBI almost two years to complete.
“I was not aware of any illegal activities; I was never informed of any activities that I thought were illegal or in any way unethical,” he stated. “We ran our race just like we would for any other year. All that being the case, we didn’t spend the money we received from Larry Householder, so I’m glad we still have it available to donate to charity.
“There’s a long-standing history of that being a good road to go down if a candidate has received donations from a company or an individual that has come under scrutiny, and they don’t feel it’s appropriate to keep it. Obviously, I don’t think it’s appropriate to keep the money given the cloud that is over the Speaker. I also don’t think it’s appropriate to say we’ll just give the money back. I think giving money back to somebody who you suspect is going to spend it inappropriately is not in anybody’s best interest.
“I think the money can go to the best use supporting charitable activities throughout the six counties in Ohio 78, and that’s what we are working to get done,” Stewart continued.
Householder’s contribution to Stewart was $13,292.35; FirstEnergy PAC contributed $1,000; and $500 from Matthew Borges. Stewart said he is still going through his campaign financial report to see if there are any other funds from the four defendants or companies listed in the affidavit. He will be donating all funds connected to Householder and any of the other defendants to charitable organizations.
Stewart has a list compiled of charitable organizations that he will be dispersing the campaign funds to throughout District 78, which will be listed on his next campaign financial report.
When asked what was his first reaction to the news of Householder being arrested, Stewart had this to say, “I was angry, I was surprised, and I was sorry for our state. This is unacceptable. It is 100 percent contrary to everything I’ve stood for as a public official and as a person for the last 10 years that I’ve been in office. Unfortunately, it’s going to contribute to the general suspension that politicians can’t be trusted.
“That’s not been my experience, honestly. The vast majority of public officials that I’ve worked with in my career so far are good people, and they’re for the right reasons. They generally want to make things better; but unfortunately, it only takes one really bad apple to reflect on the whole bunch,” he continued.
“Unfortunately, what you’re also seeing — this was a really broad systematic scheme. Larry Householder became Speaker with Democrat votes — that’s the first time that’s happened in like a hundred years. He didn’t have the majority of Republican caucus to get the job, and FirstEnergy money has been donated to those folks in those parties — it’s a problem for our whole state,” Stewart concluded.
Householder was arrested last week along with Jeffrey Longstreth, Neil Clark, Matthew Borges, Juan Cespedes and Generation Now.
According to DeVillers, the conspiracy was to pass and maintain a $1.5 billion bailout in return for $61 million in dark money that was then used for various political agendas. Money was also given to the defendants to build a power base for Householder and to further the conspiracy.
“That is to further the affairs of this enterprise,” DeVillers said. “These allegations are bribery pure and simple. This was quid pro quo. This was pay to play.”
Household is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on Aug. 6.
Although Gov. Mike DeWine and several other public officials have called for Householder’s resignation, Householder is innocent until proven guilty and has no plans on stepping down.