CINCINNATI (WCMH) — In the case of Ohio’s largest corruption scandal, co-defendant and former Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder took the stand to tell his story to a 14-person jury.
“It’s going to be a great day,” Householder told reporters while walking into the courthouse. Householder is accused of taking half a million dollars in a pay-to-play deal to pass bailout legislation for First Energy Solutions.
The defense started its questioning of Householder by asking about when he ran and why, then delved into his relationship with First Energy executives. Householder said he “absolutely” called First Energy executives asking for political contributions while fundraising for the 2016 election. Shortly after making the call, Householder said he met with former First Energy Senior Vice President Michael Dowling to talk contributions.
But Householder said he did not dine with any First Energy executives during his trip to Washington D.C. in January 2017, where many of the pay-to-play talks allegedly happened.
In 2017, former First Energy CEO Chuck Jones sent an email that read “Pass on to Householder. If we don’t move on some type of supplant in first half of 2017, it will be too late. These plants will be shut, sold or bankrupt.”
On Oct. 10, 2018, Householder had a meeting with First Energy players. Householder said that meeting “could not have lasted ten minutes.” When Householder’s defense asked him what was discussed at the meeting, he said, “I was given a brief description of the general election and there were no other topics during this meeting.”
During the meeting that Householder said happened in the lobby of his campaign office’s building, he said he received a $400,000 check, in an envelope, from First Energy as a “political contribution.”
“They said they want to support our candidates,” he said.
Householder said when he was given the check, he believes Bob Klaffky, long-time Columbus lobbyist and president of Van Meter Ashbrook, asked him to open it. Householder testified that he did look at the check, but at no point promised that he would pass legislation in return.
Householder’s defense asked him if he wanted to take that meeting.
“We were really busy with campaigns…and uh, not really,” Householder said. “It was ultimately scheduled because Bob [Klaffky] asked.”
Klaffky also testified on Wednesday morning and said he worked closely with Householder for decades. Householder said he has not talked to Klaffky since 2019.
On Jan. 7, 2019, Householder was elected Speaker of the House. He then texted Jones, “Thank you for everything, it was historical.”
“[I texted] everybody who was a donor, members who voted. I sat there and made a lot of text messages that day,” Householder said. “It’s historical when you defeat a sitting speaker on the floor, I think that was the first time in 100 years that happened.”
Householder said he did not threaten anyone or ask for any text messages to be deleted. The jury saw texts that said, “I really need you to vote yes on HB6, it means a lot to me.”
“That was a blast text I sent to everyone,” Householder said. He explained that because it was priority legislation, it was important he get it passed.
“I just want you to remember that when I needed you, you weren’t there twice,” Householder wrote to former Representative Dave Greenspan after he voted no during the HB 6 vote.
The defense also showed videos of Householder defending House Bill 6’s importance, calling it priority legislation. He said he wanted to do three things with energy:
- Incentivize Ohio generation, “in other words have energy made here,” Householder said.
- Incentivize low carbon emissions.
- Promote Ohio jobs.
“The only things I cared about were these three things for the state of Ohio,” Householder said on the stand. Householder’s defense still needs to wrap up its direct questioning but has no other witnesses scheduled for Thursday.
Co-defense for Matt Borges did not get a chance to question Householder today, nor did the prosecution cross-examine Householder on Wednesday.