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Former Ohio GOP Chair Defends Himself In Federal Racketeering Case

Then-Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges participates in a question-and-answer session in Columbus, Ohio on Feb. 11, 2016.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins
Associated Press
Then-Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges participates in a question-and-answer session in Columbus, Ohio on Feb. 11, 2016.

Matt Borges, former chair of the Ohio Republican Party, is making public comments for the first time since his arrest on federal racketeering charges.

Borges was a lobbyist for FirstEnergy when federal prosecutors allege he bribed someone for inside information on a campaign to repeal the nuclear power plant bailout law, HB6. Borges has pleaded "not guilty"to the charge in federal court. 

"I never broke the law, didn’t conspire with anyone to break the law, never had intent to break any laws, and wasn’t aware of any illegal activity," Borges said in a statement.

Federal prosecutors accuse a utility believed to be FirstEnergy of funneling money to a dark money group to help Larry Householder become Ohio House Speaker and get HB6 passed into law.

Attorneys for Borges filed a motion to dismiss in a separate civil case brought by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who is suing FirstEnergy and other defendants stop the new charges from being added to electric bills at the start of 2021. Those charges, up to $2.35 a month, go towards nuclear, coal, and solar subsidies.

Yost is also seeking to bar the defendants from lobbying or participating in campaigns. However, Borges' lawyers say Yost fails to state a claim specifically against him.

​In a written statement responding to Borges' filing, Yost says, "The defendant left out the part where he paid a bribe, recorded on an FBI wire, and the fact two of his co-conspirators have already confessed, and the trail of financial breadcrumbs that leads right to his checkbook. Attacking law enforcement is the oldest – least effective – trick in the criminal defense playbook. We'll see him in court."

"In his statement," Borges responded, "Yost claimed there was a recording of a bribe being offered. I'm not really sure why he thinks that, because no such thing exists."

Two defendants in the federal racketeering case have entered plea deals backing up several claims made by investigators. Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist for FirstEnergy, says he orchestrated payments to the dark money group Generation Now.

Jeff Longstreth, Householder's political strategist, says he organized Generation Now at Householder's direction to help Householder get elected as speaker and to get HB6 passed into law. 

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.