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Bipartisan Efforts To Expel Ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder Begins

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder faces a federal charge of conspiracy to commit racketeering. He was arrested Tuesday, July 21, 2020.
John Minchillo
Associated Press
Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder

Republican and Democratic lawmakers are laying out their case for why they think former Ohio House Speaker and sitting representative Larry Householder, who faces corruption charges, should be kicked out of office.

A House committee held hearings on two resolutions, one from Republicans and one from Democrats.

Some Republicans on the panel argued that Larry Householder (R-Glenford) still maintains his innocence and compared the expulsion to the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump.

But Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), a sponsor of the Republican resolution with Rep. Mark Fraizer (R-Newark), said the bribery allegations against the former speaker meet the threshold to expel.

"This is not a witch hunt, this is not a Russia Gate, this is not cancel culture. This is law enforcement and these are conservative, U.S. attorneys who considered this evidence and said 'we believe a crime was committed here,'" Stewart said.

In July 2020, Householder was arrested and charged with racketeering. He is accused of taking in money from utilities and special interest groups, including FirstEnergy, through a 501(c)4 dark money group for person and political gain.

Federal prosecutors say, in exchange, Householder used his power as house speaker to pass HB6, a sweeping energy bill that bailed out two nuclear power plants formerly owned by FirstEnergy.

A key point of debate during the House committee was over the phrase "disorderly conduct" which is used to explain why a member of the Ohio House might be expelled. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) took issue with supporters of expulsion claiming that Householder's situation has met that threshold.

Seitz cited the definition of "disorderly conduct" under criminal code which includes fighting, threatening harm to persons or property and abusive language.

But Stewart countered said that's the how "disorderly conduct" is explained in criminal law, but the phrase laid out in the Ohio Constitution for expulsion is not defined.

Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) and Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) also testified for their resolution to expel Householder using a similar argument.

"I don’t have to be a lawyer to know that an FBI indictment makes this institution look bad. I don’t need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he’s guilty to know that my constituents don't want him earning a taxpayer-funded salary. Serving in the House is not a right, it is a privilege. I was elected to do the people’s work and Ohioans want us to expel him, and for good reasons. Service in this Chamber is a privilege he has clearly abused and no longer deserves. I’m listening to my fellow Ohioans in calling for his ouster," said Lepore-Hagan.

Three other defendants in the racketeering case have pleaded guilty to the charges. Householder will have a chance to testify before the committee during the next hearing.

Updated: June 10, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT
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.