Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said in a statement that the arrest of his boss and personal friend Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) was a “complete surprise,” and that he has not been contacted by anybody involved in the ongoing federal investigation into the alleged $60 million racketeering scheme at the center of the speaker’s arrest.
“The allegations made this week were a total shock, a complete surprise. Members of House leadership, including myself, are talking with our legislative colleagues regarding next steps for the Ohio House. I can tell you that my office and the Ohio House continue to be open,” Edwards said.
Edwards, who serves on Householder’s leadership team as majority whip of the House, also said that the recent efforts in the Statehouse to repeal and replace House Bill 6, a 2019 piece of legislation that bailed out Ohio First Energy nuclear plants and that Householder and his accomplices are alleged to have illegally taken First Energy money to help pass, “may have some merit as long as it includes the cutting of mandates that will save Ohio ratepayers $2.3B over its life,” the representative said.
“With the financial burden we face due to coronavirus, and as someone representing a high poverty district, the last thing we want to do right now is raise electric bills. There are several other good elements in HB 6, including protecting good union jobs and preserving a major source carbon-free energy generation here in Ohio,” Edwards said.
Though, he withheld his full support for the movement until he sees the replacement bill.
Governor Mike DeWine on Thursday called for the repeal and replacement of the legislation after declining to do so the previous day, saying that he supports the policy outlined in the law, but disapproves of the allegedly corrupt methods through which it was passed.
Edwards’ statement comes after not responding to multiple of The NEWS’ requests for comment. The majority whip said that he’s spent the past few days “trying to put pieces back together.”
As of Tuesday, no formal charges have been brought against any other Ohio public officials and Edwards name wasn’t explicitly mentioned in any documents related to the federal investigation into Householder and his accomplices.
The federal complaint filed against Householder and his accomplices, collectively referred to in the document as “The Enterprise,” describes their successful attempts to help elect members who would comprise “Team Householder.” Those on the team would be either wittingly or unwittingly instrumental in the enterprise’s alleged scheme to pass House Bill 6.
Federal investigators uncovered a document from enterprise member Jeff Longstreth — Householder’s longtime political strategist — that describes a proposed list of individuals to comprise Householder’s leadership team should he win the speakership.
Those on that list include “Speaker of The House, Speaker Pro Tempore, Majority Floor Leader, Assistant Majority Leader, Majority Whip, and Assistant Majority Whip,” according to the complaint.
“After Householder was elected speaker in 2019 all of the individuals, except for one, became part of Householder’s leadership team. (The exception was a representative who did not support Householder for Speaker).”
According to House voting records, Edwards both supported Householder for speaker and voted to pass House Bill 6.
The complaint also alleged that Longstreth’s list of potential candidates for the leadership team mirrored House members that First Energy intended to support.
State campaign finance records show that First Energy’s PAC gave $5,000 to Edwards’ campaign the day before the 2018 general election when the representative won re-election, though the energy company also financially supported him in years past with donations that exceed the amount given to him that year.
Householder’s public-facing PAC, Friends of Householder, didn’t fund Edwards’ 2018 campaign, though the speaker funded several other Republican candidates that year, as did First Energy, according to Cleveland.com.
The enterprise ultimately funded 21 candidate’s campaigns in 2018, totaling spending of between $2.5 million and $3 million, according to the complaint.
Householder’s accomplices also created a federal PAC, the name of which is redacted in the documents, and allegedly funneled First Energy money into it.
The PAC, which investigators discovered was controlled by Longstreth, was used in the 2018 primaries to conceal the source of media advertisements for candidates Householder wanted elected to aid him in passing the bailout bill.
In total, the PAC spent $1 million in First Energy money in 2018. The PAC also spent more than $1 million to benefit “Team Householder” candidates in the 2020 primary, the complaint said.