Open in App
  • U.S.
  • Newsletter
  • The Columbus Dispatch

    Householder is the ‘Comeback Kid.' Don't think he can't worm his way back into office.

    By Thomas Suddes,


    The indictment on state charges of former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder may at first glance seem like overkill.

    After all, Householder, age 64, is already serving a 20-year sentence in federal prison for his central role in the House Bill 6 affair, the since-aborted bailout of two money-bleeding FirstEnergy Corp. nuclear power plants.

    A jury in U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio convicted Householder, a Perry County Republican, on federal charges in connection in the House Bill 6 scandal. “But those convictions do not legally prevent [Householder] from running again for public office,” according to a statement by Ohio Attorney General David Yost’s office.

    The battery of state charges, brought last week by a Cuyahoga County grand jury, include alleged theft in office by Householder. Someone convicted in state court of theft in office is permanently barred from holding public office or public employment in Ohio, Yost’s statement said.

    Coincidentally, Householder is now appealing his federal conviction to the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals (6th Circuit). Were the appeals court to free Householder from the Federal Correctional Institution in Columbiana County’s Elkton, there no practical reason why Householder couldn’t seek office.

    In fact, even after his July 2020 arrest on the federal charges, Householder was handily re-elected to the General Assembly that November in what was then the 72nd Ohio House District (Perry and Coshocton counties, and parts of Licking County), east of Columbus. (The House expelled Householder in mid-2021.) But were Householder convicted of theft in office as a result of the newly brought Cuyahoga County state indictment, he would be forever barred from public office in Ohio. “State crimes have state penalties, and a conviction will ensure that there will be no more comebacks from the ‘Comeback Kid,’” said Yost.

    Politically if not legally, there is plenty of blame to go around.

    House Bill 6 passed Ohio’s House and state Senate, both Republican controlled, only with the help of Democratic votes, and Republican Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB 6 into law as soon as the General Assembly passed it.

    For that matter, Householder only became speaker of the House because 26 of the 38 Democrats then in the House supported him, an inconvenient fact to those who see the HB 6 mess as a one-party affair.

    But to give credit where it’s due, Yost, a Columbus Republican, has spearheaded the state’s legal response to the HB 6 scandal.

    Thomas SuddesSome Democrats had their hands in House Bill 6

    Householder’s Cuyahoga County indictment was quarterbacked by the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission, part of Yost’s office, he said, and Yost has acted on a number of legal fronts, both in the civil and criminal courts, to seek accountability in the HB 6 mess.

    Good thing, too, because in contrast, the other state agencies charged with policing the Statehouse and the lobbying antics that pervade the place are – surprise, surprise – on short rations, thanks the General Assembly’ budgeting decisions, a classic Ohio case of underfunding a crucial public service.

    Turn first to the Office of Consumers’ Counsel, which represents residential utility consumer in Public Utilities Commission of Ohio rate cases. Although the legislature slightly boosted the counsel’s budget – to $6.3 million this year – compare that to FirstEnergy’s 2023 annual earnings, reported last month: about $1.1 billion. Who’s in a better position to field lawyers in Columbus?

    Then there’s the Ohio Ethics Commission. According to state budget data, the commission oversees 18,700 elected officials and 590,000 public employees. This fiscal year’s budget for the commission: $2.8 million.

    Also on watch is the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee, whose mission is to police the General Assembly’s 132 members and the Statehouse’s lobbying swarm. Budget allotment this fiscal year: $876,000. Then, as to state government in general, there’s the Office of Inspector General: $2.8 million this fiscal year.

    Combined, for this year, the legislature allotted $12.8 million to the four bureaucracy-policing agencies in a state budget with $41.4 billion in general-revenue fund spending this fiscal year. That is, the General Assembly allots peanuts to policing public ethics. Does it show?

    Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University.

    Expand All
    Most Popular newsMost Popular
    Comments / 0
    Add a Comment

    Comments / 0