Republican candidates for the Ohio House and Senate are desperately trying to hide from their connections to indicted former Speaker Larry Householder and his alleged criminal conspiracy — but the trail of contributions and campaign help is there for anyone to see.
And now that Householder has been sidelined and his dirty money scheme has been revealed, the Ohio House GOP’s campaign arm is pleading poverty.
Meanwhile, Republican candidates are coming under fire for benefiting from “laundered cash from what has been cast as the largest public corruption scandal in Ohio history.”
As of the end of this year’s primary election, Ohio House Republicans’ campaign apparatus was sitting on about $384,000 in cash as they took aim at this fall’s legislative elections.
But now that money and its campaign committee are considered tainted, tied to Speaker Larry Householder (R., Glenford) who has been charged in an alleged $61 million bribery scheme.
Lawmakers want to avoid mixing new campaign contributions with money that could be presented by Democratic opponents as laundered cash from what has been cast as the largest public corruption scandal in Ohio history.
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper raised the type of questions that Householder-supported candidates might expect.
“Ignorance is no excuse here,” Mr. Pepper said. “If they had a campaign staffer that was paid by Larry Householder or one of his co-conspirators, these campaigns should have reported that as an in-kind donation. If they did not, that raises significant legal and ethical questions. No candidate or campaign should be able to benefit from a criminal conspiracy.”
Campaign finance reports show Friends of Larry Householder reporting a $5,000 contribution on Sept. 19, 2018, to Citizens for Niraj Antani but that donation doesn’t show up on Antani’s campaign finance reports.
Antani pulled bank records and found that the donation from Householder was deposited on Oct. 9, 2018. He updated his campaign finance records to fix what he called a mistake.
“It was a clerical error and I am very frustrated and disappointed in myself, and am setting up campaign protocols to make sure it never happens again,” Antani told the Dayton Daily News.
In January 2019, Antani voted for Householder to become speaker.
Alexis Miller of Sandusky, [state Rep. D.J.] Swearingen’s Democratic opponent in the fall race for Ohio House District 89 representing Erie and Ottawa counties, said Swearingen already has gotten help from Householder.
“He can’t keep benefiting now knowing what we all know,” Miller said.
Miller sent the Register a photo of a piece of campaign literature which praises Swearingen’s work on behalf of cleaning up Lake Erie and other issues. The leaflet left at the house of a Miller supporter states it was paid for by the House Republican Campaign Committee, which received $1 million from Householder.
The leaflet shows Swearingen has been getting help from Householder, Miller said.
“I know it was printed before the news broke but what I’m saying is that he can’t keep benefiting now knowing what we all know,” Miller said. “Swearingen has evidently already benefited but the question is how much and are there plans to sever ties?”
Swearingen’s campaign did receive donations from Juan Cespedes, one of the Householder alleged cronies arrested last week, and from FirstEnergy.
People gathered Friday afternoon outside DeVitis Italian Market on East Tallmadge Avenue in Akron to protest state Rep. Anthony DeVitis, whose family owns the longtime specialty food market, and his ties to disgraced former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder.
Protesters, who stood on a sidewalk in front of the North Hill market, said they wanted DeVitis, a Republican, to resign his House seat and to donate any campaign money he received from Householder to a charitable cause. The protest started about 4 p.m., with 10 people holding signs in front of the store. Some people driving by on the heavily traveled road waved and honked horns.
Claggett described the HRCC funds as Householder’s “slush money” and said [state Rep. Mark] Fraizer was “willingly ignorant of everything we said about the antics of Larry Householder.” Claggett said everything in the ads against him and his company was false.
“We put out several things during the campaign condemning the dark money,” Claggett said. “It’s high time it came out. We’ve known about this for months. It’s just ‘Dirty Larry.’ We’ve condemned Larry Householder’s antics for years. That’s why he spent $1 million against me.”
Columbus Dispatch: House GOP faces cash shortage after it ousts Larry Householder as speaker
Toledo Blade: Lawmakers seek distance from Householder campaign cash
Dayton Daily News: Antani says failure to report Householder donation ‘a mistake’
Sandusky Register: Householder helped local rep
Akron Beacon Journal: Protesters ask state Rep. DeVitis to resign, give back Householder-related money
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