An explosive document from the United States Department of Justice indicates former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder was part of a massive pay-to-play scandal in 2019 during the process of bringing sports betting to the state, according to a report from WKYC in Ohio. Ohio lawmakers did not legalize sports betting until Dec. 22, 2021.
Householder is currently facing federal conspiracy charges in a separate case, surrounding the company FirstEnergy and HB 6, an energy bill, and his legal team attempted to block the alleged pay-to-play details from being heard by jurors in his upcoming, early 2023 trial.
The DOJ apparently disagreed, and in its response to Householder’s motion laid out his alleged ploy.
New court documents filed by the U.S. Department of Justice suggest that former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder was at the center of a 'pay-to-play' bribery scandal to try to bring legalized sports betting to Ohio. https://t.co/iX1YD2mNev
— Daniel Wallach (@WALLACHLEGAL) December 1, 2022
According to the document, Neil Clark, an Ohio lobbyist who was also charged in the Householder case (and who committed suicide last year), met up with undercover agents (UCEs) from the FBI who were posing as businessmen looking to move the sports betting process along.
“To help advance the legislation for their benefit, Clark instructed the UCEs to aside between $50,000 and $100,000 to pay money into 501(c)(4)s for three public officials, including Householder,” the DOJ document states.
The money collected allegedly went into Householder’s dark money account, Generation Now.
“In the months that followed, Clark and the UCEs discussed the status of sports betting legislation that was pending in the House, what the UCEs wanted from the sports betting legislation, and how to make sure the pending legislation was written to their interests, including paying money to Householder through Generation Now,” the document continued. “In a May 1, 2019 meeting with UCEs, Clark discussed the sports betting legislation and his relationship with Householder. During the meeting, Clark summed up the benefit of Householder’s 501(c)(4) as follows: ‘it’s secret, a (c)(4) is secret. Nobody knows the money goes to the Speaker’s account, it is controlled by his people, one of his people, and it’s not recorded. A (c)(4) is non-recorded.’”
WKYC spoke with Jonathan Entin, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, who said, “The government is basically saying that Householder was at the center of the biggest political corruption scandal in Ohio history.”
Ohio lawmakers legalized sports betting last December when the legislature sent a bill to Gov. Mike DeWine on Dec. 8, 2021, and he signed it on Dec. 22, 2021. The legislature, which had been batting around legal wagering for several years, took the issue up in earnest in 2021, and at that point, Householder was not involved — at least not publicly. The legislature set up a committee to discuss sports betting and come to a consensus about details early in the year. The bill that ultimately included sports betting was filed in February as a proposal surrounding veterans’ ID cards. It was updated to include sports betting and passed the Senate in June 2021 before being sent to conference committee.
Householder was dismissed from the the House in June 2021, according to WKYC.
Wagering is scheduled to go into effect at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2023.