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Cutrona: Money not a factor in vote against Householder’s expulsion

Says contributions played no factor in vote

State Rep. Al Cutrona said the more than $40,000 he received in campaign contributions from Ohio House members who opposed the expulsion of Larry Householder had nothing to do with his decision to vote against it.

“Donating money doesn’t mean any obligation to that person or that group,” said Cutrona, R-Canfield, who was among the 21 House members who voted against Householder’s expulsion. “I received a considerable donation from the Ohio Republican Party that well exceeded those members. Some members (who gave me contributions) voted to expel Householder. It was split between my donors.”

In the 2020 campaign, Cutrona received $239,150.41 in in-kind contributions from the state party, which took over fundraising of House races after Householder’s indictment and removal as speaker. Householder is accused in a bribery scheme tied to a bailout for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants.

Cutrona received $41,292.35 from House members who voted against Householder’s expulsion compared to $6,000 from members who voted in favor of it. Also, among the $6,000 who voted to expel Householder, $5,000 came from state Rep. Cindy Adams, R-Harrison, and the assistant majority whip, who first voted against having a debate on the floor on the resolution to expel and then later voted to oust Householder.

Overall last year, Cutrona raised $143,792.35 for his campaign from donors. About 29 percent came from House members who voted to not expel Householder. In addition to the contributions and the state party funding, Cutrona also loaned $50,000 to his campaign.

ALL VOTED NO

The House members who gave the most to Cutrona last year all voted no on Householder’s expulsion. They included Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville and chairman of the House Economic and Workforce Development Committee, who gave $13,292.35 to Cutrona’s campaign; House Majority Leader Bill Seitz, R-Green Township in Hamilton County, who was among the most vocal members in opposition to expulsion and gave $13,000 to Cutrona; and Majority Whip Don Jones, R-Freeport, who gave $10,000.

The vote to have a debate on Householder’s expulsion passed 66-31. The 99-member House needed a two-thirds vote on debate, meaning it received the minimum number of votes to proceed. Then nine Republicans — including Adams and Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta — who opposed bringing the expulsion to a vote later voted to expel Householder. The expulsion vote, which also needed at least two-thirds of the vote, was approved 75-21.

Loychik received $54,542.35 from House members who opposed Householder’s expulsion, which helped fund his 2020 campaign victory in the 63rd District. That money is about half of the $111,307.35 his campaign received in contributions last year.

Loychik’s largest contributors were Edwards with $13,292.35, Seitz with $13,000 and state Rep. Shane Wilkin, R-Hillsboro and chairman of the House Government Oversight Committee, with $10,000.

He also received $11,000 from House members who voted to expel Householder with $5,000 coming from Adams. Adams and Loychik voted against debating the expulsion on the House floor. After it barely passed, they voted to expel Householder.

Unlike Cutrona, Loychik received no money from the state party for his campaign.

Loychik had only $1,502.71 in his campaign account as of Dec. 31.

He has filed five campaign finance reports, four in 2020 and an annual one on Jan. 28, that he’s not supposed to submit to the Ohio secretary of state.

Numerous attempts to contact Loychik for comment on the impact campaign contributions had on his Householder votes were unsuccessful. He has refused to speak to this newspaper since his November election victory.

Cutrona was appointed May 28, 2020, to an empty 59th District House seat to replace Don Manning, who died March 20 that year. Householder was speaker at the time of Cutrona’s appointment, but the state representative said he had minimal interaction with Householder before his appointment.

Also, Householder was indicted about six weeks after Cutrona’s appointment.

‘NO OBLIGATION’

“I have no obligation to Larry Householder,” Cutrona said. “When I was appointed it was a process that included many members. I had three or four encounters with Larry and it was among the caucus. I received zero dollars from Larry Householder.”

Cutrona said he voted against expulsion because he opposed the process and it didn’t matter who was up for consideration. He said he would have voted the same way for any House member under indictment, but not yet convicted.

“It’s about due process,” Cutrona said. “What was placed in there was disorderly conduct and the only thing with disorderly conduct in the criminal code is a violent act. No violent act occurred. These are allegations. It’s bad precedent. It opens up the process where members can overturn elections. I was passionate about letting the process play out. It’s an allegation. It doesn’t mean it’s true. We have procedures including an impeachment process. That would be a more acceptable way.”

A July 2020 federal indictment alleges Householder, a Glenford Republican, and four other men pushed the passage of House Bill 6, a $1 billion bailout for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants that was signed into law in July 2019, in exchange for $61 million. FirstEnergy, the company at the heart of the scandal, has acknowledged in court filings that it made the bulk of the payments in the bribery scheme.

Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, a co-defendant, have pleaded not guilty while two other co-defendants and Generation Now, a nonprofit organization involved in the scheme, have pleaded guilty. A third man indicted died of a suicide.

The Householder expulsion didn’t “meet constitutional muster,” Cutrona said. “It sets bad precedent. It creates a free-for-all.”

Cutrona added: “I hope it won’t be the start, and the slightest allegation could lead to expulsion. Allegations, however big or small, there’s now precedent set.”

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, who pushed for Householder’s expulsion, said: “Every branch of government has the authority and the obligation to ensure public officials act with integrity and when that promise is broken, we must act to restore the public trust.”

In August 2020, Lepore-Hagan donated $2,500 she received in contributions from FirstEnergy — $2,000 in 2015 and $500 in 2019 — to the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (ACTION).

Neither Cutrona nor Loychik received FirstEnergy contributions.

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