State House ousts ex-speaker
Historic 75-21 bipartisan vote removes Householder
COLUMBUS — Members of the Ohio House on Wednesday expelled Rep. Larry Householder, the federally indicted Republican ex-speaker in a bipartisan vote that invoked their powers to remove a member for the first time in 150 years.
The GOP-controlled House voted 75-21 to remove Householder, of Perry County, approving a resolution that stated he was not suited for office because of the indictment. The state Constitution allows expulsion for “disorderly conduct” without defining it.
Defiant to the end, Householder reiterated his innocence in a House floor speech before the vote and predicted again he would be acquitted of accusations he orchestrated a $60 million bribery probe meant to approve legislation to prop up two nuclear power plants and then kill a ballot issue trying to overturn the law.
“I have not nor have I ever taken a bribe or solicited or been solicited for taking a bribe,” Householder said.
Householder said he was returning to his southern Ohio farm Wednesday to help his wife plant tomatoes, cabbage, lettuce and sweet corn. Over the longer term, he intends to speak out against elected officials he believes — unlike himself — have in fact acted unconstitutionally.
“I can tell you this much,” Householder told reporters. “Fellow elected officials who didn’t like public citizen Householder are really not going to like private citizen Householder.”
The full House took to a vote after Republican lawmakers forced the measure to the floor instead of waiting for the expulsion resolution to work through the committee process.
Reps. Brian Stewart and Mark Fraizer, both Republicans representing districts that border Householder’s, encouraged their colleagues to “do the right thing” and remove Householder from his seat.
“If racketeering, bribery and money laundering do not constitute disorderly conduct, then frankly nothing ever could,” Stewart said.
Frazier called the indictment a stain on the institution and said, “it is time for us to come together as one body.” Among other Republicans voting to expel their GOP colleague was current Speaker Bob Cupp.
Householder and four associates were arrested in July in an investigation connected to legislation containing a ratepayer-funded bailout of two Ohio nuclear power plants. The $1 billion rescue would have added a new fee to every electricity bill in the state and directed over $150 million a year through 2026 to the plants near Cleveland and Toledo.
Federal prosecutors allege Householder and his allies took FirstEnergy money in exchange for orchestrating a scheme to elect Householder speaker, put his allies into House seats, then pass the bailout bill and thwart a subsequent ballot effort to repeal it.
Householder faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Among the Mahoning Valley delegation, state Reps. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren; Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta; and Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, voted for Householder’s expulsion. State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, voted against it.
Loychik and Cutrona voted earlier against a resolution to proceed with debate to expel Householder while Lepore-Hagan and O’Brien supported it.
Lepore-Hagan, who sponsored a bill to expel Householder, said: “I don’t have to be a lawyer to know that an FBI indictment makes this institution look bad.”
She added: “This resolution fulfills our ethical and moral obligation to our constituents to root out corruption.”
During House debate, Cutrona said the people of his district elected him to make the tough votes and that “I will not bend under pressure from the media” or “political games” to vote to expel Householder.
“This is about due process,” he said. “This is about the Constitution.”
Cutrona also said he was “scared, frankly, (because) apparently we can just do whatever we want in this House. That’s not what I came down here to do.”
Cutrona questioned if there are enough conservative members of the House and the results of the vote would determine that.
He added: “I’m not worried about fueling my next opponent with ammunition. By all means bring it.”
O’Brien said: “He was expelled for disorderly conduct based on the information we’ve been reviewing for the last year. It is obvious it is conduct that is grossly disorderly. Anyone thinking to the contrary has blinders on.”
Democrats have been trying for months to get a vote on the House floor to expel Householder and Republicans finally relented, O’Brien said.
“It’s taken way too long to get to this point, but at least we got to this point,” he said. Householder “is out of touch and he’s in denial that he’s done anything wrong. There’s no place for a person who’s done this in the Ohio Legislature.”
Attempts Wednesday to reach Loychik for comment were unsuccessful.
Before the expulsion vote, GOP Rep. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati argued unsuccessfully that an unproven criminal indictment is not the action implied by disorderly conduct. The proper approach would be an impeachment trial or to wait for the criminal case’s outcome, he said.
“What else are they going to bring in and say is disorderly conduct?” Seitz said.
State Rep. Emilia Sykes, the top House Democrat, who has been urging lawmakers to expel Householder for over a year, said the disgraced lawmaker gave the chamber “no choice but to act.”
“Make no mistake, there is no joy in seeing a former Ohio speaker removed from office in disgrace, but this is our opportunity to stand against corruption and to turn a page on this dark chapter in Ohio history and begin to rebuild the People’s trust in a government that’s supposed to work for them,” Sykes said in a statement.
“Justice, decency and common sense gave a standing ovation to today’s vote to expel Mr. Householder from the People’s House,” Republican Attorney General Dave Yost tweeted shortly after the vote.
Two of Householder’s co-defendants and an involved nonprofit have pleaded guilty in the case. FirstEnergy, the energy company at the heart of the latest scandal, has acknowledged in court filings making the bulk of the payments in an alleged $60 million bribery scheme.
The last time the Ohio House expelled a sitting lawmaker was in 1857 when John P. Slough was removed for punching a fellow legislator.