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Take action on Householder now

In the 11 months since the largest alleged public bribery corruption scheme in Ohio history was uncovered following passage of House Bill 6, much has happened. Charges were filed and indictments handed down. A number of the alleged co-conspirators have pleaded guilty and major portions of the corrupt corporate bailout have been repealed.

But the accused lynchpin behind the operation remains untouched.

The man suspected of being the architect of the $60 million scheme, the largest open bribery investigation within any statehouse in the country, remains in office. He continues to vote on House Bill 6-related legislation. He continues to collect taxpayer-funded paychecks and build his pension.

But the truth is Larry Householder’s presence has become a distraction from the important work Ohioans expect of their legislators, and as long as he remains in office, we cannot begin to restore the integrity of the people’s House.

For nearly a year, House Democrats have called for the former speaker’s ouster — either through him voluntarily stepping aside or through a formal expulsion process outlined in Ohio’s Constitution. But at every step of the way, we’ve been met with resistance from House Republican leaders.

Last July, my colleague Rep. Jeff Crossman from Parma stood on the House floor to make a motion to expel Rep. Householder. I joined Democrats to support the motion. Republicans blocked it, with Speaker Cupp saying we should wait to take any further action.

Democrats then introduced legislation to take on public corruption and dark money that seeks to buy favor with politicians and influence our elections, but Republicans refused to take action on these bills too.

And even when dozens of elected leaders in Larry Householder’s own district urged his removal, House Republicans still refused.

It’s difficult to understand why House Republican leaders have protected Householder, given the damning evidence unearthed by law enforcement and reporters, as well as the fact that three of his co-conspirators have already pleaded guilty. Another has committed suicide.

Some constantly downplay the seriousness of the charges or argue he should have his day in court. Others may not want to turn their backs on the source of the dark money that propelled them into office. Whatever the motivation, the fact is this — serving in the House is a privilege, one he has abused and no longer deserves.

Refusing to hold Larry Householder or any public official accountable for disorderly and disgraceful conduct is a dereliction of duty. It undermines the integrity of our democracy and damages the trust the people have in their government.

We’ve given Republicans all the time they could need to get their house in order. By any definition, masterminding what federal prosecutors have called “…the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio” represents “disorderly conduct.”

That’s why Rep. Jeffrey Crossman, I and members of our Caucus recently introduced a resolution to expel the disgraced former Speaker. Our resolution sends a forceful message that corruption has no place in the Ohio General Assembly regardless of political party and that alleged criminal misconduct of this magnitude will not be tolerated. Its swift consideration and passage will represent a critical first step in restoring the public’s trust and confidence in government. Both have been battered by the HB 6 scandal.

The introduction of our resolution as well as a nearly identical draft offered by two Republican colleagues now will force Speaker Cupp and Republican leaders to decide if members of the House will finally be permitted to fulfill our moral, legal and ethical obligations to defend the Constitution, protect the integrity of the General Assembly and serve the best interests of our constituents and the people of Ohio by rooting out corruption in the Ohio House.

We have been waiting for far too long. The time to act has arrived.

Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan represents Ohio’s 58th Ohio House district.

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