Clarifying line between legal and illegal acts

As opening statements began in the trial against former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, a Perry County Republican, prosecutors were suggesting it might be the largest corruption case in Buckeye State history.

At issue is whether Householder was part of a scheme funded by FirstEnergy that helped him gain power, elect his friends, pass a $1 billion bailout for a couple of nuclear plants and defeat a ballot effort to overturn the bill. Arrests began in July 2020, and FirstEnergy avoided prosecution by admitting it used dark money groups to fund the scheme. FirstEnergy also admitted it used some of the money to fund bribes.

Oddly, Householder and his attorneys may be more honest than they realize as their defense amounts to “Hey, this was just business as usual. Everybody else has always done it this way.” (Householder has told media outlets he expects the trial will bring “redemption” for him.) His attorneys claim the tactics at play are routinely employed by politicians of both parties.

They’re probably right.

This one is a headline-grabber. Dollar amounts too high, legislation too specific and a politician perhaps a little too brash. But the corrupting desire for power and influence has been the same since the beginning of politics. While it is an encouraging sign that this particular instance has been found out and prosecuted, there are likely many others — not just in Ohio, but across the country.

Law enforcement’s desire to root out such corruption must not stop at one case. The federal government has a chance to clarify the line between legal and illegal handling of “dark” money, and as they do, surely more such instances will come to light. They should be punished with the determination prosecutors have displayed in the Householder case.



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