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Former Ohio lawmaker, campaign strategist take stand for Householder, Borges trial

Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Larry Householder, former Ohio House speaker, walks into the Potter Stewart United States Court House in Cincinnati on Jan. 23, 2023.

A former state lawmaker and the head of a group that tried to get the state’s billion dollar nuclear power plant bailout repealed in 2019 were on the stand in federal court in Cincinnati Tuesday.

It's the start of the fifth week of the racketeering trial of Republican former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and ex-Ohio GOP chair Matt Borges.

After a long break for an illness reported by Householder on Friday and the Presidents' Day holiday Monday, Republican former state representative Laura Lanese of Grove City was on the stand. Lanese said she was pressured by Householder to vote for the nuclear bailout law known as House Bill 6, which he personally championed, but she said Borges didn’t lobby her on it. She ended up being among 38 representatives who voted against it when it finally passed in 2019 with 51 votes.

Householder's attorney pointed out on cross-examination that Lanese kept her leadership position and most of her committee assignments even after voting "no".

Also testifying for the prosecution was Michael Roberson, who led Advanced Micro Targeting, which was hired to collect signatures for a ballot issue to overturn House Bill 6. Roberson said his signature gatherers were stalked and harassed by the group that was trying to protect House Bill 6, and some were even offered money or plane tickets to stop working for the referendum campaign. Roberson described it as "like a war zone”.

The proposal to repeal House Bill 6 never made it to the 2019 ballot.

Householder and Borges are accused in a $61 million bribery scheme to pass House Bill 6 for FirstEnergy, which owned the company that owned the nuclear power plants. FirstEnergy has entered a deferred plea agreement, the dark money group connected to Householder called Generation Now has admitted guilt, along with two other defendants who were charged. Householder and Borges have said they’re innocent.

Contact Karen at 614-578-6375 or at kkasler@statehousenews.org.