New podcast examines former Ohio House speaker's 'Power Grab'
It’s been eight months since former House Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges were found guilty of racketeering. The verdict followed a six-week trial and a years-long unfolding of the facts of the case, where Householder and his associates received $60 million of bribes in exchange for passing a billion dollar nuclear power plant bailout bill.
Ohio Newsroom member station WOSU Public Media, in Columbus, is diving into the case in their new podcast The Power Grab. Creator Renee Fox joined The Ohio Newsroom to talk about the podcast.
This conversation has been lightly edited for brevity and clarity.
On what the podcast uncovers
"Even though the federal trial had all of these audio clips for the jury to listen to, no one was able to hear it outside of the courtroom. So even though it was Ohio's biggest corruption scandal, there's just a lot of stuff that people don't know about yet: what was on those tapes, what discussions were had. So what we're able to do is take all of that evidence that the FBI collected undercover and listen to that like we're right in the room."
On the unique glimpse into statehouse dealings
"What stands out most to me is just how common these deals were. You only see the tip of the iceberg when you see a press conference with a politician, when the real work is getting done behind closed doors. It's really revealing how the details are kept from the public eye, usually the motivations of why a politician wants to promote something.
Like Larry Householder was promoting HB6 as a clean energy bill, because it was going to save nuclear power plants, which don't have as big of a carbon footprint as maybe some other energy sources do. But that's what you get to see: the difference between the messaging that they put out for the public to hear versus what they're actually trying to get done. They don't care if the nuclear plants have clean energy, they care about if they're going to get money from them."
On the impact of the trial on the legislature
"We haven't seen any political will to change things. One of the biggest methods of moving money around between groups like this is called a 501(c)(4). It's a nonprofit. The donors are secret and you can spend as much as you want on them. So that's not going anywhere; that's federal law. And people in Ohio are fighting for more transparency from politicians, but there's just no political will to get that done. That's really exemplified when you see HB6: only bits of it were repealed and most of it is still in place."