Late lobbyist Neil Clark testifies on tape in former Ohio House speaker’s federal racketeering trial

Posted on:

< < Back to

CINCINNATI (Statehouse News Bureau) — A lobbyist who died by suicide almost two years ago offered what was essentially testimony on tape in the federal racketeering trial of Republican former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and ex-Ohio GOP chair Matt Borges Wednesday. Neil Clark, considered a powerhouse lobbyist in Columbus, was indicted along with Householder and Borges in the $61 million House Bill 6 bribery case in 2020.

Lobbyist Neil Clark, then working for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), in an interview in 2017.
Lobbyist Neil Clark, then working for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), in an interview in 2017. [Dan Konik | Statehouse News Bureau]
The jury heard secret recordings featuring Clark talking to undercover FBI agents working on the case against Democratic former Cincinnati City Councilman PG Sittenfeld, who was convicted of bribery and extortion last year.

Clark is heard saying FirstEnergy gave $3 million to the group Generation Now, which gave campaign donations to both Householder and Gov. Mike DeWine. But though DeWine did sign the nuclear power plant bailout known as House Bill 6 and Clark said DeWine is “influenced” by campaign contributions, Clark says it was Householder who “went to war for [FirstEnergy]”.

Clark is heard explaining how dark money donations, which are legal, could be part of a pay-to-play scheme to get specific legislation passed – such as a sports betting bill, which the agents, who were posing as developers of a Cincinnati hotel, said they wanted. But Clark said it was being held up because its sponsor, Republican Rep. Dave Greenspan, had angered Householder by voting against House Bill 6. Greenspan lost re-election in 2020.

Clark was found dead near his home in Florida in March 2021. An autopsy confirmed the cause of death was suicide. He had pleaded not guilty.

Householder and Borges have maintained their innocence since their arrest. Lobbyist Juan Cespedes has already testified for the prosecution. He pleaded guilty last year. So did Jeff Longstreth, a Householder strategist who is expected to take the stand next week. FirstEnergy got a $230 million fine after admitting to bribing Householder and former Public Utilities Commission chair Sam Randazzo, who has not been charged. The organizers of Generation Now have also admitted guilt.