The strategist who admitted guilt in Ohio’s nuclear bailout case takes the stand against former speaker

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CINCINNATI (Statehouse News Bureau) — A strategist who pleaded guilty in the corruption case involving Ohio’s nuclear power plant bailout law took the stand in federal court in Cincinnati Wednesday. The political strategist for Republican former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder testified for the prosecution in the racketeering trial of Householder and ex-Ohio GOP chair Matt Borges.

Jeff Longstreth, then the executive director of the Ohio Liberty Council, in an appearance on "The State of Ohio" in July 2011.
Jeff Longstreth, then the executive director of the Ohio Liberty Council, in an appearance on “The State of Ohio” in July 2011. [Ohio Public Radio and Television | Statehouse News Bureau]
Jeff Longstreth told jurors he handled the money that went from FirstEnergy to the dark money group Generation Now, which prosecutors say was controlled by Householder to build the team he would need to become speaker. Householder became speaker in 2019 and a few months later proposed House Bill 6, the $1 billion bailout for the two nuclear power plants owned by a subsidiary of FirstEnergy.

Longstreth said he paid repair bills on Householder’s Florida home and bills from a coal company lawsuit, which he said Householder never repaid. Longstreth said that made him nervous because not repaying those loans would be illegal.

Longstreth admitted guilt and is testifying for the prosecution, which says he received $2.5 million from the $61 million bribery scheme. Longstreth is on the stand more than a week after lobbyist Juan Cespedes, who also pleaded guilty. FirstEnergy and Generation Now have also agreed to plea deals, but Householder and Borges have said they’re innocent.

Also on the stand Wednesday was Pat Tully, an energy policy specialist who worked for Householder. Tully said Householder asked him to add into House Bill 6 a provision to say that it was a tax and therefore could not be challenged in a referendum. That was never added to the bill, though a memo sent to the Ohio Secretary of State’s office in August 2019 attempted to make that argument to keep it off the ballot.