Generation Now, a supposed social welfare 501(c)4 organization, submitted a guilty plea in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio regarding one charge of public corruption racketeering conspiracy. The organization had been serving as a front for receiving undisclosed donations on behalf of Larry Householder, a member of the Ohio House of Representatives, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
Jeffrey Longstreth, a campaign and political strategist who worked with Householder, signed the plea on behalf of the Generation Now. Longstreth himself had pled guilty to an identical charge in October 2020, as had lobbyist Juan Cespedes.
According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, Generation Now passed about $61 million in donations from an unnamed energy company and its affiliates to Householder. In return, Householder allegedly supported a bill protecting a billion-dollar nuclear plant bailout. The defendants allegedly defeated a ballot initiative that would have overturned the bailout.
In his October plea, Longstreth admitted to organizing Generation Now to channel money into Householder’s bid to become Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives. Longstreth also admitted to managing the Generation Now bank accounts and taking actions to mask the source of the alleged nonprofit’s funding.
Cespedes admitted to coordinating payments to Generation Now with the knowledge that the money would benefit Householder and, in return, the bailout legislation would be passed and preserved.
Three other individuals, including Householder, Matthew Borges and Neil Clark, have also been charged with racketeering through wire fraud, receipt of bribes and money laundering. Borges is a lobbyist who had previously served as the Chair of the Ohio Republican Party and Clark is a lobbyist who had previously served as budget director for the Ohio Republican Caucus.
All three maintain their innocence.
An article on Cleveland.com identified the unnamed energy company as FirstEnergy Corp., Akron, Ohio, and pegged the cost of bailing out the two nuclear power plants, which were described as “aging,” at $1.3 billion.
According to the terms of the plea, Generation Now agreed to forfeit all of its assets, which include $1.5 million in organization bank accounts. The organization is also facing a probationary period of up to five years.
The scandal began in February 2017, when Longstreth incorporated Generation Now as a social welfare entity with the purpose of promoting energy independence and economic development, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio. In March 2017, Generation Now allegedly began receiving $250,000 payments into its bank account.
The money was purportedly used for supporting Householder’s Speaker bid, supporting 21 candidacies – 15 in primaries and six more in the general election. According to a statement from the Attorney’s Office, all those who won their races in 2018 voted for Householder for speaker.
Generation Now money was also allegedly used to pay the salaries of Householder’s campaign staff. Householder purportedly received $400,000 in part to settle a personal lawsuit, to pay for costs associated with his Florida home, and to resolve thousands of dollars in credit card debt. According to an Attorney’s Office statement, an additional $15,000 was used to provide insider information about the ballot initiative and to pay $2,500 for individuals to gather signatures in support of the bill.
Householder’s campaign for speaker was successful. But on July 30, 2020, after the charges against him were announced, the Ohio House unanimously removed him as speaker. He remains a member of the House.