By Sydney Kashiwagi, CNN
(CNN) — A former Republican speaker of Ohio’s House of Representatives was sentenced Thursday to 20 years in prison for his role in a $60 million bribery scheme.
Larry Householder was convicted by a federal grand jury in March on racketeering conspiracy charges in connection with a scheme to accept bribes in exchange for ensuring the passage of a billion-dollar bailout for a nuclear energy company.
“We are deeply disappointed in the court’s sentence which we believe was unduly harsh and failed to adequately take into consideration all of Larry’s good deeds in the community over the course of his lifetime,” Householder’s attorney Steve Bradley told CNN in an email. “We are also disappointed that Larry was not permitted to self surrender to begin serving his sentence. We will vigorously pursue an appeal with the hope of winning a new trial.”
Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matthew Borges was also convicted in the scheme. Borges is set to be sentenced in a Cincinnati federal court on Friday.
The US attorney’s office for the Southern District of Ohio in a March news release did not explicitly identify the nuclear energy company involved in the scheme but noted that utility company FirstEnergy Corp. previously agreed to pay a $230 million penalty for “conspiring to bribe public officials and others” as part of a deferred prosecution settlement.
Following Householder’s sentencing, FirstEnergy Corp. told CNN in an email that the company has “accepted responsibility for its actions related to House Bill 6 and has taken significant steps to put past issues behind us. Today we are a different, stronger company with a sound strategy and focused on a bright future.”
The scheme centered on House Bill 6, a $1 billion dollar bailout that saved two nuclear plants operated by FirstEnergy Corp. In March 2017, FirstEnergy started making quarterly $250,000 payments to Householder’s tax-exempt social welfare account named Generation Now, US attorneys in Ohio’s southern district had said.
Householder’s team then used that money to support HB 6’s passage and stop a ballot effort to overturn the law, the implementation of which has since been blocked.
Millions of those dollars went to Householder’s bid for speaker, to other state House candidates likely to support him and to his team’s own pockets.
Householder, federal prosecutors said, spent over $500,000 of those funds to “pay off his credit card balances, repair his Florida home and settle a business lawsuit.”
Borges used about $366,000 for his own benefit and used another $15,000 to bribe an Ohio Republican operative for information on the number of signatures collected on the ballot referendum opposing HB 6, according to the US attorney’s office for the Southern District of Ohio.
Jeffrey Longstreth, Householder’s longtime campaign and political strategist, and Juan Cespedes, a lobbyist, previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the racketeering conspiracy.
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CNN’s Jack Forrest contributed to this report.