Prominent lobbyist appeals 5-year prison sentence in historic Ohio corruption scheme

Jul 13, 2023, 11:04 AM

FILE - Former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, right, walks toward Potter Stewart U.S. C...

FILE - Former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, right, walks toward Potter Stewart U.S. Courthouse with his attorneys Todd Long, left, and Karl Schneider, center, before jury selection in his federal trial, Jan. 20, 2023, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Borges has been sentenced, Friday, June 30, 2023, to five years in prison and three years of probation for his part in the largest corruption scandal in Ohio history. AP Photo/Joshua A. Bickel, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lobbyist Matt Borges appealed his 5-year sentence late Wednesday in the $60 million bribery scheme that also took down former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

Borges, 51, a former chair of the Ohio Republican Party, was convicted in March of racketeering alongside Householder.

Authorities said the scheme involved secret payments to Akron-based utility FirstEnergy Corp. to secure Householder’s power, elect his allies to the Legislature, pass legislation containing a $1.3 billion bailout of two aging nuclear plants owned by a FirstEnergy affiliate, and then foil efforts to repeal the new law.

Prosecutors said Borges’ primary role in the enterprise was to deprive Ohioans of the opportunity to overturn what he knew was corrupt legislation and had called the result of an “ unholy alliance.” Jurors were presented evidence that he was budgeted $25,000, which he laundered through his own bank accounts to bribe a political operative for secret, real-time information on the referendum campaign against the bailout bill, known as House Bill 6.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black gave Borges the low end of the 5- to 8-year range recommended by federal prosecutors after he expressed remorse at his sentencing hearing and asked for leniency. Borges’ lawyers had recommended he get 1 1/2 years.

Black’s decision concerning Borges came a day after the judge sentenced the 64-year-old Householder to 20 years in prison, the maximum allowed under the law, and a year of probation. Householder also has appealed.

During trial, Borges’ attorneys argued that the lobbyist had only a minor, short-term role in the massive operation, in which two other individuals, a dark money group and FirstEnergy have all acknowledged their guilt.

Several fired FirstEnergy executives and the former head of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio also have been investigated in a sweeping probe that remains open.

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Prominent lobbyist appeals 5-year prison sentence in historic Ohio corruption scheme