The Growth and Opportunity PAC was responsible for attack ads like this against Clinton County Republican Beth Ellis in 2018.
The Growth and Opportunity PAC was responsible for attack ads like this against Clinton County Republican Beth Ellis in 2018.

Four allies of former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder entered not guilty pleas before U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Litkovitz on Aug. 6.

Lobbyists Matthew Borges, Juan Cespedes and Neil Clark and political campaign associate Jeff Longstreth pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges laid out in an 80-page complaint released in late July.

Householder was not in court, as he is seeking new legal counsel. Householder's attorneys, David Thomas and Kathryn Wallrabenstein, withdrew from the case citing a potential conflict of interest. Householder is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday, Aug. 20.

According to the federal complaint, investigators allege that Householder, Borges, Cespedes, Clark and Longstreth used $60 million from "Company A" with a primary objective of passing House Bill 6, which would raise $1.3 billion for the Davis-Bessie and Perry nuclear plants.

House Bill 6 was cosponsored by Republican Reps. Jamie Callender of Lake County and Shane Wilkin of Hillsboro, who represents the 91st House District.

On July 23, 2019, the Ohio Senate passed H.B. 6 by a 19-12 vote, sending it back to the Ohio House, which concurred the same day with 51-38 vote. Gov. Mike DeWine signed the legislation into law the same day. Following the arrests of Householder and his four associates, DeWine has called on the General Assembly to repeal House Bill 6. Several members of the General Assembly also are calling for the repeal of H.B. 6.

Wilkin stands by the legislation.

According to finance reports from his 2018 primary campaign against Clinton County Republican Beth Ellis, Wilkin spent more than $50,000 with JPL & Associates for mailings and other political advertisements. JPL was operated by Longstreth. Randy Ludlow in The Columbus Dispatch reports that Wilkin paid Longstreth's firm $81,738. Wilkin said on Aug. 7 that he did use the firm, but was not sure of the amount paid. 

Wilkin noted during a 2018 candidates forum with Ellis that Longstreth was assisting with managing his campaign.

It is alleged that Longstreth controlled the Growth and Opportunity PAC, which was responsible for the 2018 attack mailers against Ellis. In one of several fliers, Ellis was labeled "hand-picked by political insiders." The mailer had the return address of Growth and Opportunity PAC, 407 Vine Street, Suite 242, Cincinnati, Ohio 45202.

According to reports this week, federal records show Eric Lycan, a lawyer and Republican consultant in Lexington, Ky., had served as treasurer of the Growth and Opportunity PAC, the Coalition for Growth and Opportunity and Generation Now, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that has been indicted in the federal racketeering charges.

The federal complaint alleges that Householder's "enterprise" used the coalition as a "pass-through" to transfer money from “Company A,” to the Growth and Opportunity PAC to benefit Householder-backed candidates.

Wilkin has denied any knowledge of the allegations against Householder.

In a 2018 letter to The Highland County Press, Ellis wrote: "I do not want negative ads to filter across our communities clouding the judgment of our voters. I am disappointed to see the negative ads directed at me that are coming from in state and out of state supporting my opponent. I hope and pray the people across this district will see through the rhetoric and look for the substance. My eyes are cast forward, and I am working with laser focus on the issues pertaining to our communities to provide the educated and prepared representative they deserve, should I be elected to office."

Read the complaint

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