FBI agents raided the home of former Ohio House speaker Cliff Rosenberger in Clarksville on Wednesday, and also searched a storage facility in Wilmington, Ohio.
“We are conducting law enforcement activities in those areas,” said FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren told the Dayton Daily News, declining to comment further.
Rosenberger, a Republican, resigned in April after learning that the FBI was investigating him for possible corruption charges. He announced at the time of his resignation that he had hired a criminal defense attorney.
The FBI is reportedly looking into multiple trips Rosenberger took as well as a luxury condo in Columbus, allegedly paid for by a Republican mega-donor. Perhaps the most serious allegation is that he may have spiked a payday lender bill after taking trips funded by lenders who were lobbying against it.
According to Ohio Rep. Nino Vitale, the FBI is investigating Rosenberger—and perhaps Rep. Ryan Smith, a close ally of Rosenberger’s who is the frontrunner in the race to become the next speaker—for the following.
1) Ginni Ragan’s Condo rent – the one neither Cliff or Ryan likely could afford.
2) Naples Florida Fundraiser – This is a big event where key Republican establishment types are invited down to Florida in the winter for a ‘warm up.’ I was proud to not be invited, for 3 years in a row.
3) Rumor of a Disney Trip and what may have occurred there.
4) Greenbrier Fundraiser – Yes, yet another non-Ohio fundraiser trip. Let’s go ahead and bring more Ohio dollars to another state. What a fantastic way to show you support the Buckeye State and what some of us, who actually work and employ people in Ohio, try to get up and do every day, make the state of Ohio great every day for folks.
5) A Campbell’s Grocery Story in Smith’s district that was funded by shady sources, which might be linked to the state budget, to which Smith was in control of as the Finance Director.
Work in the Ohio House is at a standstill while Republicans bicker over who should become the next speaker. According to House rules, 50 votes are required to elect a speaker. Smith is currently stuck at 42, with many members standing their ground and refusing to vote for him, citing his close ties to Rosenberger and saying Smith is the heir apparent to the Rosenberger “crime ring,” as conservative Rep. Nino Vitale calls it. Vitale, who supports Rep. Andy Thompson for the position, has been blasting Smith and his colleagues who support him in a pair of scathing Facebook posts.
“And all the Smith team wants to do is talk about getting back to the ‘people’s business,’ Vitali wrote on Wednesday. “The truth is, all these people care about is getting into the people’s back pockets, controlling our paychecks so they can spend the hard-earned taxpayer earned money on their crony pet projects, and then get kickbacks by using our money, by picking winners and losers, who just happened to write checks back to their campaign accounts. Enough is enough.”
He called on Smith to remove his name from the speaker’s race. “Show that you care more about the people of Ohio and our government and the Republican majority instead of your own self-interests and power grabbing moves.”
Last week Vitale wrote, “I’d rather have a government ‘pause’ than a corrupt swamp government passing bills that may be pay-to-play and rigged by a few mega-donors and their financial interests.” He added, “These swamp creatures actually had the nerve to put the payday lending bill on the floor schedule for a vote today which is a likely main target of the FBI investigation! You have got to be kidding me! I hope my other 17 colleagues stand firm. No government is better than this corruption.”
“I’d rather take care and have a pause then continue on as business as usual, which is defined as pay-to-play, resignations, mega-donors, Republicans funding Democrats and FBI investigations,” he added.
The House has canceled sessions for the rest of the week as Ryan’s team works to secure enough votes to win, although he tweeted today that he believes he has the necessary support:
I am incredibly frustrated by the cancellation of the House’s business for the remainder of the week. I have the necessary support and the House should proceed with a vote. The people’s business is too important to be inhibited by a small faction of members. https://t.co/k1jxpnbU2b
— Ryan Smith (@RyanSmithOH) May 23, 2018
Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper urged Republicans to pick a speaker so the House can get back to work.
“I cannot remember a spectacle in Ohio like we are seeing right now,” Pepper says. “And you have all of this work that needs to be done on the issues the average person cares about – everything from the opioid crisis to the ECOT scandal and a dramatic need for improvement in our voting systems – and now here they are, going into weeks without even being able to have a meeting for goodness sakes.”
Follow Paula on Twitter @pbolyard