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Ohio House Speaker Resigns Amid FBI Probe

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) announced this week that he will resign, effective May 1. According to recent reports, the FBI is investigating Rosenberger's foreign trips and his use of a luxury condo in Columbus. Rosenberger's caucus has been plagued by sex scandals, resignations, and GOP infighting in recent months.

In a statement released Tuesday night, Rosenberger defended his actions as speaker, saying they were "ethical and lawful."

"Meanwhile, there are many important issues facing our state that deserve careful consideration and review, and Ohioans deserve elected leaders who are able to devote their full and undivided attention to these matters," Rosenberger said, noting that the investigation "could take months or even years to resolve."

"Quite frankly, I'll be up front: I think politics is a pretty dirty place right now," Rosenberger told the Dayton Daily News last week. "I have not been subpoenaed. And as far as I know I have not been told I'm under investigation."

In response to the probe, he reportedly lawyered up, hiring Columbus attorney David Axelrod, who has experience in white-collar crime.

Rosenberger explained, "As a precautionary measure, I went ahead and hired David Axelrod because I had been made aware and understand that the bureau is asking questions about things I may have been involved in. But that is only from a precautionary standpoint. I'm not going to answer any more questions than that."

Rosenberger, who was elected House Speaker at age 33, rose to power quickly at the Statehouse. With a thin resume, the relative newcomer edged out veteran lawmaker Rep. Ron Amstutz for the position.

He's reportedly being investigated for his lavish lifestyle while serving as speaker, including his extensive worldwide travel and his use of a luxury condo in downtown Columbus owned by a GOP donor.

Ohio has term limits for the legislature, so Rosenberger, 36, who has been closely aligned with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, was due to be term-limited out anyway. Now he can get a head start on his lucrative lobbying career. But the scandal could have an impact on the contentious GOP primaries slated for May. Several of the major statewide candidates have come out swinging at Rosenberger. Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, a staunch conservative who is running for governor, issued a scathing rebuke of Rosenberger:

The behavior that Speaker Rosenberger stands accused of is part and parcel of the hubris that the Columbus Establishment and good old boy network display on a regular basis. The cavalier attitude that they are somehow above the fray of comporting themselves as public servants beholden to the constituents they are sworn to represent is the reason I am running for Governor.  This is what the Swamp looks like.  And this is what I am going to erase in state government.  While I agree with the Speaker’s decision to step down, there are still many unanswered questions.  The first of which is what did Mike DeWine know that prompted his Friday call to the Speaker’s office?  The days of the Establishment are numbered.  Rosenberger is just the first.