An Ohio bill cracking down on the payday-lending industry was recently signed into law, just months after Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned amid investigations into his connections to the industry.
House Bill 123 was introduced in March 2017, but sat in committee until June 2018, when the House voted in favor of its passage 71-16. It quickly passed the Senate and was signed into law by Gov. John Kasich, all of this transpiring just two months after Rosenberger’s resignation.
On Monday, the Ohio House released a subpoena and seizure warrant sent to House Chief Administrative Office Kim Flasher, requesting three boxes of materials and a thumb drive belonging to Rosenberger.
According to the seizure warrant, the contents of Rosenberger’s items “relate to violations of Conspiracy to Commit Extortion, Attempt to Commit Extortion, and Extortion.”
The warrant also lists lobbyists Stephen Dimon Jr., Leslie Gaines, and Advance America executive Carol Stewart as targets of the investigation, the last of whom Rosenberger made three international trips with, according to an April report from The Dayton Daily News.
The Cincinnati Enquirer later reported that Rosenberger stayed free-of-charge in a five-star hotel during one of the trips, describing his lifestyle as “lavish.”
As such, the FBI is also seeking correspondences between Rosenberger and the lobbyists related to “payday lending legislation; evidence of payments, kickbacks, bribes or other benefits such as payment of travel related expenses,” the newly-released documents state.
Travel expenses are of particular interest in the investigation, since the former speaker revealed in May that he was reimbursed for $43,000 in travel-related expenses. Of the $43,000, $13,700 came from his campaign committee, $10,900 from the Republican Organization Committee, while another $18,400 came from various other political organizations, according to Cleveland.com.
“The trips were all perfectly lawful. They were properly reported. And he remains confident in his ultimate vindication,” said Rosenberger’s attorney David Axelrod, whom he hired after the FBI investigation was announced.
Democrats jumped on the opportunity to criticize Ohio’s Republicans Monday, saying there is a “culture of corruption” in the Legislature.
“Unfortunately we don’t have a clearer picture today of how deep the Republican culture of corruption and pay-to-play stems than we did when former Speaker Rosenberger resigned in April,” Rep. Kristin Boggs told The Columbus Dispatch. “However, we know by looking at their legislative priorities that this Republican leadership team has been putting special interests above Ohio’s future for a long time.”