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Government & Politics

Ex-Ohio GOP Chair Speaks Out on His Arrest in Nuclear Bailout Corruption Case

Matt Borges leaves federal court in Columbus
Andy Chow
/
Statehouse News Bureau
Former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges leaves federal court in Columbus after his arrest in July 2020. He is now speaking out about his alleged involvement, or what he says is lack thereof, in the federal corruption scheme involving a nuclear bailout law.

Two defendants accused in the $61 million corruption scandal involving the nuclear bailout law have maintained their innocence, as others have agreed to plea deals. One of them is former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges.

On the morning of July 20, 2020, five people were arrested in connection with what federal prosecutors say was a huge pay-to-play scandal, as described by then-US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David Devillers as “likely the largest bribery, money laundering scheme ever perpetrated against the people of the state of Ohio”.

Prosecutors say the scheme was connected to the sweeping nuclear power plant bailout law known as House Bill 6.

In the last year, two of those arrested, Juan Cespedes and Jeff Longstreth, have pleaded guilty. Another, Neil Clark, died by suicide. The 501(c)4 non-profit dark money group Generation Now entered into a plea deal, as did FirstEnergy, which agreed to pay a $230 million fine. But the then-Speaker of the Ohio House, Republican Larry Householder has said he's innocent, even as he was ousted from leadership not long after his arrest and then expelled from the House earlier this year.

So has the former chair of the Ohio Republican Party, Matt Borges, though he’s kept a fairly low profile, with locked tweets and few interviews.

“I'm going to keep fighting. Whether people like it or not,” Borges said in an interview for “The State of Ohio.”

Borges said he's not disputing that there was, as federal prosecutors said, a scandal that was the largest corruption scandal in state history. But when asked if he's saying that he wasn't a part of it, Borges responded: “That is absolutely correct.”

Borges hasn’t spoken out much but is now talking about a complaint he’s filed, alleging federal prosecutors lied about evidence in a meeting last year to get him to plead guilty.

"Something happened that was unjust in and we thought inappropriate in a session that was very serious about what was going to happen with this case and with my life moving forward," Borges said. "They lied about evidence that they said that they had that they now have admitted that they didn't have. And I filed a complaint about it."

A statement tweeted out by the Acting US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, Vipal J. Patel, said: “From time to time, charged defendants and their supporters seek to intimidate our prosecutors, by making frivolous bar complaints, engaging in public slur campaigns, or otherwise. It doesn't work. Such intimidation efforts ring hollow and are wholly inappropriate. Our federal prosecutors are dedicated public servants who act with integrity and professionalism while pursuing one thing above all else justice. What are unfortunately becoming all-too-familiar intimidation efforts will not deter this Office's vigorous pursuit of it.”

US Attorney Vipal J. Patel's statement

Borges said he’s just trying to fight back.

“Me, a single defendant, you know, on his own, paying for his own defense. One single individual trying to intimidate the United States Department of Justice, who has all the power of the United States government that they can exert on you, is just a ridiculous sort of a comment to make and not at all what I'm trying to do," Borges said.

And Borges said he suspects former President Donald Trump, who had Borges ousted as party chair in early 2017, had something to do with his arrest last year.

“It does lead one to believe that the only reason to include me in this issue that I had no involvement in whatsoever for at any point in time was an attempt to try to shut down the PAC that Anthony Scaramucci and I and others were working on to try to defeat President Trump," Borges said.

Borges said he wants to testify before the grand jury but hasn’t been offered the opportunity. There has been no trial date set for either Borges or Householder.

Former US Attorney DeVillers said the pandemic has delayed the process, which usually takes about nine months to a year from indictment to trial. And he said the investigation is ongoing so additional indictments and arrests are possible.
Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.