Jailed lawmaker files appeal, says bribery is 1A protected
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Background: The then-FirstEnergy Corp.

Background: The then-FirstEnergy Corp.’s Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, Ohio, is pictured on April 4, 2017. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane, File) Inset: Then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder sits at the head of a legislative session in Columbus, Ohio, Oct. 30, 2019. Householder took a $61 million bribe in exchange for legislation to give FirstEnergy a $1 billion bailout. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

Sentenced to serve 20 years for accepting a $61 million bribe, disgraced and imprisoned former Ohio Speaker of the House Larry Householder has filed an appeal arguing his First Amendment right to accept undisclosed campaign cash — a la Citizens United v. FEC — is protected, not corrupt.

He has appealed both his verdict and sentence.

The argument is spread out over a massive 105-page brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and it slams his 2023 jury conviction in which he was found to have played a central role, along with co-defendant Matt Borges, then the Ohio Republican House leader, in orchestrating the state’s largest-ever corruption scandal, according to the Justice Department.

At its core, Householder’s contends that because corporations are legally considered people after the Citizens United ruling — and people have the right to free speech — then those corporations can use their dollars to speak to politicians.

For the imprisoned former politician, the “bribes” he was accused of taking were just that: corporate interests talking to him.

“The Supreme Court has long held that the government ‘may not target … the political access’ that financial support for candidates ‘may afford,’” the brief argues. “’Ingratiation and access are not corruption,’ but rather ‘embody a central feature of democracy—that constituents support candidates who share their beliefs and interests, and candidates who are elected can be expected to be responsive to those concerns.’”

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