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Ohio labor union leader is asked to testify for Householder in bribery case

The Perry nuclear power plant, one of two that will receive subsidies from House Bill 6.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau

Timothy Burga, Ohio AFL-CIO president, has been asked to testify in federal court as a witness for Republican former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

In a court filing Monday, Burga’s attorneys asked the court to quash the subpoena and not require Burga to take the stand for Householder, who is accused of playing a role in a $61 million bribery scheme.

Burga’s motion stated that the Ohio AFL-CIO received $1.4 million from the political nonprofit Generation Now to help in a campaign against the effort to repeal House Bill 6, a nuclear power plant bailout.

Prosecutors have said FirstEnergy pumped tens of millions of dollars into Generation Now, a 501(c)4 allegedly run by Householder so he could use the money for personal and political gain. Prosecutors said Householder passed the nuclear power plant bailout for FirstEnergy in exchange for that money.

According to Burga's attorneys, the Ohio AFL-CIO accepted that money from Generation Now on the condition that the labor union would “control the content of the advertising.”

The court filing said the ads against the HB 6 referendum would “tout the virtues” of the bill, such as saving 4,000 jobs at the Perry and Davis-Besse nuclear power plants.

Burga’s attorneys said the president of the Ohio AFL-CIO should not have to take the stand and that the Householder attorneys lacked “professional courtesy” by not explaining to Burga the purpose for calling him as a witness.

“He can only guess that he would be asked to highlight the virtues of HB 6,” the court filing stated. The judge has told counsel to avoid discussing any benefits of the bill.

The connection between the Ohio AFL-CIO and Generation Now is a new development as more details in the case against Householder unfold.

One aspect of the case is the accusation that Householder developed a plan to rise to power with the help of FirstEnergy’s money. Another chapter took place after HB 6 was signed into law but before it went into effect.

Householder, Generation Now, and co-defendant Matt Borges are accused of using bribe money to defeat the repeal effort of HB 6. The referendum attempt did fail and the bill became law in October 2019.

Burga’s attorney said their client has no knowledge of the alleged quid pro quo between FirstEnergy and Householder.

The motion stated, “Consequently, Householder cannot demonstrate Timothy Burga can provide any relevant and material testimony favorable to Householder’s defense or that his presence is necessary to an adequate defense. Therefore, Burga’s subpoena must be quashed.”

The trial of Householder and Borges continued Tuesday with the prosecution bringing more of their witnesses to the stand.

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