FBI informant speaks out after convictions of former House speaker, ex-Ohio GOP chair
It took just over a day for jurors to find Republican former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and ex-Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Borges guilty of federal racketeering charges. The two passed a nuclear power plant bailout law for FirstEnergy in 2019 with the help of the dark money group Generation Now, and then stopped a repeal of that law from going to the ballot.
Jurors were presented with thousands of documents and hundreds of hours of recordings. An FBI informant is on some of them and testified for the prosecution. And he said he's happy to finally publicly tell his story.
Tyler Fehrman said when he heard the news of the guilty verdicts, he had one overriding emotion.
“I'll be honest with you, the immediate feeling was just total relief," Fehrman said. "Total relief that it's finally wrapped up, that justice was served and that these two men are going to be held accountable for their actions.”
Fehrman was a Republican operative in 2019. He was working for Advanced Micro Targeting, a group hired by Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts, a coalition opposed to the nuclear plants bailout House Bill 6. Advanced Micro Targeting was trying to gather more than 200,000 signatures to take the bailout law to the ballot.
Fehrman said Borges, a lobbyist for FirstEnergy, was a friend and mentor. But he was concerned when during a meeting, Borges started asking him about the tough financial situation Fehrman was in. When Borges told him he could make Fehrman’s money troubles go away in exchange for information about the bailout repeal effort, Fehrman called the FBI.
Fehrman agreed to wear a wire to meet with Borges. At one point Borges suggested if then-Columbus Dispatch reporter Randy Ludlow found out about the bribe, he’d blow up Fehrman’s house, which Fehrman said he took very seriously.
"I can honestly say I don't know that I've ever been through something more stressful or scary, and I hope that I never have to again," Fehrman said.
He said it's hard to know a person he considered a friend was using personal information as leverage to commit a crime.
"It was uncomfortable to begin with, but it kept getting scarier. I had folks that would sit outside my office and try and watch me. I had folks following my petitioners out in the field," Fehrman said. "And then on top of that, I had this individual who, again, was a close friend and mentor, threatening my life. And it was very surreal, it was very bizarre. But I think if there's one word that really sums it up, it was genuinely terrifying."
Fehrman said he felt relieved and vindicated by the verdicts, and that the jury believed his testimony. Borges did interviews attempting to disparage Fehrman - including an interview on "The State of Ohio" in August 2021.
"I have not been able to really talk about the case or to respond to the myriad of things that especially Matt Borges has put out there about me. He kind of went on a public media campaign and did his best to try and besmirch my name and really demean my character, and I had to remain silent," Fehrman said.
"Remaining quiet, especially after having come up in an industry where when someone makes claims about you, when someone attacks your character, you have the opportunity to respond, it's been incredibly difficult," Fehrman added. "So I'm relieved now not just that justice was served, but also to have the opportunity to tell my side of the story and let people know what it looks like from the perspective of someone that was really in the thick of it."
Fehrman moved out of Ohio after the case broke. But he said he's happy in Minnesota with his fiancee and their kids, and he's no longer working in politics.
"Honestly, being on the other side of all of this, being not directly engaged in electoral politics, it is refreshing and I'm having a lot of fun," Fehrman said.
Sentencing for Householder and Borges has not been set. They each face 20 years in prison.