COLUMBUS, Ohio – Files released Monday on cleveland.com and other Ohio news agencies confirmed earlier reports that the FBI was investigating former House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s connections to lobbyists payday loans with which he traveled abroad.
The office of the President of the Chamber issued a grand jury summons issued to a senior official in April and a search and seizure warrant executed on May 23.
The House then released thousands of pages of documents relating to Rosenberger’s travels and articles contained in his state office. These files were searched months ago by cleveland.com and other news outlets but, according to House legal counsel, could not be disclosed due to the FBI investigation.
Here’s what we learned about the Rosenberger inquiry and the former Republican’s trip to Statehouse on Monday.
1. Prosecutors were considering serious federal charges against Rosenberger.
The search warrant mentions several possible crimes prosecutors were investigating: extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and bribery under federal travel law.
The Travel Law prohibits interstate or international travel for the purpose of committing illegal acts such as bribery or extortion. Penalties for violating the laws cited in the warrant could include fines and up to 20 years in prison.
No charges have been laid. A search for the case in a database of court records returned no results and it is likely sealed.
2. Payday loans were the focus of the FBI investigation.
FBI agents were spotted outside the Riffe Center late in the day on May 23, after officers already seized items from Rosenberger’s residence in Clarksville and from a nearby storage unit. Cleveland.com requested information the next day on what had been seized from the House offices.
Records provided on Monday, three months later, show the following were taken:
- A USB stick containing files
- Three boxes of various documents and files
- A box of “sports coats and jackets”
According to the warrant, the boxes were believed to include communications with Stephen Dimon and Leslie Gaines, who lobbied for auto stock lending firm Select Management Resources, and Advance America executive Carol Stewart. The three were part of a trip to London that Rosenberger was on with the conservative group GOPAC.
More specifically, they looked for a communication involving:
- payday loan legislation;
- evidence of payments, bribes, bribes or other benefits (such as payment of travel expenses) offered to, paid to, received by, solicited by or anticipated by public officials ;
- interactions or relationships with Ohio State lawmakers or any other person or entity regarding the above violations;
- any evidence of attempts to influence public officials through bribery or other unlawful behavior and any evidence of official acts performed by public officials in connection with the benefits received from Stewart, Dimon and Gaines and from others still unknown.
Neil Clark, Payday Loan Lobbyist told cleveland.com in May that Rosenberger told other lobbyists on the trip to London that he could wipe out the industry if he wanted to but wouldn’t. Rosenberger’s attorney, David Axelrod, disputed this report.
3. Axelrod says Rosenberger has nothing to hide.
Axelrod said the warrant and the subpoena did not include any new details that had not been known for months and cautioned against overreading the search warrant.
“These are one-sided documents that are often little more than wish lists of evidence for investigators and prosecutors, and the threshold for inclusion in a search warrant is very low,” Axelrod said in a statement. written.
Axelrod said Rosenberger had nothing to hide and consented to the FBI taking documents and photos that were not covered by the search warrant.
“He will continue to provide his full cooperation in anticipation of his ultimate justification,” said Axelrod.
4. Rosenberger’s resignation came after a summons to appear before a grand jury.
The Dayton Daily News reported on April 6 that Rosenberger had hired a defense attorney. At that time, Rosenberger said he was not under investigation and had hired a lawyer as a precaution.
A recently issued subpoena was issued to House Executive Director Kim Flasher on April 9 to search for records or his testimony before a grand jury. Rosenberger announced his resignation on April 10 with the intention of stepping down at the end of the month. However, on April 12, he announced that he would be leaving his post immediately.
5. Rosenberger loved to collect things.
It was no secret that Rosenberger, 37, considered himself a history buff and a political junkie, but a 53-page inventory of artifacts kept in his state office and closet shows the extent of these interests.
Among them: busts of presidents, figurines of political figures, mugs, books, commemorative coins, a White House replica and a clown nose.
He also had framed shirts of Archie Griffin and Jim Brown and several works of art, including a painting of Rosenberger watching Lincoln, Roosevelt, and six other former presidents playing poker.