Federal authorities are investigating extortion, bribery and violations of the Travel Act involving former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and representatives of the payday lending industry, according to documents released Monday by the House.
Federal authorities sent a search and seizure warrant to the Ohio House on May 22, and House Legal Counsel Mike Lenzo turned over four boxes and a thumb drive. Federal authorities have obtained Rosenberger’s travel schedules, both official and personal, travel companions, emails, method of payments and meeting schedules.
According to the seven-page warrant — obtained by The Dispatch and other news organizations in response to a public records request — federal officials sought communications between Rosenberger, a Republican from Clarksville, and lobbyists Stephen Dimon and Leslie Gaines, whose clients include payday lenders, and Advance America executive Carol Stewart, among others.
The warrant wants “information concerning” payday lending legislation; evidence of payments, kickbacks, bribes or other benefits (such as payment of travel-related expenses) offered to, paid to, received by, solicited by or anticipated by public officials.”
It goes on to ask for “any evidence of official acts taken by public officials connected with benefits received from Stewart, Dimon and Gains, and others yet unknown.”
Rosenberger, who resigned effectively in April, has maintained he acted lawfully in regards to his overseas trips with payday lobbyists. Earlier this year, federal officials searched his home and a storage facility where he stored items from his office after he left.
The warrant says that with respect to the Travel Act, there is reason to believe those identified in the warrant have used “facilities of interstate commerce” to carry on “unlawful activity including bribery.”
Following Rosenberger’s resignation, the House Republican leaders passed a payday lending regulation bill that had been bottled up for more than year. Payday lenders strongly opposed the measure, which has been signed into law by Gov. John Kasich.
Documents also show that a federal grand jury has been empaneled in Cincinnati to hear evidence on the case.
U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman and Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Singer sent a subpoena to Kim Flasher, the House chief administration officer, on April 9, ordering her to testify before the grand jury. The request came one day before Rosenberger announced his resignation to the GOP caucus.
A cover letter asks that Flasher not disclose the existence of the request because it could impede the investigation.