Bar machine operators donated $ 100,000 to nonprofit that pleaded guilty to state corruption case

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A trade association linked to bar machine operators paid $ 100,000 to a political nonprofit that pleaded guilty to its role in an alleged bribery operation organized by the former president of Ohio House, according to tax records.

The 2019 payout comes from the Fair Gaming Coalition of Ohio (FGCO), which has strong ties to the Ohio Coin Machine Association. The coin acceptors association represents vendors and providers of bar entertainment such as arcade games, pool tables and jukeboxes.

The money went to Generation Now, a nonprofit that federal prosecutors say then chairman Larry Householder R-Glenford controlled when she received $ 61 million from FirstEnergy Corp. the subsidiary of the company.

Generation Now – a 501 (c) (4) nonprofit, technically known as a ‘welfare’ organization that is not required to disclose its donors, but more commonly referred to as ‘black money’ – has been used “as a mechanism to receive undisclosed information.” donations for the benefit of Householder ”, according to a statement of facts, he accepted in a guilty plea. The association agreed to confiscate its assets from the government, including nearly $ 1.5 million from its accounts.

Prosecutors also accused Neil Clark of a conspirator, a powerful Republican lobbyist. They claim recorded phone calls detail Clark telling lobbyists for FirstEnergy that Generation Now was operating as Householder’s secret account and Clark was Householder’s agent.

“It’s a secret, a (c) (4) is a secret,” Clark said on a taped call, according to government prosecutors. “No one knows the money is going to the President’s account. It is controlled by his people, one of his own, and it is not recorded.

Householder and Clark have pleaded not guilty, as has lobbyist Matt Borges, who has also been charged. Lobbyist Juan Cespedes and political strategist Jeff Longstreth pleaded guilty last year.

Among other clients, Clark worked as a lobbyist for the FGCO dating from 2013, show lobbying files. In 2019, he registered to lobby for the coalition on the state budget and two sports betting bills navigating the legislature at the time.

Tax documents 2019 show that the coalition made a $ 100,000 cash contribution to Generation Now at an address linked to Householder. This information does not provide precise dates for contributions.

Screenshot of the 2019 Fair Gaming Coalition of Ohio tax return.

One of the FGCO’s lobbyists, David Corey, declined to comment on the matter.

The coalition shares an address with the Ohio Coin Machine Association (OCMA). Its 11 board members also sit on the OCMA board of directors. Several board members work in or own businesses that rent and maintain coin operated bar machines.

The coalition is currently pushing to reshape a sports betting bill that was passed by the Senate earlier this year. FGCO members urged lawmakers to allow Ohioans to place bets on Keno machines, commonplace in bars, bowling alleys and retail outlets statewide. They want the bill to be broadened to allow betting on Keno machines in retail stores (grocery stores and convenience stores), which is not allowed under the current bill. This, they said, will tip the scales away from the big cities that have casinos and large sports arenas and towards the less populous counties that lack such facilities.

The government has built its case around Generation Now as a vehicle to accept $ 61 million in FirstEnergy funds. The company recently admitted making the payments in a civil lawsuit related to the scandal.

However, several parties that include interests unrelated to the energy industry also contributed to the account.

Media reports, using tax returns, identified payments to Generation Now from other sources, including at least $ 700,000 of a non-profit funded solely by American Electric Power (also a major beneficiary of the bill cited by prosecutors); $ 135,000 from a professional association representing nursing homes; $ 25,000 from a payday loan company (according to prosecutors); and $ 840,000 in several unions.

Clark, who committed suicide earlier this year, was a registered lobbyist for at least two Generation Now beneficiaries: the FGCO and the Ohio Health Care Association (nursing homes).

He did not register as a lobbyist for alleged work for FirstEnergy.

He has also represented several different payday lenders, although court documents do not specify which industry company contributed to Generation Now, obscuring any possible connection.

Before his death, told Cleveland.com he believes the government case against him was built in part on secret 2019 recordings made by other clients who hired him to help influence current sports betting legislation. He said he now believed the alleged clients were FBI agents.

His lawyer, who also represents Generation Now in criminal proceedings, did not respond to an investigation.

Two Householder lawyers did not respond to an email.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio said she would look into the matter but did not respond until the publication.

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