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FBI alleges bribes, extortion by former Ohio House speaker

COLUMBUS (AP) — Federal investigators seized records from former Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger’s office earlier this year as part of a federal criminal investigation into potential bribes and kickbacks surrounding payday lending legislation, according to documents released Monday.

A subpoena and search warrant that the House released in response to public records requests provided new details of the FBI probe that led to the Republican rising star’s sudden resignation in April.

Agents seized three boxes of documents, a box of sport coats and a jacket, and a thumb drive in May that investigators believe contain evidence of extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion, attempt to commit extortion and bribery, the documents show.

Later Monday, the House released the hundreds of pages of documents it has turned over to the FBI.

House Republicans’ political fund, OHROC, also released documents Monday showing it had turned over to the FBI a personal computer left behind by Rosenberger. A spokesman said the organization volunteered the information “in the interest of transparency.”

Rosenberger’s lawyer, David Axelrod, reiterated that Rosenberger “has nothing to hide” and is fully cooperating in the investigation.

He said the warrants and documents released Monday contained nothing that hasn’t been known for months and cautioned against reading too much into them.

“Search warrants may be interesting to read, but aren’t necessarily good indicators of what evidence actually exists,” he said in a statement.

“They 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.”

Investigators also sought documentation of Rosenberger’s travels and his communications with payday industry lobbyists Stephen Dimon Jr. and Leslie Gaines, Advance America vice president Carol Stewart and others.

Rosenberger left the House April 10, a day after documents show U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman sent a letter to House administrator noting “an official criminal investigation” was being conducted.

Then one of Ohio’s most powerful politicians, Rosenberger had been criticized for his lavish lifestyle, including traveling around the world and staying in a luxury downtown Columbus condo owned by a wealthy Republican donor. He has said all his actions as speaker were “ethical and lawful.”

Among Rosenberger’s travels was a trip last August to London for an event sponsored and paid for by the GOPAC Education Fund’s Institute for Leadership Development. GOPAC works to elect Republicans to higher office.

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