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Ohio House speaker resigns amid talk of FBI investigation; state Rep. Nathan Manning also on trip at issue

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    Cliff Rosenberger, speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, looks at church candles at A.I. Root Candles, IN Medina In 2016. Rosenberger has announced his resignation in the midst of an FBI investigation.

    HALEE HEIRONIMUS / CHRONICLE FILE

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COLUMBUS — The Ohio House Speaker resigned Tuesday amid talk of an FBI investigation into his activities, especially an August trip to London, which state Rep. Nathan Manning, R-North Ridgeville, also attended.

Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, a term-limited Republican, said that while he believes all of his actions as speaker have been “ethical and lawful,” he understands the inquiry could take some time to resolve.

“Meanwhile, there are many important issues facing our state that deserve careful consideration and review, and Ohioans deserve elected leaders who are able to devote their full and undivided attention to these matters,” Rosenberger said in a statement.

In August, Rosenberger took a four-day trip to London with Republican leaders from other states for an event paid for by the GOPAC Education Fund’s Institute for Leadership Development. GOPAC helps elect Republicans to higher office.

According to Manning’s 2017 Financial Disclosure Form, which was filed March 9 with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee, he owed at least $1,000 to GOPAC in 2017 in addition to receiving travel reimbursements from both the Committee to Elect Cliff Rosenberger and GOPAC in the amount of $761.63 and $958.48, respectively.

The disclosure form also said Manning, who is running this year for the state Senate seat currently held by his mother, Gayle Manning, received gifts of more than $25 from Rosenberger, the Committee to Elect Cliff Rosenberger and GOPAC in addition to receiving meal reimbursement in amounts exceeding $100 from the Committee to Elect Cliff Rosenberger and GOPAC.

In a statement, Manning confirmed he was on the trip with other elected officials, including Rosenberger.

“I happened to be on the same trip with the speaker, along with other elected officials,” he said. “I believe that elected officials should be held to the highest possible standard and that is how I always conduct myself. I wish I could say more, but since there is an ongoing investigation, I am not able to comment at this time.”

Rosenberger told the Dayton Daily News on Friday that he hired Columbus attorney David Axelrod, a former federal prosecutor, “as a precautionary measure.” He said the FBI has been asking questions but has not subpoenaed him or told him he’s under investigation.

“Quite frankly, I’ll be up front: I think politics is a pretty dirty place right now,” Rosenberger told the newspaper in an interview.

The FBI has declined to confirm or deny that Rosenberger is being investigated. An FBI inquiry would not necessarily result in charges.

Rosenberg said his resignation would take effect May 1. At that time, he said, Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring would assume his responsibilities as speaker until the House elects a new speaker.

Steve Dimon, an Ohio-based lobbyist for title lender LoanMax, also was on the trip. Title and payday lenders have been lobbying against proposed legislation at the Statehouse that would place restrictions on their industry.

Dimon confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday that he attended the GOPAC event and that he saw Rosenberger there. He declined to say whether the two discussed any legislation or whether he has since been questioned by the FBI.

Dimon said representatives of several other companies, representing industries other than payday lending, also participated.

Chronicle-Telegram reporter Katie Nix contributed to this story.



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