Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said he hired a criminal defense attorney because he heard the Federal Bureau of Investigation is asking questions about him.
“Quite frankly, I’ll be up front: I think politics is a pretty dirty place right now. I have not been subpoenaed,” Rosenberger told this newspaper in an exclusive interview. “And as far as I know I have not been told I’m under investigation,”
He added “As a precautionary measure, I went ahead and hired David Axelrod because I had been made aware and understand that the bureau is asking questions about things I may have been involved in. But that is only from a precautionary standpoint. I’m not going to answer any more questions than that.”
FBI spokesman Todd Lindgren said “As a matter of policy we cannot confirm or deny the existence of a potential investigation.”
Axelrod, who could not be reached for comment, is a partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick and focuses on white collar criminal cases and other matters. A former federal prosecutor, Axelrod represented former Ohio State University band director Jonathan Waters when the university dismissed him in July 2014.
News of an FBI inquiry is the latest challenge facing Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, as he finishes his final year as House speaker. Vying to replace him are former speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, and Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith, R-Gallipolis.
An upstart blog — Third Rail Politics — is peppering Team Rosenberger with public records requests, posting “rumor alerts” under headlines such as “Is the House GOP Caucus in Trouble?” and criticizing Rosenberger’s spending.
Rosenberger has also faced embarrassing news reports over a handful of Republican caucus members, including Wes Retherford of Hamilton being found passed out drunk in his truck in a McDonald’s drive through, Wes Goodman of Cardington resigning in November after being confronted about reports that he had sexual contact with a man in his Riffe Center office and a complaint by Republican challenger Jocelyn Smith about the alleged behavior about her opponent, incumbent state Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek.
Rosenberger, an Air Force veteran and a 2012 Wright State University graduate, has not disclosed what his employment plans are when he leaves office in December.