Neil Clark, lobbyist named in $60M Ohio bribery probe, dies

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – A longtime Ohio lobbyist who had pleaded not guilty in a sweeping federal bribery investigation has been found dead.

In response to a request about information concerning Neil Clark’s death, the sheriff’s office in Collier County, Florida, where Clark had been living, provided a report describing a man’s body being found near a pond Monday morning by a bicyclist. The county medical examiner confirmed to AP it was Clark’s body and that a medical investigation and autopsy are underway.

When officials reached out to the man’s wife, she said the couple was having financial issues and that she had not heard from her husband for a couple of hours, according to the report.

Clark, 67, had pleaded not guilty in August over an alleged role in a $60 million scheme in which federal prosecutors say FirstEnergy companies funneled money through a network of dark money entities to then-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder in exchange for the passage of a $1 billion nuclear bailout bill.

Former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers mentioned Clark‘s death during a presentation Tuesday to the board of the Office of Ohio Consumer’s Counsel, in which he was discussing the probe.

A message seeking details was left with Clark‘s attorney, Bill Ireland.

Clark, a Republican, had been described by federal prosecutors as the enforcer for Householder, strong-arming supporters and providing fundraising expertise.

Before becoming a lobbyist, Clark was the finance director for the Ohio Senate Republicans, gaining inside experience in state budget-making with which he was able to help his many lobbying clients.

Clark parlayed his Senate work initially into a powerhouse bipartisan lobbying partnership with the late Paul Tipps, a former chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. The two ultimately had a nasty falling-out, their firm dissolved and Clark founded his own firm, Grant Street Consultants.

“In matters in which a defendant has passed away, the process is that a ‘Suggestion of Death’ is typically filed upon receipt of a death certificate, resulting in dismissal of the decedent from the case but not impacting the rest of the case,” Acting U.S. Attorney Vipal J. Patel said in a statement. “All that will be addressed in due course. For now, we extend our condolences to Mr. Clark’s family and friends.”

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This story has been corrected to show the body was found Monday and to delete a reference to Clark dying Tuesday.

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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.

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