Feds Probe Contributions to Mandel, Renacci in Ohio

Feds Probe Contributions to Mandel, Renacci in Ohio

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - May 21, 2012

Federal officials are investigating campaign donations made by employees of a Canton-based marketing firm to two Ohio Republicans, state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is running for U.S. Senate, and Rep. Jim Renacci.

The Toledo Blade reported last summer that 17 employees of Suarez Corporation Industries made donations to either Mandel’s U.S. Senate campaign or to Renacci’s re-election campaign, and some contributed to both. The newspaper  found that 16 of those employees, including company founder Benjamin Suarez, gave the maximum donation of $5,000. Many of the donors reportedly served in low-level positions and some had never contributed to a political campaign. The New Republic reported that the FBI had already questioned some of the workers. The Blade’s findings called into question whether Suarez was using his employees to get around campaign donation limits. It is illegal to make campaign contributions in someone else’s name.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is only investigating the campaign contributions, not the candidates themselves. “The campaign is aware of the investigation and is fully cooperating,” said Travis Considine, spokesman for the Mandel campaign. “Neither the campaign nor anyone associated with it is a target of the investigation.” Mandel is challenging Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown for a seat in the upper chamber. (Brown leads in the RCP polling average by 6.7 percentage points.)

Considine confirmed that pending the results of the investigation, Mandel’s campaign is putting the estimated $100,000 in contributions from Suarez employees into a separate account.

Renacci’s chief of staff, James Slepian, told several news outlets that the congressman's campaign would return any donations made improperly. Renacci is running against Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton in an incumbent vs. incumbent race to represent Ohio’s 16th Congressional District.

Brown's campaign spokeswoman, Sadie Weiner, said the inquiry into the Mandel donations demonstrates that “he’s nothing more than a politician who can’t be trusted." The Brown campaign has released two negative television ads attacking Mandel for missing Board of Deposit meetings and for allegedly hiring “political cronies” in his treasurer’s office. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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