Large campaign contributions from a Northern Ohio businessman and his employees to U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and U.S. Senate candidate Josh Mandel have prompted a federal investigation, the campaigns confirmed Monday. The probe is centered around more than $200,000 in campaign contributions from employees at the Suarez Corporation, a Canton-based direct marketing firm owned by Benjamin Suarez, a frequent financial supporter of Republican causes. The Blade reported in August that 16 of the company’s employees and some of their spouses gave maximum allowable $5,000 contributions to one or both candidates. Many of the employees had never given to federal campaigns before, lived in modest homes, and held job titles such as “copywriter.”
Mr. Mandel’s campaign also confirmed the investigation, but would not say if federal authorities had requested documents from the campaign. “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.”
Mr. Suarez, whose direct marketing firm sells items ranging from space heaters to collectible coins, is a big supporter of Republican candidates. He and his wife have contributed $40,000 to political action committees that support Mr. Renacci and Mr. Mandel. But in the current election cycle, many of his employees, including non-executive staffers, joined him in making contributions, suddenly turning Suarez Corporation into a fund-raising powerhouse. Overall, Mr. Suarez, his employees, and their spouses gave $100,000 to Mr. Mandel’s campaign and $100,250 to Mr. Renacci’s campaign.
Campaign finance experts told The Blade in August that the contributions raise questions, especially because some of the employees own modest homes and listed their occupations as “writer,” “copywriter,” or merely “marketing.” Federal campaign finance law prohibits a donor from contributing in someone else’s name, especially if it’s an attempt to get around the $5,000 giving limit. Similarly, election law prohibits a corporation from using bonuses or other methods of reimbursing employees for their contributions.
Most of the company’s employees have also refused to comment on the matter. Of the 11 employees The Blade called Monday two declined to comment and the rest did not respond to messages.Spokesmen for the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland declined to comment.
This is just an initial investigation at this point, but it is really funny to see it if you-all remember Ohio’s “coingate scandal” which had to do with investing workers comp money in rare coins and using “conduits” to get around campaign finance law and raise money for then-President Bush:
Tom Noe, whose failed rare-coin deal with the state has triggered multiple investigations and rocked Ohio’s Republican leadership, was charged yesterday with illegally funneling $45,400 to President Bush’s re-election campaign.
Gregory A. White, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, announced a three-count indictment against Mr. Noe, saying he used two dozen people as conduits to make illegal campaign contributions at a $2,000-a-seat fund-raiser in Columbus.
In doing so, Mr. Noe skirted federal campaign finance funding limits while meeting a pledge to raise $50,000 for the Oct. 30, 2003, fund-raiser. The Bush campaign later named Mr. Noe a Pioneer for raising at least $100,000 overall.
Mr. Suarez, whose direct marketing firm sells items ranging from space heaters to collectible coins, is a big supporter of Republican candidates.
What is it with Republicans, conduits, and coins?