Thursday, September 26, 2013
STARK COUNTY BUSINESSMAN AND OHIO CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION ACTIVIST BEN SUAREZ APPEARS TO HAVE SOME SERIOUS CAMPAIGN FINANCE RELATED TROUBLES
In mid 2012 during the 16 District congressional campaign (the 16th contains parts of northern Stark County) between Jim Renacci (Republican - Wadsworth) and Betty Sutton (Democrat - Copley), Sutton started making noises about campaign contributions being received by Renacci from various employees (and, in some instances, their spouses) of a company owned by Stark County businessman Benjamin Suarez.
Since the SCPR wrote about the story on May 22, 2012, the Renacci campaign, a spokesman says, not because the Renacci folks did anything wrong but only out of a sense of abundant caution, returned the questioned contributions.
In a Toledo Blade report, the Josh Mandel U.S. Senate campaign also returned contributions made by Suarez connected persons.
Yesterday, a federal grand jury handed down indictments on Suarez and a business associate on eight counts alleging a conspiracy to violate federal campaign finance laws, obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
However, the indictments did not specify that either the Renacci nor Manel campaign contributions as being the bases for the indictments.
Suarez has been prominent in Stark County business and political circles for years.
Back in the early 2000s he got into a dispute with Stark County Prosecutor John Ferrero on Ferrero's handling of some legal matters.
A number of Stark County politicos think that Suarez took on a significant campaign finance role in the campaign of Republican and prominent Stark County criminal defense attorney Jeff Jakimedes (Republican - Alliance) because of his (i.e. Suarez) differences with Ferrero.
But there have never been any suggestion that the contributions were not completely compliant with the law.
Other Stark Countians have been recipients of Suarez political contributions over the last ten years or so as shown by available Ohio secretary of state office online campaign finance reports.
While there have been direct contributions to Judge Stephen Belden (a Republican) of the Canton Municipal Court, Judge William B. Hoffman and Judge W. Scott Gwin of the 5th District Court of Appeals and former 50th District state Representative Todd Snitchler (R - Lake; now chairman [appointed by Governor Kasich] of the PUCO), there have also been contributions to the the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee (OHROC) and to the Ohio Republican Senate Campaign Committee (RSCC) which may mean that indirectly Stark County state representatives Kirk Schuring (R - Jackson), Christina Hagan (R - Marlboro) and state Senator Scot Oelslager (R - Plain, and chairman of the Senate Finance Committee) may have benefited from Suzaez contributions.
Again, there is no indication that the aforesaid contributions where fully compliant with law.
It is not all that long until Renacci has to stand for reelection.
Though there is no suggestion that the Renacci campaign did anything wrong, it will be interesting to see whether or not his 2014 opponent tries to make anything of the apparent failure of the Renacci campaign to ask questions about some very large and co-incidental (in terms of common associations) factors about the contributions.