Sunday, June 1, 2014

In Suarez case, two Ohio GOP politicians are an uneasy crowd

 A funny thing happened to Treasurer Josh Mandel and U.S. Rep.Jim Renacci  on their way to November's elections.  The two Ohio Republicans find themselves mired in a messy case involving  indicted  Canton businessman  Benjamin Suarez,  who will stand trial in U.S. District Court in Cleveland, beginning Monday, on money laundering charges.

The basic scheme, as revealed by Suarez's convicted treasurer Michael Giorgio, who blabbed in a a plea deal,  turned on having a couple of dozen company employees  drop  in $5,000 each to fill the political pot,  with assurances from Suarez that their "gifts" would be reimbursed.  Nothing very imaginative, really.

Although Mandel and Renacci have not been charged and claim they eventually returned the money to the employes, they have been subpoenaed to appear as key figures in the case.  Moreover, it can't help either candidate to have their dealings with Suarez  taking up so much inglorious space in the media.

 Each received $100,000  from Suarez to intervene in a California civil suit against Suarez  Corp. Industries (SCI) that accused the company of violating  consumer protection laws.

Mandel is up against a tough Democratic opponent, state Rep. Connie Pillich.  Among other things, she's a former Air Force captain who served during Desert Storm  which, for this campaign, could put a dent in Mandel's conceits about his own military service that turned up so often  during his loss to Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, in 2012.

The paper trail in the Suarez case tells us Mandel came on strong for Suarez, threatening to sue the state of Calilfornia and urging Renacci to support new federal law that would soften  damages  awarded in deceptive advertising. (Suarez's company operated on a global scale as a marketer.)

Renacci appeared safe enough in a bizarrely drawn  house district created as his own plantation.  His Democratic opponent  is Pete Crossland, former state lawmaker, county councilman and  political science professor who threw his body into the race when nobody else dared challenge Renacci.

When we saw him  week or so ago,  he was smiling.


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