In Ohio’s State Treasurer’s contest the Democratic challenger, Connie Pillich, has a tough ad accusing the incumbent, Republican Josh Mandel, of “misusing the treasurer’s office in exchange for $100,000 from a crooked businessman.”
The businessman in question is Ben Suarez, owner and founder of Suaez Corporation Industries, a direct marketing company. The Cleveland Plain Dealer published an article in June describing Suarez’s schemes —selling hundreds of products that include:
- weight-loss and dietary supplements, jewelry, collectible coins, cleaners and space heaters,
- diet aids that the Suarez company claimed could prevent heart attacks, cancer and other diseases,
- a get rich book
- “unclaimed funds” from government accounts
In 2011 Suarez was in trouble in California. This article reports, “District attorneys there sought $4 million in civil penalties plus $2 million more in restitution, alleging false and misleading advertisements on the labeling of 17 Suarez Corp. Industries (SCI) products and the distribution of misbranded foods, drugs and medical devices in the state. One product in particular got special attention Suarez’s“Foot Choice Infrared Heat Massager.”
Suarez wanted to find some political influence to make the California District attorneys to back off of their prosecution and so he turned to Josh Mandel. Laua Bishoff in her DDN article explains: “Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel wrote two letters advocating for Suarez Corporation Industries’ business interests in California at the same time that company founder Ben Suarez was raising $100,000 for Mandel’s campaign for U.S. Senate, according to records released by Mandel’s office to the Dayton Daily News.”
When longtime GOP donor Benjamin Suarez needed help from the Ohio treasurer’s office, he turned to Scott Guthrie to get it.
Only Guthrie wasn’t employed by Josh Mandel, treasurer of the state of Ohio. He was the campaign fundraiser for Josh Mandel, candidate for the United States Senate.
So why is a major businessman asking for favors from Treasurer Mandel through a fundraiser for candidate Mandel? That is one of the central questions remaining from the federal trial of Suarez that ended this week in Cleveland.
A spokesman for Mandel says it is “common throughout Ohio and America that constituents contact an official office for something unofficial or contact someone outside the official office for something official.” However, two legal experts say Guthrie’s interactions with Suarez and the treasurer’s office are suspicious and merit further investigation.
While Suarez was found not guilty of making illegal campaign contributions in 2011, no one is questioning that he gathered $100,000 for Mandel’s Senate campaign. And no one is questioning that Mandel took up Suarez’s cause in a California legal battle at the same time. …
It was Guthrie who executed the two favors Suarez sought from Mandel: two letters on the state treasurer’s official letterhead written to help Suarez Corp. Industries of North Canton fight its legal troubles in California.
And Guthrie twice helped Mandel solicit campaign money from Suarez: $30,000 in one instance, $100,000 in another. Guthrie personally picked up an envelope containing the $100,000 in checks after hours at Suarez’s company.
Guthrie’s actions don’t prove the existence of a quid pro quo — politicians trading favors in exchange for money — and in court Guthrie and others denied that there was any link between the letters and the campaign contributions.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that (the letters and the contributions) had nothing to do with each other,” he testified on June 19.
But the question of quid pro quo remains, according to legal experts, because of another central question raised by Guthrie’s testimony: If there is no link between the letters and the Suarez donations, why was Guthrie — and not a treasurer’s office employee — tasked with writing the letters Suarez sought?
“Certainly ordinary people would look at that and say it stinks,” said Ohio State University law professor Daniel P. Tokaji, an election-law specialist who read the 86-page transcript of Guthrie’s testimony.