A Republican donor implicated in a federal investigation over campaign contributions to Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and the Senate campaign of Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) is talking to the media about the probe.
“This is punishment because we’re Republican donors," Benjamin Suarez said in an interview with the Canton Repository published today. Suarez is president of the North Canton, Ohio-based Suarez Corporation Industries.
The investigation has proved to be a major distraction this week for Renacci and Mandel, who are running competitive races in the Buckeye State, although neither candidate has been accused of improper actions.
Mandel's campaign returned $105,000 worth of funds "that appear to be under investigation by federal authorities," according to a Tuesday letter from his treasurer, Kathryn Kessler, provided to Roll Call from the campaign. Kessler characterized the refund as an "abundance of caution ... until the investigation is complete."
Renacci's campaign has not returned the suspect funds to his donors yet. His spokesman, James Slepian, told Roll Call in an email that since the campaign was notified of the investigation several months ago, "there remains no reason to believe these donors acted improperly."
"Should we ever hear otherwise, the donations will be returned," Slepian said.
Mandel faces Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) in a somewhat-competitive race. Roll Call rates this race as Leans Democratic.
Meanwhile, Renacci and Rep. Betty Sutton (D) are running for the same north-central Ohio seat this November. Roll Call rates this race as a Tossup.
Amanda Becker contributed to this report.