The campaigns of Rep. Jim Renacci and state Treasurer Josh Mandel, the GOP nominee for Senate, confirmed today that they are aware the government is investigating contributions they accepted from employees at a direct marketing firm.
Spokesmen for the two Ohio Republicans told the Cleveland Plain Dealer on Monday that the U.S. Attorney’s Office was looking at money received from employees at a company called Suarez Corporation Industries.
"To our knowledge no donations made to our campaign were contributed improperly. If we find out otherwise, those donations will be returned. Our campaign is not now nor has ever been the subject of this investigation," Renacci spokesman James Slepian wrote in an email response. He added that the campaign has not heard anything about the matter in several months and is not aware of whether the inquiry is still active.
"The campaign is aware of the investigation and is fully cooperating. Neither the campaign or anyone associated with it is a target of the investigation," Mandel spokesman Travis Considine told Roll Call. He also pointed out that the campaign had set aside $100,000 in donations from Suarez employees pending the outcome of the investigation.
Slepian told the Plain Dealer that the campaign was contacted after a Toledo Blade story last year that detailed how Suarez Corporation Industries workers had been making large contributions to Renacci and Mandel. At that time, the newspaper reported that individuals associated with the company had collectively given more than $240,000 to the two candidates, which raised questions about whether the employees were being reimbursed for making hefty donations.
News of the Justice Department probe was first referenced in a New Republic story on Ohio politics that was published early Friday. In it, a reporter with the magazine interviewed a Suarez employee about whether his contributions were made of his own volition.
"The owner of our company is very Republican,” but “he doesn’t push the executives to give,” Suarez Director of Merchandising Charles Stewart told the reporter. “There was an investigation. I wasn’t involved in it because I didn’t give the amount of money [others] gave.”
Mandel is challenging Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in an increasingly competitive contest. Roll Call rates this race as Leans Democratic.
Renacci faces fellow Rep. Betty Sutton (D) this November in a race Roll Call rates as a Tossup.