Josh Mandel is toast in next year’s race for Ohio treasurer.
His poorly run campaign for US Senate last year almost guaranteed that outcome, but recent revelations about Mandel’s shady campaign fundraising will definitely put the nail in his political coffin.
The fundraising problems center about Ben Suarez and the $100K he and his complicit employees illegally donated to Mandel. Suarez was recently indicted for the illegal campaign donations, which Mandel’s senate campaign took 10 months to return, and his treasurer campaign took nearly two years to refund.
Based on some excellent reporting by the Plain Dealer, Dispatch and other Ohio news outlets, it appears that the entire scheme was hatched by Mandel’s fundraising team, who convinced Suarez to donate huge sums of money to Mandel and to Congressman Jim Renacci’s campaign in exchange for assistance from Mandel’s office with a legal problem Suarez was having in California.
That help came in the form of an official letter sent by Mandel’s treasurer’s office to California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. In the letter (embedded below), Mandel threatens to sue California if local district attorneys continue investigating Suarez for mislabeling supplements that contained high concentrations of lead.
Mandel calls these investigations a “below-the-belt” offense, “legalized extortion” and a “victimization and attack on Ohio Jobs”.
It’s clear the ranting and raving in the letter was not really meant to appeal to California’s Treasurer, who said it ”read like a letter from an ill-informed constituent” and that it was “pretty amazing coming from a state treasurer” and Mandel “should know better”.
Instead, the letter was meant to incite Ben Suarez to open up his wallet for the Mandel campaign, which is exactly what he did after being contacted by Mandel’s fundraiser, Scott Guthrie. Based on evidence provided in Suarez’s federal indictment, Guthrie appears to have consulted with Suarez on the letter’s contents. And just days after the letter was sent, donations from Suarez and his employees starting rolling into the Mandel campaign.
The Suarez money wasn’t just some disconnected set of random donations that could have slipped by Mandel’s fundraisers. This was a fundraising scam that appears to have been initiated and orchestrated by Mandel’s staff, using official treasurer’s office resources, to illegally funnel over $100,000 to Josh Mandel’s senate campaign.
Mark my words: any shred of integrity Mandel may have maintained after his disastrous senate campaign went completely off the rails will now evaporate in the face of this scandal. Suarez will be convicted. And you will be watching TV ads with scary music linking Suarez and Mandel while the polls predict, week after week, an ever increasing chance of victory for Connie Pillich
Below are copies of the letter sent by Mandel to California Treasurer, along with his response.