Yet repeatedly claims he cannot recall facts related to Suarez
COLUMBUS – In today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial board interview, State Treasurer Josh Mandel again defended his letter to the State Treasurer of California in which Mandel threatened to have the Ohio Attorney General sue California over deceptive consumer practice litigation the Napa County District Attorney was pursuing against the company of Benjamin Suarez, a major source of campaign donations to Mandel’s failed U.S. Senate campaign in 2012.
In today’s editorial board meeting, Mandel defensively said, “I think that’s what constituents expect of their public officials,” when pressed on his action in the Suarez scandals after years of refusing to publicly answering questions. But when asked about whether Mandel was personally involved in writing the letter for Suarez, about his visit to Suarez’s house, or when Mandel has ever been personally involved in other constituent requests for assistance, Mandel could not recall.
Ohio Democratic Party Deputy Communications Director Brian Hester released the following statement:
“Only Josh Mandel would believe that elected officials should exchange their official letterhead for question campaign contributions. Ohio taxpayers expect our elected officials to put the office first, set aside petty partisanship, and deliver real results. That’s why Connie Pillich is the perfect fit for the job. She doesn’t worry about keeping score, she just gets the job done.”
Plain Dealer columnist Mark Naymik disagreed with Mandel’s claim that his assistance for Suarez was above board. Back in October of last year, Naymik said that it was clear Mandel failed to “filter out heavy-handed donors’ agenda attached to political money” and the whole affair made Mandel “look like a patsy.” [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (10/22/2013), “Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel’s interaction with indicted political donor Benjamim Suarez is not good public service.”]
May 13th, 2011: Mandel personally asked Suarez to raise $100,000. “Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel asked North Canton businessman Benjamin Suarez to raise $100,000 for the Republican’s U.S. Senate campaign, according to a federal indictment charging Suarez and an associate with illegally funneling about $200,000 to Mandel and a GOP congressman.” [Source: Columbus Dispatch (9/28/2013), “Josh Mandel asked Benjamin Suarez to raise campaign cash.”]
March 15th, 2011: Suarez met Mandel to discuss writing letters on SCI’s behalf. Days later, Mandel wrote a letter to Renacci asking him to act for the Suarez company. [Source: Columbus Dispatch (6/5/2014), “Illegal campaign cash scheme began after donor met with Mandel.”]
May 23rd, 2011: Mandel sends letter to the California state treasurer. A spokesman for the California Treasurer said that Mandel’s letter read like it was written by an “ill-informed constituent.” [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (10/9/2013), “California treasurer’s office surprised by Josh Mandel’s letter on behalf of Benjamin Suarez.”]
May 26th, 2011: Mandel’s Senate campaign collects donations. “On May 13, 2011, according to prosecutors, Mandel asked Suarez to raise $100,000 for his Senate campaign. And on May 23, 2011, Mandel sent another letter – this one to the California state treasurer. Soon after, Mandel’s Senate campaign collected the donations arranged by Suarez. That letter, along with the letter to Renacci, were sent on official treasurer’s office letterhead.” [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (06/13/14), “A closer look at Scott Guthrie, aide to Josh Mandel and behind-the-scenes figure in Ben Suarez case]
Guthrie named as the person who collected the donations. “Michael Giorgio, a former top executive at Suarez’s company and the federal government’s star witness, mentioned Guthrie by name in testimony…identifying him as the Mandel aide responsible for collecting donations.” [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (06/13/14), “A closer look at Scott Guthrie, aide to Josh Mandel and behind-the-scenes figure in Ben Suarez case]
It was unclear whether Guthrie was still working for the State Treasurer’s Office, the transition office, or Mandel’s Senate campaign. “It’s not clear who Guthrie was working for when documents first show him acting as the courier. Prosecutors identify Guthrie as an employee of the Senate campaign as early as March 21, 2011. Mandel at the time could not raise money for his Senate bid because he had not yet formed a campaign committee for that office. Guthrie left his job at the treasurer’s office on Feb. 26, 2011. Mandel filed the paperwork to establish his campaign on April 6, 2011.”
“The Josh Mandel Transition Fund, created after Mandel’s election in November 2010, paid Guthrie a total of $5,500 for consulting work in February and March of 2011. The transition account and Mandel’s state campaign fund also reimbursed Guthrie for more than $5,000 in travel expenses from January through March of that year – including a $1,700 reimbursement from the state campaign fund on March 29, 2011. And the Ohio Republican Party, which is closely aligned with Mandel and other GOP state officeholders, paid Guthrie $5,200 for consulting on April 14, 2011.” [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (06/13/14), “A closer look at Scott Guthrie, aide to Josh Mandel and behind-the-scenes figure in Ben Suarez case]
Why Gutherie’s status with Mandel matters: “This timeline is important because it continues May 23, 2011, with a missive – on official Ohio treasurer letterhead – from Mandel to the California treasurer. Guthrie, according to prosecutors, had been representing Mandel’s Senate campaign when he worked on the letters. The work resulted in action from the treasurer’s office. Soon after, donations from Suarez, his employees and their families began arriving.”
Ultimately, “[t]he question here, given that Guthrie was not an employee of the treasurer’s office at the time, is whether Mandel improperly mixed campaigning with public business.” [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer (06/13/14), “A closer look at Scott Guthrie, aide to Josh Mandel and behind-the-scenes figure in Ben Suarez case]