Mandel returns tainted $105,000

Republican Josh Mandel’s U.S. Senate campaign returned $105,000 in contributions under investigation by federal authorities, a Mandel spokesman confirmed late last night.

Mandel spokesman Travis Considine said the money was returned on Tuesday to 21 people who work for the Suarez Corp., a direct-marketing firm in Canton operated by Benjamin Suarez.

“We have decided to issue refunds for any contributions that appear to be under investigation by federal authorities,” said Kathryn Kessler, treasurer for Mandel’s campaign, in a letter enclosed with the returned funds that was obtained by The Dispatch.

“We believe we have no reason to be concerned with the contribution, but out of an abundance of caution and until the investigation is complete, we believe this course of action is most appropriate.”

The Blade of Toledo reported last August that company employees donated thousands of dollars to Mandel and Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth. The Blade reported that many of the employees — several of whom had never before given to any federal campaign — gave the maximum amount allowed by election law.

Mandel and Renacci campaign spokesmen confirmed this week that the contributions were under federal investigation. Mandel, the state treasurer, is trying to unseat U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Renacci is running against U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton of Copley Township.

“Josh Mandel is a politician who can’t be trusted, and the fact he has been shamed into returning $105,000 in illegal contributions only after an FBI investigation became public goes right along with hiring unqualified political cronies and missing every single board of deposit meeting his first year in office,” Justin Barasky, a spokesman for Brown, said in a statement.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported on its website last night that Renacci would wait for the investigation to unfold before returning contributions made to him.

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