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A day after a generous Republican donor was convicted of an obstruction of justice charge but acquitted of making illegal campaign contributions, the head of the Ohio Democratic Party attacked what he called a “culture of corruption” in the Ohio Republican Party.
Party Chairman Chris Redfern, who is also a state representative from Catawba Island, said Tuesday the jury trial of North Canton businessman Ben Suarez revealed troubling behavior by Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel and Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Republicans called the attack “mindless” and “desperate.”
“Josh Mandel used his official office to benefit a donor to his failed  Senate campaign and then that donor took steps to cover up his assistance,” Mr. Redfern said. “It’s just another example among many of how Mandel has repeatedly failed to tell the truth and used the office for his own political gain.”
Mr. Mandel’s spokesman did not respond to an email and phone message seeking comment.
Suarez was convicted by a federal jury on Monday of one count related to tampering with a witness but was acquitted on six more serious charges of making illegal campaign contributions. The owner of a mail-order business, he was accused of funneling $200,000 in contributions to the federal campaigns of Republicans U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth) and Mr. Mandel for the 2012 election through his employees.
Mr. Redfern cited testimony in the case that Suarez and his employees gave Mr. Mandel’s campaign contributions totaling $100,000 after Suarez met with Mr. Mandel and Mr. Mandel wrote a letter to the state treasurer of California to defend Suarez against litigation involving his business.
Mr. Redfern also sought to tie Governor Kasich to the Suarez scandal, pointing out that the governor’s chief legal counsel, Michael Grodhaus, wrote a letter on behalf of Suarez, and accusing the governor’s office of “changing his story.” Initially, the governor’s office said Mr. Grodhaus acted on his own volition and then days later described it as “garden-variety casework.”
“After changing his story several times last week Governor Kasich should set the record straight about his own involvement with Ben Suarez’s obstruction of justice and set the example for his party,” Mr. Redfern said.
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for Governor Kasich, said, “there is no contradiction.” He said Mr. Grodhaus didn’t need direction from the governor or his chief of staff to send a letter to help a constituent.
“There’s nothing in there that would suggest somebody told him to do it. He wrote a letter on his own which was garden-variety perfunctory case work,” Mr. Nichols said. “It’s mindless meaningless rhetoric.”
Mr. Redfern cast a wide net also accusing Attorney General Mike DeWine of awarding collection contracts to law firms on the basis of campaign contributions.
DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney rejected Mr. Redfern’ s allegations, saying the office does not take campaign contributions into consideration.
Mr. Kasich, Mr. Mandel, and Mr. DeWine are all up for re-election this year and are facing Democratic opponents who hope to capitalize on the Suarez trial testimony.
Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said, “It is awfully early in the campaign season for [Mr. Redfern] to be spewing such desperate conspiracy theories,” and that he has his own “history of offering pay-to-play.” He referred to a 2010 Columbus Dispatch article about a party fund-raiser which implied that guests would get to discuss public policy with then-Gov. Ted Strickland in exchange for a campaign contribution.
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