Two Republican state officeholders have joined a growing list of officials subpoenaed to testify at the trial of a businessman accused of illegally funneling campaign contributions to two other prominent GOP politicians.
State Attorney General Mike DeWine and Secretary of State Jon Husted have been subpoenaed to testify at North Canton telemarketing millionaire Ben Suarez’s federal trial, which began this month. Gov. John Kasich, U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and state Treasurer Josh Mandel are other Republican officials who have been subpoenaed.
Suarez is accused of using employees, relatives and other people to donate $100,000 each to Renacci’s 2012 congressional campaign and to Mandel’s failed U.S. Senate bid in the hope the two politicians would help his company, Suarez Corporation Industries, in a consumer protection complaint filed by district attorneys in California.
His attorneys say he’s innocent and he didn’t know he was breaking any laws when his company reimbursed those who donated to the campaigns.
Renacci and Mandel have not been accused of wrongdoing. Both campaigns returned the donations after learning of an FBI investigation into the contributions.
The two politicians wrote letters on behalf of Suarez’s company that spokeswomen for the politicians said is a common constituent service.
Attorneys in DeWine’s office have filed motions in U.S. District Court to quash the subpoenas for Kasich, Husted and DeWine.
“Attorney General DeWine has no direct knowledge of any facts involved in this case and has no substantive testimony he could provide,” spokesman Dan Tierney said in a statement Tuesday.
The motion to quash filed on Kasich’s behalf said Suarez’s attorneys want the governor to testify that it’s not improper for constituents to seek the help of elected officials. The motion said defense attorneys believe Kasich’s testimony would be persuasive to a jury.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said there is no reason for the governor to testify.
“This is a federal issue, and the governor is not involved,” Nichols said.
Like all the subpoenaed Republicans, Kasich received a letter from Suarez seeking his assistance in the California complaint. Kasich’s general counsel, Mike Grodhaus, wrote back to Suarez on March 29, 2011, and said it would be inappropriate for Kasich to get involved in the matter.
But nearly a month later, on April 25, 2011, Grodhaus wrote to the California attorney general asking her to review the actions of the Napa County district attorney in relation to the complaint against Suarez Corporation Industries.
When asked about Grodhaus’ letter to the California official, Nichols said Tuesday that it was “perfunctory, garden variety casework.” Nichols said Grodhaus wrote the April letter because of Suarez’s subsequent and repeated claims questioning the district attorneys’ motives and because of warnings that the consumer protection complaint would cost Ohio jobs.
“There were allegations of misdeeds, and our attorney brought it to their boss’ attention,” Nichols said.