Gov. John Kasich's chief legal counsel wrote to the California attorney general in 2011 on behalf of North Canton businessman Benjamin Suarez, the same man who pleaded not guilty yesterday to federal charges of illegally funneling campaign cash to other Republican officeholders.
Gov. John Kasich’s chief legal counsel wrote to the California attorney general in 2011 on behalf of North Canton businessman Benjamin Suarez, the same man who pleaded not guilty yesterday to federal charges of illegally funneling campaign cash to other Republican officeholders.
Already, questions were swirling of a possible quid pro quo between Suarez and state Treasurer Josh Mandel and/or U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth, who corresponded with officeholders in Ohio and California on Suarez’s behalf. The communiques questioned litigation being pursued against Suarez’s business by California district attorneys, and happened almost simultaneously with Suarez’s alleged funneling of about $200,000 to their campaigns in 2011.
Neither Mandel nor Renacci has been accused of wrongdoing. Federal authorities say the investigation continues.
Many of the circumstances surrounding the letter that Kasich’s chief legal counsel, Michael Grodhaus, sent to California Attorney General Kamala Harris are different. Kasich’s office refused an original request for help in California from Suarez and Renacci, and again refused to help Suarez in 2012 when the businessman asked for help in the federal investigation against him. After Grodhaus sent the April 25, 2011, letter to Harris, Kasich didn’t get any campaign cash from Suarez.
But Suarez personally donated more than $22,000 to Kasich’s 2010 election. About a month after Kasich’s office denied the initial requests by Suarez and Renacci for action, Grodhaus wrote to Harris: “Mr. Suarez maintains that the Napa County District Attorney’s actions may potentially undermine his job creation efforts in Canton.
“Thus, if your staff could review the actions of the Napa County District Attorney to determine whether anything improper has occurred ... and report back to me, I would very much appreciate it.”& amp; amp; lt; /p>
Harris responded in June 2011 that the district attorneys were acting “well within the significant discretion vested in them” by state law and that she would take no action on the letter from Kasich’s lawyer.
“We deemed the company’s requests to be inappropriate and, frankly, a little weird, and they were disregarded,” Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said. “But because the legal office had learned of alleged wrongdoing by an officer of the court in another jurisdiction and that it supposedly put hundreds of jobs at risk in a hard-hit county, the lawyers felt it would have been wrong to not raise a flag with the appropriate authorities.”
Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted received $5,000 from Suarez for his 2010 campaign and also called Harris’ office for Suarez in 2011. Kasich and Husted both donated to charities the 2010 campaign money they got from Suarez once he and another man were indicted in September.