Today, more than a week after the news broke that over $100,000 in donations to Congressman Jim Renacci's reelection campaign are the focus of a federal investigation, Betty Sutton is once again asking why Congressman Renacci continues to hold on to the suspect campaign cash, rather than returning or donating the contributions as the other candidate embroiled in the same investigation has done.
"After several months of investigation and countless stories in the press about suspect campaign contributions, Congressman Renacci's continuing refusal to return the funds speaks volumes," said Sutton. "Every day that passes is a day that he fails to do the right thing to come clean about what he knew about these potentially illegal contributions and return or donate the suspect funds. Congressman Renacci's constant stall tactics and excuses simply beg the question, when it comes to returning the money; what are you waiting for?"
Suspect donations from the Suarez Corporation to Renacci's campaign first drew speculation last August when employees of moderate means who had no history of donating to political candidates suddenly gave the maximum contribution of $5000 per person to the Congressman. Renacci admitted over a week ago that the FBI launched its investigation more than five months ago and that his office had turned over records to investigators.
A longtime leader on Congressional ethics, Sutton authored and passed legislation during her first term to establish an Office of Congressional Ethics [H.RES. 1031, 110th Congress), and has proven to buck her own party's leadership in the face of ethics scandals.
Renacci Received Unusual Campaign Donations from an Ohio Company [The Toledo Blade]. In 2011, The Blade reported Renacci received $100,250 in campaign donations from several employees and some their spouses from Suarez Corporation in Canton. Many of the employees had never given to a political campaign before but in the current election cycle had maxed out by giving $5,000 to Renacci's campaign. Suarez and his wife also contributed $10,000 to the Renacci-Ohio Victory Fund. An analysis by a campaign finance lawyer showed that some of the employees who contributed listed their positions as "copywriter" or "marketer." The lawyer stated it was unusual for people holding those positions to make such a large contribution. The analysis also showed that half of the employees who contributed owned homes valued at $66,000 to $183,000. [Toledo Blade, 8/20/11]
Suarez Employees Are Renacci's Largest Contributors. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, employees at the Suarez Corporation are Congressman Renacci's largest contributors. [OpenSecrets.org, accessed 5/21/12]
Feds Probe Donations to Ohio Candidates. Many of the contributions came from donors with low-level positions and low home values, and many had never given to a federal campaign before maxing out for Mandel and Renacci. The pattern led Democrats to question whether the contributions were part of a straw-donor scheme to reimburse employees who donated to the campaigns. [The Hill 5/21/12]
Renacci defends contributions
Canton-area congressman Jim Renacci is in no hurry to give back campaign donations from the Suarez Corporation. Senatorial candidate Josh Mandel did return the $105,000 he received after hearing that the FBI was investigating how some of the 17 employees at Suarez could have come up with that money. Renacci received about the same amount. The bundled amount is the largest contribution to his campaign. Renacci campaign manager Bill Novotny rejected a call from Democratic opponent Betty Sutton to return the money, which she called "tainted." [WKSU, 5/25/12]