A North Canton business owner has been found not guilty of seven counts of violating federal election laws. Benjamin Suarez, the 72-year-old owner of Suarez Corporation Industries, in North Canton, was accused of influencing $190,000 in contributions to Ohio state Treasurer Josh Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci. However, as reporter Mark Urycki explains, Suarez was found guilty of one charge.
The U.S. attorney's office argued that Ben Suarez broke the law by giving campaign money in the names of his employees and their spouses in order to get around campaign finance limits and to skirt the ban on direct donations by corporations.
Suarez's attorneys maintained that such payments were merely advances that were later paid back. Defense attorney Mark Schamel said afterwards the case should have been nothing more than a Federal Elections Commission fine.
"Everyone knew it right from the beginning this was an FEC civil case," Schamel said. "Whether or not it was politically biased and politically motivated, and the letters that Mr. Suarez and his prior lawyers were sending is something that offended the government and they came after him and wasted a lot of resources."
Suarez's company was fighting lawsuits from a dozen district attorneys in California. He asked Renacci and Mandel to pressure California authorities to back off the company.
The jury did find Suarez guilty of trying to pressure one of his employees to change her testimony before the grand jury. He is scheduled to be sentenced for that felony in October.
Neither Mandel nor Renacci have been charged with any wrongdoing.