CLEVELAND — GOP Gov. John Kasich is fighting a subpoena that would require him to testify at the federal trial of a Northeast Ohio businessman accused of funneling illegal campaign contributions in 2011 to two prominent Republican politicians.
A motion filed Monday on Kasich’s behalf said attorneys for North Canton telemarketing millionaire Ben Suarez have no legal right to require Kasich’s testimony. Kasich’s office was served Friday with a subpoena that commands him to be available to testify in Cleveland between June 23 and July 10.
U.S. District Judge Patrician Gaughan hasn’t ruled on Kasich’s motion to quash the subpoena.
That motion, filed by the state attorney general’s office, said Suarez’s attorneys want Kasich 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 issued a statement Tuesday saying there is no reason for Suarez’s attorneys to seek the governor’s testimony.
“This is a federal issue, and the governor is not involved,” Nichols said.
Suarez, 72, was indicted last year on charges that included conspiracy to commit federal campaign violations, making corporate contributions, making contributions in others’ names and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
Prosecutors have alleged Suarez had employees, relatives and others donate a total of $100,000 each to the 2012 campaigns of U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci and the failed U.S. Senate bid of state Treasurer Josh Mandel in the hope they would help his company in an expensive consumer protection complaint in California.
Renacci and Mandel have not been accused of wrongdoing. Both campaigns returned the donations after learning of an FBI investigation into the Suarez contributions.
The two politicians wrote letters on behalf of Suarez Corporation Industries that spokeswomen for the politicians said is a common constituent service.
Kasich’s also office received a letter from Suarez seeking help. Kasich’s general counsel, Mike Grodhaus, wrote back to him March 29, 2011, and said it would be inappropriate for Kasich to get involved in the California matter.
But nearly a month later, on April 25, 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.”
“There were allegations of misdeeds, and our attorney brought it to their boss’ attention,” Nichols said.
Nichols said Grodhaus wrote the April letter because of Suarez’s subsequent and repeated claims that the complaint in California would cost Ohio jobs.