OH-Sen: Sherrod Brown sued after attacking Ohio business owner in campaign ad

OH-Sen: Sherrod Brown sued after attacking Ohio business owner in campaign ad
Sen. Sherrod Brown is being sued by a local business owner over the content of a campaign ad. (Angelo Meredino/Getty Images)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) is being sued by an Ohio business owner who says a campaign ad makes false and defamatory claims against him because he supports Brown’s opponent, GOP Rep. Jim Renacci, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

Benjamin Suarez, owner of SCI Industries in Jackson Township, Ohio, filed the lawsuit Thursday in a Stark County court, pushing back against a claim that he is a “crooked businessman.”

“Suarez is not a ‘crooked businessman,’ Representative Renacci did not use his office to try to get a lawsuit dismissed against Suarez, and Suarez did not send $100,000 to Representative Renacci,” the lawsuit says.

What did the ad say?

An advertisement by the Friends of Sherrod Brown campaign strongly implied that Suarez sent Renacci $100,000 in exchange for Renacci using his influence as a congressman to resolve a lawsuit against Suarez.

“A crooked businessman looking for help,” the ad said. “A congressman looking for donations. Jim Renacci used his office to try to get a lawsuit dropped against Ben Suarez. Days later, Suarez sent Renacci $100,000. Renacci claimed they didn’t have a close relationship. But court records show the two exchanged more than 40 calls surrounding the donations. Jim Renacci. He’s always looked out for himself.”

What’s the basis of that claim?

In 2014, Suarez was acquitted of violating campaign finance laws and was sentenced to 15 months in prison on a charge of obstruction of justice for trying to sway the testimony of one of his former employees. He and SCI’s former CFO Michael Giorgio were accused of sending $200,000 in contributions illegally to Renacci and state treasurer Josh Mandel.

According to The Columbus Dispatch, Mandel and Renacci returned the donations, and Suarez claims donations were not related to him reaching out to Renacci for help with his lawsuit.

What does Suarez want?

Suarez is seeking more than $25,000 in damages each on counts of defamation, false light, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.