Can local journalism still hold politicians accountable?

Back in May, while reporting a cover story on the 2012 political landscape in Ohio, I decided to follow up on a article done last year by Toledo Blade reporter Tony Cook, noting the large number of donations from employees of a North Canton direct marketing company called Suarez Industries to Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel, who is challenging Sherrod Brown, and to Congressman Jim Renacci, who is running against Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton in a redistricted seat in northeast Ohio. It’s against the law for employers to reimburse their workers for political contributions, and I decided to look up some of the employees and ask them if that had happened in this case. It was while doing so—visiting decidedly modest homes whose owners had made $10,000 or even $20,000 worth of donations to the two campaigns—that I discovered that I was not the only one curious about the donations: the FBI had launched an inquiry as well. 

Soon after my article appeared, Mandel’s campaign announced that it was returning the contributions (this after Mandel himself had brushed off questions about the contributions in a comical videotaped interview where he replied to the queries by noting that he sends thank you cards to all his donors.) Mandel hardly needed the dough—outside groups have so far spent more than $10 million attacking Brown, far more than against any other Senate Democratic candidate. But Renacci held tight to the money—that is, until today.

Alec MacGillis — “Ohio GOP Candidates Return Sketchy Lucre”