Convicted Republican businessman’s company targets Democrats
By JULIE CARR SMYTH
Wednesday, June 20
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio company whose Republican owner spent more than a year in prison following a campaign finance probe has organized employees and suppliers in a retaliatory effort to bring down two prominent Democrats, The Associated Press has learned.
An explosive memo posted online lays out The Justice Association LLC’s strategy for an investigation, lawsuit and ad campaign targeting U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown and former U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, the Democratic nominee for attorney general. It calls them “chief culprits” in a vast effort by Democrats to unjustly prosecute Republican-owned companies under former President Barack Obama.
The month-old association is offering “rewards” of up to $100,000 for any supporting evidence it could use to request a grand jury investigation by Republican U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the Republican gubernatorial nominee.
The evidence also would be folded into a class-action racketeering lawsuit against the Obama-era Justice Department, alleging it politicized prosecutions.
Suarez Corp. Industries is behind the effort. Its CEO, Benjamin Suarez, was sentenced to 15 months in prison for witness tampering in a 2014 investigation by Dettelbach’s office and the FBI. He was acquitted of seven additional charges. The company’s chief financial officer, Michael Giorgio, was sentenced to 27 months for campaign finance fraud.
The Suarez probe centered on campaign contributions made by employees, relatives and others to the 2012 campaigns of Republican Josh Mandel, Brown’s then-Senate challenger, and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, Brown’s current rival. Suarez had sought the politicians’ help in fighting a California consumer practices complaint. Neither candidate was implicated.
The Justice Association effort was formed to seek restitution for financial impacts the company ties in part to the prosecution, including 800 Suarez job losses and 2,000 job losses at Suarez suppliers, the memo says. Suarez Corporation filed for bankruptcy protection in August.
The memo also describes a massive political advertising campaign on “all media channels across Ohio, on TV, radio, the internet, newspapers and other media.” It wasn’t immediately clear how The Justice Association could mount such a campaign without a political action committee.
Suarez’s company launched the association’s website in February, records show, about a month after Renacci entered the Senate race. The association was incorporated in May. It shares an address with Suarez Corporation Industries and its executive director, Jennifer Werner, has a Suarez phone number. She didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
Suarez, who describes his company as a multi-channel marketing and manufacturing business, said in an email Wednesday that “our association is not associated with any candidate running for office.”
The memo is laced with personal attacks on people who Suarez alleges acted illegally or unethically during his prosecution.
It calls Dettelbach’s then-first assistant, Carole Rendon, “Crazy Carole” and says she has “major mental problems, in part due to a complex because she is very short in stature.” It says Judge Patricia Gaughan is “incompetent, cruel” and “enjoys human suffering.” Rendon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Gaughan’s office said ethics restrictions prevented her from commenting.
Dettelbach, who faces Republican Auditor Dave Yost this fall, said he was not surprised that Suarez would go after him.
“I have heard it all before. It comes with the job,” he said in a statement. “When you hold powerful people accountable, sometimes they come after you.”
Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland, declined to comment — but Dettelbach defended the operation, calling the memo’s comments against a federal judge and career prosecutors “misplaced, untrue and unfair.”
Besides alleging “a politically motivated, false and malicious prosecution” of Suarez, the memo shed new light on Suarez’s political activities during the 2000s election.
It says two political action committees Suarez formed in the early 2000s — the US Citizens Association and Empowered Citizens Network — began running hundreds of thousands of dollars of advertising against Democrats in 2003.
“Their ads used the advanced and effective advertising methods of Suarez Corporation Industries, which are considered to be the best in the nation,” the memo says.
US Citizens Association ran full-page ads in the Canton Repository and other area newspapers in 2009 opposing then-U.S. Rep. John Boccieri, a Democrat, and favoring Renacci. Boccieri lost his seat and the memo says Renacci credited the ads for his election.
According to the memo, “Benjamin Suarez was informed by several high ranking members of the Ohio Republican Party that the Democrats were livid and Suarez and his company were marked for punishment.”
Boccieri said the memo seemed to validate “serious concerns” he had at the time that Renacci and Suarez were coordinating attack ads against him.
“In the fog of war of these political battles, we just didn’t know where it was coming from,” he said.
Brown campaign spokesman Preston Maddock said, “Congressman Renacci owes Ohioans answers about his long association with Suarez and if he continues to benefit from their relationship as this letter suggests.”
A spokeswoman for Renacci’s campaign flatly rejected that claim, saying it’s another example of Ohio Democrats “recycling the same false attacks” since Renacci first ran for office.
“We had no idea this group existed until we read about it in your story,” Leslie Shedd, senior communications adviser for Renacci’s campaign, told The Associated Press. “For Brown’s campaign to claim there is a ‘long association’ is not just misleading — it’s an outright lie.”
Follow Julie Carr Smyth at http://www.twitter.com/jsmyth
Opinion: Greater U.S. Leadership is Needed for Global Internet Freedom
By Stuart N. Brotman
It has been two years since the United Nations adopted a draft resolution of its Human Rights Council that called for the promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the internet. Like many resolutions of this type, the document is largely aspirational. It details numerous prior U.N. resolutions that called for internet freedom as a human right.
But in the intervening years, internet freedom around the world has steadily eroded. According to “Freedom on the Net 2017,” the latest authoritative report published by Freedom House, nearly half of the 65 countries it assessed experienced declines last year, while just 13 made gains, most of them minor. Less than one-quarter of users reside in countries where the internet is designated Free, meaning there are no major obstacles to access, onerous restrictions on content, or serious violations of user rights in the form of unchecked surveillance or unjust repercussions for legitimate speech.
Viewed with the reality that this resolution has accomplished little, if anything, since its enactment in 2016, it’s timely for the United States, under the leadership of Ambassador Nikki Haley, to initiate a new internet freedom resolution. With the recent U.S. withdrawal from the U.N. Human Rights Council, this initiative will need to be pursued before the General Assembly instead. Given the U.S. global leadership role in internet apps, content and devices, it remains in our national security and economic interest to formulate concrete steps to advance this resolution in a more assertive and practical context.
The current version tries to cover too broad an area without requiring that any country actually do anything that would subject it to U.N. sanctions for violations. The United States instead should advocate for a slimmed-down revision that focuses on mandates that countries would need to adopt within a reasonable time frame as a carrot, with the prospect of formal U.N. condemnation as a stick.
Under such an approach, all countries would need to develop transparent measures that prevent the intentional disruption of access to, or dissemination of, information online in violation of internet human rights law. These measures would need to ensure the protection of online freedom of expression, freedom of association, and privacy. The new resolution should require the adoption of national internet-related public policies that, at their core, are designed to promote universal online access.
In addition to improving the United Nations’ current approach to internet freedom, the United States also should pursue other multilateral and bilateral activities to supplement and complement what can be accomplished at the United Nations. The Department of State and Agency for International Development should address internet freedom concerns in U.S. foreign aid decisions. Our nation’s influential role at the World Bank also provides a potential range of possibilities for U.S. foreign aid influence. For example, the U.S. could provide seed funding to establish an internet freedom trust fund that is administered by the World Bank, with specific investment priorities that reflect internet freedom concerns.
The current World Bank Digital Foundations Project in Malawi illustrates the type of project that would deserve funding with such a trust fund. It is designed to increase access to affordable, high-quality internet services for government, businesses and citizens and to improve the government’s capacity to deliver digital public services. The benefits of digital technology are aimed at reaching all citizens and helping lay the groundwork for growth of the digital economy. This is just the type of environment that can serve as the foundation for internet freedom since it can attain broad political support within a country.
There may be opportunities to influence internet freedom laws and policies within the context of bilateral negotiations (e.g., in international trade agreements), as well. The United States also can coordinate more closely with our tech private sector to leverage its power to influence internet laws and policies within restrictive countries. And our nation is well-positioned to assist countries in developing more effective data protection and privacy regimes that address consumer protection concerns (e.g., preserving anonymity to enhance freedom of expression).
Internet freedom is a bipartisan concern that can be promoted through a robust policy toolkit. It’s finally time for the United States to develop more effective measures to influence its promotion and expansion around the world.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Stuart N. Brotman is the Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law and Beaman Professor of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
Under Donald Trump, U.S. Becomes First Country to Leave U.N. Human Rights Council by Choice
US pulls out of UN Human Rights Council
Victim Status and the Political Right
by Laura Finley
In all honesty, there is a lot I do not understand about the Right. Although the Left is far from flawless, it strikes me that the Right is full of hypocrisy. They don’t want big government to tell me what to do and not do with my body — until they do want exactly that. They want the free market to be uninhibited yet take all manner of funding from interest groups and allot record levels of corporate welfare—and impose ant-free trade tariffs. They don’t want undocumented immigrants until they do want them as laborers. And on, and on…
These hypocrisies are pernicious, but one that really boils my blood is the calling out of the Left as “snowflakes” who simply want to maintain victim status while at the same time fulling embracing victimhood. While this is true of many on the Right, no one embodies that hypocrisy better than Donald Trump.
Calling out the Left is part of the broader attack waged by the Right, and by Trump himself, against so-called political correctness. Labeling the Left as politically correct or as snowflakes merely serves to shut down conversation and dismiss important ideas. As Dana Schwartz wrote in a February 2017 article for GQ, however, “There is not a single political point a liberal can make on the Internet for which ‘You triggered, snowflake?’ cannot be the comeback. Its purpose is dismissing liberalism as something effeminate, and also infantile, an outgrowth of the lessons you were taught in kindergarten. ‘Sharing is caring’? Communism. ‘Feelings are good’? Facts over feelings. ‘Everyone is special and unique’? ‘Shut up, snowflake.’”
The derogatory use of the term snowflake comes, in large part, from the film Fight Club, an adaptation of the 1996 Chuck Pahluniak novel of the same name. In it, the narrator joins an underground men’s fighting club, where members repeat the mantra, “You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake.” Men’s rights activists, bodybuilding forums, and the political Right have picked up on this mantra, which many have called the “manosphere.” In reality, the roots are far deeper, emanating from the Right’s need to reject the threat of communism by labeling it “red” or “pink,” hence “wussified” or feminine. Republicans, then, use the rhetoric of “men” while Democrats are “women.”
But, in reality, those slinging the snowflake allegations, as Amanda Hess wrote in June 2017 in New York Times magazine, “tend to seem pretty aggrieved themselves — hypersensitive to dissent or complication and nursing a healthy appetite for feeling oppressed.” What makes one a snowflake, supposedly? An inflated sense of self-importance, an inability to handle criticism, demand for respect, and a sense of victimhood supposedly disproportionate to reality. Sound familiar? That is Donald Trump embodied.
When he’s insulted, he melts down on Twitter, berating people in a fashion not dissimilar to a middle schooler. He is, supposedly, a victim of various attacks by individuals and institutions, most often the press, of course, but also Hollywood celebrities, Broadway stars, even a Gold Star mother. He is the victim of a “witch hunt” regarding collusion with the Russians in the 2016 election. Could any words better describe victim status than “witch hunt?”
Trump won the election by owning and encouraging victim status. His squad was all too quick to buy the rhetoric that their jobs have been lost or are at risk to immigrants, that people from certain countries threaten our safety, that women levy false accusations to destroy men, and that rights for LGBT individuals threatens the sanctity of the “American family,” among other things. Even “Make America Great Again” presumes some great travesty befell the poor nation. Victims must be returned to a state of prominence!
Likewise, the notion that the Left is too soft to handle certain conversations and the minimizing of people feeling “triggered” is also in the Right’s playbook, albeit using different language and tactics. The continued efforts to criminalize nonviolent protest, for example, show that the Right is all too happy to shut down dialogue.
I believe that there is something to be said about overdoing victim status. That is a worthwhile conversation. But when the very real picture of the U.S. is one that is still tremendously racist, sexist, militaristic and unequal, it is deeply infuriating that negative labels prohibit real discussion and actual action.
Laura Finley, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoice,teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology.
Will Trump’s Tariffs Kill Free Markets?
June 09, 2018 by Ryan Young
President Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum against allies like Canada, Mexico and the European Union are only the latest skirmish in a long-term attack on America’s free-market economy. So now that Trump is also mulling tariffs on foreign automobiles, renegotiating NAFTA and raising trade barriers against China, will that finally be the death knell for free enterprise? Hardly.
The president’s threats must be fought, but the good news is America’s fundamental institutions will withstand Trumpian bluster. For one thing, our economy remains a powerhouse. America’s $19 trillion economy already withstands an annual $1.9 trillion in annual regulatory costs from Washington. On top of that, Trump’s tariffs will cost “only” a few billion dollars. In short, the economy is dragging along a big, deadweight burden, but it can still get the job done.
Another American strength is our system of property rights. Compared to most countries around the world, Americans enjoy relatively secure property rights, which makes long-term investment possible. Entrepreneurs can make 10- or 20-year investments without fear that the government will nationalize (confiscate) them.
Inflation, another indicator of strength or weakness, is low. That means prices for consumer goods and services reflect real-world ups and downs in the marketplace. Prices send relatively honest signals, in other words. That means when people compare prices and entrepreneurs eye different opportunities, they’re basing their decisions on accurate information.
Corruption, yet another harbinger of economic woe, does exist, but it is much lower than in many other countries. Outright bribes are rare, and while judges are often wrong, they are rarely bought. Countries such as Venezuela and Zimbabwe do not enjoy such basics of reasonable governance, and it shows in their economic performance.
Even in trade, where the Trump administration poses the greatest threat to free enterprise, America has been liberalizing for more than 75 years. The Smoot-Hawley tariff bill of 1930 raised America’s average tariff to more than 60 percent and worsened the Great Depression. But today tariffs are closer to 5 percent (source: Douglas Irwin, “Clashing Over Commerce: A History of U.S. Trade Policy,” p. 8), and Trump’s targeted tariffs likely won’t raise that figure more than a decimal point. Trump is reversing a long history of openness, but so far it’s small potatoes. If economists, Congress and the World Trade Organization all do their jobs, it will stay that way.
Also consider that Trump administration trade threats will be met with opposition. That process has already started. The Global Trade Accountability Act, a new bill from Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, a member of Trump’s own political party, would prevent the White House from unilaterally raising tariffs in the future.
And despite Trump economic adviser Peter Navarro’s prediction that “I don’t believe any country in the world is going to retaliate,” Canada, Mexico and the European Union immediately announced they would retaliate. Canada is planning tariffs on $12.8 billion of U.S. goods, and Mexico is planning tariffs proportional to the damage it is expecting. The European Union, in addition to still more retaliatory tariffs, will bring a challenge to the World Trade Organization, and will likely win.
As the years go by, booms and busts have come and gone, but the long-run economic trend has always been upward. Meddle as he might, Trump cannot stop that trajectory.
Each generation continues to be richer than the one before. In 1980, U.S. income was about $28,000 per person. By 2000, it was $44,000 per person, and today it is more than $53,000 per person. And those rising dollar amounts don’t factor in non-monetary life improvements such as better medical care, longer life expectancies, safer and cleaner cars, high-speed internet, and more. Twenty years from now, our children and grandchildren will likely have even higher living standards — and enjoy new technologies that haven’t even been invented yet.
The root institutions behind America’s market economy have taken quite a beating over the last several administrations. Trump’s tariffs and many of his other actions build on earlier bipartisan abuses of executive power, such as George W. Bush’s PATRIOT Act and Barack Obama’s infamous boast about regulating by pen-and-phone. But America’s institutions will survive, and living standards will continue to rise, though more slowly than they would with fewer shackles.
President Trump’s tariff nonsense will cost a minimum of 146,000 jobs, on net, with hundreds of thousands more livelihoods in peril if he raises more trade barriers. But as dire as it will be for the people on the losing end of the tariffs, it is worth remembering that the American economy is strong enough to withstand Donald Trump.
About the Author
Ryan Young is a fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Trump’s Dangerous Brinkmanship on Trade
President Donald J. Trump at a working session at the G7 Summit | June 8, 2018 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Trump’s Dangerous Brinkmanship on Trade
Posted to Finance June 09, 2018 by James M. Roberts
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Once a year, the heads of the world’s leading industrialized free-market democracies — the Group of Seven — get together. On the eve of this year’s meeting, President Trump made a big bet. He imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from the other G-7 countries, as well as on NAFTA partner Mexico.
The leaders of those other G-7 countries — Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy — quickly counter-punched, threatening to levy their own retaliatory tariffs on a host of well-known and high-profile American products such as Kentucky bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
It was all rather shocking. Although they served a useful purpose in the past, the G-7 meetings of late have produced little more than photo-ops and political gab fests.
So what does this mean for the future of free markets? Are they dead, on life support, or just temporarily winded?
After an initial plunge a few months ago, when Trump first announced the possibility of imposing tariffs, Wall Street seems to be handling the G-7 drama with aplomb. For the most part, investors appear to be discounting Trump’s bet as tactical brinkmanship. After all, an immense amount of relatively free trade and investment transpires every day among companies and private citizens in G-7 — and France, Germany and Italy are the economic titans of the entire EU.
According to data from The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, European Union countries have the same weighted average applied tariff rate as the United States. It is 1.6 percent. In terms of trade freedom, the U.S. score in the Index is actually lower than all but two EU countries (France and Greece); Canada and Mexico are also ranked higher than the United States for trade freedom. Japan has relatively less trade freedom, but its score, too, is way above the global average.
So, based on these data, Trump’s claim of U.S. victimhood at the hands of unfair trade practices by America’s best allies rings hollow.
Which is not to say that other G-7 countries do not protect certain sectors of their economies. They most certainly do, especially in Japan and the EU.
But at the core of this latest scuffle over trade is an elephant that will not be in the room at the G-7 in Canada: China and the global glut of steel caused by state-subsidized Chinese over-production.
The best way to counter that problem is for the G-7 countries to unify against unfair Chinese trade practices. That’s far more reasonable than turning a G-7 family squabble into a devastating trade war a la the 1930s.
Instead, the United States and its G-7 partners should work together to lower existing tariff and non-tariff barriers, allowing their citizens and companies to trade even more freely. Doing so will help to avoid self-inflicted damage to the American economy.
Trump demonstrated outstanding leadership in his courageous decisions to end U.S. participation in the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate agreement — two pacts that were championed by other G-7 leaders.
He also signed historic reform legislation to cut Americans’ taxes at a time when other G-7 leaders are pushing for higher taxes.
The president should not abandon the moral high ground on which those decisions were made, for the swamp of wrongheaded — albeit politically appealing — trade policies that will weaken the U.S. economy.
A unified G-7 that remains faithful to the values of market-based Western democracy and economic freedom can be America’s ally in the economic battles that lie ahead. That’s far more valuable than anything that can be gained by a trade war.
About the Author
James M. Roberts
James M. Roberts is a research fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for International Trade and Economics.
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MAGA means Motorcycles Are Going Abroad
We used to be so proud, Harley/Davidson of America! Soon to be Harley/Davidson of Germany!
[A bumper sticker I saw] JESUS: Foreign Parents, Brown Skinned, Anti-war, Socialist, Gave Away Free Healthcare