Three and a half years ago, Republican Josh Mandel abruptly resigned from politics because he urgently needed to take care of his sick wife.
Outside of the public eye, Mandel benefited from his connections – landing spots on corporate boards and joining startups – and ended his 12-year marriage to Ilana Shafran Mandel.
In his recent Senate financial statement, Mandel, 43, reported income of $ 839,571 from January 1, 2020 to May 15, 2021, and an additional $ 205,413 when he cashed outthe pension that he received as a civil servant.
The private sector gigs paid off well:
- $ 287,196 from Athene Co-Invest Reinsurance Affiliate 1A Ltd. in Bermuda,
- $ 250,000 from Lonestar Generation LLC of Princeton, NJ,
- $ 150,000 from Legal Business Services LLC,
- $ 68,000 from Dayton-based payday lender Schear Financial Services,
- $ 42,000 from Hawkeye Capital Management in Miami Beach,
- $ 29,875 from Capital Community Bank in Provo, Utah and
- $ 12,500 from LiftCamp Inc., a startup that Mandel co-founded.
The funds pale in comparison to the millions some of Mandel’s opponents made in the crowded race for the US Senate. Still, the revelation offered a glimpse into the business relationships of a man used to public life who suddenly – and quietly – made his way into the private sector.
However, Mandel claims he was not using the connections he made as treasurer, but instead used search firms and personal relationships to land the gigs.
“Josh’s grandfather Joe worked in a factory that made plumbing and his grandmother Fernanda worked in a drugstore that stocked shelves,” campaign manager Scott Guthrie said in an email. “Both taught Josh the importance of hard work, sweat, and love for America.”
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Almond made money with payday lenders, hedge funds
So what are the companies that have paid Almond more than $ 800,000?
Schear finance, based near Dayton, is owned by Lee Schear. Schear and his wife have donated $ 322,116 to political candidates and the Ohio Republican Party since 2015. The couple collectively donated $ 21,800 to Team Josh, Mandel’s PAC this year. Schear started out as a grocer and expanded into payday credit in the 1980s.
Almond has a history of campaign support from the payday loan industry. In 2012, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Mandel flew to the Bahamas for a fundraiser with payday lenders and raised at least $ 67,000 for his US Senate campaign from the event.
Athena, a financial services provider for retirement, was founded in 2009 and today has assets of more than $ 212 billion. It is based in Bermuda. In March, the company announced that it was merging with Apollo Global Management, a private equity giant. In the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission’s disclosures, Athene listed Mandel as a director of a subsidiary until 2024.
Legal advice for companies has three affiliates loaning money to injured people to help them pay the bills while they await a court settlement. It is part of a settlement advance industry that has faced lawsuits over the collection of predatory tariffs and fees. In 2018, an LBS subsidiary, LawCash, and another lender were fined $ 2.3 million to settle a suit brought by the Colorado Attorney General.
Hawkeye Capital Management is a hedge fund based in Miami Beach. It manages more than $ 1 billion, employs nine people, and was founded in 1999 by Rich Rubin who contributed to Mandel’s past campaigns.
Lonestar Generation LLC is an electricity company that owns 100% of the shares in Frontera Holdings, which filed for bankruptcy in February 2021.
Capital Community Bank is based in Utah. Lauren Saunders of the National Consumer Law Center told the House Financial Services Committee in February that Capital Community Bank is one of a handful of institutions running rent-a-bank programs that attract consumers into expensive installment loans. ChoiceCash Title Loans works with Capital Community Bank to provide loans in several states including Ohio.
State Rep. Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield, who sponsored Ohio’s 2018 payday loan reform bill, confronted Mandel for working closely with the industry.
“I feel sick to think that just months after the Ohio Fairness in Lending Act went into effect, Josh Mandel ran from his position as treasurer of the state to work for payday lenders who exploited Ohioans,” Koehler said. “It looks like former treasurer Mandel has replenished his bank account with thousands of dollars in profits from payday and title lenders who have trapped Ohioans in debt.”
Stay in the private sector
After leaving the treasurer’s office in early 2019, Mandel landed three private sector jobs – one as chief financial officer, one in a startup that never got off the ground, and a third with a new startup based in his hometown of Beachwood.
Boxbees Technologies, Inc., a startup that, according to the Almond campaign, wanted to solve the problem of excess packaging. The company was founded in the state of Delaware in early 2020, but has no internet presence. Mandel is listed as chief executive on registration filings with the Ohio Secretary of State. (The filing is notarized by his father Bruce Mandel, an attorney.) When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Boxbees never took off.
LiftCamp, Inc., is a startup that, according to the Mandel campaign, focuses on optimizing digital online advertising. Mandel said he received a salary of $ 12,500 from LiftCamp between January 2020 and May 2021.
As of April 2019, Mandel was Chief Financial Officer for Compound asset management, a crowdfunding platform for real estate investments. The New York-based company was later bought by Republic Compound LLC in June 2020. Almond did not list Compound as a source of income for January 2020 through May 2021.
Back on familiar territory
Now, Mandel is back in the political arena, leading an aggressive campaign to stand out from the crowded GOP field for the U.S. Senate in 2022.
Almost all of Mandel’s career has been in the public sector as a marine, councilor, lawmaker, and treasurer of the state. Between 2005 and 2008, he introduced himself as President of The Groveland Company LLC in its state ethics disclosures, but it is unclear what that company did.
Until his three-year hiatus, which began in January 2018, Mandel followed a tight schedule to achieve his political ambitions. After serving on Lyndhurst City Council, Mandel ran for Ohio House in 2006 and served two terms before running for state treasurer in 2010. Just a few months after being sworn in as treasurer, Mandel announced his candidacy for the US Senate. He lost to Democrat Sherrod Brown in 2012 and ran for re-election as state treasurer.
Mandel spent $ 1.8 million in taxpayers’ money on television advertising to promote a new austerity program for families with children with disabilities. Mandel starred in the ads alongside Ohio State Football coach Urban Meyer and a young woman with Down syndrome. Then he announced that he would face Brown again, only to suddenly disappear.
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In the current race, Mandel paints himself as a Trump-loving populist who wants to disrupt the status quo – a chorus sung by most Republicans who want to replace Senator Rob Portman. For him, that means hopping between churches in Ohio to speak to supporters and using social media to knock down his opponents and throw red meat into his base.
“While other contestants in this race prefer Silicon Valley or the halls of Harvard,” Guthrie said, “Josh plans to blow up the swamp and be the worst nightmare for those Never Trumper cocktail party elites.”
Laura Bischoff and Haley BeMiller are reporters for the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau, which serves the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal, and 18 other affiliated news organizations across Ohio.