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Super PACs focus on Ohio Senate race
Ohio’s Senate contest has gotten a lot of attention from key super PACs such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS
This story is part of a special series.

Karen Kasler

The candidates for Ohio’s contested US Senate seat just started airing TV ads in the last two weeks. But as Ohio Public Radio’s Karen Kasler reports, the outside campaigns for and against the incumbent and the challenger have been going on for a while.

Kasler on Super PACs shorter version

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Kasler on Super PACs extended version

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Super PACs targeting Sen. Brown
Ohio’s Senate contest was long predicted to be one that would get a lot of national interest from super PACs – the political action committees that can’t directly coordinate with the candidates but can raise and spent unlimited amounts of money for and against candidates. And Super PACs have been targeting Sen. Sherrod Brown for a while. There was this ad last summer from Karl Rove’s group Crossroads GPS. 

One ad featured a photo that Democrats claimed was altered to make Brown look haggard. And then there was this ad from October starring 1950s pop singer Pat Boone, targeting a particular and active voting bloc.  “Medicare will be bankrupt in nine years, but Washington politicians like Sherrod Brown are ignoring the problem, putting their own re-elections first….”

Factual errors?
Sadie Weiner is the press secretary for Sherrod Brown’s re-election campaign, and notes ad watchers have found factual errors and other problems with some super PAC ads. 

“These outside special interest groups have been on the air for more than a year, spending $5 million on ads attacking Sherrod and lying about his record. And that’s more outside spending than any candidate in the country has faced.”

No ads for Mandel
So far, there have been no Super PAC ads focused on Brown’s Republican challenger, treasurer Josh Mandel.  Brown is a first-term US Senator, but he’s been in elected office for 38 years. While Mandel holds statewide office now, he’s only been running for office since 2003.

Travis Ridout is with the Wesleyan Media Project in Connecticut, which tracks political ads across the country. He notes Brown is fairly well known on both sides of the political fence, while Mandel isn’t. 

“It’s more difficult to shape people’s impressions of an incumbent senator who’s been around for a long time, about whom people have already informed or developed impressions, than it is someone who’s new to the political game.”

Mandel camp is concerned about Super PAC spending 
But just because Mandel hasn’t been the star of any Super PAC ads against him, it doesn’t mean his campaign isn’t concerned about Super PAC spending. Travis Consodine is the communications director for Mandel’s US Senate campaign. “The special interests in DC and radical environmental groups have already spent $600,000 running ads for Sherrod Brown.”

Brown’s people say they figure there’s a 10 to one difference between the spending by right-leaning super PACs and those on the left. Ridout says the spending numbers may not be as big or as far apart in other states, but that seems to be the case across the country. 

“PACs that have been more active on the Republican side definitely have spent more money this time around so far – not to say that Democratic leaning ones won’t be putting millions and millions of dollars into ads as well.”

And Ridout says it’s to be expected that super PACs will spend more in Ohio than Mandel and Brown will – and that may also be the case in other states as well.

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