The conservative groups, led by the business-friendly chamber, have spent more than $11.5 million in a relentless anti-Brown campaign — that’s more than twice as much money as Brown’s actual opponent, Ohio State Treasurer Josh Mandel, has spent on the race. The chamber has vowed to spend much more, and Crossroads GPS, the Rove-affiliated group, already has reserved an additional $6.7 million in advertising for the final five weeks of the contest.
The Brown-Mandel campaign is a case study of the aggressive fundraising and spending this election season by interest groups outside the candidates’ campaign operations. And because many of the groups behind the spending are not required to disclose their donors, the effort has created a virtual shadow campaign that will probably far exceed what Mandel spends on his campaign
Liberal in a swing state
Public polling has given Brown, 59, who has been in Congress for two decades, a modest lead over Mandel, 34, despite the deluge of outside spending. But the race has shown signs of tightening even as his less experienced rival has suffered from missteps on the campaign trail. To the incumbent, there’s a simple reason this race is expected to go down to the wire.
“This would not be a race if he didn’t have the 11
-and-a-half million in outside money spent. It wouldn’t even be a race. That’s what outside money does,” Brown said in an interview outside the Capitol.
Brown said he expects to face a total of nearly $30 million in outside spending, an amount that will most likely dwarf Mandel’s entire campaign war chest.
Why Brown? He is the most unabashedly liberal senator who hails from a swing state. He recently introduced legislation to limit the size of mega-banks. He introduced legislation to end subsidies to the oil and gas industry. In 2010, he earned a 9 percent voting record as compiled by the chamber.
His is just one of up to a dozen Senate races where the groups, some taking advantage of the 2010 Supreme Court ruling that loosened campaign finance law, figure to play key roles. The chamber, which does not engage in presidential politics, does not reveal its political budget, but Democratic and Republican officials who have monitored the group expect this year’s spending on congressional races to about triple its 2008 budget of more than $30 million.
“The chamber is launching its largest and most aggressive voter education campaign in our 100-year history to draw a clear choice between candidates who support the free enterprise system and those who consistently support more government,” said Scott Reed, the top political strategist for the organization.