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Corporate Cash Streams Into Ohio to Unseat Senator Sherrod Brown

Ohio will be a battleground come November, but the big money groups are spending lavishly now in hopes of unseating the Senate's best economic populist.

Photo Credit: AFP


Everybody expects Ohio to be a battleground come November, with political attack ads on every channel and phones ringing off the hook with election-related robocalls. Even though it's only spring, corporate cash is already flooding into the state as big money looks to unseat one of the most progressive members of the Senate, Sherrod Brown.

“They see this race as important to getting a majority in the US Senate regardless of what happens in the presidential race,” Brian Rothenberg of ProgressOhio told AlterNet. “Ohio is a swing state in a couple of ways; one is the presidency but the other is the Senate.”

And Greg Sargent at the Washington Post noted recently, “In what may come as a surprise to many Democrats, the Ohio Senate race appears to be the target of more spending by GOP-aligned outside groups than the [Elizabeth] Warren contest or any other Senate race in the country.”

It's likely to come down to organized people versus big money in a state that boasts a fired-up progressive-labor movement that recently beat back GOP governor John Kasich's attack on workers' union rights. Grassroots groups in the Buckeye State are now skilled in running campaigns from the ground up, and Brown, unlike many of his fellow Democrats, has always been unequivocal about declaring which side he's on, winning his 2006 race through a kind of economic populism that many Dems seem uncomfortable emulating (and that prefigured the rise and popularity of Elizabeth Warren).

Brown vs. Mandel

Ohio voters, according to Rothenberg, “are not single-issue voters, they're looking at the overall package of how the person does, how they fight for you. Sherrod has a long history in this state.”

Ohioans have known for years what the rest of America figured out after the financial crisis in 2008: the economy isn't working for the majority of Americans. And Brown was ahead of the curve, campaigning on that issue back in '06, when he first won election to the Senate—with one of the largest margins of victory over an incumbent in history. The author of a book called Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy has Failed, Brown is also an outspoken advocate for women's reproductive rights and LGBT rights, linking these issues with attacks on workers in a way many Democrats (including his colleague from Ohio, Marcy Kaptur) fail to do. He's worked to preserve manufacturing jobs in Ohio (and outside of the state), and sponsored such legislation as the Payroll Fraud Prevention Act and the Foreclosure Fraud and Homeowner Abuse Prevention Act of 2011. It's no wonder that he's a prime target for the Right.

“I think it's because the other side really understands how good for the 99 percent Sherrod Brown is. When he talks, he speaks to everybody. He speaks in a way that pulls everybody together in understanding what the issues really are. I think for the other side that's a pretty scary thing,” said Jason Perlman of the Ohio AFL-CIO.

His opponent, meanwhile, has most recently made headlines for hiring political allies (including young, inexperienced campaign staffers) for nicely paid positions in the his office—after accusing his opponent, incumbent Democrat Kevin Boyce, of the same thing. “Unlike the current officeholder, I will ensure that my staff is comprised of qualified financial professionals — rather than political cronies and friends — and that investment decisions are based on what is best for Ohioans,” he argued on the campaign trail. He's also been called out by state Democrats for disappearing on the job, spending more time fundraising for his Senate campaign than actually performing the duties of his office (Mandel was elected in 2010 as part of the GOP sweep of the state), and for taking a trip to the Bahamas to raise money from the payday lending industry. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported:

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