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Data Shows Influence of "Dark Money" in Ohio Campaigns

GRAPHIC: Data from Maplight highlights the so-called "dark money" spent in the 2012 Ohio congressional race. Courtesy:
GRAPHIC: Data from Maplight highlights the so-called "dark money" spent in the 2012 Ohio congressional race. Courtesy:
March 20, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio – New research shows the influence of the growth of undisclosed political contributions or dark money on elections in Ohio.

According to a MapLight analysis, more than $13 million in undisclosed donations were contributed in the 2012 congressional race in Ohio.

Spokeswoman Pamela Behrsin says dark money groups favoring Republican candidate Josh Mandel spent 13 times more than those favoring Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown.

And while the outcome didn't change, there was a shift in the tide.

"Sherrod Brown had 15 percentage point lead over Mandel, but by September with all the dark money pouring into Mandel's campaign the race developed into a virtual toss up, with Brown's lead down to just three percentage point," she explains.

Behrsin connects the increase in dark money in Ohio and elsewhere as a result of the Supreme Court's 2010 ruling in Citizens United, which said corporations are people and money is protected as free speech.

Behrsin says dark money in politics is a huge problem because it's secret money influencing elections. She says another important decision impacting campaign finance is the impending ruling from the Supreme Court on McCutcheon v. FEC.

"That would allow donors to give as much money as they want to congressional races,” she says. “This is just the next step of Citizen's United. This is going to make things actually quite worse."

Behrsin maintains many Americans are getting tired of the negative advertising associated with dark money, and she says there needs to be more transparency.

"We need to figure out how are they able to give all this money and influence the outcome of our political elections without us knowing, or without us able to make a reasonable decision at the polls as to whether this candidate will support our interests or the interests of the people who put them into office?" she says.

Behrsin adds that while decisions from the Supreme Court do impact undisclosed political contributions, she says Congressional leaders could also take action on the matter.

Mary Kuhlman/Scott Herron, Public News Service - OH