State of Dark Money: In Ohio, As Dark Money Poured in, the Race Tightened

admin | March 04, 2013

Four years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. F.E.C. that corporations, unions, and other organizations can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections. The court decision interacted with existing laws and led to an increase in 'dark money'—spending to influence elections where the source of the spending is hidden from the public.

Since then, dark money and other forms of independent expenditures have become a leading area of growth in political spending, contributing to the most expensive elections in history and adding more secrecy around political money in elections.

Using data from and the Federal Election Commission, MapLight has produced a series of reports and visualizations on how the growth of dark money has impacted the nature of spending in elections. In this report we look at the 'dark money' in the 2012 Ohio Senate race.

Heading into 2012, Senator Sherrod Brown, a member of the Ohio congressional delegation since 1993, was the clear front-runner in his re-election bid against Republican rival Josh Mandel, holding a 15 percentage point lead in the polls in January. But by September, as the dark money began pouring in, the race between Brown and Mandel had developed into a virtual toss-up with public polling data showing Brown's lead down to just three percentage points.

  • Dark money groups favoring Republican candidate Josh Mandel spent 13 times more than dark money groups favoring Democratic candidate Sherrod Brown ($13 million and $1 million).

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About MapLight: MapLight is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that reveals money's influence on politics. If our work has been helpful to you, please consider supporting us.