Ohio: Brown-Mandel U.S. Senate race among most costly

A flood of money brought in by prominent national political action committees has become the norm in this year’s U.S. Senate race in Ohio, which pits first-term incumbent Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, against Republican Josh Mandel, the state treasurer and a Jewish Iraq war veteran.

Because of the state’s swing role in recent presidential elections — going for George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 — the national parties are paying particular attention to Ohio’s 18 electoral votes. As a result, television advertisements for President Obama and the presumptive GOP challenger Mitt Romney are blitzing across the state’s airwaves along with ads from the Brown and Mandel camps.

The Ohio U.S. Senate races are consistently listed in the top three most expensive ones in the country, along with Massachusetts and Texas, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). As of the end of June, Brown’s campaign had amassed $15 million and had spent about $8.8 million, according to CRP. Mandel’s campaign had $9.9 million and had spent almost $5 million. 

Polls have Brown in front by various margins. A June 25 Quinnipiac poll had Brown ahead of Mandel, 50-34, and a July 18 Rasmussen Report called the race at 46-42 in favor of the incumbent.

Support for Israel has not been a major issue in this campaign, but is being addressed by the candidates. 

Mandel has not held federal office, but his backers call him a strong supporter of Israel, which, on his campaign Web site, he calls “our most reliable ally in the Middle East.” He has been a supporter of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee since his college years at Ohio State University. 

Mandel has called for the United States to relocate its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and has stated there is no such thing as East and West Jerusalem, adding Jews should be allowed to build homes anywhere in that city. 

In his role as state treasurer, Mandel authored and was involved in divesting state pension funds from companies doing business in Iran.

Brown, who served in the U.S. House of Representative from 1993 to 2007, is one of four Senate candidates whom J Street, the liberal pro-Israel lobby, has endorsed thus far in the 2012 election.

“Sherrod is committed to full funding of aid to Israel, and he supports preserving Israel’s military edge against any threats in the region,” Sadie Weiner, press secretary with Friends of Sherrod Brown, said. “He supports legislation furthering sanctions on Iran, and he also believes that no option is off the table” when it comes to dealing with Iran. 

On the Republican side, PACs such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have pumped in millions of dollars to blitz the Buckeye state with anti-Brown commercials. Crossroads GPS in particular has been running issue advocacy ads targeting Brown’s support of Obama’s health care plan and stimulus package.

Democratic super PACs such as Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Majority PAC, the League of Conservation Voters and Service Employees International Union have unleashed their own advertisements against Mandel.

Democrats concede the PAC money is influencing the race. “It’s fair to say the only reason Josh Mandel is doing as well as he is is because of the vast quantities of money pouring in,” David A. Harris, president and CEO at the National Jewish Democratic Council, said. 

“This unfortunate picture is evidence” that super PAC money “can actually change ballots and bring [Mandel] in striking distance of a good public servant,” he said.

In a July 25 fundraising letter, Mandel, the grandson of a Holocaust survivor, also criticized spending, but said it’s being used to defeat him.

But Weiner countered, “Josh Mandel’s secretly funded special interest friends have spent $11.5 million to boost his flailing campaign and lie about Sherrod’s record — more than has been spent against any other Senate candidate in the country.” 

Majority PAC communications director Zach Gorin noted, “It’s the height of hypocrisy for Josh Mandel to go up in arms over spending when Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have spent in the neighborhood of $10 million on his behalf. Mandel is swimming in special interest cash, raising money from payday lenders in the Bahamas instead of being in Ohio doing the job he was elected to do.”

Gorin was referring to a trip Mandel took in the spring to the Bahamas for a fundraiser. Mandel raised $67,000 there, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.

Brown’s campaign office released a list of outside money totaling close to $11.5 million being spent against their candidate. On that list are the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has spent $4.7 million, and Crossroads GPS, which has pumped in $2.5 million. Another $2.3 million came from 60 Plus Association, which calls for the privatization of Social Security and the end of Medicare, according to Brown’s campaign. 

PolitiFact, Ohio’s Truth-O-Meter, which attempts to verify or refute candidates’ campaign statements, recently looked into 15 of Brown’s claims, rating all of them either “true” or “mostly true.” The group also looked into 12 of Mandel’s remarks made while politicking, calling seven of them “true” or “mostly true,” but five earned its “pants on fire rating.”

The First Step

First let’s do the numbers: It’s been about four days that I’ve been single. I was married at 23 and stayed that way for 17 years. I’ve just met a charming and articulate woman at a party and stumbled through an uncharming and inarticulate request for her phone number.

And wonder of wonders, she gave it to me.

Now all I had to do was call her for a date.

The only thing is, I haven’t been on a date in 18 years. And back then I was still in college. What job experience did I have for this? At 20 I was able to get away with pouring Campbell’s Mushroom Soup over a chicken and serving it in low light as a gourmet offering. On the upper end of things, all-night meanderings, spinning dreams and visions of unfolding lives in the drizzle of the haunted streets of Jerusalem. But nothing like a proper, well, you know, date. Like with another woman.

The first thing I did was buy a car. This seemed reasonable. I wasn’t going to cruise into Singleland in the family minivan, after all, and the tiny Civic I settled for when I didn’t have to think about appearances just didn’t seem to cut it. So I bought the Campbell’s Mushroom Soup of cars — used and passable if I drove it in low light.

Then I had to come up with somewhere to drive it. Now, here’s where fatherhood came in handy. One job skill I did pick up during 10 years of kid weekends was a mastery of events calendars. The secret to happy children is get ’em up and get ’em out. When my older son was a toddler in San Francisco, we’d go to an ethnic fair or outdoor jazzfest practically every weekend. They were always colorful, jampacked and bubbling with the self-congratulatory virtuousness of multiculturalism.

Moving to Los Angeles, I would ferret out things like celebrations of fuzzily defined neighborhoods only to discover barren industrial streets sporting one empty bouncy room and a bad clown/magician (are there good ones?). I learned that people here had pools. And big screens. Street fests scared them so, they stayed home.

I scoured my trusty sources and found an outdoor concert — Handel’s Water Music downtown. Ooh, classy. And um, free. That was a good start, but it seemed bare. I got working. Handel was born in Halle, which is in a quirky and sparse northern German wine-growing area, so I found a Halle-grown varietal, bought a Trader Joe’s backpack with plastic wine glasses and plates, some pâté and crackers. Not just crackers, mind you, but “water crackers,” intending to maintain the Water Music theme. I knew we’d be hungry and realized we’d be in walking distance of the thematically consistent Water Grill, so I made reservations there, too.

I was thrilled. I had Aristotelian consistencies of place and time. I had motifs and leitmotifs. I had a soundtrack. This was just like writing a movie treatment. Not only as a father, but as a writer, I did have relevant skills after all.

The date itself? It went off on schedule, if overbudget. She was astonished, and maybe a little frightened by all the preproduction I had put in. And when we made it back to her place and she presented me with a reasonably seductive front-porch line, I gave her a dutiful kiss on the cheek and headed back for the Campbell’s Soupmobile.

She was very nice, and smelled good, too, but it wasn’t going to lead to marriage, so I figured I’d better just go (I know, I still had a lot to learn about dating — stay tuned).

Driving home, I realized something (do I sound like Carrie Bradshaw yet?). In some ways, I had taken myself out for a date. I had to prove, not to someone else, but to myself, that I was dateworthy. I was considerate, we talked easily, laughed, shared our stories. Counting the car, I had only spent a few thousand dollars on the evening and so all in all, I felt it was a success.

I could date. It may not sound like a lot to you veterans, but to me it was as soothing as, well, cool water on a hot L.A. night.

Adam Gilad is a writer, producer
and is CEO of Rogue Direct, LLP. He can be reached at adamgilad@yahoo.com