There is a candidate or two every election year about whom everyone in both parties scratches their heads and says "How in the hell did he/she get the nomination?" Those candidates usually have a list of liabilities so long that it takes a couple of sheets of paper. Such is the case of the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Ohio - Josh Mandel. The only reason he is a contender in November is because of the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
In a powerful article in Politico.com, you can see firsthand the impact of that decision on keeping a totally disqualified candidate as a contender. In a moment we will list good ole Josh's problems but here is how he is staying alive. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown predicts that American Crossroads and other Super PACS are spending $500,000 a week in Ohio without any disclosure who is giving that money! If that spending holds that means that the SuperPACS could give in Ohio alone up to $10 million outside of what the candidate raises! Now why is this a travesty? Look at what Politico.com wrote about Republican challenger Josh Mandel's problems.
Yet it’s hard to glance at Mandel’s headlines over the past few months and attribute his ascent to anything other than the carpet-bombing of Brown.
Mandel was forced to return $105,000 in suspect campaign contributions after the FBI began investigating a group of large donations from modest-income employees of an Ohio-based marketing firm headed by a major GOP supporter.
His campaign said it is cooperating with investigators but declined to elaborate.
“We’re going to stick to the statement we put out,” Mandel said in a phone interview, cutting off a spokesman’s interjection when POLITICO asked when he was first aware of the investigation. “It’s OK, Travis. I think it’s a fair question, but at the same time, we’re going to stick with the prior statement.”
Before March, Mandel had been the only state treasurer in three decades not to attend a single meeting of the Board of Deposit, a monthly gathering of financial officials to determine billions of dollars of state investments.
Mandel said his opponents were driving the controversy on Twitter and Facebook and that voters are concerned about other matters. But his lack of attendance drew weeks of media coverage.
In April, the Dayton Daily News ran an exhaustive piece detailing how Mandel hired young, inexperienced campaign staffers for high-ranking jobs in the treasurer’s office. One 26-year-old staffer was dispatched to a beginner’s course to learn the fundamentals of municipal bond law.
Around the same time, PolitiFact Ohio deemed seven of 15 of Mandel’s recent campaign claims “Mostly False, False or Pants on Fire.”
That ranking only bolstered Mandel’s reputation of providing evasive, general answers to media queries. A recent YouTube video captured by the Democratic-aligned research and tracking outfit American Bridge showed Mandel dashing from his car into a restaurant as someone tried to ask him about the FBI investigation.
Last year, he was six months late filing his personal financial disclosure form, a detailed listing of investments required of all Senate candidates.
“I’ve never seen a candidate so ill-prepared for a major run and get such awful press as Josh Mandel and still be competitive. The ammunition available to him is amazing,” said Sandy Theis, a former longtime reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer turned Democratic media consultant.
Pressed on the string of unforced errors, Mandel portrays them as Democratic talking points and pivots to his most salient rebuttal: Brown’s falling behind on several years of property taxes on his Washington, D.C., condo.
“In the middle of this campaign he was found to be not paying taxes. One of the most lethal mistakes a public official can make is raising taxes and not paying your own,” Mandel said. “That by far is one the most significant stumbles of any sitting U.S. senator this election cycle. It’s something that’s definitely moved numbers.”
Brown scoffed at that explanation, saying Mandel’s laundry list of troubles would have doomed most candidates in the pre-Citizens United era.
When you see a candidate with Mandel's problems being kept alive by money you have to think of the old Ohio Machine of President William McKinley and the Robber Barons. We owe it all to the United States Supreme Court.
America is for sale again.