Sept 16, 2010- In recent days, Ohio voters have probably seen a TV spot ripping Democratic "stimulus and debt" policies, courtesy of a group calling itself Crossroads GPS. They may also have caught an ad by an outfit called the American Action Network praising Republican Congressmen Pat Tiberi and Dave Reichert for "standing up for fiscal responsibility." Meanwhile, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a Democrat, is under attack from the Republican Governors Association (RGA) for being a "bad governor," while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has been touting the "pro-business" record of GOP Senate candidate Rob Portman.
All of these groups are based in D.C., not Ohio. And only one of them, the RGA, is required to disclose its donors — and only a few times a year. Which makes Ohio look less like a boxing ring for the candidates than a chessboard for invisible well-funded operatives hundreds of miles away.
Ohio is hardly unique. From Washington to Florida this election season, candidates risk being drowned out by a flood of advertising from a robust new network of little-known conservative political outfits. "Shadow Republican groups formed by longtime party officials and party operatives are raising and spending hundreds of millions of dollars in this election," says Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan campaign-finance-reform group, "most of which is going to come in the form of secret undisclosed contributions."