COLUMBUS — Shadowy dark money groups linked to Republican operatives are jumping into local races from Trumbull County to Summit County to Greene County, spending big, while hiding their donors and partisan affiliations from public scrutiny.
“Secret dark money is flooding into Ohio’s local elections, bringing the nasty, divisive tone we’ve seen coming out of the White House into what are often nonpartisan races,” said Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper. “However, if you peel back the layers, you find Republican operatives are the ones behind these groups. That’s a testament to the fact that the Republican Party brand is so toxic — and Ohio GOP officials are so scared of voters learning about their behind-the-scenes machinations — that they have to hide behind innocuously named PACs and national groups to do their dirty deeds.”
In Warren, “America’s Tomorrow” has given more than $100,000 in in-kind contributions to an “independent” candidate for mayor, a former chairman of the Trumbull County GOP who is challenging Doug Franklin, the incumbent Democratic mayor. A former Mike DeWine staffer, Ryan Stubenrauch, is the spokesperson for America’s Tomorrow.
In Hudson, the “Accountability Project” — which is designated as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization — is paying for Facebook ads to support a slate of candidates in the Summit County city. The spokesperson for the Accountability Project is Mark Weaver, a longtime Ohio GOP operative. Weaver and Stubenrauch work together at a political consulting firm.
In Greene County, “America Rising,” a national GOP super PAC that conducts opposition research, filed public records requests “apparently hoping to land information dirtying up incumbent Prosecutor Stephen Haller” — whom DeWine’s daughter, Alice, was expected to challenge in a primary. After the records request, Haller decided not to run for re-election, clearing the way for Alice DeWine.