Workers’ Voice, a super PAC affiliated with the AFL-CIO, is spending $100,000 on an online ad whose message is that the campaign of Josh Mandel, running to unseat Sherrod Brown in Ohio’s senate race, is under investigation by the FBI. It isn’t, as the Plain Dealer patiently explains, although the charge has been repeated often enough that it’s become a minor meme.
It has its origin in an article in the Toledo Blade last summer. Tony Cook, the reporter, found that about 20 employees of a marketing firm in North Canton had contributed about $100,000 to the Mandel campaign. Some had job titles suggesting incomes not exactly commensurate with the amounts they contributed. To get around the limit on personal campaign contributions, did the owner of the company give them the money to give to the Mandel campaign under their names?
In May, the campaign returned the contributions in question, noting that the donations were under investigation by the FBI. Brown and Democrats generally have sought to make hay of this by associating the candidate’s name with the phrase “FBI investigation,” but the clear, and clearly false, assertion that the object of the investigation is Mandel’s campaign is a step too far.
There are a couple of ways the ad by Workers’ Voice can backfire. Besides being false, it sends an odd subliminal message when it likens Mandel to LeBron James, the Akron native and former Cavaliers star who abandoned northeast Ohio to take his talents to South Beach. Sure, that a dart board in a bar in downtown Cleveland bears his likeness tells you all you need to know about his reputation in the vote-rich Cleveland media market. But he won.