Journalism in the Public Interest

Revealed: The Dark Money Group Attacking Sen. Sherrod Brown

Documents show an Ohio lobbyist chairs an opaque group, the Government Integrity Fund, which has spent over $1 million on pro-GOP ads in the key Senate contest.

A screenshot from a Government Integrity Fund ad supporting Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel.

In May, a previously unknown group started pouring money into Ohio’s U.S. Senate race, considered one of the most important in the country and currently the nation’s most expensive.  The group, the Government Integrity Fund, has spent over $1 million so far on TV ads bashing Democratic incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown and praising his Republican opponent, Josh Mandel.

Like many other such non-profit groups that are playing a dominant role in this year’s elections, the Government Integrity Fund is shrouded in mystery. It isn’t required to reveal donors, nor has it answered questions about who runs the group. The Fund’s barebones website lists no contact information beyond a P.O. Box.

The only name listed on incorporation papers for the group is a Columbus lawyer, William Todd, who told ProPublica, “I really have no role in their affairs.” (In June, Todd also declined to respond to questions from a Huffington Post reporter, citing attorney-client privilege.)

But previously unreported documents filed with an Ohio television station pull back the curtain a bit: the Government Integrity Fund is run by a state lobbyist who in turn employs a former top Mandel staffer.

The lobbyist, Tom Norris, is listed as the Government Integrity Fund’s chairman and treasurer. Norris owns an Ohio lobbying firm, Cap Square Solutions, and last year hired a top Mandel aide, Joel Riter, to work at the firm.

Riter’s role in the Government Integrity Fund, if any, is not clear. The former Mandel aide declined to say whether he is involved with the group that is chaired by his current boss and running ads in support of his former boss.

“I can’t talk to you about this,” he told ProPublica. “I’m not going to comment on any kind of involvement I have with anyone.”

Norris did not respond to requests for comment, nor did the Mandel campaign.

The documents identifying Norris as the chairman of the Fund are public because of a Federal Communications Commission rule requiring TV stations to keep detailed records about political advertisers. The files can be valuable, offering a look at exactly who is spending and how much. Until recently, the documents were only available by physically traveling to stations. ProPublica’s Free the Files project has spotlighted the issue and this summer the FCC passed a rule requiring the stations in the nation’s top markets to upload the files to agovernment website.

The documents were filed with a Cincinnati NBC affiliate, WLWT, one of the stations the group has been advertising on. Here is a Fund ad that attacks Senator Brown for purportedly turning his back on his younger, more honorable self. “Young Sherrod Brown was independent of Wall Street,” the announcer says. “Today Sherrod Brown takes big money from those same corporate interests.”

The Associated Press reported last month that outside groups have spent $15 million supporting Mandel compared to about $3 million on the Democratic side.

We still don’t know who is putting up the money for the Government Integrity Fund’s ads because the group is a non-profit “social welfare” group, which don’t have to release donor information or register with the Federal Election Commission. Such groups are supposed to be “primarily” engaged in promoting social welfare but they have been flooding the airwaves with political ads in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case and decisions by regulatory agencies.

Besides identifying Norris as the chairman of the group, the form filed with the TV station shows that the Government Integrity Fund has an office at 208 East State Street, a few blocks from the state house in Columbus. Riter, the former Mandel aide, also has an office in the building.

Asked about his office at 208 East State Street, Riter said: “Whatever office Government Integrity Fund has is not mine.”

Outside groups are not allowed to coordinate with campaigns, but it is common for politicians’ former aides to be involved with such groups.

Riter first worked as an aide to Mandel during the candidate’s stint in the Ohio legislature. Riter then became field director for Mandel’s campaign for state treasurer, joining the treasurer’s office as constituent and executive agency liaison after Mandel won the race. Riter left his state job in the treasurer’s office after six months to become a lobbyist at Cap Square in 2011. According to state records, the firm lobbies for a range of interests, including the Ohio Ready Mixed Concrete Association and medical device companies.

Riter was featured in a Dayton Daily News article earlier this year investigating Mandel’s practice of hiring former campaign workers for state jobs. (That piece led a Democratic legislator to file an ethics complaint against Riter, who has contested the charges.)

The Fund was created in May 2011 and an affiliated super PAC, the Government Integrity Fund Action Network, registered with the Federal Election Commission two months later. 

The super PAC, which does have to report its donors, has not been active and raised just $10,500 through the end of June, all but $500 from New York financier and benefactor of conservative causes Roger Hertog. Hertog also gave $5,000 directly to Mandel’s campaign last year. Hertog declined to comment.

Brown campaign spokesman Justin Barasky said that the Government Integrity Fund is the fourth largest outside group on the Republican side in Ohio, behind such national outfits as the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS.  “We don’t know anything else about them,” he said. “They are the only secretly funded group that is based here.”


Here’s another spot, which touts Mandel’s experience fighting in the Iraq War and features the candidate delivering a speech about sacrificing for freedom:

“Govt Integrity Fund” by conservatives. Greatest oxymoron in HISTORY.

Pat Patterson

Sep. 7, 2012, 11:15 a.m.

Once again, let me repeat….....

Josh Mandel has failed to show any achievement in his term as Treasurer except to engage in cronyism of the worst kind. He broke his promise to complete his term before running for another office. He has huge amounts of money coming in the
super-pac route with mainly negative ads toward Sherrod Brown. Before the money influx he was double digits down…..where he should be.

When questioned on numerous occasions by the press he says absolutely nothing but lofty generalities and platitudes with great bombast and bluster. To quote The Bard who had Mandel nailed exactly 400 years ago, Josh Mandel is

“but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing”.

Wayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy back in 11th grade, I learned a term in a mass media class: ‘Predictable platitudes,’ meaning you know what someone is going to say in such and such a situation before they say it.  Just what does ‘fighting for taxpayers’ mean? That he is going to duke it out on the floor of the Senate over tax issues. ? I know it’s a metaphor. To one who has observed and studied politics, it’s an empty phrase.  I will be looking to find out about YOUNG Mr. Mandel.

I am not from Ohio and no nothing about either candidate.  But if SuperPACs supporting Senator Brown were outspending those supporting Mandel by 10:1, this article would never have been written!

Sep. 7, 2012, 2:53 p.m.

IN 2008 Hillary Clinton won Ohio, and Brown was an Ohio super delegate who held out and did not give Hillary Clinton his vote in 2008. He gets sympathy from me.

Brown gets NO sympathy from me.
Brown gets NO sympathy from me.
Brown gets NO sympathy from me.

Stephanie Palmer

Sep. 7, 2012, 3:11 p.m.

So Mandel is being supported by a “state” lobbyist who is anonymous. What a surprise, Mandel is being supported by someone who, by definition, is liar and moneyman. Kind of like a pimp, don’t you think?

Barbara Ruether

Sep. 7, 2012, 5:13 p.m.

As an ordinary bloke in NYC on a fixed, limited income, I am in despair for Sherrod Brown.  This country has become ungovernable due to the corporate control. I respect Senator Brown.

How can we respect any person elected to the Office Of President if they only earned the election by restricting voter access and billions of dollars for the media of negative campaigning and brought their own buddies in to assure control.

Sep. 7, 2012, 5:48 p.m.

Barbara, I thought you were talking about Obama and the 2008 democrat fraud nomination race.

If only those evil GOPers could be as virtuous as the Dems… (sigh) I look forward to ProPublica’s expose on the PAC that claimed Romney killed an uninsured woman…

I guess the supreme court knew their citizens united decision would undermine democracy but I don’t understand the advantage for anyone to undermine democracy.

Typical hit piece designed to spread suspicions of a group doing a legal act as defined by our own Congress.  The only problem the author has its Republicans this time that have some money to help ensure their point of view is heard.

Now Sherrod Brown is quite willing to throw inflammatory words in order to try to gain an advantage.  This piece of propaganda at its best and design to look neutral but to support the status quo that needs turning over.

Christian Bookter

Sep. 7, 2012, 11:05 p.m.

The Supreme Court opened the door to allow our country to be up for sale.

Sherrod Brown is an honest hardworking public servant who fights for the regular citizens.

We, the people need to take back our country from the corporations and the 1 per cent.

Helene M. Weinberger

Sep. 8, 2012, 8:46 a.m.

I have noted that Josh Mandel has NOT done the job he promised to do as State Treasurer.  I have watched Sherrod Brown and his support for the U. S. military personnel, for the middle class American, and for his constituents.  Your information is interesting and relevant.  If only I had the funds that Mandel has access to, I would support Senator Brown more than I do.  I have no personal “axes to grind.”

It must be noted that so far this election cycle,the only case of voter fraud is that case against a Republican Congressman from Michigan,McCotter,who’s staff,paid by taxpayers, attempted to forge and photochop old petitions to enable the Congressman to run,something the Repubs accused the Dem.supporters of doing!

Christian Bookter

Sep. 8, 2012, 11:56 a.m.

Sherrod Brown is not the only good honest hard working politician under attack. There are many others in other states. My message now is to the Supreme Court, the corporations, and to the dishonest politicians who take the large sums of money:

My democracy is not for sale. If you bet against our two party system and win it will not take long for American citizens to finally wake up and. well, once that bear is awakened… The Occupy movement will look like a cub scout camp compared to the awakened bear!

Having endured the political mediocrity that has destroyed California’s economy (after Gov. Reagan rescued it), I’m tired of the Dem v. Rep cross-town rivalry that plays like a Trojan/Bruin game. Union-supported Democrats have trashed our state and country, while Citzen’s United levels the playing field a bit; but it is clear that corporations (pharmaceuticals, healthcare, oil, finance, mortgage) own both parties, the media, universities and the executive, legislative and (large chunks of) the judicial branches of gov’t.

But while nefarious behavior occurs in both camps, it seems that the Democrats are far more likely to embrace their felons and big government, while Republicans at least try to reform by trying to shrink our bloated and corrupt government.

Between the two parties, I will again hold my nose and vote Republican just because their plans to shrink the tumor make more sense than growing it bigger.

Cut through the propaganda, and the Republican goal is always the same:  Diverting wealth to themselves - regardless of how many Americans get hurt or the impact upon the nation’s safety and security - and indeed her longevity.

Impoverishing the American people…transforming them into a meek and obedient people chained into economic slavery within a gigantic “company town” née the United States of America…that is secondary.

Hannah Cutshall

Sep. 8, 2012, 5:50 p.m.

It’s hard for me to believe that the party that created the Dept. of Homeland Security is a party that would “shrink” government.  A party that at least can correctly identify the problems we face i.e.: Obama, Clinton, and the Democrats has a better chance of solving them.  The Republicans seem to be better at mis-stating the facts and throwing money behind the most bizarre liars.  It is getting more difficult to find fair minded analysis.

Back on topic, unlike some of the usual nabobs that camp out here, I am a resident of Ohio and have been bombarded with this secret, outside money for months.  Since the party of hell no has nothing to contribute to governance, it has taken the path of destructive negative advertising again. In this case the target is Sherrod Brown who is no friend to big oil, big pharma, or wall street. The wrath being visited upon this good man is beyond disgusting.

Government Integrity Fund, indeed.  Here’s hoping that actual integrity will win the day and Sherrod Brown is re-elected.

According to, Sherrod Brown have been VERY friendly to pharma, big business and labor…

What might be coming: the millionaires and billionaires trying to manipulate, with the help of the Republican idiots on the Supreme Court, really might want to consider that there are risks to trying to fool the populace, just as there are trying to fool mother nature. If they don’t want to play fair, then various people may decide not to as well. I doubt any of the millionaires and billionaires can afford the sort of security used to keep a president safe.

Turn off the legitimate channels for electing leaders, and you may face a retribution as terrible and powerful as the guillotine of the French revolution.

Well- we can see that the Barkers above are related to Integrity entities via the same agent and facilitator- David A. Barker and his brother Burie J. apparently have a Pizza franchise in the area- here is another entity they set up- “Slice of Hope Foundation” -get it- SLICE of hope- Pizza- anyway- also interesting to note here is filer Interlan Financial Corp of Henderson, NV- associated with Robert J Fusco. Anyway- Slice of Hope was dissolved after the Barkers check for $125 was returned for NSF.

I’m going to send Sen S Brown a check. republicans, scum bags, one and all.

lollll…@phillip deem:  Don’t let me stop you from sending the good Senator’s campaign a check, but I’d point out that not all Republicans of the political variety are scumbags.

Some of ‘em are where they are doing what they do because they’re merely wholly-owned - and very obedient - tools.

Anyone, or any fund that can defeat the despicable, ideologically degenerate Sherod Brown should be given a standing ovation!!

Anyone, or any fund that can defeat the despicable, ideologically degenerate Sherrod Brown should be given a standing ovation!!

Sherrod Brown is an ideological degenerate, should be thrown out of office for malfeasance!

Change is necessary in our Supreme Courts in order for us to laead the awakened new world.

The following relevant writing will find place in


We have already started here, first, educating the global folks about how to recognize those ‘unseen ones with hedgehog-qualities’ that abuse power and those -blind by the negativity of human greed and do thievery-things in the protection safety of laws, especially the privacy laws in our Supreme Courts -that serve only the interests of too greedy North-American corporations.

{One example has just been electronically captured while I was writing these lines (within ‘half an hour ago’ from @7:46 PM this evening), in the conversation -when a Rep. from (one of inseparable North-American businesses on Canadian side:) Rogers Corporation called my VOIP phone: 647-977-3000 regarding my discovery of technically very dishonest theft of Canadian$ 80 cents stemmed from a text message sent to my friend: Talia on September 3, 2012 at 8:41 AM using my cell phone with Roger Corporation -activated on Aug 30, 2012 by a top up of C$10.

No human can get away after doing humanly basic crimes out of humans’ good or bad conscience (e.g. stealing C$ 0.80 x million or billions of times)in this tightly connected electronic communication era, where digital evidences are indestructible, unless our Supreme Courts dishonestly ignore the awareness or complaints and therefore, encourage these kinds of thievery, indirect stealing of taxpayers’ money for paying the bills of ‘just creating nuclear threats abroad’ or making bomb to partially kill mankind somewhere in this beautiful, naturally happy one world etc. etc.).

Another recent example, I can readily give now, is Miss. ‘*Michelle Borg’ of a false case about which at least some of our North-American Courts in Federal levels are aware of and also described in the “78 page Crown Document section” of my Website:

I loved wholeheartedly but felt uncomfortable communicating with ‘*Michelle’ for the last 5 years because of some ‘law abusers of British origin’ and all of a sudden, a few days ago the same -above mentioned ‘*Michelle’ have joined “my longtime and only family physician: Dr. Forbes’ office” as a medical Assistant.

Day before yesterday, my life’s long time partner: Tasmin called to book our regular appointments with my really good and very favorite Mr. Dr. Forbes, only to be informed with severe warning (by Forbes’ son: another Doctor of British origin) that I can no longer see him or never again and even if, I want to accompany Tasmin inside the doctor’s building - the police would arrest me immediately.

I advised the other Doctor that it would make more sense not to hire Michelle at the expense of my losing a very friendly physician (whom I find to be much better or best than all other physicians I ever met including some of my own Bengali or Indian origins). Yesterday morning, September 5, 2012 Dr. Forbes’ office called my VOIP phone: 647-977-3000 and left message that I may accompany Tasmin on her appointment because Dr. Forbes want to see me (but I have no idea -what he’ll discuss with me tomorrow and whether things will take different direction as I am communicating these information with the most honest authority in our North-American territories.

Digital evidences are indestructible and only a little change done in our territorial Supreme Courts can help disperse the virtual hedgehogs and bad-cats out of the heavily guarded bags in the iron-armoire of our outdated North-American Judicial system and benefit the whole world in the coming time.

Only somebody living in some form of la la land laternate reality would think GOTP plan to decreaserevenue & blow up the budget with 5 Trillion $ tax ciut for the wealthy is going to shring the budget. How many times does a house have to fall on some people to get it that GOTP don’t care about the deficit, that’s a talking point, what they care about are tax cuts for the wealthy.
W blew up the deficit, as did HW & Reagan. The presidents who shrank the deficit were Clinton & Carter look up the numbers. the budget grew slowly uner Obama giving the obligations we must pay, W’s wars, defense (24 %), SS (21%), Medicare (20%), TANF, Food stamps (12%),  interest on debt (6%), Benefits for vets,retirees (7%), education (2%), infrastructure (3%), research, int’l, other (5%).
Sometimes people don’t get what they’re talking about so Dem wants to raise taxes to control deficit, lower wars & military spending, cut down on fraud, waste in Medicare to lower deficit by almost a trillion whih keeps program & benefits same but lowers inflated payments to CEO’s at insurance companies. GOP want to cut benefits to seniors & create a coupon service which will screw seniors, they want to play Russian roulette with SS, increase defense spending by 1 Trillion, start a war with Iran, Syria & China, maybe Russia for fun (Yea, those wars cost money, trillions remember W), add another 5 T $ to the nation’s credit card in tax cuts for the wealthy. So anybody who believes doubling down on W’s formula of tax cuts,  war & repealing O’romneycare which adds 1 Trillion$ in needles waste back in waste to medicare (Seniors will end up paying more for prescriptio drugs & no more free preventive care) is beyond delusional. Recession are expensive so Obama added 550B$ for a stimulus to jumpstart the economy, also TARP & the auto save which created/saved millions of jobs, if congress let him pass the jobs bill taht would create more jobs & more tax payroll revenue.
The Democrat plan reduces teh deficit not the GOP plan, anybody doesn’t see that, explain what could have been ut from the budget? Medicare, SS, interests, Auto save, defense, stimulus, TARP? GOP refuses to ut defense so you GOP people are living in fantasy land. Republicans will blow up the budget, if they get a hance, beyond anything anybody an imagine.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
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