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Campaign finance reports show Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown far out-raising Republican candidates

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Campaign finance reports show Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown far out-raising Republican candidates

Feb 07, 2024 | 4:55 am ET
By Nick Evans
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Campaign finance reports show Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown far out-raising Republican candidates
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The U.S. Capitol on Jan. 2, 2024. (Photo by Jennifer Shutt/States Newsroom)

In just six weeks, Ohio voters head to the polls to pick their party’s nominees, and the U.S. Senate race is one of the most hotly contested of the March 19 primary election. Last week the candidates turned in their year-end campaign finance reports.

The three Republicans running to challenge Democratic Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown brought in hundreds of thousands from donors, and bolstered their balance sheets with big personal loans. Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose in particular, has also gotten help from outside groups.

They’ve needed all the help they can get — the GOP campaigns report spending three or four times what they brought in on political ads.

Meanwhile, the $6.6 million Brown raised in the most recent reporting period is more than triple what his challengers raised — combined.

Campaign finance reports show Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown far out-raising Republican candidates
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. (Photo by Graham Stokes for the Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Brown’s haul

In a press release, Brown’s campaign touted the $14.6 million in cash-on-hand at the end of the quarter. Brown’s total gets a boost from roughly $1 million in transfers from other committees, but he still raised well more than $5 million from individuals.

The bulk of that comes from small-ish donations through ActBlue. The left-leaning fundraising platform accounted for more than $3.8 million of Brown’s total, with an average donation amount of about $122.

He reports donations from several trade organizations including bricklayers and steelworkers, and as chair of the Senate banking committee, financial firms are well represented, too. In addition to Ohio’s Huntington Bank, Brown reported donations from credit unions, Visa, and the FICO credit rating company among others.

Brown’s campaign spent $3.1 million during the last quarter and has no outstanding loans. While his $14.6 million in cash-on-hand leads the field, Republican super PACs spent about double that amount in 2022 to help elect Republican Ohio U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance.

Campaign finance reports show Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown far out-raising Republican candidates
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose. (Photo by Justin Merriman/Getty Images.)

Frank LaRose

Ohio’s Secretary of State Frank LaRose reported raising almost $813,000 in his bid for the U.S. Senate. That’s slightly more than entrepreneur Bernie Moreno and well ahead of state Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls.

“Frank LaRose is continuing to demonstrate he’s the man to beat,” campaign spokesman Ben Kindel said in a press release.

The problem for LaRose is cash-on-hand. Despite out-raising his opponents in the most recent quarter, he trails them both in cash because Moreno and Dolan have substantial personal fortunes they can tap. Like them, LaRose has loaned his campaign money. But while LaRose has put up a quarter million dollars, his opponents have shelled out more than 10 times as much.

To help close the gap, a super PAC called Leadership for Ohio Fund has been spending on LaRose’s behalf. According to separate FEC filings, the group has already spent more than $3 million on television ads.

The organization formed in early 2023 and has raised millions of dollars to back LaRose. According to Cleveland.com, a big chunk of that funding comes from Richard Uihlein, the conservative donor who bankrolled a failed initiative in August 2023 to make it more difficult to amend Ohio’s constitution. Murky connections between the group and a supposedly not-yet-running LaRose are the subject of an FEC complaint.

Campaign finance reports show Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown far out-raising Republican candidates
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno speaking to a New Albany town hall crowd alongside U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-OH. (Photo by Nick Evans, Ohio Capital Journal.)

Bernie Moreno

Cleveland-area entrepreneur Bernie Moreno has never held public office, but he has received Donald Trump’s endorsement.

Moreno’s campaign didn’t quite match LaRose’s fundraising totals, but at roughly $800,000, he’s not far behind. In addition to $760,000 from individuals, Moreno reported contributions from Turning Point, The Ohio Coal Association, and the Ohio Auto Dealer Alliance. Moreno built his career owning and operating an array of car dealerships.

An outside group, Buckeye Values PAC, paid for a billboard supporting Moreno’s campaign, but Moreno paid for most of his advertising through his own campaign committee. In all, he reported about $3 million in television and digital ads.

Moreno heads into the primary contest with a little more than $2 million, thanks in part to a $3 million loan he made to his campaign.

Campaign finance reports show Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown far out-raising Republican candidates
State Sen. Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)

Matt Dolan

None of the Republican candidates fundraising totals are eye-popping, but at only about $360,000 Dolan’s year-end report is slimmer compared to others. For context, he raised more than that as a state senator heading into the 2020 general election.

Dolan, however, leads the Republican field in cash thanks to $7 million in personal loans to his campaign. He’s got about $4.85 million to work with.

Dolan also has a super PAC supporting his bid — Buckeye Leadership Fund. The organization only reports a handful of donations, including $100,000 from the chairman of New Balance and a $1 million each from Dolan’s parents.

The super PAC hasn’t started spending on political ads yet. So far, it’s biggest ticket expenditure was for survey research. Dolan’s campaign reported spending close to $1.65 million on television ads, or more than four times what he’s raised.

Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.