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Having won Senat's costliest race, Brown calls for curb on campaign spending

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U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown said he will return to trying to pass legislation aimed at restricting independent groups’ spending during political campaigns.

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A week after winning what may have been the most expensive Senate race of 2012, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio) said he will return to trying to pass legislation aimed at restricting independent groups’ spending during political campaigns.

“Out-of-state special-interest groups tried to buy this election. Ohio voters proved they can’t be bought,” Mr. Brown said Wednesday in a telephone conference call with reporters.

“People in Ohio were just sick of these ads. One reason I won the election is people began to think, ‘Why are they spending all this money against Brown, and who are these people?’ ”

Senator Brown defeated Republican Josh Mandel 50-45 percent, with 4.6 percent going to independent candidate Scott Rupert, according to unofficial Nov. 6 election returns.

According to the Brown campaign, outside groups spent about $40 million to try to defeat him.

The outpouring of spending was allowed by the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that corporations had a First Amendment right to advertise in election campaigns. Mr. Brown said he believed the undisclosed money came from “out-sourcers,” Wall Street, oil companies, and even China.

According to the Brown campaign, the biggest spender on negative television ads against him was Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies ($11.7 million), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce ($7.8 million), and 60-Plus Association ($2.5 million).

Justin Barasky, spokesman for the campaign, said that the outside spending combined with more than $40 million spent by the two candidates’ own campaigns made Ohio’s Senate race the most expensive in the country in this cycle, and one of the most expensive ever.

One bill being backed by Mr. Brown is called the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act, or DISCLOSE. The bill was blocked from passage by Republicans in July.

Under the bill, outside spending groups would have to disclose their contributors to the Federal Elections Commission, and corporations that have government contracts or got bail-out funds would be barred from spending money on elections.

He also called for a law requiring corporations to have approval from shareholders for political activity, and for an investigation of so-called nonprofit “Social Welfare” organizations that run political ads.

Asked if unions should be subject to the same rules, with union members having to vote to approve political expenses, Mr. Brown rejected what he called a “false equivalency” between unions’ and corporations’ campaign spending because, he said, corporations have much more money to spend on elections while unions vote for their officers every three years.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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