‘Dark money’ group behind latest attack on Franken

Republican Senate candidate Mike McFadden’s bid to unseat Sen. Al Franken is getting a boost from the Hometown Freedom Action Network, a super PAC that just dropped more than $340,000 on mobile ads targeting the Democratic incumbent.

That's the single largest media buy by an outside group in the U.S. Senate race so far.

Two of the group’s online ads echo McFadden’s criticism that Franken votes too often for President Barack Obama’s priorities.

The group has also spent money on congressional races in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

The super PAC isn’t allowed to coordinate with McFadden. With far more competitive Senate races around the country, it is not clear why the group has decided to spend here. Calls to Hometown Freedom Action Network were not returned.

Hometown Freedom Action Network has just one donor: A Public Voice, Inc., an Ohio-based non-profit that has given the super PAC more than $160,000 this election cycle.

Beyond that, Hometown Freedom Action Network’s background is murky. That’s because A Public Voice can use its non-profit status to shield its donors. In the world of campaign finance, these groups are referred to as "dark money" organizations because they don't have to reveal where their money is coming from.

According to records filed with the Ohio Secretary of State’s office, A Public Voice used to be named Protect Your Vote Ohio, and was formed in opposition to a 2012 effort to give citizens a say in the state’s redistricting process. That year, former Sen. Norm Coleman’s political group, The American Action Network, gave Protect Your Vote Ohio $850,000 according to documents filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

Protect Your Vote Ohio and A Public Voice were both incorporated by representatives from Langdon Law, a firm owned by West Chester, Ohio, lawyer David Langdon, who is known for representing conservative groups.  In 2013, Langdon was involved in an Internal Revenue Service investigation for possible illegal coordination between multiple groups.

Langdon is also the treasurer for Hometown Freedom Action Network. He did not return MPR News’s calls for comment.

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