The leading opposition research group for national Republicans is digging into the career of Connie Schultz, the wife of potential Democratic presidential candidate Sherrod Brown.
It’s a move that underscores how visible Schultz — a prominent journalist successful in her own right — would be in any campaign, and how outside groups want to prepare for such a possibility.
Two days after Brown won a third Senate term in Ohio last November, an operative for America Rising sent a public records request to Kent State University, where Schultz teaches several journalism courses, according to a copy BuzzFeed News obtained via its own public records request. The group sought Schultz’s contracts and performance evaluations; Kent State responded 20 days later with 37 pages of documents.
America Rising has roots in the Republican establishment and is partnering with President Donald Trump’s allies to attack Democratic contenders as the 2020 race begins. By going after Schultz’s Kent State records, the group has signaled it will comb for information on spouses who have worked on government payrolls and at taxpayer funded institutions like state colleges.
"America Rising uses [Freedom of Information Act requests] as a tool to ensure all publicly available information about a candidate is made known to voters,” said Samantha Cotten, the group’s spokesperson. “We are employing our full opposition research, tracking, and communications system to the entire 2020 Democratic field to hold them accountable.”
Schultz for years wrote for The Plain Dealer, Ohio’s largest newspaper. She won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2005, appears frequently on cable news as a progressive voice, has a nationally syndicated column, and is working on her first novel. She has taught at Kent State, her alma mater, since 2016. Performance evaluations done by her students and included in the university’s response to America Rising showed largely high marks.
In interviews with BuzzFeed News last month, Brown and Schultz both said Schultz would play a key role in any presidential campaign. They have talked about splitting up on the trail, given Schultz’s speaking skills and her family history in working-class Ashtabula, Ohio.
“It’s no surprise,” said Justin Barasky, an adviser to Brown’s political team, “that Republicans are working overtime to prepare for the potential candidates that they’re most worried about.”