EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 19, 2013

Dems running for governor agree on 'People's Pledge' concept

By Colleen Quinn
State House News Service

---- — BOSTON — While details remain to be worked out, the Democratic candidates running for governor in 2014 have agreed to take a “People’s Pledge” aimed at limiting outside money in the race.

Treasurer Steven Grossman yesterday challenged Attorney General Martha Coakley to agree to a pledge, saying the three other Democrats in the race had already done so. Grossman said he had sent a letter to Coakley “welcoming” her to the race, and asking her to sign the pledge.

“I think it is an important statement of our values, and I think it is an important statement of our fundamental principles that Massachusetts candidates for governor should use money that is fully disclosed, and that unregulated outside money, which perverts the political process, has no place in the governor’s race. And I look forward to hearing from her,” Grossman told the News before Coakley responded to the request.

In a statement, Coakley said, “I applaud the leadership that Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown showed in signing the original ‘people’s pledge’ and look forward to working with other candidates in this race to put in place a similar agreement. My campaign will work with the other democratic candidates to finalize a people’s pledge for the Primary.”

In August, Grossman asked all declared Democratic candidates for governor – former Medicare and Medicaid acting chief Don Berwick, health care executive Joe Avellone, and former state and federal homeland security official Juliette Kayyem to take a pledge similar to one that Congressman Stephen Lynch and then Rep. Ed Markey took during their U.S. Senate special election primary, which Markey won.

The “People’s Pledge” precedent was first employed in 2012 by then-U.S. Sen. Scott Brown and his Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren. Brown and Warren agreed to limit spending by outside groups to limit the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case, which opened the door to unlimited, undisclosed spending by outside groups, corporations and individuals in campaigns.

During the Brown-Warren race, the two opponents said that if an outside group ran a television ad or other certain type of advertising, the candidate who benefitted from the outside spending would contribute half the amount spent on the ad to the opponent’s preferred charity.

In a bid to reduce the influence of SuperPACs, Grossman’s draft pledge goes farther than the Warren and Brown agreement, expanding it to cover direct mail and online ads. Grossman’s language would have candidates agree to send 100 percent of the third-party ad expenditure to the One Fund Boston. The proposed pledge would be “null and void” if any Democratic candidate for governor reneges on it during the campaign, and the proposed agreement would not apply to spending by the state and national Democratic Party committees.

Grossman said the exact language of the agreement still needs to be finalized.

Taking a pledge to keep outside money from influencing the governor’s race is the right thing to do, Grossman said.

“We need to keep unrestricted, unregulated money out of the governor’s race. It perverts politics and undermines the credibility of the political process. And this is something that Massachusetts has now established as pretty much a tradition, from Warren, Brown, all the way to the present,” he said.

As Coakley enters the race, Grossman said he is looking forward to a competitive primary, and feels it will strengthen the candidates in the months leading up to the November 2014 election.

He said he is the “only candidate in the Democratic field who has spent a lifetime creating jobs, building on the economic security, both in our own family business, and taking that leadership role into the treasury.”

Republican Charles Baker and independent Evan Falchuk are also running for governor.