BOSTON — During Massachusetts’ 2012 U.S. Senate race, Republican incumbent Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren hammered out what would become known as the “people’s pledge” — a deal designed to discourage attack ads funded by outside groups.
It’s since been proposed by candidates — Republican and Democrat — in Senate races this year in Alaska, Kentucky and New Hampshire. Candidates running in Rhode Island’s Democratic primary for governor have already signed a pledge, and it’s been proposed in gubernatorial and attorney general races in Massachusetts.
As often as not, however, the demand for a pledge seems to be as much about tweaking an opponent and wielding a political attack as it is about trying to tamp down outside money.
In New Hampshire, one of the signers of the original people’s pledge — Brown — has declined to agree to a similar deal as he tries to unseat Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, who has pressed for a pledge.
The group Common Cause, one of the strongest supporters of the pledge, has urged candidates in more than a dozen states to adopt it. The group says the pledge will help, in part, to blunt an expected flood of money from outside groups in the wake of the Citizens United decision.
One of the few pledges agreed to so far is in Rhode Island, where the three leading Democratic candidates for governor reached a voluntary agreement in April to reduce outside spending.
The pledge signed by Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and political newcomer Clay Pell calls for any candidate who benefits from an outside group’s advertising to make a donation to charity in the amount of the ad buy. If two candidates benefit, each will donate half the cost.
In Massachusetts, the pledge has had a spotty history since the 2012 Senate campaign, where it was largely successful in blocking television, radio and Internet ads by outside groups.