WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts Senate candidate Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) wants to keep independent groups out of the special election he plans to run in should Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) vacate his seat to become the next Secretary of State.
On Monday, the Markey campaign released a challenge to all unannounced candidates to accept a "people's pledge" to keep spending by independent groups out of the special election.
"I am challenging all of the candidates -- Democrats and Republicans -- in this special election for the United States Senate to join me in committing to the people’s pledge upon entering this race," Markey said in a statement released by his campaign. "If all the candidates agree, we can give the voters the kind of debate they deserve. This election should be a forum for the voices of everyday voters, not attacks from Karl Rove and other outside special interests. This election should be focused on big issues and ideas, not big-money outside groups."
The pledge would mirror the agreement signed between the 2012 campaigns of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) that prevented big spending by independent groups in their already expensive contest. That agreement stipulated that any advertising spending by independent groups favoring a candidate would be matched by 50 percent in charitable giving by that candidate's campaign.
Independent group spending soared in the 2012 election after the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United ruling and subsequent decisions freed corporations, unions and individuals to spend freely on campaigns. Spending by these groups exceeded $1 billion in 2012, up from just $300 million in 2008.
The Warren-Brown agreement did not completely eliminate independent spending from their race. In total, $7.6 million was spent by outside groups, mostly on mailers, phone-banking and get-out-the-vote initiatives. The pact did, however, limit independent spending on television advertising in the race, thereby lowering overall spending to levels far below those in other highly contested Senate races, all of which saw outside spending over $20 million.
The Boston Globe editorialized in favor of the pact after the election ended: "Because of the 'people's pledge' that Brown and Warren signed at the outset of the campaign, super PACs and other outside spending entities stayed off TV airwaves -- and the two Massachusetts rivals kept control over their own messages."
Markey, of course, still needs an opponent before he can insist on such a pledge. No candidates have yet come forward in either the primary or the general special election race for Kerry's Senate seat. Any future candidates, however, may want to consider agreeing to limit outside spending, since environmental groups would otherwise likely spend big to support Markey, a climate hawk.