Scott Brown shouldn't ditch the "People's Pledge'

Written by Tyler Creighton on March 24, 2014


Thumbnail or People's Pledge campaign

(A shortened version of this post was published as a letter to the editor in the Globe on Sunday March 30, click here.)

In his column in the Sunday Globe, Tom Keane is quick to criticize the People's Pledge (Scott Brown should ditch "People's Pledge', Mar. 23). He's not so quick to back those criticisms with hard facts.

He implies the Pledge did not reduce negative campaigning, but under the Pledge in the Brown-Warren race only 36% of television advertisements were negative, compared to 84% negative ads in similar U.S Senate races in Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia. The difference? Outside groups did not air advertisements in the Brown-Warren race, while in the other races outside groups outspent candidates by 34% on average and over 95% of outside group ads were negative. When candidates have to stand by their ads, they are much less likely to go negative.

Second, he confuses "outside group" money with "out-of-state" money. The former is much more dangerous to democracy and is covered by the Pledge, the latter is not. A large percentage of outside group money is "dark" or undisclosed to the public. Dark money constituted around 20% of total spending in Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia, compared to 4% in Massachusetts.

Outside group money is also dominated by a few huge donors. The top 15 Super PAC donors, giving an average of $7.6 million each, in Virginia, Wisconsin, and Ohio matched the $114 million raised from 175,000 individual donors by all of the candidates combined.

True, the Pledge is often used for personal political advantage. But whatever the motives, the ultimate winners of elections devoid of dark, big money political contributions and an endless barrage of negative ads are not the candidates, but the voters.

Office: Common Cause National

Issues: Money in Politics, Money in Politics

Tags: Plea for a Pledge, People's Pledge

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