The People's Pledge

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Since 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that corporate contributions to campaigns cannot be limited, special interests have been flooding our elections with cash. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested to purchase favors from elected officials and attack ads. On April 2, 2014, the court in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission overturned years of campaign finance regulations by striking down limits on the overall total that individual donors may give to federal candidates or party committees in a single election cycle.

A handful of candidates are trying to buck these trends with a "People's Pledge." Pioneered by then-U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and then-candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the 2012 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race, the pledge commits participating candidates to make charitable contributions to offset the impact of money spent on their behalf by "independent" super PACs and political non-profit groups.

Studies by Common Cause Massachusetts demonstrated that the People’s Pledge helped limit spending by those groups to only 9 percent of the overall campaign total. Outside spending in that campaign was 93 percent less than in other highly contested 2012 U.S. Senate races.[1]  The pledge also brought Massachusetts a campaign with fewer negative TV ads than were seen in contested races elsewhere and elevated the importance of small dollar donations – along with the people who provide them.

For the 2014 elections, Common Cause has partnered with Public Citizen to call on candidates across America to enter into similar agreements. 

In Hawaii, over the next several weeks, members of Common Cause Hawaii and Public Citizen will continue to contact the major candidates in the races for Governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House to ask that they agree to work with their opponents to tailor the pledge to their own specifications. Once candidates’ responses to the pledge have been compiled, we will be posting them on this webpage.  Please check back here for updates.

 Update: Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Over the past two weeks, Common Cause Hawaii contacted the major candidates in the races for U.S. Senate and U.S. House District 1 to ask that they agree to work with their opponents to tailor a pledge to their own specifications. 

Only Charles Djou, Republican candidate for U.S. House District 1, has expressed interest in negotiating the pledge with his opponent.  He issued a press release agreeing with us about negative mainland third party attack ads. The staff of Brian Schatz, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, said they were "considering" the pledge but have not responded in ten days. We are also awaiting responses from Mark Takai (Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 1) and Cam Cavasso (Republican candidate for U.S. Senate). 

In Hawaii it is illegal for campaigns to make charitable donations during campaign season, so we cannot pursue the People’s Pledge in the Governor's race.

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[1] Creighton, Tyler. "A Plea for a Pledge: Outside Spending In Competitive 2012 U.S. Senate Races." Common Cause Massachusetts: Plea for a Pledge. Accessed September 3, 2014.

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