Calling on Candidates to Take the ‘People’s Pledge’

Calling on Candidates to Take the 'People's Pledge'

By Thomas Natalini

In the wake of this week’s constitutional amendment hearing on money in politics, Common Cause delivered letters to congressional and gubernatorial candidates across the country urging them to take a “People’s Pledge” to reject outside spending by special interest groups in their political races.

The letter urges the office-seekers to “try something different: a campaign you and your opponent will be proud of”_ that will give voters an honest picture of you and your approaches to the critical issues facing [them].”

Since 2010, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that money equals speech, 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 that only misinformed voters. In April, 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.

In the Brown-Warren race, the pledge proved remarkably successful. Outside spending in that campaign was 93 percent less than in other highly contested 2012 U.S. Senate races. Now Common Cause is looking to replicate these results. Candidates from Arkansas to Georgia, Nebraska to North Carolina and beyond, are being urged to take this pledge. And citizens across the country are becoming increasingly aware of this issue. As Public Citizen President Robert Weissman pointed out, “eight in 10 Americans have said they would support limits on the amount of money given to groups trying to influence U.S. elections.”

Amid such interest in the issue, Common Cause and Public Citizen are hosting a call with now Sen. Warren, who will discuss her experience with the pledge and take questions regarding money in politics.

“Those who are rich have managed to help rewrite the rules,” says Warren, “When that starts to happen, we get a country that’s headed in the wrong direction.” Common Cause and Public Citizen are looking to engineer a turnaround.