Democracy Advocates Urge Shaheen, Brown to Get Serious About ‘People’s Pledge’

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  • Dale Eisman

New Hampshire’s U.S. Senate candidates need to stop playing political games and get serious about a joint effort to craft a “people’s pledge” that would limit the influence of secret, big money donors in this year’s campaign, democracy advocates Common Cause and Public Citizen said today.

“We recently reached out to both Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and former Sen. Scott Brown, who seem to be the most likely candidates, and suggested they step back from politics as usual. They could start by adopting a people’s pledge similar to the one that worked so well in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.

“We think the people’s pledge is good for democracy, good for New Hampshire, and good for the candidates,” added Public Citizen President Robert Weissman, “and we hope that Brown and Shaheen work in good faith for a win-win deal, quickly.”

“Sen. Brown, who embraced the pledge in Massachusetts, has suggested he will not do so again. We hope he will revisit this position. Sen. Shaheen has signed the Massachusetts version of the pledge; now we hope she will work with Scott Brown on reaching an agreement.”

The people’s pledge commits candidates to make charitable donations from their campaign treasuries to offset spending by tax-exempt, “independent expenditure” organizations, most of which rely on anonymous donors. “Since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010, those groups have assumed an outsized role in campaigns across the country, typically making six- and seven-figure investments in negative TV ads,” Weissman noted.

In Massachusetts, the pledge helped limit spending by outside groups to only 9 percent of the overall campaign total, a fraction of what those groups were able to put into contested races in other states. 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. Common Cause studies on the impact of the Massachusetts pledge are available “We advanced this proposal in good faith, hopeful that the encouragement of our organizations might bring the candidates together for a discussion that would begin their contest on a positive note,” Rapoport said. “We still believe something like the Massachusetts pledge would serve New Hampshire voters well and be a model for other campaigns around the country.