Proposal to Curb Outside Spending in Alaska’s U.S. Senate Race is a Good Step but Must Get Sign On From All Candidates to be Effective

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  • Dale Eisman

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A proposal made today to curb outside spending in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race is an excellent way for candidates to reclaim control of their election contests, but it must be agreed to by all major candidates to be effective, Common Cause and Public Citizen said.


Republican candidate Dan Sullivan called on Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Begich to sign an “Alaska Agreement” calling on outside groups to stop funding TV and radio ads by July 4 that identify either of them and support or attack their candidacies.


“Because of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, Alaskans are being subjected to a historic torrent of mud-slinging, negative attack ads financed by outside organizations,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Outside groups are spending millions of dollars even before the primary election, with the aim of influencing the outcome of the general election.”


The proposed Alaska Agreement is modeled after the “People’s Pledge” made by Massachusetts Senate candidates Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in 2012. Designed to curb the involvement of out-of-state “dark money” groups and anonymous donors in campaigns, the agreement required each candidate to make charitable contributions from his campaign treasury to offset funds spent on the candidate’s behalf by “independent” Super PACs and nonprofit groups.


“We hope that all candidates can agree to a pledge immediately,” said Karen Hobert Flynn, Common Cause’s senior vice president for strategy and programs. “If they cannot, we urge the Republican and Democratic nominees to agree to a pledge immediately upon completion of the August primary.”


Rhode Island’s three Democratic gubernatorial candidates – Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Clay Pell – recently signed the pledge. In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan Grimes, Democratic contender for the U.S. Senate seat held by U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, recently called on McConnell to take the People’s Pledge.


The Brown-Warren contest was among the most expensive Senate races of 2012, but a post-election study by Common Cause Massachusetts found that only 9 percent of the money spent came from outside groups. In Virginia and Wisconsin, which had similarly contested races and no pledge, more than 60 percent of all spending was by dark money organizations.


“According to polls, eight in 10 Americans have said they would support limits on the amount of money given to groups trying to influence U.S. elections,” Weissman said. “By signing the People’s Pledge, candidates across the nation can give the American people what they want – an election free of corporate corruption.”