WASHINGTON -- The two Democratic candidates running to fill Secretary of State John Kerry's Senate seat have agreed to a "People's Pledge" to keep money spent by independent groups out of their primary campaign.
The agreement signed by Reps. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.) is more expansive than the pact crafted by the 2012 campaigns of then-Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and his opponent Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
The Markey/Lynch pledge requires either candidate to donate 50 percent of the amount of nearly any spending by an independent group, either in support of his campaign or against his opponent. This includes spending on direct mail, which was pointedly excluded from the Warren/Brown pledge in 2012 and led to groups skirting the agreement by spending millions on mail campaigns.
Both Markey and Lynch sounded the same message in statements released on Wednesday evening.
"Outside money has no place in the Massachusetts Senate race," Markey said. "This election should be focused on issues, not outside-group attack ads. I urge all candidates in this race to join us in committing to the people's pledge and say no to the outside special interests who want to influence this election."
"Outside interest groups have no place in Massachusetts elections," said Lynch. "This race should be decided in debates and on the stump, not by third party advertisements or special interest mailers. I urge the Republican, Libertarian, unenrolled, and any other candidates to join us in this pledge."
The Markey/Lynch pledge still leaves a few potential loopholes for outside money through door-to-door canvassing and robocalls that do not appear to be covered in the language.
The pledge, which is now becoming something of a Massachusetts tradition, is meant to restrict the spending of groups like super PACs, unions and "dark money" non-profits that have spent astronomically more ever since the Supreme Court decided in their 2010 Citizens United ruling that corporations and unions could spend freely on elections, as long as those expenses were independent of campaigns.
None of the announced Republican candidates have yet agreed to the "People's Pledge."
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) issued a statement saying that it will abide by the pledge in the general special election only if the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) and the Republican candidate agrees to do the same.
“It’s time for Republicans to join Democratic candidates in honoring the People’s Pledge in Massachusetts because the decision of who will be the next Senator doesn't belong in the hands of Karl Rove and his special interest allies," Guy Cecil, executive director of the DSCC, said in statement. "The DSCC will abide by the rules of the People’s Pledge if our Republican counterparts do the same.”
State Rep. Dan Winslow (Norfolk), one of two Republican candidates running in the Massachusetts special election for Kerry's Senate seat, said in a statement that he would not sign the "People's Pledge" were he to win his party's nomination, according to MassLive.
"I support reforming the way we finance campaigns in this country,” Winslow said in a statement. "I welcome any outside group to contribute positive bio or issue ads, mailings, social media and the like. I am running a different kind of campaign. I am not an entrenched Washington insider who has to sign a pledge in order to run a fair, clean, positive campaign.”
He also called both Markey and Lynch hypocrites for accepting out of state campaign contributions while opposing spending by independent groups. "For congressmen Markey and Lynch to posture about outside money in politics when their coffers are already filled with money from outside Massachusetts just shows you how inauthentic this pledge really is," he said.
MassLive also reported that Gabriel Gomez, the other announced Republican candidate, has not taken a position on the pledge yet.
This story has been updated to reflect comment from the DSCC and Republican candidate State Rep. Dan Winslow.