The constellation of super PACs supporting Mitt Romney has drowned each of his opponents with lavish expenditures on attack ads; last week, for example, the super PAC Restore our Future spent $5.7 million. These PACs have not been content just to focus on presidential candidates, however; two days ago, a pro-Romney PAC sponsored internet advertisements supporting Scott Brown in his Massachusetts Senate race.
This support by the Romney PAC seems a bit suspicious, to say the least. As I discussed a few weeks back, Brown and his opponent Elizabeth Warren signed a pledge to limit the involvement of third-party advertising in the campaign. Under the terms of the pledge, each campaign agreed to donate to charity half the cost of any third-party ad that either supported their campaign or attacked their opponent. The Romney super PAC ad was a clear violation of the terms of the agreement, and the Brown campaign asked the PAC to take down the ad. They declined to do so, and the Brown campaign responded with the $250 donation. Interestingly, all of this seemed to happen in a matter of minutes.
There's something slightly strange about the whole incident. Why would a Brown ally -- remember, Brown and Romney largely share the same backers and even staff -- spend such a small amount of money like $500 and then refuse the honor the campaign's request to go off the air? Why did the Brown campaign decide to make the donation so quickly without looking into the source of the ad?
Only time will tell, but I have a feeling that this is a prelude to some sort of broader, coordinated onslaught to undermine the third-party pledge, an effort to show that Brown is on board with the pledge to defend himself against later attacks when he or his backers try to game it. Warren supporters should keep their eyes open for the next round of controversy.
As I noted previously, the fact that the Brown campaign tasked Sean Cairncross with drafting the pledge -- a national Republican operative with deep relationships in the Republican super PAC world -- is an indication that the campaign has been cynical about the agreement from the beginning. This week's involvement of other national Republicans -- and yes, like Sean Cairncross this super PAC is also based in Washington, D.C. -- is perhaps one more warning that something is brewing and bad behavior is on the way.