Shaheen Campaign Memo: The People’s Pledge

To: Interested Parties
From: Mike Vlacich, Campaign Manager for Jeanne Shaheen
Date: March 18, 2014
Re: The People’s Pledge

When Senator Shaheen first told me she wanted to propose the same People’s Pledge agreed to by Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in their Massachusetts Senate race in 2012, I initially balked. It was not something I had figured into our campaign plan. But Senator Shaheen really admired that Brown and Warren were able to stop the third-party attack ads already polluting the Massachusetts airwaves 11 months before their election. As you know, Senator Shaheen is a strong proponent of limiting the influence of third-party organizations.

As recently as six weeks ago in Ithaca, NY, Scott Brown was touting the merits of the People’s Pledge, so we expected he would immediately agree to it. We were surprised when his initial response was to reject the idea out-of-hand.

The People’s Pledge is simple

To keep third parties from running ads to influence the election, both candidates agree that if any third party broadcasts an ad on their behalf, the candidate being helped will contribute to a charity an amount equal to 50 percent of the cost of the ads. The other candidate gets to choose the charity getting the money. It worked in 2012. Once Brown and Warren entered into this agreement, attacks ads by third-party groups came to a halt.

As the Boston Globe wrote last year, “The Warren-Brown pledge wasn’t just successful because it kept super PAC ads off air, although that’s nothing to scoff at. It also imposed more accountability on the race. When the campaign got heated, candidates had to take responsibility for attacks lobbed at their opponent, and couldn’t hide behind third-party groups.” [3/7/2013]

FACT: Third-Party Ads aired in Massachusetts before Brown proposed and signed the People’s Pledge

We were shocked that Scott Brown said this weekend that no third-party ads had been run in Massachusetts before he and Warren entered into this agreement. That’s just flat out wrong, millions of dollars wrong. When Brown and Warren signed their People’s Pledge, more than $3 million had already been spent on advertising by third-party groups. They signed the pledge to stop it.

FACT: More third-party money has been spent on Brown’s behalf than on Shaheen’s

In his response to Senator Shaheen’s request that they enter into a People’s Pledge, Brown complained that he’d already been the victim of attack ads. Maybe he wasn’t living in New Hampshire when the third-party attacks started, but the first attack ads came from his supporters. And maybe now he still doesn’t watch New Hampshire stations, but, counting the Karl Rove ad that will begin airing this week, third-party groups have spent more than $1.5 million on ads on his behalf, three and a half times greater than what third-party groups have spent on Senator Shaheen’s behalf.

In 2012 Scott Brown said the people of Massachusetts deserve better than to have the airwaves polluted with third-party ads. The people of New Hampshire deserve better, too, and we hope Scott Brown will agree.