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Warren, Brown settle on super pact

1/23/2012
Politico

Manu Raju

The candidates in the Massachusetts Senate tentatively reached a first-of-its-kind agreement to limit outside ads after Republican Sen. Scott Brown agreed to a counteroffer made by Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren Monday just days after talks hit an impasse.

The campaigns are seeking to dissuade outside groups from pumping money into the state — since doing so would force a financial penalty on the candidate who benefits.

Under Warren’s offer, the Harvard professor spelled out that within three days, the campaign that benefits must make a charitable contribution worth half of an ad’s costs. It also specifies how online ads would be covered, calls for the two sides to close “loopholes” that arise and that the two would limit outside “sham” ads if a group falsely claims to be a supporter.

“I am committed to moving beyond rhetoric and taking real action to stop third-party advertising in this campaign for the U.S. Senate, and I hope the same is true for you,” Warren said.

Warren signed the pledge, sent it to the media and asked Brown for his signature. He announced his agreement soon after.

“I’m pleased professor Warren has joined with me in signing my People’s Pledge. This is a great victory for the people of Massachusetts, and a bold statement that puts super PACs and other third parties on notice that their interference in this race will not be tolerated. This historic agreement means the candidates will be in control of their own campaigns and accountable for what is said,” Brown said in a statement.

The two have been volleying back and forth for more than a week over the issue, with each seeking the higher ground on negative outside ads, which are poised to dominate the race that could determine which party controls the Senate. After a Friday meeting between campaign managers for the two candidates, Warren rejected Brown’s latest proposal, claiming there were “loopholes that Karl Rove could drive a tank through.”

The “People’s Pledge” Warren signed Monday was similar in scope and language to Brown’s latest counteroffer.

The agreement could become a model for other campaigns grappling with the influx of third-party groups and super PACs that have grown more dominant since the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court loosened campaign finance rules.

But it also could amount to a flop. Both campaigns are poised to raise record sums of cash and may not be hurt too badly if third parties continue to advertise in the two main media markets there. It could open up each side to charges that it is not living up to its campaign pledge. And outside groups cannot coordinate with the campaigns, meaning they’re free to ignore the candidates’ overtures even if they reach an agreement.

Indeed, both the liberal League of Conservation Voters and conservative American Crossroads have pumped millions into ad campaigns in the state so far — and officials with the groups have not committed to abide by any pact.

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