This week, Democratic Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren and Republican Senator Scott Brown signed a pledge to insist third-party groups stay out of their heated and important Massachusetts Senate race. Under the terms of the pledge, Warren and Brown must donate half the cost of any third-party ad to charity if the ad either supports a candidate or attacks their opponent by name. The goal is to eliminate the kind of ugly, unnecessary mudslinging that's come to be a trashy hallmark of American politics. Both candidates, who have already been the subjects of expensive, PAC attack campaigns, immediately hailed it as an important experiment. "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," Brown said in a prepared statement.
It's not been 48 hours since Warren and Brown made their announcement, and already the third-party groups have turned petty.
Speaking for the liberal League of Conservation Voters, senior vice president of campaigns Kevin Nayak told the Associated Press, "The only thing oil companies have going for them are their deep pockets, so if this agreement will help sideline them, we welcome it... We hope that Scott Brown will honor his end of the deal when Crossroads and the Koch Brothers inevitably break it."
In kind, American Crossroads, a conservative group with ties to Karl Rove, shot back saying the Warren-Brown deal was too kind to unions. "Because the agreement allows union phone banks, direct mail, and get-out-the-vote drives—all union core specialties—Warren’s latest agreement has loopholes the Teamsters could drive a truck through, the longshoremen could steer a ship through, the machinists could fly a plane through and government unions could drive forklifts of paperwork through," American Crossroads CEO Steven Law told the Boston Herald.
In other words, for as much as Warren and Brown would like to clean up politics, the engine that runs the system—money, and the groups distributing it—doesn't seem very eager to clean itself up.
Photos via (cc) Flickr