Candidates Declare Super PAC Free Zone

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As mentioned here a few days ago, campaign representatives for rival U.S. Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and incumbent Scott Brown in Massachusetts were planning to meet to figure out a way to ban outside group advertising in their hotly contested election. We were dubious that a deal could be made because there’s so much at stake — the winner of the race could determine whether Democrats hold onto the majority in the Senate.

Crossroads GPS Elizabeth Warren attack ad

Last month's Crossroads GPS ad attacking Elizabeth Warren implied she was responsible for TARP and bank bailouts.

On Monday afternoon, the two candidates signed an agreement. Republican Scott Brown described it as a “bold statement that puts super PACs and other third parties on notice that their interference in this race will not be tolerated,” and Democrat Elizabeth Warren added, “Both campaigns will need to remain vigilant to ensure that outside groups do not try to circumvent what is an historic agreement.”

According to the congressional newspaper, The Hill, “The pact signed by Warren and Brown on Monday imposes a financial penalty whenever an outside group intrudes on the race. If an outside group places a television or Internet ad supporting a candidate, the candidate would be required to donate 50 percent of the cost of the ad to a charity of the opponent’s choosing within three days. Negative attack ads would also trigger the penalty, with the candidate whose rival is attacked being forced to forfeit half the cost. Also included in the accord are written requests signed by both candidates to broadcast station managers imploring them to voluntarily enforce the pledge.”

Greg Sargent at The Washington Post quotes the Public Campaign Action Fund’s David Donnelly: “It’s good for them, it’s good for voters, and it’s a good model for every competitive race in the county.”

The problem, of course, is enforcement, with TV station managers already balking at the notion of turning down what has become for them a cash extravaganza. Meanwhile, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads super PAC  is attacking the deal as loophole-ridden and other groups are taking a wait-and-see attitude.  The League of Conservation Voters’ Navin Nayak told Mother Jones magazine, “While we cannot take directions from any candidate on our independent activities, we are inclined to respect the People’s Pledge agreed to by Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown and we hope that Scott Brown will honor his end of the deal when Crossroads and the Koch Brothers inevitably break it.”

With the third party ads included, some have estimated that spending in the Warren-Brown contest could reach as high as $60-100 million.

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