GOP Senate candidates rebuff Democrats call to sign People’s Pledge

Brace yourself for more anonymous political ads: The three Republican candidates in the US Senate primary Monday rejected a Democratic proposal to bar outside groups from running TV ads or sending mailers in the special election campaign.

Two of the three called it a ploy to put them at a disadvantage. While both Democrats in the race—US Representatives Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch—are experienced candidates with substantial war chests, the Republicans are all first-time congressional candidates who are just beginning to raise money.

“If Congressman Markey wanted to start at the very same level as everyone else, Congressman Lynch, and the rest of us, that would be fine,” said Paul Moore, campaign manager for Republican candidate Michael Sullivan, the former US attorney for Massachusetts.

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Moore said he hoped outside ads would resist “mud slinging.” But he called it unwise for Sullivan’s nascent campaign to sign the so-called People’s Pledge: “We are not in the mode right now of thinking how we can reduce friends and allies, and people who might be helpful.”

State Representative Daniel Winslow, former legal counsel to Republican Governor Mitt Romney, also called the pact a ploy. “For congressmen Markey and Lynch to posture about outside money in politics when their coffers are already filled with money from outside Massachusetts just shows you how inauthentic this pledge really is,” Winslow said in a statement.

And Republican Gabriel Gomez, a private equity investor and former Navy SEAL, said the only pledge he would sign is “to protect and defend the Constitution .... Let’s be honest, politicians always make pledges because nobody trusts them.”

Rejection of the pledge by all three GOP candidates means there will likely be no pledge for the general election that follows the April 30 primaries.

Pioneered by Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown in their US Senate race last year, the pact famously kept outside groups off the airwaves and out of mailboxes in that campaign. But it did not prevent the race from being among the most expensive in the country, as both Warren and Brown raised and spent millions.

“These Republicans are in a very different position that Brown was a year ago, when he was doing very financially and thought he could probably gain politically by not accepting outside money,” said Peter Ubertaccio, chairman of the political science department at Stonehill College. “For a candidate who really will need the support that groups from outside the state can bring, it’s probalby not in their best interest to sign the pledge.”

Lynch, who began the race with about $800,000 to Markey’s more than $3 million, proposed renewing the pledge in a letter to Markey early last month. Both Democrats had signed it by Feb. 13, when the Republican field was still taking shape in the wake of Brown’s decision not to run in the special election to replace John F. Kerry.

Markey on Monday took to the State House steps to call for the Republicans to join in signing the pledge, which does not legally prohibit outside groups from running ads but instead says that if a group buys an ad supporting one candidate, the candidate must donate half the value of that ad to a charity of his opponent’s choosing.

John Walsh, the state Democratic Party chairman, joined in by releasing a video asking the Republicans, “If the highly acclaimed People’s Pledge is good enough for Scott Brown, why aren’t you in support?”

Gomez and Sullivan Monday joined Winslow, who had already indicated he would not sign the pledge. The Republicans—all running as Washington outsiders—called campaign finance reform a laudable goal, but they said the pledge would put them at a disadvantage without achieving that goal. They pointed to past fundraising by the incumbents from political action committees and said that Markey and Lynch should spend more time worrying about the problems before Congress.

The Republicans said they hoped outside spending would generate positive messages, but Lynch spokesman Conor Yunits called that unlikely. “That these Republican candidates aren’t willing to sign, clearly indicates that they’re going to flood the airwaves with negative advertising.”