Brownsberger Calls For Enhanced 'People's Pledge' In Race To Succeed Markey

State Sen. William Brownsberger, who is running to succeed U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, is calling on his opponents to accept an enhanced "People's Pledge."

The pledge, which originated with the U.S. Senate race pitting Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, is designed to keep campaign spending from third-party political groups at bay.

Brownsberger is also asking his opponents to shun any direct campaign contributions from political action committees and lobbyists, whether they operate at the state or federal level.

“I am urging my competition in this race to do as I’ve done, which is to live by my principles, refusing money that has no place in Massachusetts elections,” Brownsberger said. “Money has become a deeply corrupting force in politics, when the focus should be on tackling the hard issues. "

Scott Ferson, a spokesman for the Brownsberger campaign, said none of his opponents have committed to the enhanced pledge.

Eric Hyers, campaign manager for one of those opponents — state Sen. Karen Spilka — said  she would sign the People's Pledge "today."

But he dismissed Brownsberger's call for a ban on PAC and lobbyist contributions as an attempt to score "political points." "This is changing the rules five months after people started fundraising, in some cases," Hyers said.

Alex Goldstein, a spokesman for another candidate in the race — Middlesex Sheriff  Peter Koutoujian — issued a statement saying Koutoujian "fully supports a People's Pledge." The statement didn't make mention of Brownberger's call for a ban on PAC and lobbyist contributions.

State Rep. Carl Sciortino, another Democrat vying for the seat, noted in a statement that he volunteered to sign the People's Pledge last week in the formal announcement of his candidacy. His campaign declined to comment on Brownsberger's call for a ban on PAC and lobbyist contributions.

Brooke Scannell, a spokeswoman for state Sen. Katherine Clark, also running for Markey's seat, said in a statement: "While it's not clear how it would be implemented or enforced in a multi-candidate field, we look forward to continued conversation with the other campaigns about how we can best achieve the goals of a People's Pledge."

Scannell's statement made no mention of the proposed PAC and lobbyist contribution ban.

Brownsberger has not always shunned lobbyists contributions — making an exception, through 2011, for any lobbyist who was a constituent. His campaign said he stopped the practice last year.

Campaign finance records show he received donations from three lobbyists in 2012. Ferson, his spokesman, said he quickly returned one of the checks — from George Bachrach, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Ferson said Brownsberger recently discovered the two other donors — Neil Sullivan, executive director of the Boston Private Industry Council, and Steven Rothstein, president of the Perkins School for the Blind —  are registered lobbyists. The state senator returned both checks.

Brownsberger has not always taken the orthodox campaign finance reform position.

Last summer, he was the only state senator to vote against a resolution calling for a repeal of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which helped clear the way for corporations and unions to spend unlimited sums in political campaigns.

Brownsberger wrote, in a blog post, that he supports the Citizens United decision on free speech grounds.

All of the Democratic candidates in the race are working to establish their liberal bona fides in a deep-blue district. And Brownsberger's pitch for an enhanced People's Pledge looks like an attempt to get out ahead on campaign finance reform.

The pledge has become an important good-government symbol in Massachusetts politics in recent months.

Last fall, Brown and Warren agreed to donate to charity any time an outside group spent money on television, radio or Internet ads supporting their campaigns.

Markey and U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch took an even stronger "People's Pledge" in their Democratic primary fight for a U.S. Senate seat this spring — adding a measure aimed at curbing direct-mail campaigns by outside groups.

And after winning the primary, Markey challenged his Republican opponent Gabriel Gomez to take the pledge. When Gomez declined, he made it a campaign issue for a time.

Markey, who won the Senate race, is expected to formally resign his House seat after the July 4 holiday weekend. Gov. Deval Patrick will then have 145 to 160 days to call a special election.

That would put the general election in December. The Democratic and Republican primaries will come some time before that.

Lawyer Frank Addivinola Jr. has declared his candidacy on the Republican side.

This article was originally published on July 01, 2013.

This program aired on July 1, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.


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