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Massachusetts Election 2013: Ed Markey Violates His Own Campaign Pledge … Again

Last month, I explained that the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in the Massachusetts special election, Rep. Ed Markey, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) berated the Republican nominee, Gabriel Gomez, for not signing something called the “People’s Pledge.” In a strange turn, Markey himself has violated the pledge.

The “People’s Pledge” is "an agreement that imposes financial penalties on candidates any time an outside group runs a TV, radio, Internet, or mail advertisement on their behalf." In other words, when a candidate takes the pledge, he may be penalized for circumstances which are not in his or his campaign’s control. Gomez explained he would not take the pledge, for the only pledge he would take was the same he took when serving in the military — to defend the Constitution. Gomez went on to say that Markey’s call for Gomez to sign the pledge was “disingenuous,” as outside groups poured over $1 million into the Democratic primary which gave Markey the nomination. Markey had signed the pledge during the primary, violated it, and incurred no financial penalties.

Once again, Markey is violating the pledge. NextGen Committee was formed and is entirely funded by hedge-funder, billionaire, and environmental activist Tom Steyer, to protest the Keystone XL pipeline … and help elect Markey, apparently. NextGen spent about $290,000 in the Democratic primary to ensure Markey’s election and Lynch’s defeat – if Markey abided by the “People’s Pledge” for which he advocated, he would have steadfastly dissuaded NextGen from helping him and there would have been monetary consequences for his campaign. Perhaps the pledge is only noble when it benefits Markey and his campaign?

According to their spokesman, Chris Lehane, NextGen Committee now intends to be involved in the general election. In a memo, Lehane praised Markey and scolded Gomez as inexperienced and unpalatable. He is somewhat correct about the “inexperienced” component — Markey has abused his leadership role by remaining as a congressman for almost 40 years, accepting questionable money, and bouncing checks, while Gomez spent his life serving as a Navy SEAL and working in private business.

Lehane went on to write that NextGen “will seek to be a ‘politically disruptive force’ in the general election.” This includes operating a “field campaign to target Boston federal election voters,” “online and digital advertising,” targeting “faith voters,” and “guerrilla marketing” (the practice of “using political stunts and low-cost, unconventional means to engage voters”). If this doesn’t violate the “People’s Pledge,” one can’t be certain that anything does, leaving the pledge meaningless – unless, of course, Markey is just engaging in hypocrisy.

While Markey has said he opposes outside spending in the race, outside groups remain free to advertise on behalf of both Markey and Gomez. This leads to two key points. A candidate cannot always control what outside groups do, and therefore the People’s Pledge doesn’t serve a logical or decisive purpose. Second, if Markey is so adamantly opposed to spending by outside groups on campaigns, then he would work endlessly to prevent NextGen from involving itself in support of his campaign. Because he is not doing so, one may conclude that Markey and the DSCC are acting hypocritically, and trying to pressure Gomez to impair his campaign in a way in which Markey himself is unwilling to. 

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