By Eric Wang
Some degree of misbranding is ever-present in politics, but never has a label been more universally misused than when something is done in the name of “the people.” One can just look around the world and throughout history at all of the “People’s Republics” to see that the only people who benefited in those regimes were the ruling class. And so it is with the “People’s Pledge,” which was touted with much fanfare during the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race as a means of tamping down campaign spending by “outside” groups.
Scott Brown had barely formed an exploratory committee recently to run for the Senate again – this time in New Hampshire – when his potential opponent, incumbent Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, started demanding that he sign another pledge similar to the pact he made with now-Sen. Elizabeth Warren in their 2012 race. This time, Brown wisely demurred, and the people of the Granite State will be better off for it.
The “People’s Pledge” is supposed to limit the supposed scourge of third-party political advertising by threatening to punish the candidates when outside groups weigh in. For every dollar that an outside group spends supporting a candidate or attacking her opponent, the candidate who supposedly benefits must disgorge fifty cents of her own campaign funds to a charity. In theory, these punitive effects are supposed to deter groups from attempting to assist either candidate.