I'd meant to write about this back when it was first announced, but the story got lost in the sea of unwritten stories around here. But with On The Media providing an update, I can revisit it. There's been lots of talk this election season about the rise of SuperPACs and their ability to take unlimited funds and advertise for (or against) political candidates, so long as the candidates don't "coordinate" with the SuperPAC (with "coordination" defined rather loosely). Many of the really nasty attack ads often come from those SuperPACs. However, up in Massachusetts the two major party Senate candidates surprised a lot of people by calling a "truce" back in January
against SuperPACs. The way the "pledge" works, is that each candidate agrees if a SuperPAC runs an ad attacking the other one, they'll donate half the ad's costs to a charity within a few days. While the suspicious among you might think that this would lead a SuperPAC to run counteradvertising
against the candidate it likes
to force the other side to pay up, in reality, it appears to have mostly worked
, with very little SuperPAC money showing up in Massachusetts and the TV ads not being nearly as nasty, despite it being a close fight.
Of course, some SuperPACs can't resist. Last week, Brown's campaign admitted that it had donated over $35,000
after SuperPACs had put out ads supporting him, against his own wishes. But those were fairly minor from the sound of it. On the whole, compared to other similar races, the lack of SuperPAC funding has meant a (slightly) more reasonable campaign, with not quite as much smearing.
The obvious question, then, is will other candidates in other races agree to the same kind of pledge? Unfortunately, as the OTM segment notes, that's unlikely. In most cases, SuperPAC money really benefits one party over the other, and no one wants to give up such a major advantage, even if voters think they're really annoyed by negative advertising. Tragically (from a human nature perspective), it still seems like such ads have an impact. That's really too bad on multiple levels. It would be nice if we, as a country, actually moved to a more civilized electoral process. It just seems unlikely to actually happen.