Frequently Asked Questions

What is The People’s Pledge?

The People’s Pledge is an effort to keep “outside money” out of our elections. Outside money refers to money raised and spent on behalf of a candidate by individuals and non-party groups, and without coordination of the candidate or his or her campaign. The money can come from anywhere in the country, and much of it tends to be undisclosed and from anonymous sources. The first People’s Pledge occurred in the 2012 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren. The candidates agreed to discourage outside groups from buying advertisements paid with outside money.

What is the actual text of the Brown-Warren People’s Pledge Agreement?

Summary Text: The People’s Pledge stated that candidates would “work together to limit the influence of third party advertisements.” The candidates agreed that, if such an ad aired on television radio, or appeared in print, the candidate benefiting from the ad would donate, from his or her own campaign account, half of the cost of the advertisement to a charity of the opposing candidate’s choice.

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Does the Pledge cover all kinds of outside spending?

The People’s Pledge that Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren signed covered election advertisements run for the period after the signing of The Pledge through the election. It did not cover other types of outside election spending, such as printing flyers, going door-to-door or phone banking. .

What if charitable contributions cannot be made with campaign funds in my state?

Candidates can send money back to their contributors if they are not allowed to contribute campaign funds to charities in your particular state.

What if only one candidate proposes the pledge and the others refuse to take it?

The Pledge works when all candidates in a particular race take it. No candidate is expected to try to stop outside spending by super PACs and other groups on their behalf, if their opponents won’t also do the same. Even candidates who oppose outside spending will have outside money spent on their behalf until all candidates take the Pledge in the short term. The force of The Pledge is required to stop non-coordinated spending. In the long-term, we must amend the U.S. Constitution to allow limits on outside spending in an election.

In cases in which one candidate proposes The Pledge and the candidate’s opponent(s) refuses to take it, the proposer is taking a strong moral stance against corrupting spending and can use that stance as a campaign tool. Those who assert that secret spending in the election is a positive for the voters will be standing against overwhelming public opinion to the contrary.

Successful candidates such as U.S. Senators Angus King of Maine and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, as well as Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti have used the idea of a Pledge to highlight the differences between themselves and their opponents when it comes big money in politics.

What if it’s unclear for whom outside funds are being spent?

The People’s Pledge is negotiated by candidates themselves and can include stipulations and processes to address efforts to circumvent the Pledge.

Candidates can chose an independent arbitrator to determine who an ad was intended to help based on the sources of support for an ad (where disclosed), the content and timing of the ad. Ads alluding to candidates based on common signifiers like the current office they hold, their hometown or current institution of employment can be included, as can more general issue ads, which were included in the original Brown-Warren People’s Pledge.

The Brown-Warren Pledge left the door open for further stipulations to be added in case of unanticipated issues.

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