Scott Brown, the junior senator from Massachusetts who is running for re-election against Professor Elizabeth Warren, just proposed an interesting idea to balance the foregone conclusion that outside money will try to influence his chances to hold onto the seat that was held by Ted Kennedy.
Before I go into the details, I applaud Brown and Warren for standing united in asking the so-called “super PACs” and other organizations that are outside the state not to spend money inside their state. How refreshing and novel: that two candidates for the United States Senate vying to represent the state would ask non-Massachusetts residents to mind their own business. The request from Brown, and if Warren agrees, seems naïve at best, and idealistic at worst. Here’s why: With the Democrats having to defend 23 seats, including two Independents who caucus with the Democrats, while Republicans are expected to have only 10 seats up for re-election, there’s a lot at stake in terms of which party will control the upper chamber. Let’s say President Obama wins re-election, but Republicans regain the Senate and keep the House in next year’s election. There is no doubt that the president’s second term would be filled with endless legislative headaches that would see even more partisan bickering. On the one hand, let’s say the president does not win re-election and the Republicans take back the Senate and keep the House. The playing field, the players and the issues change drastically. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that there’s a lot at stake in this year’s election and all the players have focused on Massachusetts as a ripe opportunity to regain or retain power. With so much at stake, my political instincts tell me that a Brown/Warren wish to keep outside money away from their state will fall on deaf ears.
Sad. Very sad.
Senator Brown, though, should be applauded for his creative proposal, which would be to have both his campaign, and Warren’s to pledge to donate half the total amount of the financial figure that outside groups will spend on their races to the opponent’s charity of choice.
Brown’s letter to Warren is pretty simplistic in its approach, “The agreement’s terms are simple: My campaign will bear a steep financial penalty if third-party ads are run supporting me or opposing you, and vice-versa,” Brown wrote. “No gimmicks, no fine print, no legalese.”
How refreshing. Very refreshing.
Brown’s letter goes on to explain that if any third-party organization airs an independent expenditure advertisement on broadcast, cable, satellite television or over the Internet, the candidate benefiting from the ad will have three days to donate 50 percent of the cost of the ad to a charity chosen by the opponent.
The agreement gets better by stating that this pledge would be applicable to both positive advertisements praising a candidate and attack advertisements that undercut his or her opponent.
Radio advertisements were not mentioned in Brown’s original proposal, and Warren’s response suggested that radio should be included, which is a signal that she may be on board with the proposal.
If both agree to the terms of this agreement, this would be a significant step in the right direction toward not only showing the people of Massachusetts and the rest of the nation that at least a Republican and a Democrat can agree on something, but it also proves that with a little imagination and a ton of putting “the win at all cost” mentality aside, the people at least feel as if their elected officials are trying, and it also, at least in principle, puts the special interest people in the back seat as opposed to in the driver’s seat.
Robert Traynham is an MSNBC political analyst, and you can follow him on Twitter at roberttraynham.