The Brown-Warren disarmament talks
Last week, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson mailed $5 million to Newt Gingrich. Or, rather, he mailed the cash to some friends of Newt, who are permitted to raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash on the former House speaker’s behalf, so long as they don’t talk to him about it. That single act, which breathed new life into Gingrich’s flagging campaign, provided the financial muscle behind Gingrich’s blistering attack on Mitt Romney. And it provided the most vivid example yet of the ability of newly-unleashed outside organizations to shape elections. Gingrich is only the latest beneficiary of unlimited post-Citizens United muscle-flexing. Romney earned Gingrich’s wrath when a Romney-aligned super PAC bankrolled an Iowa ad blitz that sank Gingrich’s White House bid. That same super PAC is now defending Romney against Gingrich’s attacks, while going on the offensive against Rick Santorum. Karl Rove, the GOP agitator who doubles as a political columnist, has promised to dump buckets of money into the White House race; the super PAC he founded spent $71 million on Republican efforts during the 2010 midterm elections.
It’s against this backdrop that Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown are holding disarmament talks. The two are negotiating a deal in which each would disavow third-party spending in what’s expected to be the nation’s most expensive Senate race. “I think by sending a joint message to stay out, I’m hopeful they’ll accept that message,” Brown said recently. “This is going to be decided by the people of Massachusetts, not by the tens of millions of outside interest dollars coming into our state.”
Each candidate has reason to be wary of outside attacks. Brown was stung last year by a series of critical ads aired by the League of Women Voters. The League of Conservation Voters piled on in the fall. Warren, meanwhile, has been the target of a pair of ads produced by Rove’s super PAC; those attacks prompted Warren to make her own substantial early ad buy. The more active outside groups are in the race, the more likely it will be that each candidate will spend time responding to somebody else’s message (Warren insisting that she doesn’t want tent city dwellers to sell drugs and stab each other, Brown clarifying that he doesn’t laugh every time a kid gets asthma) rather than driving their own messages.
Glen Johnson says the Brown-Warren talks recall the bid by John Kerry and William Weld to limit ad spending in their 1996 Senate race to $5 million apiece. Johnson notes that the Kerry-Weld pact “promptly fell apart when the campaign neared its decisive stage, the same fate all but certain to face any deal between Brown and Warren. Simply put, the stakes are too high – and First Amendment principles like free speech at risk – for it to be any other way.” And Kerry and Weld both controlled their campaign apparatuses. That isn’t the case anymore.
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Time examines the Haley Barbour pardon controversy.
Washington State moves to legalize same-sex marriage.
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Paul McMorrow, writing in the Globe, argues against a proposed minor league baseball park project in Malden.
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A Globe editorial asks: “Why is it so easy to get away with murder in Boston?”
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