Public Citizen and Common Cause Call on Candidates to Reject Outside Spending and Put Voters First

Washington, DC – Public Citizen and Common Cause today sent letters urging congressional and gubernatorial candidates across the country to take a “People’s Pledge” to reject outside spending by non-party groups in their political races.

The pledge is modeled after a similar agreement between then-U.S. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and then-candidate Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in the 2012 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race. The goals are to reduce the negative and often anonymous attack advertisements by groups not affiliated with the candidate, curb the staggering totals of money being poured into elections and to give people back a voice in our elections.

Rhode Island’s three Democratic gubernatorial candidates – Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Clay Pell – recently signed the pledge.

It works like this: The candidates in a race who take the pledge agree that if an outside group runs a TV, radio or print advertisement, the candidate benefiting from the ad will donate, from his or her campaign account, half the cost of the ad to a charity of the opposing candidate’s choice.

In other words, if an outside group bought a $200,000 TV ad attacking candidate A, candidate A would have to donate $100,000 from his or her campaign account to candidate B’s favorite charity.

Public interest groups Common Cause and Public Citizen sent letters to primary candidate winners in 11 states – Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia – urging them to take the pledge.

Public Citizen and Common Cause are also mobilizing activists to call on the candidates to take the People’s Pledge.

The Brown-Warren pledge worked. Outside spending in their contest was 93 percent less than in highly contested U.S. Senate races in other states. Brown and Warren maintained control of their campaigns, and the voters of Massachusetts knew that almost every ad they saw reflected the candidate’s viewpoint.

After the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, a flood of money from corporations and the wealthy has poured into tight contests at an unprecedented rate. The money most often has been used to purchase attack ads that do nothing to inform voters, but do everything to mislead and sway the outcome of the race.

“According to polls, eight in 10 Americans have said they would support limits on the amount of money given to groups trying to influence U.S. elections,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “By signing the People’s Pledge, candidates across the nation can give the American people what they want – an election free of corporate corruption.”

“Agreeing to this pledge is a step every candidate can take to prove that he or she is serious about putting voters ahead of big money,” said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport.

View a complete list of the candidates who received today’s letter.

Public Citizen and Common Cause will urge more candidates throughout the country to take the pledge as primary races end and it is apparent who will be in the general election.

Read a copy of the letter.

For more information about the People’s Pledge, visit