UPDATED: Congressional Candidates Spar Over 'People's Pledge'
Tierney campaign goes on offensive over donations from Super PACs and other out of state entities. Tisei campaign: Incumbent balked at allowing a level playing field.
Note: This article was updated on Tuesday, June 19 at 10:45 a.m.
In the coming months, residents of the Sixth Congressional District are likely to find themselves fast-forwarding through an inordinate number of political commercials as a nationally-watched House race continues to heat up. However, the funds that will be used to pay for all of those ads are a potential campaign issue as well.
Over the weekend, incumbent Congressman John Tierney’s campaign hit Republican challenger Richard Tisei hard on several fronts, with an overall focus on the use of PAC contributions in an increasingly high-profile race.
Specifically, the Tierney campaign is accusing Tisei of rejecting an offer by the Congressman to support the “People’s Pledge” currently in place for the Senate race pitting Scott Brown against Elizabeth Warren. The pledge aims to limit outside ad expenditures by requiring a candidate to donate 50% of an independent third party group’s ad buy to the charity of the rival campaign’s choice. The Tierney campaign maintains that Tisei backtracked on this pledge after receiving support from the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Young Guns Super PAC.
“Richard Tisei won’t sign the same pledge that Scott Brown signed for one simple reason: because he actually wants these shadowy outside groups to spend their millions on attack ads to help him,” said Tierney Communications Director Grant Herring.
Tisei Campaign: Sides Reached Impasse Over Existing PAC Funds
However, Tisei Campaign Manager Paul Moore said in a recent conversation with Lynnfield Patch that "essentially we pulled out of negotiations because we were just at an impasse." Moore added that the impasse stemmed from about $350,000 in existing PAC funds that the Tierney campaign already has on hand and which would have apparently not counted against the People's Pledge agreement. That sum is comparable to about an entire quarter's worth of fundraising for a congressional race. "They can come out and spin all they want now, but the fact is that Tierney wanted to preserve his own advantage and tie my hands - and I'd have been a fool to agree to such a thing," said Tisei in a statment.
"I want a vigorous debate on the issues in the coming months and believe that's what the voters want, too," added Tisei. "Having the financial support to reach the voters and hear their views is indispensable to my campaign. I would have agreed to a truly level playing field, but John Tierney wouldn't."
People's Pledge Just One Recent Debate Point
The People's Pledge is just one thing the two sides have clashed on in recent days. The Tierney campaign has also been working to convince voters that Tisei is closer to Republican insiders and tea party activists than they think.
For example, the Tierney campaign just hit their rival for allowing House Speaker John Boehner to show up in the area for “a secret fundraiser for hand picked candidate” Tisei.
“As Tisei continues to further embrace the extreme agenda of Washington Republicans, he keeps getting rewarded with campaign cash from top Tea Party Republicans. Tisei has made a political calculation that he needs a bailout from super PACs in order to win this election, that’s why he suddenly opposes keeping outside groups out of the 6th District,” said the Tierney campaign announcement.
In working to link Tisei to Tea Party elements in the Republican Party, the Tierney campaign has also hit him as a supporter of a budget proposal offered by GOP Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
However, in a phone conversation last week with Lynnfield Patch, Tisei maintained that he simply sees the Ryan budget as "a good starting point," while also expressing interest in a bipartisan budget plan that was previously offered by former senators Alan Simpson (R-WY) and Erskin Bowles (D-NC). "Obama sort of ran away from them," he said of the Simpson/Bowles plan.
Tisei also explained that he has one particular problem with the Paul Ryan budget - its use of block grants to help states fund the Medicaid program. "I'm not going to let anything happen to that program," said Tisei, adding that he is concerned that under the Ryan budget, the federal government would simply shift more Medicaid costs onto the states. "I probably wouldn't vote for Ryan but I don't want to totally discount it because you have to start somewhere," Tisei told Lynnfield Patch.
On Tuesday, Moore also cited the current political climate, noting that "everything is sort of DOA before you even see what's in it."
The GOP challenger also noted that for all the talk of the Ryan budget making too many cuts, it still would take 40 years to achieve a balanced federal budget, while adding $5 trillion to the national debt over 10 years. In contrast, says Tisei, the Obama budget plan would add $10 trillion to the national debt after 10 years while never actually achieving any balance or surplus. "That's how big of a problem there is," said Tisei, emphasizing that "I'm going to work with Democrats and Republicans to help."