Reps. Donna F. Edwards and Chris Van Hollen clashed Tuesday over the role of super PACs in their hard-fought Democratic primary race for a rare open Senate seat in Maryland. At a debate televised by WJLA (Channel 7), Van Hollen attacked Edwards for refusing last summer to sign a pledge barring super PAC involvement in the contest and again urged her to sign it — even though outside groups made possible by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision have spent heavily on behalf of both candidates. “Why don’t you join me in putting your name to what you stand for?” asked Van Hollen, who like Edwards opposes the Citizens United decision. Edwards countered that she is “proud” to have the support of a super PAC run by Emily’s List, a group committed to electing female Democrats who support abortion rights and which has committed $2.4 million to the race so far.
The group’s first candidate, Edwards noted, was retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D), whom she and Van Hollen are vying to replace. “They stood on the side of Barbara Mikulski when the political establishment said she couldn’t win, in a race very similar to this one,” Edwards said. Van Hollen, she suggested, has less-desirable super PAC backing. The National Association of Realtors has in recent days spent nearly $1 million in support of the congressman, including $384,000 on television spots, $370,372 on mail to voters and $126,000 on online advertising.
Emily’s List does not lobby members of Congress, Edwards noted. The realtors’ group does, contributing heavily to Republican and Democratic candidates. “They don’t expect anything in return,” Edwards said of Emily’s List. “What do the realtors expect from you?”
Van Hollen pointed out that Edwards has also taken money from the realtors’ group — $25,000 over her eight years in Congress. At a forum Monday night in Baltimore, Van Hollen chided Edwards for appearing to approve of some outside groups and not others.