The Senate voted overwhelmingly Monday to debate a proposed constitutional amendment that would let Congress and the states put caps on political spending. But that’s probably the high-water mark for the amendment. When Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) called the vote tally, it looked like a big win for advocates of the constitutional amendment: 79 ayes, 18 nays. That’s a dozen votes more than the 67-vote majority needed to actually move the amendment out of the Senate and over to the House. But it was a strategic move as 25 of the Senate’s 45 Republicans voted aye. It allows the GOP to prolong the debate and spend less time on other measures that Democrats want to vote on before the midterm elections – measures such as equal pay for women and college affordability. Democrats pretty much ignored the stalling tactic and insisted this is an important vote. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said, “There are times when action is required to defend our great democracy against those who would see it converted into one more rigged game where the rich and the powerful always win. This is the time to amend the Constitution.” But setting the political gamesmanship aside, one question lingers. When pollsters ask Americans about the political money system, overwhelming percentages basically say they hate it. So why doesn’t Congress do something?
Say you owned a business, and found out one of your employees was taking money out of the cash register and spending it on questionable ventures without telling you. You’d fire him, right? It’s a pretty clear-cut case of right and wrong. Now imagine that you aren’t allowed to know whether that employee is taking money out of your profits, or where the money is going. Sound unfair – and like a bad way to run a business? Sadly, that’s the case for shareholders – owners of the largest corporations in America – who’d like to know how their profits are being spent on political causes. Now Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are holding a briefing to explain why shareholders’ need this information in their hands.
A controversy over voter registration in Massachusetts is serving up a reminder: Election 2012 revolves not just around a messaging war but also around efforts by both parties to affect voter turnout. Republican Sen. Scott Brown has complained that, in an unusual move, state officials have used taxpayer money to mail voter-registration forms to welfare recipients. The move is such a blatant effort to boost Democratic support, he argues, that his Senate-race opponent should pick up the mass-mailing tab. Officials for the state, politically dominated by Democrats, say the mailing to welfare recipients was a logical response to legal pressure. The move is part of an interim settlement with plaintiffs who argue that the state has failed to comply with a 1993 federal law designed to ensure better voting access for Americans – including the opportunity to register while renewing a driver’s license or signing up for welfare. The mailing went out to nearly half a million Massachusetts residents, which the Brown campaign characterizes as about one-third the number of votes that will end up winning the Senate race between Senator Brown and his rival, Elizabeth Warren.
Massachusetts: State mails welfare recipients voter registration form, sparking political row | The Boston Globe
Senator Scott Brown criticized the state’s welfare department Wednesday for sending voter registration forms to 478,000 people on public assistance, contending that the mass mailing was a ploy to boost the ranks of Democratic voters and help rival Elizabeth Warren’s election bid. The Democrat’s campaign denounced the Republican senator’s criticism as “bizarre,’’ pointing out that the legal challenge that triggered the mailing is part of an ongoing national effort that began years ago and that the law that is being enforced has long received bipartisan support. The state’s Department of Transitional Assistance sent registration forms last month, along with prepaid return envelopes, as part of an interim settlement over a lawsuit alleging that the department has consistently failed to comply with federal voter registration law. The suit was filed in May by a pair of voting rights groups that were represented by Demos, an advocacy and public policy organization from New York that has brought similar actions in more than a half-dozen states.
Sometimes, a few votes make a huge difference. Just ask Rick Santorum. In January, Rick Santorum won the Iowa caucuses, but, because of vote counting and tabulation errors, Mitt Romney was declared the winner. In the two weeks before the error became clear, Romney’s campaign gained momentum, while Santorum’s withered. Unfortunately, the same problem – or worse – could easily occur in Massachusetts. This year, voters will choose the president, and control of the US Senate may come down to the race shaping up between Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren.
In the Massachusetts Senate campaign, where Super PACs have already spent millions blanketing the airwaves in what promises to be a spectacular slugfest, the candidates are giving peace a chance. Or so they would have us believe. Scott Brown, the Republican incumbent, and Elizabeth Warren, the progressive consumer advocate who recently left the Obama administration to launch a political career, tentatively agreed Monday to reject outside spending by third-party groups, whether traditional political action committees (PACs), party organs like the Democratic National Committee, or Super PACs like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. Under the terms of the deal, hashed out in both private meetings between the campaigns and publicly-available letters, whenever a third-party group spends money to air an ad attacking (or supporting) a candidate, the potential beneficiary must donate half the sum of the ad buy to a charity of their opponent’s choice.
Massachusetts: Elizabeth Warren, Scott Brown Spending Pact Faces Challenges in Post-Citizens United World | International Business Times
U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass, and Elizabeth Warren, his main Democratic challenger, will have difficulty enforcing a pledge to limit third party spending in what is likely to be a closely watched and bruising Senate race. Brown and Warren have agreed to donate to charity 50 percent of the cost of any television or radio advertising purchased by outside groups. The pact is an attempt to curb the influence of outside organizations that have begun pouring millions of dollars into political campaigns after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision eliminated some restrictions on campaign finance.
Massachusetts: Brown, Warren agree to anti-super-PAC pledge, other candidates could follow | The Hill
Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R) and his Democratic rival, Elizabeth Warren, have reached a groundbreaking agreement to deter super-PACs and outside groups from dominating their Senate race with millions of dollars of ads, Brown said Monday. The agreement marks the first attempt by candidates to wrest control of their races back from groups over whom they have no direct control, and could set a precedent for other races. It also comes almost two years to the day after the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case that unleashed the flood of outside spending.
Editorials: Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown deserve major props for campaign finance truce | The Washington Post
This morning, Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown announced that they had hammered out an agreement to put up a dam against the flood of outside cash that’s expected to gush into their Senate race. Even if the dam ends up springing a few leaks, they deserve credit for trying. Good for them. The deal wasn’t easy to hammer out, because campaigns don’t have any power to restrict third-party-group spending. But the arrangement deals with this problem in an artful way:
Under the terms of the deal, each campaign would agree to donate half the cost of any third-party ad to charity if that ad either supports their candidacy or attacks their opponent by name.