Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown and his likely Democratic re-election rival, Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren, agreed today to try to limit third-party advertising blitzes in the Bay State. But some political observers say that while laudable, the pact is probably unenforceable and unlikely to reduce political mudslinging.
"Money always finds a way to get through, and I don't see anything in this agreement that says otherwise this time around"
Tim Vercellotti is a professor of political science at Springfield's Western New England University. He says that under the U-S Supreme Court decision known as "Citizens United" – so-called Super-PACs have been given pretty much free rein to raise and spend millions of dollars to praise, or damn, their candidates of choice. And, he says, the agreement appears too limited.
"The agreement says nothing about direct mail and it says nothing about automated phone calls. So third parties could really flood our mailboxes and our answering machines .. if they wanted to get the message out under the conditions of this agreement."
Millions of dollars worth of attack ads have aired against both Brown and Warren by groups aligned with but not ostensibly controlled by their opponents. Under the new pact, a campaign would pay half the value of a third-party advertisement to its charity of choice. The idea is that third parties would not want to handicap their candidate's war chest that way — but Vercellotti and others say it could prove difficult at best to track just who is behind any given advertisement.