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Campaign finance pact gets push in gubernatorial race

The so-called People’s Pledge, which held down third-party spending in the last two US Senate races in Massachusetts and has percolated as a point of debate in the Boston mayoral campaign, appears destined for a reprise in the 2014 gubernatorial contest.

On Wednesday, state Treasurer Steve Grossman pushed Democratic gubernatorial campaign rival Attorney General Martha Coakley to abide by the pact.

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Grossman issued a press release calling on Coakley, the best-known Democrat in the primary field, to sign a modified version of the pact. Under the pledge, which has become commonplace in Massachusetts campaigns, if a third-party group pays for ads or mailings in support of one candidate, that candidate must make a charitable contribution of an equal amount.

Grossman’s proposal calls for the money to go to The One Fund Boston, organized after the Boston Marathon bombings to support victims.

In response, Coakley’s campaign released a statement saying she would pursue some type of pledge, although not necessarily the one proposed by Grossman.

“I applaud the leadership that Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown showed in signing the original ‘People’s Pledge’ and look forward to working with other candidates in this race to put in place a similar agreement,” Coakley said. “My campaign will work with the other Democratic candidates to finalize a People’s Pledge for the primary.”

The other Democratic candidates seeking the nomination have also signed on to the principles of the pledge, although the campaigns have yet to hammer out details.

Juliette N. Kayyem, a former Globe columnist and onetime state and federal homeland security official, said she would back some form of a pledge, but wants it to include a limit on the amounts candidates could use to bankroll their own campaigns. And, she said, the candidates should negotiate the contours of the agreement, similar to how Democrats running for the Fifth Congressional District seat did.

“I propose a sitdown with the [Democratic] Party, whether it’s the party chair or someone else, to flesh out language that works for all the candidates,” said Kayyem. “To do this where there are different drafts going around and asking people to sign it, it doesn’t work.”

The other candidates in the Democratic primary are Donald M. Berwick, a former director of the federal Medicaid program, and Joseph C. Avellone, a biotechnology executive. State Senator Daniel A. Wolf has suspended his campaign while trying to resolve ethics questions stemming from his ownership stake in Cape Air.

In a nod to the crowded Democratic primary, Grossman’s proposal calls for contributions to be made by candidates if they have been “expressly supported” by an organization that subsequently pays for campaign media opposing another candidate.

A spokesman for Republican candidate Charles D. Baker said in an e-mail, “When the time comes, we expect that we’ll sit down with the Democratic nominee to discuss the influence of outside money and how we might be able to limit its impact on the race.”

The pledge became popular during the 2012 US Senate race between Warren and Brown, when both candidates agreed to sign it as a way to limit outside spending in one of the nation’s most closely watched campaigns that year.

In the Democratic primary for the open Senate seat earlier this year, both Stephen F. Lynch and Edward J. Markey agreed to the pledge. After Markey won, he made it a centerpiece in the early going of his campaign against Republican Gabriel E. Gomez. Gomez resisted the pledge and was swamped by outside spending backing Markey.

Mayoral candidates have split over whether to sign “the Boston Pledge,” with various outside constituencies spending disproportionately on behalf of a handful of candidates.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at Jim.OSullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.
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