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Democrats for attorney general agree to People’s Pledge, discouraging outside spending on ads, direct mail

A People’s Pledge has been signed in the race for attorney general -- 42 days, 20 hours, and a few minutes after one candidate proposed it.

The clock had been ticking.

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Democrat Maura Healey had unveiled a “clean elections clock” on her campaign website last week, tracking the time since she began pressuring rival Warren Tolman to sign on. Tolman released a statement late Friday afternoon saying he had signed the agreement, which is a means of discouraging outside spending on any campaign advertising, including direct mail.

Such pledges have been popular since the so-called “People’s Pledge” forged by Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren during the 2012 US Senate race. But the original pledge didn’t stop campaign mailers, which poured into mailboxes with particular venom throughout that campaign season.

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Tolman, who was an early proponent of clean elections, faced a tricky situation. With deep ties to unions, he has won the support of groups including the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the AFL-CIO, which his brother, Steven, leads. Those groups often support candidates with widespread mailers, which would be barred by this version of the pledge, though an organization could still mail to its own members.

Tolman said he’d initially worried that direct-mail violations would be more “difficult to quantify, track, and report in a timely manner,” compared to TV advertising.

An advocate for campaign finance transparency since his years in the legislature, Tolman ran for governor in 2002 as a clean election candidate, using public financing.

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He made his announcement just before 4:30 p.m. Friday on the liberal blog Bluemassgroup, saying that, with just with 60 days until the primary, it was time to reach an agreement on the People’s Pledge.

“My tenure in public office and when I last ran, as governor, was about limiting the influence of big money and special interests on the political process,” Tolman said in an interview. “This is something that has trumped any other value that I’ve had.”

Healey, reached by phone, called the agreement “great news for the voters.”

“A campaign for attorney general deserves this kind of agreement and I am really pleased,” she said. “ This is what we need to do if we want to be serious about combating special interests.”

Though pledges can’t prevent political action committees or other groups from paying for ads, they discourage them by financially penalizing the candidate who benefits from such advertising. Tolman and Healey agreed to donate the value of any violating outside ads to the One Fund, which benefits victims of the marathon bombings, within three days.

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at Stephanie.Ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @StephanieEbbert
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