Democrat-aligned super PAC buys TV time

Likely hurtling soon toward Republican gubernatorial hopeful Charlie Baker: the kitchen sink.

A Massachusetts super PAC supported by local unions and the Democratic Governors Association has bought more than $3.1 million worth of television time, a massive sum that will allow it to blanket the airwaves with ads in the weeks before the election.

The Mass Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee, which is focused on the governor’s race, has bought the big chunk of air time on Boston and Springfield area television from Sept. 10, the day after the state primary, through Nov. 4, Election Day, PAC spokesman Steve Crawford confirmed.


The group, according to its website, is supported by the Massachusetts Teachers Association, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, 32BJ SEIU, and the Democratic Governors Association.

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Baker, a former health insurance company executive, is widely expected to be the Republican nominee in his contest against Tea Party-affiliated businessman Mark R. Fisher. While the Democrat-aligned group could air ads supporting the Democratic nominee, outside groups tend to go negative, especially in the final weeks of an election, analysts said.

Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said a number of studies have found that a vast majority of ads aired by independent expenditure groups, which cannot actively coordinate with candidates or campaigns, are negative.

“What super PACs allow candidates to do is to offload their negative campaigning so candidates can stay all positive or mostly positive and disavow the attacks coming from outside groups,” she said. “The candidates can have their cake and eat it, too.”

On its website, the PAC outlines a series of attacks against Baker, many echoing those that Democrats used against him during his unsuccessful 2010 bid to unseat Governor Deval Patrick.


Crawford, the PAC spokesman, had no comment on questions about the specifics of the group’s future ads — whether they would be positive or negative — or the PAC’s activities going forward.

The Mass Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee’s efforts will not be the first television advertising push by a super PAC in the race. One supporting the candidacy of state Treasurer Steve Grossman, a Democrat, has aired ads attacking one of his primary rivals, Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Coakley, for her part, knocked super PACs, which can raise unlimited funds from unions, corporations, and individuals, in her first television ad. “The political insiders, the big-money super PACs, the old boys club — they’re all against her,” a female narrator says in the spot.

Polling has found Coakley to be leading Grossman and her other primary rival, former Medicare and Medicaid chief Don Berwick.

So if she is the nominee, how will Coakley react to super PAC support? Spokeswoman Bonnie McGilpin said earlier this week that Coakley “will disavow any super PAC support.”


What does that mean? “It just means she’s going to say she doesn’t support them, that [the ads] should be taken down,” McGilpin said Thursday.

And, she added in a statement, “if Martha is the nominee, she will immediately ask the other candidates on the ballot to sign a People’s Pledge,” referring to an agreement aimed at keeping outside groups from spending in a race.

Asked about a People’s Pledge, a Baker spokesman, Tim Buckley, referred to comments Baker made earlier this year, saying he would not “unilaterally disarm,” given that super PACs were already spending against him. Buckley also described Coakley’s disavowal pledge as not credible because she received contributions from organizations affiliated with a super PAC that aired ads attacking Baker earlier this year.

Any effort at a pledge to keep future outside spending out of the governor’s race, which also includes three independent candidates, might be too late. At least one GOP-aligned group is also spending big on the race.

Commonwealth Future Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee, a super PAC that is airing ads supporting Baker, has bought more than $1 million of television time in the weeks before the primary, say Democrats familiar with the buy.

A spokeswoman for the PAC, which is backed in part by the Republican Governors Association, did not offer specifics on how much the PAC was spending on air time, but noted that the group is launching a new pro-Baker television ad Friday.

Joshua Miller can be reached at