Two outside groups have launched their own mini-campaigns in the Boston mayoral race, assembling political operations on behalf of candidates John Connolly and Martin Walsh. Democrats for Education Reform has spent about $26,000 as of last week canvassing and phone-banking for Connolly, while labor-backed Working America has put $10,000 behind Walsh. These “independent expenditure” efforts, which must operate outside the control of the candidates, are not illegal.
Still, they rightly set off alarm bells with voters because of their murky finances and unaccountable nature. Thus, Rob Consalvo, another mayoral candidate, has proposed an agreement among the 12 contenders to bar spending by outside groups, akin to the “people’s pledge” that largely kept super PAC money out of last year’s US Senate race. Consalvo is right to start a discussion of campaign funding in the mayoral race, but he’s painting the problem with too broad a brush. Outside money, per se, isn’t always objectionable. What’s dangerous is the particular method that some advocacy groups have used to circumvent donation limits and disclosure rules.