A new super PAC is poised to jump into the state’s contentious Democratic Senate primary on behalf of Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III in his bid against longtime incumbent Senator Edward J. Markey, according to Democrats familiar with the effort.
The political action committee, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, has reserved close to $1.6 million worth of air time in media markets across the state, according to a Democratic media buyer.
The pro-Kennedy super PAC, which goes by the name “New Leadership PAC,” has reserved airtime starting Aug. 10 through Sept. 1, the last day of voting, with ad time scheduled across the Boston, Springfield, and Providence media markets, according to a Democratic media buyer and Ben Taber, an account manager with Advertising Analytics. Those three media markets cover much of the state.
The PAC’s first 30-second spot opens with scenes from the country’s recent upheaval, including President Trump posing with a Bible after protesters were violently cleared from a park near the White House.
“If ever a time demanded new ideas, new vision, new leadership, it’s right now,” the narrator intones, as a photo of a smiling Kennedy fills the screen. “Joe Kennedy is that leader. The energy to get things done, the courage to do what’s right.”
The ad doesn’t mention Markey by name.
The effort comes as outside groups are already spending on Markey’s behalf.
The pro-Kennedy super PAC was organized by Mindy Myers, a former top aide to Senator Elizabeth Warren who went on to become the first woman to lead the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, according to a Democratic operative familiar with the PAC. Members of the Kennedy family are among those making calls to raise money for the effort, including Kennedy’s twin brother, Matthew Kennedy, according to the operative.
The PAC has so far raised $545,000, and $475,000 of that has come from labor groups, which are playing an active role in the outside group, said the operative familiar with the PAC. The PAC has brought in Beacon Research — the firm co-founded by well-known Democratic pollster Chris Anderson — to conduct polling, the operative said.
Myers did not respond to a request for comment.
“The PAC is very confident in its ability to raise resources to support Joe,” the operative said. “This is a positive campaign,” the person continued. “We want to define Joe in a positive light,” by highlighting that he is “a real leader and has a bold vision, and is prepared to be a champion for the state.”
Formed in mid-July, according to federal filings, the super PAC’s entrance into the race marks a notable turn-of-events for Kennedy’s campaign, after the 39-year-old candidate spent much of the past year denouncing the role of “dark money” in elections and calling on Markey to sign a so-called People’s Pledge to limit outside spending in the race.
Markey embraced a very similar pledge in his 2013 campaign for the Senate.
But this time around Markey refused to join Kennedy’s proposed pledge, advocating instead for a weaker version that would allow progressive outside groups to spend money on candidates’ behalf so long as they were “positive” messages.
Kennedy rejected that idea as a loophole “big enough to drive a truck through.”
Asked about the new PAC, both campaigns took shots at their opponent.
“Kennedy for Massachusetts cannot coordinate with any independent expenditure. But we did try to keep this kind of spending out of the race, and Ed Markey said no,” said Emily Kaufman, communications director for the Kennedy campaign.
“Senator Markey has publicly welcomed progressive voices in this race whose messages are positive and sources of funding are fully disclosed. We hope Congressman Kennedy will embrace this same position,” said Markey campaign manager John Walsh.
Two different outside groups have announced plans to spend money on Markey’s behalf. United for Massachusetts, a new super PAC formed by environmental activists, announced in July it would spend $900,000 on a digital and TV ad campaign, while Environment Massachusetts announced a $200,000 ad campaign for Markey in June, purchased through the organization’s national super PAC.
In early June, Kennedy went so far as to publicly reject the help of a nascent effort to form a pro-Kennedy super PAC when details of the effort surfaced in the media. “I know nothing about this. I didn’t ask for it, and we don’t want it, we don’t need it,” said Kennedy via a video posted on his Facebook page. “We need to, as Democrats, reject dark money. We need to reject super PACs. We need to stand by our principles.”
At the end of that month, Kennedy released a statement reacting to billionaire Tom Steyer’s endorsement of Markey that left room for a change of heart, saying he was calling on Markey “for the last time” to sign the pledge.
Super PACs are barred from giving directly to a campaign, but can raise and spend unlimited amounts in support of or opposition to a candidate.
The People’s Pledge Kennedy endorsed, and which he signed with another Democratic candidate who later dropped out of the race, closely mirrored the 2012 agreement signed by Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown in their battle for the Senate seat Warren now holds. Markey signed a similar agreement in the 2013 primary in the special election for the Senate seat vacated by John Kerry when he joined former President Obama’s cabinet.
In those cases, candidates agreed that any time a third-party political group ran an ad on TV, radio, or digital platforms, or sent a direct mailing, the candidate benefiting from the expenditure would donate half of its cost to a charity of the opponent’s choosing.