Democratic US Representative Edward J. Markey indicated Monday that he would work to push campaign financing to the center of the US Senate campaign, trying to use the issue to link Republican nominee Gabriel E. Gomez to national conservative figures unpopular in Massachusetts.
Markey sought to highlight Gomez's refusal to sign the so-called People’s Pledge, an agreement designed to discourage outside campaign spending by requiring candidates to pay 50 percent of the cost of independent third-party ads to a charity of the other candidate’s choice.
In hammering the issue during the early days of the general election, Markey mentioned a roster of reliable antagonists who star in Democratic fund-raising efforts: the conservative political financiers the Koch brothers, GOP strategist Karl Rove, the National Rifle Association, and the Citizens United court case, which permitted unlimited expenditures by corporations and other groups. He also raised the specter of the coal and oil industries flooding the campaign with outside spending.
The technique — tying Bay State Republican candidates to elements of their party more popular in other parts of the country — has a long and often fruitful history. Markey told reporters at the Omni Parker House Hotel Monday that he planned to discuss the pledge “every single day” during the campaign.
“The people of Massachusetts have a right to know who is backing each of the two candidates, so they can make an informed judgment about the source of funding. That is key,” Markey said.
Appearing on FOX News Monday afternoon, Gomez said, “My opponent is effectively talking about everything but the economy and running a negative campaign.”
Scott Brown, then a US senator, and Elizabeth Warren, who won the seat, both signed the pledge during their Senate race last year.
To Democrats, Gomez is largely a blank slate beyond the stances he took during the Republican primary. Unlike Brown, he has no voting record and no history of aligning himself on policy with national Republican figures who are not well regarded in the Commonwealth.
In highlighting the pledge, Markey has found a mechanism for trying to rivet those names to Gomez.
Asked for proof that Gomez might benefit from such contributors, Markey said: “I would say that the fact that he will not sign the agreement is the evidence of it. Otherwise, why would he not? These are the principal funders.”
Gomez’s campaign fired back that Markey has collected more than $3.4 million in special-interest donations during his time in Congress. “If he wants to give it back, then we could talk,” said Gomez adviser Lenny Alcivar.
“This is an example of a career politician who will say and do anything to avoid talking about what matters: jobs, spending, taxes,” Alcivar said.
During the preprimary fund-raising period, Jan. 1 through April 10, Markey raised $4.75 million, 53 percent of which came from out of state, according to his campaign. Gomez, a private equity investor and former Navy SEAL, largely self-financed his campaign, loaning about $900,000 to an effort that spent roughly $1.5 million, a spokesman said last week.
Markey’s strategy, for the moment, puts campaign funding above issues including abortion and gun control that are often used against Republicans in Massachusetts. Gomez has said he is personally opposed to abortion, but accepts federal abortion policy as settled law. On gun control, Gomez has said he opposes an assault weapons ban and universal background checks, but supports closing the so-called gun show loophole.
Undisclosed outside spending, said Markey, extends tentacles into every issue.
“It’s not about one issue,” he replied. “It’s about every issue.”
Markey did not rule out assistance from outside groups for his campaign if Gomez doesn’t sign the pledge.
“I don’t want anyone to come into this state, for either side. I don’t want anyone to come in. I want to keep them out, everybody,” Markey said Monday, speaking in the same hotel conference room that in 2009 served as the venue where reporters interviewed Attorney General Martha Coakley as she launched her Senate campaign. “I want this to be a battle between me and Gabriel Gomez.”
In the week since Markey and Gomez emerged as their parties’ nominees, the two campaigns have engaged with each other far more aggressively than in the early days of the primary. Over the weekend, the campaigns sparred over a Markey campaign Web video that hits Gomez for his work during the 2012 presidential campaign for a super political action committee that criticized President Obama for leaks about the 2011 killing of Osama bin Laden.
The video depicts Gomez in a split-screen with bin Laden. Gomez’s campaign called for Markey to pull the spot. Markey’s campaign refused.