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Zakim challenges Galvin to his own ‘Progressive Pledge’ in heated secretary of state race

Longtime incumbent William Galvin and his challenger Josh Zakim (right) debated Tuesday.Meredith Nierman/WGBH News

A day after he was challenged in a rancorous, televised debate to sign a People’s Pledge to reject outside campaign spending, Boston City Councilor Josh Zakim said he would.

With a special condition: that he and Secretary of State William Galvin debate at least three more times before the Sept. 4 primary.

Zakim called on Galvin, who has held the post for 24 years, to sign his version of a “Progressive Pledge” that would oppose third-party spending in the campaign; have each of them donate half of their contributions from political committees to a charity; and require each of them to debate twice more, in addition to a radio debate they have scheduled for Aug. 24.


“This is a true progressive pledge that will actually limit outside influence in this campaign in a meaningful way while giving voters more of what they saw [in a debate Tuesday] — clear differences in records, approach, and vision for this important office,” Zakim said in a statement.

The challenge was sent to Galvin late Wednesday afternoon, and he did not immediately comment on his intentions.

The proposal came a day after Galvin alleged that Zakim was poised to benefit from “dark money,” or a third-party “independent expenditure organization” — as labeled by state campaign finance laws — that was set up in March with plans to give him a last-minute anonymous campaign boost just before the election.

The committee, Forward in Mass, was set up by Drew Beres, a Chicago-based lawyer whose only known connection to Massachusetts politics was a $200 donation he gave to Zakim during his inaugural race for City Council in 2013. He has not responded to repeated requests for comment.

Such independent organizations, known as super PACS, are not bound by typical campaign finance laws that apply to candidates, and can raise and spend limitless amounts of money from individuals and corporations. They are not required to identify their objective, or their expenditures and donor list until after they spend money, meaning the organization could wait until the weekend before the election to dump thousands of dollars in advertising spending.


Their only restriction is that they are not allowed to coordinate with a campaign.

Super PACs are different from typical political action committees, such as those set up by labor unions and that openly give money to candidates, and which are held to more transparent campaign finance laws.

Galvin alleged that Zakim was looking to sneak anonymous corporate money into their race for secretary of state.

“You can’t be the chief election officer if you’re going to be the guy who will scheme around it,” he said.

Initially, the Zakim campaign would not accept Galvin’s proposal, calling it an “empty campaign gimmick” that would cloak what he described as Galvin’s own questionable tactics, including his use of state resources to promote his office’s work in campaign-style videos.

The campaign said in a statement late Tuesday that Zakim has not spoken to Beres, the Chicago lawyer, since 2013 and that the campaign “cannot, has not, and will not accept a dime from this, or any other, independent expenditure organization.”

On Wednesday, Zakim issued a new challenge: Each candidate must agree that they “do not approve of . . . and do not want” outside spending on behalf of their campaigns. If outside spending does occur, the benefiting candidate must donate half of what was spent, using money from their own campaign coffers, to a charity of the opposing candidate’s choice.


Moreover, each candidate must donate to charity half of any political action committee contributions they have received since the race began.

Zakim said he donated $625 — half of the political action committee money his campaign has received since he announced his run for the office in November — to the Missionary Franciscan Sisters, a Newton-based charity Galvin has supported.

The campaign identified $8,300 that Galvin has received from political action committees, mostly unions, since November.

As of July, Zakim had close to $600,000 in his campaign coffers. Galvin had more than $2.6 million.

The condition is that Galvin again debate Zakim, something the challenger said the incumbent has been unwilling to do.

“Time will tell if this is just another election-year conversion or if Galvin is ready to come out of his cozy, unchallenged perch to give the voters a clean, open, and honest campaign,” Zakim said in a statement.

Milton J. Valencia can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia.