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‘Kennedy is not being straight with the people of Massachusetts,’ Markey campaign alleges

Senator Ed Markey (left) and Representative Joseph Kennedy III.

Two top candidates for Senate are trading accusations over corporate political action committee money as the 2020 battle between Senator Edward J. Markey and Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III starts heating up.

Markey’s campaign announced Thursday that the Malden Democrat would no longer accept corporate PAC contributions, a decision Markey made before Kennedy formally entered the race, according to senior campaign director John Walsh.

The Markey campaign at the same time released a video rapping Kennedy for trumpeting his own decision earlier this month to forgo corporate PAC checks, when the Newton Democrat was raking in money from those entities as recently as June.


The video shows a clip of Kennedy telling reporters in New Bedford over the weekend that an important area of difference between Markey and himself is “I don’t take corporate PAC money; Senator Markey does.”

The video then goes on to say that Kennedy was taking checks from corporate PACs as recently as June 30, the last day covered by federal candidates’ most recent quarterly fund-raising filing with the Federal Election Committee. The screen shows a scrolling list of corporate PAC donations to Kennedy in June, citing federal filings.

“Congressman Kennedy is not being straight with the people of Massachusetts about corporate PAC contributions and his accusations in this race. People should take a look at the facts for themselves,” said Walsh.

Watch: Markey campaign’s video

But the campaign finance group responsible for popularizing the pledge against corporate PAC money is not pleased by the Markey campaign video, calling it a “Republican-style attack” on his opponent.

“Anytime an elected leader rejects corporate PAC money it’s a win for the American people and Congressman Kennedy’s pledge to refuse corporate PAC money sends a powerful message to the Commonwealth about who he will fight for in Washington,” said Patrick Burgwinkle, communications director for End Citizens United, a campaign finance watchdog. “If Senator Markey is also refusing corporate PAC money that’s another win for Massachusetts, but we are disappointed in his Republican-style attack on Congressman Kennedy.”


Kennedy’s campaign said they never claimed to have stopped accepting corporate PAC money prior to September.

“Yes, Joe previously accepted corporate PAC money. He took the No Corporate PAC pledge in early September, prior to entering the Senate race, after hearing from voters loud and clear about how important this issue was to them,” said Kennedy campaign spokeswoman Emily Kaufman. “He encourages Senator Markey to follow his lead and sign the pledge, as well as accept the People’s Pledge to keep all dark money out of the primary race.”

Two days ago, Kennedy called on Markey and the other two candidates in the primary race to sign a so-called People’s Pledge to limit outside political groups from dumping money into what’s shaping up to be a divisive intraparty battle. The Markey campaign says it is considering the proposal.

Kennedy has collected about $75,000 in corporate PAC money this election cycle for his own campaign account, according to MapLight, a nonprofit that tracks money in politics.

The Markey campaign said it included corporate PAC contributions to both Kennedy’s campaign and his leadership PAC, “4MAPAC,” in its tally for the video. Candidates use leadership PACs to send money to other Democratic candidates.

For June, the month highlighted in Markey’s video, a Globe review found Kennedy took about $27,000 in corporate PAC money — a FEC-defined term that does not include PACs for groups such as labor unions or trade associations — for his campaign and leadership committees combined. The Markey campaign appears to have counted trade associations with corporate members in its tally; the Globe review was limited to the FEC-defined corporate PACs.


Markey has taken about $141,000 from corporate PACs since the start of 2019, according to MapLight.

Markey’s campaign committee and leadership PAC, “Educate and Innovate PAC,” took in a combined $57,000 in corporate PAC money in June of this year, the Globe review found.

Kennedy announced Sept. 5 that he would no longer be taking corporate PAC money, following a trend that has swept through Democratic ranks. Dozens of members of Congress have sworn off corporate PAC checks. Within the Massachusetts delegation, Ayanna Pressley, Jim McGovern, and Lori Trahan have taken the pledge.

So have all the Democrats running for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination. Among them, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has gone even further, forswearing private fund-raisers with millionaires that typically fuel campaigns.

Also running for the Democratic Senate nomination are labor attorney Shannon Liss-Riordian and businessman Steve Pemberton.

Victoria McGrane can be reached at victoria.mcgrane@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @vgmac.