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Scott Brown-Elizabeth Warren ban on outside ads spreads to key House race

The so-called “People’s Pledge” limiting the influence of outside interest groups in the Massachusetts US Senate election may be spreading.

Today, US Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, challenged Republican Richard Tisei to sign “the exact same ‘People’s Pledge’” for their race.

Tierney’s letter comes as he and Tisei, a former state senator from Wakefield and candidate for lieutenant governor, are engaged in what may be the state’s most competitive US House race.

US Senator Scott Brown, a Republican, and his leading Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, signed a groundbreaking pact in January that requires the candidates to make penalty payments to charity if political action committees and other outside groups advertise on their behalf.

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The pledge has attracted national attention, and has so far surprised skeptics by largely preventing outside groups from spending large sums in the campaign. Brown eagerly donated twice to charity when groups tried to advertise on his behalf.

In Tierney’s letter, he recounts the pledge and the influence outside groups have had in US politics since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which enabled unlimited campaign spending.

“Since you and I so clearly agree on this principal(sic), and since Ms. Warren and Senator Brown agree on the exact same idea, I challenge you to join me in taking a firm stand on this issue and in signing the exact same ‘People’s Pledge’ as Ms. Warren and Senator Brown,” Tierney wrote.

Tisei, reached by phone this afternoon, did not commit.

He said he would sit down with Tierney to discuss an agreement, but added that Tierney had ignored a challenge sent out by Tisei in March to limit the influence of direct contributions from PACs to their campaigns.

The Associated Press reported last month that Tierney had raised at least $383,000 from PACs, about 42 percent of his total contributions, compared with 5 percent for Tisei. Such contributions - directly from PACs to candidates - are not covered by the People’s Pledge, which focuses more on groups that place the ads themselves.

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“I did challenge Congressman Tierney not to accept PAC money, or to limit it, and he never responded, and then took several hundred thousand dollars worth of PAC money,” Tisei said. “I would probably want to do something a little more expansive than what Warren and Brown have done.”


Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.