Archive for the ‘Campaigns and Elections’ Category

Benefits and Inequalities of Matching Funds

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In 1977, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to implement public financing for gubernatorial elections.  According to New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, the program “allows persons of limited financial means to seek election to the State’s highest office and to conduct campaigns free from improper influence.”   The statement evokes two clear goals of NJ’s matching funds program: 1) greater equality among competitors, and 2) less “improper influence.”

I am sympathetic to these goals, and find these programs difficult to reject on normative grounds. However in my opinion they are practically unworkable, and thus, impossible not to reject on practical grounds.  The key reason being that these programs do not work as intended and if anything, lead to less equality and a greater degree of “improper influence.”  I discuss my reasoning below.

Greater Equality?:

Because “elections aren’t won with prayers,” the reality of the political economic environment necessitates the use of money to translate political ideas into political speech.  Without an option of public funding, federal candidates must rely on wealthy donors, interest groups, and political parties (or themselves) for resources and financial support.  The outcome is that some candidates will inevitably have more resources than others.

Matching funds seeks to bridge the gap. Yet because of a Supreme Court case in 1976 (Buckley v. Valeo) that rendered campaign-spending limits unconstitutional, states may not compel candidates to participate in public programs, which almost always have caps on how much a candidate may spend.[1]  As long as candidates have this de facto “opt-out” alternative, the practical reality is that the only candidates that will use the public funds are the ones that need to.

The best example of this is New Jersey’s gubernatorial race.  There is little reason for Chris Christie to willingly limit his spending in order to participate in the public funds program, when he can raise money so quickly and easily.  On the other hand, his opponent, Barbara Buono, is all but forced to participate in the matching funds program. With a more limited fundraising operation, it is her best shot of maximizing the amount of campaign resources.

Of course, this is only a disadvantage to participants in matching funds programs if they shoulder some kind of significant burden that non-participants do not. Do they?  In a word, yes.  In order to receive the matching funds in New Jersey, the campaign must submit reports to the state every two weeks (accelerating to every week as the election nears).  These reports must include:

  • Donor name
  • Address
  • Employer & Occupation
  • Address of donor’s employer
  • Copy of the original check
  • Copy of the deposit slip (before depositing),
  • Copy of a stamped receipt of the deposit slip (after deposit)

In the case that the contributor was an LLC, then it must also be accompanied by a signed letter stating what individual the contribution should be attributed to.   In the case of credit card contributions, the campaign must obtain an original signature from each contributor, regardless of amount.  In case all this were not enough, all of this information needs to be submitted via proprietary database software that allows for one scan at a time, comes with many bugs, and will reject transactions for including full words such as: “avenue,” “street,” “boulevard,” “road,” “post office box,” “organization,” “committee,” and my favorite, “New Jersey”…plus approximately forty others.

In short, the fact that participants in matching funds programs are held to such high expectations in order to receive funds not only substantially increases their workload, but also engenders intense budget uncertainty, as it seems transactions can get rejected for nearly anything.   In New Jersey, this law that was intended to promote greater equality has led to an outcome whereby quite literally, the two major general election candidates are being held to different standards and expectations, and the underdog is far worse off.

Improper Influence?:

The second noted reason for implementing matching funds programs is to mitigate those seeking to influence politicians. …Influence politicians how exactly?  Pre-eminent scholars of campaign finance cannot agree on how money actually influences politics.  Let’s assume that “influence” means “to affect legislative policy in a way that without such influence, would otherwise have been different.”  This is the conception employed by political scientists Wayman and Hall (1990), who argue that money mobilizes legislators to write more favorable policy.  Taken to its greatest logical extent, this type of relationship between money and politicians can lead to bribery and corruption.

Yet more contemporary scholars observing the same outcomes arrive at far different conclusions.  Esterling (2007) argues the reverse – that PACs contribute to members that he calls the “workhorses” in Congress; those that write more policy, have greater leadership qualities, and value policy substance over style.  This conception of money in politics, as a reward for good work, undermines those that are based on the assumption that money is inherently corrupting.

Let’s assume that the term “influence” does not mean “to affect legislative policy or decisions of legislators.” Rather let’s assume “influence” means “some degree of donor representation.” And again, let’s use the example of New Jersey.  New Jersey’s matching funds program matches qualifying contributions 3:1.  It is not limited to individuals and organizations in New Jersey.  Rather, it includes contributions from any American individual, corporation, PAC, union, etc. from all 50 states.  It is not far-fetched to say that with Chris Christie up for re-election, that this race may attract national interest. For a campaign in a small state like New Jersey to be attracting national attention, it is not unfathomable to imagine a scenario where a substantial portion of contributions comes from out-of-state PACs, individuals, and organizations. This presents a thorny question: how is it that a program that could grant out-of-state interests three times as much “influence” as they would otherwise have, possibly lead to greater representativeness for the citizens of New Jersey?.[2]

MisMatched:

While money may be a necessary component of affecting political outcomes, it is in no way synonymous with, or by itself sufficient to achieve influence. Moreover, there is little evidence that matching funds programs leads to greater equality. This article did not touch on how matching funds programs has the potential to significantly widen the fundraising gender gap I discussed last month.  Nor does it discuss the costs of implementing the programs. Tangential benefits, such as greater voter participation, are also questionable. After implementing the public matching funds program in NYC, most recent mayoral election of 2009 witnessed the lowest voter turnout its had since the 1960’s.   In short, matching funds programs need to be seriously reconsidered. Legislating policy based on untested assumptions and before thinking through the potential outcomes is unwise at best and dangerous at worst.



[1] Note: spending limits are not the same as contribution limits, or how much a candidate can receive.

[2] I discuss this topic in greater detail here.

 

By Erinn Larkin, Compliance Director, PACs and Parties

 

Is Reform Coming to Illinois?

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I read the news today and oh, boy…another Illinois politician is under investigation.

The Chicago Sun Times reports an FBI investigation underway on Chicago Alderman Joe Moore (49th Ward) for firing two employees, who had allegedly complained about doing political work while on city time.

It’s no secret that Illinois has had its fair share of ethical discrepancies toward the conduct of business in the political arena.

However, some believe that the culmination of political scandal over the recent years may have finally reached its tipping point, which begs the question: Will Moore’s case be the final straw that breaks the camel’s back?

Many wonder if the feds will come down hard on Moore. But will more instances like this finally make Illinois voters realize the need for a near complete overhaul of our states ethics and good government laws?

I don’t know but I do know is that in 2014, voters may finally have the chance to vote on one of the largest and most sweeping reforms in over 30 years. Yes for Independent Maps is currently gathering signatures to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to reform our state legislature’s redistricting process by creating a non-partisan redistricting commission similar to California, Arizona, Missouri, Florida, and a handful of other states.

An amazing first step towards saving Illinois from a handful of corrupt elected officials would be to create an independent mapping process.  Why?

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First, simply changing the way that state legislative districts are drawn will create an unprecedented level of transparency. It will also create more competitive districts. If it is successful, we will see like-minded communities protected rather than split apart for political purposes.

Secondly, if this amendment passes it will send a deafening boom to elected officials all over the state of Illinois and hopefully open the door to more good government policies.

The deafening boom of this amendment becoming law will remind elected officials how important integrity and ethics are to the people of Illinois.

CFO Consulting is proud and excited to be working with Yes for Independent Maps and to be helping them raise the money they will need to pass this amendment. We believe that reforms like this bring great transparency to the political process and help to create a better government that is capable of serving its citizens.

To learn more about the work we are doing with Yes for Independent Maps visit them at www.independentmaps.org.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

Choosing the Right Lt Gov can be a Game Changer

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Over the next 17 months, there will be 37 governors who will either be elected or reelected. In many of these states the candidates running for governor will have to choose a Lieutenant Governor candidate. One of the key factors to consider is the fundraising support they can add to the ticket.

Here is my analysis of what kind of candidates might exist out there for a gubernatorial candidate to help maximize his or hers’ fundraising potential heading into a general election.

  • The Millionaire – any candidate who has the ability to self-fund can instantly change the fundraising ability of a gubernatorial candidate and his ticket. This would likely be the best match for a candidate who needs cash fast in order to level the playing field. Any Lt Gov who can quickly infuse a few hundred thousand into a close race could be a game changer.
  • The War Chest – some politicians have been around for years stockpiling huge sums of cash. Anyone that has done this would be a great person to add to the ticket as instantly bring cold, hard cash ready to be used. Only a few potential candidates have significant war chests that could make them a good candidate.
  • The Instigator – in recent years we have seen many politicians become very successful fundraisers by always being at the center of controversy. “Wingnuts” as many of them are referred to as; usually make great fundraisers but terrible candidates. Think Michelle Bachman, Alan Grayson, or even Sarah Palin.

While there are many, many ways for a good Lieutenant Governor candidate to add to their tickets fundraising successes these are just a few categories that they might want to consider before deciding on who to slate with them for next election.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

 

Campaign Finance Regulation Needs a Home

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The Federal Election Commission can no longer be considered the sole federal agency tasked with regulating federal campaign activity.  As a recent New York Times article suggests, the Securities and Exchange Commission may soon require publicly traded corporations to disclose the names of individuals who contribute to various so-called Super PACs.  Not surprisingly, the measure is strongly opposed by business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, which argue that such measures would infringe on the group’s right to free speech. The Internal Revenue Service has also been highlighted recently for its alleged overreach in targeting tax-exempt 501(c)(4) organizations associated with the conservative Tea Party.

These latest events highlight just how thorny of an issue campaign finance regulation has become.  Agencies that are not normally tasked with any kind of campaign regulation have found themselves forced to overcompensate for a seemingly ineffectual FEC.

In international relations, the term “proxy war” is used to describe a situation in which two opposing parties utilize a substitute, or a third party, as an alternative to fighting each other directly.  What Citizens United seems to have engendered, is a proxy war between liberals and conservatives in which government agencies are being used as reluctant battlegrounds.   As we have witnessed this past week, the results are at best messy, and at worst, damaging to the overall legitimacy of the federal government.

The longer both sides continue to battle one another over procedural matters in multiple agency arenas, the more distant they become from their purported fundamental purpose for being, which is to engage in political advocacy.  Not to mention, of course, the more contributor money they waste in the process. But is there any alternative?

These organizations might benefit from looking back to 2004 and the similar issues brought forth by so-called “527” organizations and their apparent exemption from the recently passed Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (also known as McCain-Feingold).  The crucial similarity between the battles being waged today, and those of the past, boil down to one thing: the definition of a “political committee” as defined in the FEC Act.

The difference between the strategies implemented today versus 2004, is that in the latter, watchdog groups and political parties funneled all their complaints and fought all their battles in one arena – the FEC.  Both sides filed complaints and the FEC came down hard on 527’s, primarily for failing to register as political committees.  As a result, America Coming Together was fined $775,000, the Media Fund was fined $580,000 and the Swift Boat Vets and POWs for Truth were fined $299,500.

A strategy that devotes resources to one specific arena (namely, the FEC) could be particularly beneficial for liberals and other proponents of increased disclosure.  The Supreme Court unambiguously upheld disclosure laws as constitutional.  If disclosure is the bottom line, then liberals and supporters need to bring the fight back to the FEC where they maintain a home turf advantage. Otherwise, they risk undermining their cause by fighting procedural battles in agencies that have little interest in regulating campaign activity and little incentive to become enmeshed in a political battle as contentious as campaign finance.

 By Erinn Larkin, Compliance Director, PACs and Parties

 

Free Advice: Start Raising Money Yesterday

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Whenever an aspiring candidate asks the question, “when do you think I should start raising money?”  my answer is always the same – yesterday!

I cannot begin to count the times I have joined a campaign right before a critical fundraising deadline. And yet there are countless reasons why raising money early on can be pivotal.  For example, in order to build a successful fundraising operation you must first create a good infrastructure of data and lists. Moreover, early money can create other opportunities that will give you the greatest chance at success.

A good fundraising operation can very easily built if the campaign has a good base of data. Almost any good fundraising operation will start by organizing and sorting (hopefully) hundreds of personal contacts of the candidate. This step can take a considerable amount of time, in many cases candidates will hand their fundraiser a stack full of business cards, their holiday list, (and my favorite) cocktail napkins with notes scribbled on them. Deciphering this data can take a great deal of time and detective work. Usually, this work can be done months before a candidate is ready to announce his or her candidacy. Once some sort of manageable list is in order, the candidate is ready to hit the phones!

By getting a head start on fundraising, the candidate do things other than just spend hours in a dark room on the phone. Many candidates quickly grow tired of call time and want to get to meet voters and campaign for office. However, if they cannot do this until they hit some of the early fundraising benchmarks. By buckling down early and spending hours of the phone can definitely free up the candidates schedule to spend a few more hours a week shaking hands and kissing babies.

Finally, the greatest reason a candidate should start raising money sooner than later is that it will give them the greatest chance at victory. This should be reason enough to convince candidates to start raising money in April instead of June, but that is not always the case. The facts do not lie in many cases the candidate who jumps in early and raises money the fastest can have a greater chance at victory. Early money is a demonstration of strength to both potential opponents and pundits. An early start will also give you a chance to jump out to an early cash advantage, that in some cases your opponent might never be able to catch.

Every candidate could use some free advice, so to those of you thinking about running for office in 2014, 2015 or even 2016, remember it is never to early to start fundraising. An early fundraising start will give the opportunity to build a solid infrastructure, allow the candidate more time to campaign, and most importantly give you the greatest chance at victory.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

What Can We See in Q1 Reports?

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In addition to being tax day, April 15 was the deadline for federal campaign committees to file their first fundraising report of 2014.

The amount of activity contained in these reports helps us speculate about what implications these numbers may have with respect to the 2014 elections.

Power of Incumbency – One of the most obvious signs of these early reports demonstrates is the advantage of being an incumbent. This past January, eighty-one freshman members of the US House were sworn in. Of those eighty-one, twenty-five raised over $250,000 in the first quarter of this year. Many of these incumbents are expected to be somewhat vulnerable heading into the next election.    Challengers simply do not have the resources and apparatus to  raise the kind of money that incumbents can at such an early point in the election cycle; many of them have yet to even declare their candidacy.

Therefore,  incumbents have the benefit of a de facto head-start in the fundraising race. Only a handful of vulnerable members have opponents eighteen months before the next election.   This means that  incumbents often have somewhere between a  $300,000-$500,000 head start before they even have a declared opponent.

A Glimpse of the Future – These numbers may also provide insight into whether an incumbent is considering a run for higher office in 2014.

House members Gary Peters (D-MI) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) are two potential examples of this. Peters proved his fundraising ability by netting $371,000, and in turn, demonstrated that his legitimacy as a possible contender to replace the retiring Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). Cotton is rumored to be considering a challenge to Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR); he raised $526,000 over the past three months, which places him at the front of the pack for Senate challengers.

These reports also show the opposite; that some incumbents are not ready or willing to make a run for higher office. Many in the Tea Party had dreams of Steve King (R-IA) running for the open Senate seat in his state, even though the Republican establishment was rooting for his colleague Tom Latham (R-IA). Latham seems to have won this round by raising $300,000 – more than three times what King raised(amounting to just under $93,000).

Thinking about a Comeback? – We can also look at the reports of members who lost in November to see who is plotting a comeback bid. The quickest way to identify a candidate not considering a bid is to look at who has terminated their campaign committees. Already over 100 campaign committees from 2012 have closed including defeated incumbents on both sides of the aisle.

We can also look at committees that remain open to see who might be thinking of a comeback or considering retirement. The outspoken former Congressman Allen West is likely not considering another bid; his committee transferred $400,000 from his committee to his non-profit foundation. There are also signs from losing candidates that might be considering another bid. Those committees tend to hold onto as much of their cash-on-hand as possible and spend on some limited expenses like polling, fundraising, and paying down debt that could inhibit a future run.

By Nick Daggers, Vice President, Fundraising

Why is the Senate Electronic Filing Bill Deemed Unlikely to be Enacted Despite Near Consensus?

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Few issues or policy realms have the power to bring together alliances like those witnessed in the now infamous Citizens United case, which pinned the ACLU, NRA, AFL-CIO, and Chamber of Commerce against an alliance that included the American Independent Business Alliance, the DNC, and Senator John McCain (among others).  Even fewer have the ability to kindle bipartisanship and consensus in a political landscape characterized by polarization and gridlock. Yet the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act introduced by Senator Jon Tester earlier this year has indeed managed to receive bipartisan support.   The bill would compel Senate candidates to electronically file campaign finance reports along with the other federally registered committees that have been doing so since 2001 (PACs, Parties, and House Members). The bill would save time, tax dollars, and improve disclosure and transparency.

So why do organizations like GovTrack.us, which track the statistical probability of legislation being enacted, give the bill a 10% chance of success?

In 1971 when the FEC Act was originally enacted, the law dictated that Senate candidates file their reports with the Secretary of the Senate who would then forward them to the FEC. All other committees were to report directly to the FEC. In 2001 when the FEC required that almost all committees file their reports electronically, the Senate was exempted from the law and has continued to file on paper ever since.

Why shouldn’t the Senate be allowed to continue filing on paper?  There are several reasons why compelling the Senate to file electronically is a common sense law. First, the current procedure is inefficient. The candidate sends their report to the Secretary of the Senate, who then forwards the report to the FEC. The FEC then sends it to a third party firm that re-types the reports, enters them into a database, and sends the information back the FEC. Only then is the information available to the public.  By contrast, reports thatare uploaded electronically are instantly available to the public.

Second, the current procedure is costly.  The FEC estimates that having the Senate file electronically would save tax-payers just under $500,000 per year. It would undoubtedly save candidates the expense of printing and sending hundreds of pages worth of reports at-least four times a year.  It also unnecessarily wastes the time of government employees.  Because the Senate reports need to be re-typed, every time a campaign finance analyst finds a potential violation, they must then locate the paper image to ensure it corroborates with the re-typed data.  Such a time-consuming, redundant process is obviated by electronically filed reports.

Lastly, it would provide greater transparency.  While the FEC pays for the service of re-typing the data, it is entirely for their own review purposes. The formatted data is never made available to the public. Therefore, individuals interested in reviewing Senate reports must scroll through hundreds of pages of text-unsearchable PDF images.  For all these reasons, the measure to compel the Senate to file electronically has received widespread support and near consensus among all parties involved.

Why might the bill fail regardless of such widespread support? Those interested in the passage of the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act of 2013 should pay attention to the behavior of Senator Mitch McConnell and his role in the failed Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act of 2007.  Senator McConnell first placed an anonymous hold on the bill (when pushed, he later revealed his identity).  He then attempted to attach an amendment that would loosen coordinated expenditure laws between parties and candidates.  In short, he sought to negotiate for policy reform when the matter at hand concerned procedural reform, which to many, was simply too unreasonable and unequal of an exchange.  Observing McConnell’s disposition toward the current bill may provide insight into its chances of ever getting past committee and on to the floor for a vote.

 By Erinn Larkin, Compliance Director, PACs and Parties

What will it cost to win back the House?

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By Nick Daggers
Follow Nick on Twitter @nickdaggerscfo 

With the 2012 election in our rearview mirror we are all looking down the road to 2014. After a successful cycle the Democrats gained eight seats in the House but are still 18 seats short of the majority. There are plenty of race trackers and analysts that can offer their thoughts on which seats will be in play and why. I would like to offer a quick demonstration of what we can expect to see spent in a race for the majority.

A good case study to establish an estimate for 2014 spending is to look at the six (8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17) competitive races in Illinois from 2012. According to the Center for Responsive Politics in the five districts won by the Democrats the campaigns and their allies spent a total of $20.5m, or an average of $4.1m per Democratic pickup.

The Illinois’ 11th and 17th Congressional Districts provide a microcosm of districts across the country that Democrats must win in order to take back the House. In both cases the DCCC was able to help recruit strong Democratic challengers (which will be key again in 2014) to take on popular Republican incumbents. In order to take back the house in 2014, Democrats will likely have to defeat at-least 20-25 Republican incumbents.

In the IL11 Bill Foster defeated Judy Biggert. Foster and his allies had to spend $4.88m in order to secure victory. The IL11 covers a diverse swath of the Western Suburbs of Chicago. Meanwhile two hours to the west is the IL17. In this district, Cheri Bustos defeated one-term Congressman Bobby Schilling. Bustos and her allies had to spend just shy of $4.7m to win.

While the races had many similarities they also had one glaring difference, they both fell into two very different media markets. The IL11 is in the Chicago media market, the third largest in the country, and the IL17 covers the Rockford, Quad Cities, and Peoria media markets, of which only the Quad Cities are a top 100 market.  Since both districts cost about the same to win it helps demonstrate that no matter the media market, Democrats can expect to spend about $4.75m per Republican incumbent they can defeat.

The Democrats are looking at needing to spend $120m just to defeat Republican incumbents. That number does not include the 201 seats we will have to defend and the 100 plus seats that are safely in the Republican column, which can probably be estimated at-least another $200m.

Over the next 18 months we will see exactly how these races play out and if the Democrats and their allies can raise to take back the House. While we won’t know that final number for months to come, we can already guess that just like the past three election cycle we should all expect it to be another record year for campaign spending in the battle for the Speaker’s Gavel!

 

Nick Daggers is a Vice President of Development for CFO. He has spent the last five years working as a fundraiser for political campaigns and non-profits.

Super PAC Money: Did it make a difference?

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The media and political talking heads spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing the potential effects the Citizens United decision would make on this year’s elections. Now that the votes are in and the victors announced, we can finally determine how big of an impact the one billion dollars in independent money had on Election Day results.

It didn’t seem to make much of one.

More than two-thirds of the one billion dollars spent throughout the election cycle went toward losing candidates. Groups who supported Republican Senate candidates pumped $100 million into seven races, and the Republican candidate lost in each of them. In House races, 24 Democrats and eight Republicans won their elections despite being outspent by their opponents.

Even though “dark money” didn’t play as large a role in winning elections as some originally thought, the Citizens United decision did make the 2012 election cycle different from any past year. Over one million television commercials – the majority of which were overtly negative – aired throughout the year, and candidates were forced to spend an unprecedented amount of time fundraising just to keep up with their opponents.

President Obama, who once again relied on his “small-donor army” and raised more than a billion dollars in campaign contributions, held twice as many fundraisers as rallies during his campaign, and Romney’s camp was still in fundraising mode in late October, mere weeks away from Election Day.

So even if it seems as though money didn’t make a difference, it’s never mattered more in the minds of candidates and campaign teams.

What’s next?

Leader of Super PACs and other nonprofits have proven they have no problem finding wealthy donors and convincing them to write large checks to support certain candidates or issues. But now, since it’s clear that their spending wasn’t enough to win an election, they’ll need to rethink their strategies.

In 2008, President Obama outdid his opponent in the world of social media. His presence on sites such as Twitter and Facebook was more prominent that that of John McCain, and the Internet is one of the primary reasons he was able to surpass $1 billion in campaign contributions.

This year, his campaign found a way to innovate campaign finance once again. Weeks before the election, pro-Obama messaging – complete with a “Paid for by the Obama Victory Fund” disclaimer – encouraged visitors of video websites such as Hulu and YouTube to vote on Election Day.

It’ll be interesting to see if third-party groups follow President Obama onto YouTube and Hulu, hoping that they can make a bigger impact in the next Election cycle.

Timeline: A People’s Pledge

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Incumbent Senator Scott Brown and his Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, have made headlines this election year by agreeing to eliminate third-party involvement in their closely-contested United States Senate race in Massachusetts. For almost 10 months, the two candidates kept their pact alive.

Until now.

With neither candidate gaining a significant lead in the polls, third-party groups have begun to take action.

In five hundred words or less, here is a detailed timeline of the rise and – perhaps imminent – fall of Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren’s ambitious political pact.

2010: Sen. Brown starts the conversation

In 2010, Scott Brown ran against Martha Coakley in a special election to fill the vacant Senate seat created after Senator Ted Kennedy passed away. At the beginning of his campaign, he urged third-party groups to stay out of the race, saying he and his opponent needed to “do their jobs” and not get “sidetracked by red herring issues.”

November 2011: Elizabeth Warren announces her candidacy for the 2012 election

Shortly after declaring herself as a candidate for the Democratic Senate nomination, Brown once again released a statement asking for independent groups to pull their attack advertisements.

January 2012: The People’s Pledge

Senator Brown challenged Warren to join him in his effort to eliminate third-party spending in their election. After weeks of negotiation, on January 23rd, a final draft of their agreement was presented to both candidates. Scott Brown grabbed a blue pen; Warren, a black one, and with their respective signatures, the People’s Pledge was made official. Both candidates were applauded for their bipartisanship, and average citizens rejoiced.

February 2012: Both sides want credit

Since their successful agreement proved to be popular with the media and voters, Brown and Warren argued back and forth as to who deserves more credit for its success. Brown’s camp reminded the media it was his idea from the beginning, while Warren claimed that the original proposal she received “included loopholes that Karl Rove could drive a tank through.” Despite their arguing, both candidates remained true to their word. Independent groups continued to stay out of the election. Average citizens continued rejoicing.

 

March: The agreement is tested.

In early March, an oil lobbying group produced and aired radio advertisements in Brown’s behalf. One day later, Brown’s campaign delivered a $36,000 check to the Autism Consortium in downtown Boston.

Brown stated he was happy to help a good cause, and both candidates said they were thrilled that nobody had attempted to find loopholes in their agreement.

June-July: Polls are neck and neck

The Senate race in Massachusetts quickly became one of the most closely-contested elections in the nation. In early July, Warren was beating Brown in the polls by two percentage points, 43% to 41%.

In such a close race, people thought the third-party groups would get restless and begin exploring ways around the agreement. Brown and Warren continued publicly supporting their pact, but several influential politicos started predicting the agreement’s “inevitable demise.”

August-September: Warren’s takes a fundraising advantage

Warren’s fundraising team stepped its game up, as she established herself as one of the most effective fundraisers in any Senate race in the nation. Brown supporters were likely frustrated because they had the money but still didn’t think they could use it.

The pact lived on. People were surprised.

Late September-Early October: The week the gloves came off

In the last week of September, Americans for Tax Reform – a conservative political action group – spent $215,617 on direct mail literature that attacked Elizabeth Warren. And with that, the floodgates had opened. In the following days, The League of Conversation Voters (anti-Brown) and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (anti-Warren) spent over $1 million dollars on direct mail and door-to-door canvassing to support their candidate of choice.

Alas, after months of critics and skeptics being proven wrong, the People’s Pact began to crumble. The third-party groups couldn’t wait any longer. They found the loopholes, and they leaped through them.

Where are we now?

Neither Brown nor Warren has made a statement regarding the apparent breach in their agreement. The independent groups are claiming innocence, saying they didn’t violate anything because the language in the agreement doesn’t specifically prohibit direct mailers. However, the agreement does specifically mention the prevention of loopholes. The last bullet point states, “the Candidates and their campaigns agree to work together to limit the use of third-party advertisements and to close any loopholes that arise in this agreement during the course of the campaign.”

Unless either candidate decides to acknowledge the agreement’s final point – unless they work together to close this loophole – it seems as though the People’s Pledge has lost its appeal in this election year.

We’ll wait and see what happens next, but these two candidates respected their pact for longer than most people thought they could.

It was fun while it lasted.