Silencing the people: Shaheen's newfound mission
March 19. 2014 6:04PM
Scott Brown's political action committee had $153,888 cash on hand at the end of 2013, comprised of money left over from his 2012 U.S. Senate race. Fund-raising for his potential 2014 Senate race began only days ago. By contrast, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen ended 2013 with $3,393,918 cash on hand. Shaheen sports a whopping 22-1 financial advantage over Brown. Hence Shaheen's sudden commitment to banning outside spending in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.
In her 2008 campaign against John E. Sununu, Shaheen had no interest in banning outside spending. And for good reason. She and Sununu ran neck-and-neck in their own fund-raising during the campaign ($8.3 million for Shaheen vs. $8.8 million for Sununu), but she had a huge advantage in outside spending. Outside groups spent $6.5 million to oppose Shaheen in that race, vs. $12.6 million to oppose Sununu, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Two unions alone — the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — spent $2.4 million for Shaheen in that race.
This time Shaheen wants to solidify her advantage before the race even begins. She has already been the target of issue ads from Americans for Prosperity, and she knows that outside groups can make up for Brown's financial disadvantage just as they gave her the edge six years ago. She wants to neutralize them now. So she waxes poetic about the evils of the very same outside money she happily accepted last time (see opposite page).
But contrary to Shaheen's rhetoric (and Brown's own rhetoric from 2012, when he embraced a ban on outside spending), outside spending is not anti-democratic — banning it is.
These outside groups consist of American citizens who have joined together to engage in constitutionally protected political speech. The bans silence people who choose to express themselves in ways other than giving to one of the two nominated candidates.
Shaheen calls her effort to silence outside groups "the People's Pledge." It is really a Silence the People Pledge. Brown was wrong to embrace it before, and he would be wrong to do it again.