- Associated Press - Friday, April 25, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Hopes for a so-called “people’s pledge” in the Democratic primary for Massachusetts governor could be fading.

Attorney General Martha Coakley asked fellow Democratic candidates Friday to sign a pledge aimed at keeping third party groups from using “unwanted, outside special-interest money” to launch attack ads during the election.

Coakley’s proposal comes a day after fellow Democratic gubernatorial hopeful state Treasurer Steven Grossman chided Coakley for failing to agree to what he called an “iron-clad” pledge six months ago.

Grossman said Coakley’s latest offer seems “far more like a political ploy than a sincere commitment she can be counted on to honor.” He also faulted Coakley for rejecting his initial proposal by demanding what he called “a giant loophole to allow outside expenditures in a whole range of situations.”

“I have no confidence Martha Coakley is serious about keeping all unlimited outside interest group money out of our primary and will no longer be negotiating the ‘People’s Pledge’ with her,” Grossman said.

Grossman’s comments come just days after supporters of his campaign formed an independent expenditure political action committees - also known as a super PAC - with the goal of helping elect him governor.

Coakley’s proposal would target spending by super PACs.

Juliette Kayyem, another Democratic candidate for governor, said she’s willing to talk about a pledge but also blamed Coakley for the collapse of talks over a pledge last year after she said Coakley’s campaign tried to put “poison pill” language into the agreement.

“No campaign is the same, as you also know from your career and previous campaigns where you did receive outside money. So we should get to work on a plan that is fair and puts our party in the best position against (Republican candidate) Charlie Baker,” Kayyem wrote Friday in a letter to Coakley.

Businessman Joseph Avellone and former Obama administration health care official Donald Berwick are also competing for the Democratic nomination for governor.

Avellone said he proposed his own “Commonwealth Pledge” last year which he said went even further than the “people’s pledge,” but Grossman wasn’t interested.

“Now, eight months later, the treasurer’s close friend has opened his own super PAC in an attempt to spend outside money in a Democratic Primary,” Avellone said. “This is hypocrisy at its worst and it is bad for the Democratic Party.”

Berwick said he’s “deeply troubled by the potential influx of huge sums of outside money from undisclosed, extremely wealthy individuals and corporations” and would sign a people’s pledge that is agreed to by all candidates in the primary.

The “people’s pledge” refers to an agreement that Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren hammered out in their 2012 U.S. Senate campaign. The agreement required each candidate to pay half the cost of any attack ad by an outside group to a charity chosen by the other candidate. The pledge was credited with largely keeping those ads out of the election.

In last year’s special U.S. Senate election to fill John Kerry’s former seat, Democrats Edward Markey and Stephen Lynch agreed to a similar pledge.

Coakley said she modeled her proposal after the agreement hammered out by Markey and Lynch with what she called “an additional provision relative to possible attacks from Republican super PACs during the Democratic primary.”

On Thursday, Grossman criticized Coakley for accepting money raised by “a third party outside organization with a history of independent expenditures in Massachusetts political campaigns.”

Coakley has won the backing of EMILY’s List, a major fundraising group that helps elect Democratic women who support abortion rights to higher office.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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