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Democratic hopefuls back ‘People’s Pledge’

Raimondo expresses willingness to sign Taveras’ pledge, which would restrict fundraising

As the Rhode Island gubernatorial race heats up, campaign finance politics are taking center stage as two of the leading Democratic candidates speak out against super Political Action Committees.

General Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, the two front runners in the Democratic primary, have both voiced opposition to excessive external fundraising and have each criticized the other’s spending strategies.

In October, Taveras proposed a “People’s Pledge,” calling upon fellow Democratic candidates to refuse financial support from super PACs in the governor’s race, citing the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race between Republican Scott Brown and Democrat Elizabeth Warren, when the candidates made a similar pact.

Though she was initially silent on the issue, Raimondo tweeted in support of the People’s Pledge Jan. 21, calling the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which allowed for unchecked external campaign funding, “disastrous.”

Raimondo formally announced her candidacy Dec. 18 but her campaign had been actively fundraising through 2013, continuously outperforming Taveras’. In her latest campaign fundraising report, Raimondo reported having raised over $2.3 million by the most recent filing deadline in November, The Herald previously reported. The Taveras campaign announced it had raised $1.02 million total, including $324,920 during the most recent fundraising quarter, in a Jan. 29 press release.

Raimondo has the support of multiple super PACs including American LeadHERship, which is dedicated to supporting progressive female candidates, The Herald previously reported.

“It was a smart move by Mayor Taveras to ask for the People’s Pledge, because he is so far behind Raimondo in fundraising,” wrote Wendy Schiller, associate professor of political science and public policy, in an e-mail to The Herald.

Taveras, who is not publicly aligned with any super PACs, asked Raimondo to “get serious about the pledge or rip off the Band-Aid and just admit she’ll never sign,” given her association with American LeadHERship, in a Jan. 28 press release.

The Raimondo campaign looks “forward to coming to an agreement to keep outside money out of this race,” said Eric Hyers, Raimondo’s campaign manager.  Hyers said the three Democratic candidates — Raimondo, Taveras and Clay Pell, who announced his candidacy Tuesday — need to work together to create “a pledge that is air-tight, has no loop holes and keeps out all special interest money.”

Super PACs have not traditionally held significant influence on Rhode Island’s local elections, Schiller wrote. But this has recently become a hot button issue for both the Taveras and the Raimondo campaigns.   “The candidates running for governor this year are formidable and will likely be able to raise and spend more money than in previous elections,” Schiller added.

Eliminating super PAC funding may not level even the monetary playing field, Schiller wrote. “With such a big lead and strong connections to individuals who have the resources to contribute to her campaign, it is unclear just how dependent Raimondo will be on large PACs.”


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