It looks like there will be no agreement between Congressman John Tierney and his opponent Richard Tisei to limit outside PAC funds this election.
Steps toward an agreement -- known as the "People's Pledge" in the state's Senate race -- between the candidates for the Massachusetts 6th District congressional seat came to a grinding halt last week, leaving Team Tierney outraged and Team Tisei on the defensive.
"I agreed to have my staff meet with Tierney's staff," Tisei said in a statement. "While the meetings were cordial, it appears to me that agreement on the conditions that would achieve a level playing field for both candidates is no longer possible - and that's a real shame."
Tisei had called on Tierney in March to limit PAC funds in his campaign and sign an agreement to do so, noting that more than 40 percent of Tierney's campaign money came from PACs.
"At the outset of our negotiations, I instructed my campaign to come to agreement if the Tierney camp would agree to a truly level playing field," Tisei said. "They did not and, as a result, I'm unwilling to continue in fruitless negotiations. I'm very confident in my own ability to raise the funds needed to fight and win this November and will re-double my efforts on all fronts."
But the Tierney campaign paints another picture, asserting that Tierney sent Tisei's campaign a signed copy of an agreement limiting PAC contributions and called on Tisei to sign it. Tisei, they claim, said he would only sign if it included limiting PAC money to 20 percent. The Tierney campaign agreed to that, but Tisei still refused to sign an agreement.
The Tierney campaign says it came down to Tisei realizing how much money he could make from PACs and super PACs.
"In the intervening two months between their press release of March 28 and their subsequent refusal to agree to their own 'challenge,' Richard Tisei benefitted from two Washington, D.C., PAC fundraisers with top party leaders, a New York fundraiser with George W. Bush's Republican Chairman Ken Mehlman, and most importantly, $2.2 million in television ad time reserved in Boston by the national Republican party and being named and a recipient of help from a new Super PAC started by a New York Wall Street billionaire," said Tierney Communications Director Grant Herring.
A direct PAC -- political action committee -- is an outside group that raises money for the purpose of financing and promoting a candidate or cause, or opposing a candidate or cause. A "super PAC" is a relatively new kind of political action group that, while not being able to donate to a candidate directly, is allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money and raise unlimited funds from corporations, unions and individuals, to promote that candidate. Super Pacs have become the topic of heated political debate since the Supreme Court effectively legalized them in their 2010 Citizens United decision.
"Richard Tisei is the only politician in Massachusetts craving super PAC attack ads funded by secret, corporate donors,” Herring said. “This shows once again that voters cannot believe anything Mr. Tisei says.”
But Tisei campaign spokesman Paul Moore says the deal fell apart over the idea of freezing an existing gap in funding advantage, specifically with direct PAC funds as opposed to super PAC funds, and said the Tierney campaign insisted on freezing the $350,000 advantage in direct PAC funds.
"We said we need to be able to catch up with you [and close that gap before the PAC limits go into effect] or you can get rid of that money," Moore said. "But we're not going to freeze their advantage in place."
It would take an entire quarter for Tisei to raise $350,000, Moore said.
Tierney has held the Massachusetts 6th District seat since 1997. Tisei served for more than 25 years in the state legislature, including a few years as Senate minority leader, before running for lieutenant governor in 2010.