No matter who comes out on top next Tuesday in the bitter, nasty run for Massachusetts 6th District congressional seat, and no matter what message that winning candidate — John Tierney or Richard Tisei — brings to Washington, he had better go forward with another message as well:
That’s the realization that our campaign finance laws, badly broken for decades, are now in a virtual shambles, thanks in part to the July Supreme Court decision to stand by the so-called Citizens’ United ruling that allows corporations to funnel money at will, without any limits and without publicly naming their corporate leaders into any and all campaigns. And one of the most dire illustrations is Tierney’s and Tisei’s own race.
The bombardment of residents’ mail boxes by so-called Super PACs this fall has been downright offensive. And the issue isn’t merely that these groups are allowed to attack with impunity behind names like the political action front called Strong Economy for Massachusetts Inc. It’s the fact they can do so in relative anonymity as well.
At the very least, the over-the-top mailers attacking Tierney should have told voters that Strong Economy’s driving force is, as Wednesday’s Times story noted, none other than former Congressman Peter Torkildsen — the Republican from whom Tierney won his seat in 1996. Then voters would have recognized the context and the bitter agenda behind the push.
Torkildsen is hardly alone. While Super PACs — including the so-called Young Guns of the National Republican Campaign Committee — have spent more than $3 million attacking Tierney, Democrat-rooted Super PACS supporting the congressman have also spent more than $1.5 million trying to tie Tisei to the right-wing Tea Party when that’s clearly not the case. That’s reminiscent of two years ago, when Tierney campaign mailers told voters that challenger Bill Hudak would revoke homeowners’ mortgage tax deduction, when Tierney himself later acknowledged Hudak had made no such statement.
Look, none of this paints any candidate in a good light, and all of it can – and should — be viewed as misleading voters. And while we admit nothing will likely ever end this “anything goes” campaign nonsense, it’s time to once again put some clamps and spending limits on it, either through the proposed Constitutional amendment targeting the Citizens United ruling, or through legislative accountability controls.
Enough is enough — and the tactics in this race have been much too much.