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Too much money in Kentucky

The bluegrass state is preparing for a lot of green.

If big donors and Big Business have their way, Kentucky could become the site of the most expensive Senate race in history. Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes are already shelling out millions to sway Kentuckians, and outside groups have begun blanketing the airwaves with ads.

So what’s a Kentuckian swamped by nasty, misleading campaign ads to do?

The people of Kentucky should urge McConnell and Grimes to sign the People’s Pledge to keep big money, the vast majority of which will originate from outside of Kentucky, out of their Senate race.

The People’s Pledge, pioneered by Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren in the 2012 Massachusetts Senate race, is an agreement by both campaigns to reject outside advertising in their race. The candidates agree that if an outside group airs an ad, the candidate benefiting from the ad will donate half the cost of the advertisement to a charity of the opponent’s choice.

The Pledge worked to great effect in Massachusetts, allowing Warren and Brown to duke it out on their own and greatly increasing the impact of small dollar donations. The Pledge also effectively reduced the amount of undisclosed money in the race.

Since the Massachusetts race the Pledge has gained traction and has been used in a number of other races, from the federal to state level, across the country.

Grimes has already called on McConnell to sign the Pledge, but based on McConnell’s response, Kentuckians are going to have to do a lot of work to persuade his camp.

In response to Grimes’ proposal, a spokeswoman for McConnell said, “Alison Lundergan Grimes is once again taking her cues from Barack Obama and special interests in Washington who believe it’s okay to barter our First Amendment rights away if it improves their electoral prospects.”

It seems Mitch McConnell has a completely different view of our First Amendment rights than the vast majority of ordinary Americans.

Seven in 10 Americans think that Super Pacs should be illegal. And more than 80 percent of Americans believe secret money in election is bad for democracy. Polls consistently show that Americans are wary of corporate money in elections, and that most believe that the voices of ordinary people are drowned out by big money in politics.

Only in McConnell’s warped version of First Amendment is an election that could top $100 million dollars an exercise in free speech. A small swath of the ultra-rich will “speak”, and the rest of Kentucky will just be bombarded.

The People’s Pledge is promise to voters that their voices will be heard above the din, and their elections will be cleaner and fairer. That’s the kind of race Kentuckians deserve.

Bring the People’s Pledge to your home state! Get involved at http://www.peoplespledge2014.org/.

Kelly Ngo is the online advocacy organizer for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division.