Katie Hill’s refusal to sign the so-called “People’s Pledge” to keep outside spending out of the 25th congressional district race means the pledge will not go into effect.
Hill’s Democratic opponent, Bryan Caforio, signed the pledge and called on Hill and Jess Phoenix to join him. Phoenix did, but the pledge is moot since Hill isn’t signing.
Under the pledge, if any group other than the candidates’ designated campaign committees gives money supporting or opposing any of the three candidates, that candidate must give that same amount to charities designated by the other two candidates. So, if a PAC gives $50,000 to Caforio, he would have to give $25,000 each to Phoenix’s and Hill’s charities.
The pledge stemmed from Massachusetts then-Sen. Scott Brown and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren agreeing in 2012 to discourage advertising from super PACs and other independent groups. It arose from the landmark 2010 Supreme Court case Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission. In it, the justices granted First Amendment free-speech rights to organizations, but the effect has been a massive increase in such organizations donating large sums of money to campaigns all over the country.
The Washington Post reported in 2012 that it’s unclear how effective the agreement would be because candidates are prohibited from coordinating with independent groups. It is for that reason that Hill refused to sign.
“The pledge is asking me to be accountable for independent expenditures (IEs). The trick with IEs is that my campaign cannot legally know about or coordinate with them,” Hill said in an emailed statement. “So, if I understand the pledge correctly, it sounds quite hollow. This pledge would essentially require my campaign to be signing a blank check. That is fiscally irresponsible and simply a stupid strategy. I owe far better to the 5000-plus people who have invested their hard-earned dollars into my campaign.”
All three candidates have spoken out against the Citizen’s United decision and have promised to address campaign-finance reform if elected. Hill claims Caforio received millions of dollars from organizations, such as labor unions, when he unsuccessfully tried to unseat Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) in 2016.
Caforio’s website currently lists 20 unions endorsing him, which does not necessarily mean he receives money from them. According to opensecrets.org, run by the Center for Responsive Politics, Caforio received $796, 444 from outside spending in 2016; and $2,957,690 was spent in opposing Knight.
“I wonder what has changed his mind this time,” Hill wrote. “It’s disingenuous political posturing and I’m not going to be a part of it. I am all in favor of taking meaningful steps to drastically reform campaign finance regulations and practices – that’s why, from day 1, I have pledged not to take corporate money. This pledge is not that.”
Caforio said in an email that Hill not signing is an indication that “she’d rather have a super PAC buy her election than protect our democracy. Unfortunately, it’s now clear that Katie Hill’s prior statements about wanting to get big money out of politics were nothing more than empty campaign promises.”