Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A “Charitable Fine” in Politics – Not What You Might Think

The place of charities in the political process seems to be a perennial – or at least biennial – topic of conversation.  Right now, charities are serving an unusual role in the Massachusetts race for United States Senate – and the candidates’ efforts to democratize the election as much as possible.  In Brown to Pay Fine after Group Violates Ad Pact, it is reported that Senator Scott Brown will pay a “charitable fine” after the campaign of Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren objected to political advertisements funded not by the Brown campaign but by the American Petroleum Institute.  The ads reportedly encouraged people to call Brown's office to urge him to oppose increased federal taxation of energy companies (legislation to which Brown is already opposed).  What has this to do with charity?  As the story recounts, Warren and Brown signed an agreement in January that requires the candidates to notify outsiders that they do not desire advertising on their behalf in certain public media; if such advertising occurs, the candidate promoted by the ad must donate one-half of the value of the advertisement to a charity chosen by the opponent.  Says the story, quoting a Brown campaign spokesman,

“Scott Brown is committed to honoring this historic agreement and for that reason his campaign will donate to charity the sums called for in the pledge as a result of the American Petroleum Institute's ad campaign ….''

The story further reports that this “charitable fine” is the second that the Brown campaign has agreed to pay.



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