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Monday, July 11, 2011

Campaign Pledges

Bob Vander Plaats, an activist for socially conservative causes, has the kind of sway with Iowa Republicans that has drawn the GOP presidential candidates to his door. He says he plans to endorse one.

But first, Mr. Vander Plaats wants to know: Will the candidates sign his pledge to oppose gay marriage, pornography and Sharia, or Islamic law?

Mr. Vander Plaats' pledge is one of several that activists or groups are putting before the candidates. An alliance including Sen. Jim DeMint (R., S.C.) and FreedomWorks, both backers of tea-party groups, want candidates to sign a "Cut, Cap and Balance" promise on budget policy. Another group, the Susan B. Anthony List, is advancing an antiabortion pledge.

The most famous: A pledge to oppose all tax increases, initiated 25 years ago by Grover Norquist and his group, Americans for Tax Reform.

Each initiative—at least five groups have sponsored a pledge—has drawn signatures from some of the top GOP candidates. Mr. Vander Plaats, who led the successful effort last year to oust three Iowa Supreme Court justices for a ruling on gay marriage, unveiled his pledge this week and says he quickly received promises from Rep. Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum that they would sign.

Sponsors say their pledges elevate important issues and force candidates to take a stand. But some Republicans say the pledges are problematic, and that candidates should express their positions in their own words, rather than cede the terms to outside groups.
A followup story illustrates one of the disadvantages of signing a pledge:
Iowa conservative Bob Vander Plaats and his advocacy group, The Family Leader, removed a reference to slavery from their anti-gay-marriage pledge.

The pledge, part of a trend to pin down politicians on a variety of issues, has the backing of two Republican presidential candidates.

A version of the document posted on the group’s website Saturday, dropped this line from its forward: “Slavery had a disastrous impact on African-American families, yet sadly a child born into slavery in 1860 was more likely to be raised by his mother and father in a two-parent household than was an African-American baby born after the election of the USA’s first African-American President.”