(CNN) - A new group that advocates full disclosure of campaign spending says it's going up Thursday with newspaper ads calling on both the Democratic and Republican candidates in three key congressional races to reject spending by outside groups.
CounterPAC, which is backed by around a half-dozen tech entrepreneurs, says the ads are the first step in what the group says is its national campaign pushing candidates to pledge to reject what it calls "dark" money expenditures by outside groups during this year's midterm elections.
An ad being placed in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution will focus on the two nominees in Georgia's Senate contest: Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue. An ad in the Anchorage Daily News focuses on Democratic Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska and Dan Sullivan, considered the favorite to win the GOP nomination. And an ad in the Charleston Gazette focuses on the two candidates in the high profile race for West Virginia's 3rd Congressional District: Democratic Rep. Nick Rahall and Republican nominee Evan Jenkins.
"The CounterPAC pledge is about restoring accountability for voters and agreeing to elections that aren't manipulated by a flood of secret money," said Jim Greer who is co-founder of CounterPAC and a co-founder and former CEO of Kongregate, an online gaming site. "Unlike campaign finance regulations, there's nothing complicated or counter-intuitive about the pledge. Many candidates agree – now it's time for them to put the dark money where their mouth is."
The group says it will act as the arbiter and enforcer of the pledge after candidates have agreed to the terms, which include rejecting expenditures from undisclosed sources. CounterPAC promises to donate 50% of the cost of the rejected expenditure to a charity of the opposing candidate's choice. The group points to a much publicized pledge in 2012 by then-Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren to keep outside money out of their race.
The 2010 Supreme Court "Citizens United" ruling – which removed legal barriers preventing corporations and unions from spending unlimited sums on federal elections – opened the floodgates. It contributed to an explosion in outside spending on the campaign trail by super PACs and by non-profit groups – mainly the IRS designated 501(c)(4) organizations – which don't have to disclose their donors. In a bunch of high profile primary races this year, spending by outside groups dwarfed spending by the actual campaigns.
When it comes to outside spending, there's a partisan gap. Overall, pro-GOP outside groups have heavily outspent their pro-Democratic rivals in the 2010, 2012, and 2014 cycles.
In addition to Greer, CounterPAC is supported by: Matt Cutts, the head of the Webspam team at Google; Ethan Beard, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Greylock Partners; Ted Wang, a Silicon Valley lawyer and Partner at Fenwick & West; Roy Bahat, head of Bloomberg Beta, a new venture fund backed by Bloomberg L.P.; Todd DiPaola, Co-Founder of InMarket; and Ron Carmel, Co-Founder of 2dBoy and IndieFund.
The group's push comes as Senate Democrats back a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit campaign spending by outside groups. The measure passed through committee hurdles, but its chances of passing the full Senate, where it needs a two-thirds majority, are extremely slim, due to broad GOP opposition.