Senate hopefuls spar on debates, bin Laden raidBy STEVE LeBLANC and BOB SALSBERG , Associated Press
May. 2, 2013 7:41 PM ET
BOSTON (AP) — Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Edward Markey spotlighted GOP rival Gabriel Gomez' ties to a group that faulted President Obama for taking too much credit for the raid the killed Osama bin Laden Thursday even as Gomez continued to press Markey to agree to three debates.
The sparring came as a government watchdog group urged Markey and Gomez to agree to a deal discouraging spending by outside groups on campaign ads. Gomez has rejected the deal, arguing Markey already has a fundraising edge from his decades in Congress.
Markey hoped to focus attention on Gomez's role last year as a representative for the group Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund Inc., which produced a 22-minute video during last year's presidential election criticizing Obama.
During an interview last year on MSNBC, Gomez both praised Obama for giving the green light for the special operation that targeted bin Laden but also said Obama should have given more credit to the troops and taken less credit for himself.
"The only time that these presidents, Lincoln and Eisenhower and other wartime presidents, ever used the word 'I' was when they said 'I thank you' to the troops," Gomez said during the interview.
In announcing bin Laden's death, Obama credited "the tireless and heroic work of our military and our counterterrorism professionals" for disrupting terrorist attacks and strengthening homeland defenses.
More recently OPSEC has tried to raise money pointing to the Sept. 11 Benghazi assault that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The group is also pushing for a special select committee in Congress to investigate the attack.
An aide to Gomez said he has no affiliation to the group, but "did an interview or two for them." The group is "not part of our campaign in any way," the aide said.
"Republicans, Democrats and Independents all agree with Gabriel Gomez and Senators like Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Republican John McCain: America cannot afford national security leaks that jeopardize the lives of our men and women in combat," Gomez aide Lenny Alcivar said in a written statement.
"If career politician Ed Markey supports security leaks that jeopardize the safety of our men and women in uniform, he should say so," he added.
A spokesman for Markey charged Gomez with "doubling down on these false and ridiculous fringe attacks" from a "secretly-funded special interest group."
"Unfortunately for Gomez, his cliché attempts to rebrand himself as 'a new kind of Republican' are entirely inconsistent with his role as the public face for a third-party attack group whose sole purpose was 'swift boating' President Obama," Markey spokesman Andrew Zucker said in a written statement.
Gomez, meanwhile, accused Markey of 'radio silence' on the Republican's challenge to engage in three debates before the June 25 election.
In a statement released by his campaign, Gomez suggested that Markey was trying to avoid talking about issues such as "out of control spending in Washington" and putting people back to work.
Markey's campaign said the Democrat has already committed to participating in a number of debates and has already reached out to the Gomez campaign to discuss details.
Common Cause Massachusetts, a government watchdog group, called Thursday for Gomez to reverse his position and negotiate with Markey over a plan to limit the influence of outside spending in the campaign.
The group said a similar "people's pledge" between Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Republican Scott Brown in last year's U.S. Senate race proved an "overwhelming success" in reducing the amount of undisclosed cash that was pumped into the campaign and resulted in far fewer negative ads than would otherwise have run.
"The people's pledge greatly increased transparency, accountability and fairness in our electoral process," said Tyler Creighton, assistant director of Common Cause Massachusetts. "We feel it is absolutely critical that the candidates in this year's election do the same."
A report by Creighton released on Thursday compared the 2012 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race — won by Warren — to three other highly competitive Senate races in the country. While the Massachusetts race ranked overall as the most expensive in the nation, only 9 percent of the spending came from outside groups.
By contrast, the report said outside groups accounted for between 62 percent, 64 percent and 47 percent in the campaigns in Virginia, Wisconsin and Ohio, respectively.
The study said the overwhelming majority of the ads run by outside groups in those states were negative.
Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, said without an agreement there would be a surge in negative ads and major donors would have "a lot more chips to call in."
Gomez has called Markey's call for a spending pledge hypocritical, pointing to outside groups that spent more than $1 million to help Markey in his primary race against U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch.