Friday May 3, 2013

BOSTON -- 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.

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.

Gomez also 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 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.

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.

A report by Creighton released on Thursday compared the 2012 Massachusetts U.S. Senate race 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.