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State Treasurer Steven Grossman challenges Karyn Polito to turn in her Red Sox license plate in return for dropping old campaign ad

State Treasurer Steven Grossman issued a challenge Wednesday to the candidate he defeated in 2010: If Karyn Polito turns in her low-number Red Sox license plate, he will take down an old campaign ad about her control of dozens of the sought-after plates.

Polito has threatened to sue Grossman for defamation unless he removes the ad, which was based on Globe stories describing how Polito, a Republican state representative from Shrewsbury at the time, had obtained low-number Red Sox plates for herself and dozens of friends, relatives, and supporters.

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“If Karyn Polito does the right thing, nine years later, and takes RS 2 off her car, then I’d be happy to take the ad off our Facebook page,’’ Grossman, a Democrat, said in an interview.

He said the Jimmy Fund could auction off the plate, which he said could fetch $25,000 or more for the cancer charity.

“It’s a pretty attractive plate, and the money could go right for children’s cancer research,’’ said Grossman. “There’s never a wrong time to do the right thing.’’

Polito, whose lawyer had a “cease and desist letter’’ hand-delivered to Grossman’s Newton home last week, said the video inaccurately gave the impression that she had done something wrong, subjecting her to “public hatred, ridicule, and scorn.’’

The Globe reported in October 2010 that Polito and her associates had received 68 of the first 100 Red Sox license plates, a charity plate that went into use in 2002. The stories said that Polito, who had filed the legislation that authorized the plate, received “RS 2’’ and her father, brother, husband, and other relatives all received low-number plates.

‘It’s a pretty attractive plate, and the money could go right for children’s cancer research.’

Steven Grossman State treasurer
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Polito renewed her call Wednesday for Grossman to take down the ad, which she said “continues to perpetuate a falsehood against me almost a year and a half after the campaign is over.’’

“You should be asking him why he continues to post a false ad on his public Facebook page,’’ she said. “I’m a private citizen. I have a business. I have a family. I have young children, and I don’t deserve to be defamed long after the campaign is over.’’

Grossman’s ad mocked one of Polito’s ads in which she pledged to be a watchdog on Beacon Hill. His ad suggested she would be more like a lapdog.

The Grossman ad, however, misstated facts in the story by saying the plates given to Polito and her associates were “supposed to be auctioned off to benefit the Jimmy Fund.’’

The Jimmy Fund, which receives a portion of the fees from the Registry, held back only a few of the plates, which were auctioned off in August 2003. Number 1 went to actor Ben Affleck for $50,000, while a minority owner of the Red Sox paid $140,000 for a plate with Ted WIlliams’s number 9.

At the time, Polito insisted she did nothing wrong and said she asked friends and relatives to apply for the plates to make sure there was sufficient demand. The Registry of Motor Vehicles required 1,500 prepaid commitments before it would manufacture a charity plate.

Grossman said Wednesday that Polito should not have accepted any low-number plate. “The reality is she was an elected official who did something nice by proposing this legislation that allowed the Jimmy Fund to maximize its revenue,’’ he said. “Whether she grabbed the plate, asked for it, or demanded it, it really doesn’t matter. An elected official should never take anything of value.’’

But Polito said the issue is his ad, not her license plate. “He is creating a distraction and a diversion from the issue at hand,’’ she said. “You Google my name, and it comes up. How would he feel if it was him or a family member? It’s not right.’’

Andrea Estes can be reached at estes@globe.com.
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