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American Working Families, Virginia-based political organization, criticizes John R. Connolly on Twitter

A Virginia-based political organization with a history of paying for attack ads has begun using Twitter to criticize City Councilor John R. Connolly in Boston’s race for mayor.

The organization, American Working Families, has already spent almost $400,000 on television advertisements promoting Connolly’s opponent, state Representative Martin J. Walsh. The group is not legally required to disclose its donors until after the mayoral election, although records show it did receive $5,000 in September from a local union that has endorsed Walsh.

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American Working Families has run negative television ads against Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett and says on its website it had taken aim at Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. In the Boston mayor’s race, the group has used Twitter to compare Connolly’s message to that of former vice presidential candidate John Edwards, and questioned the city councilor’s time as a teacher and his work as an attorney.

The group’s chairman and treasurer, Bud Jackson, said that American Working Families would not run attack ads in Boston’s ran for mayor.

“We have no plans to go negative. Our tweets have not been negative,” Jackson said in an e-mail. “The most provocative thing we tweeted was calling John Connolly slick and misleading. We think our opinion is a fair characterization based on his pattern of failing to offer the complete truth.”

American Working Families organized in Massachusetts as an independent expenditure political action committee in July. It listed its address as a post office box at a UPS store in Alexandria, Va., according to records with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Jackson is the only person identified on American Working Families paperwork. He runs the Jackson Group Media, which maintains a website that describes him as a Democratic consultant who advises candidates, organizations, and corporations in strategic communication, campaign strategy, and grass-roots organizing.

Under Massachusetts law, American Working Families will not have to disclose its donor list until January, after the mayoral election. One area union -- Service Employees International Union Local 509 -- disclosed in a state filing that it gave American Working Families $5,000 to support Walsh. Members of Local 509 work with the elderly, at-risk children, and people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities, according to the union’s website.

American Working Families endorsed Elizabeth Warren in her bid to unseat Scott Brown in last year’s US Senate race, but the group stayed on the sidelines because both candidates signed a pledge disavowing outside spending. City Councilor Rob Consalvo pushed a similar pledge in the mayor’s race.

Connolly initially rejected the pledge as a gimmick, but changed course when the education group Stand for Children vowed to spend more than $500,000 on his behalf. After accepting the endorsement, Connolly asked Stand for Children and other outside groups to stop spending money on his behalf. He ultimately signed Consalvo’s pledge.

Outside groups had spent $63,500 on behalf of Connolly but have reported no further spending since the candidate asked them to cease activities in August, according to state records.

Walsh refused to sign Consalvo’s pledge and has benefited the most from outside spending, much of it connected to organized labor. Outside groups have spent more than $891,000 on Walsh’s behalf, according to state records. The groups spending money include Boston Firefighters Local 718 and Working America, a political committee afflicted with the AFL-CIO in Washington D.C.

Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.
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