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Super PAC backing Grossman releases ad targeting Coakley

Grossman backer raises gun issue

The super PAC backing state Treasurer Steve Grossman’s bid for governor released its first television commercial Monday, and it tells viewers that Attorney General Martha Coakley is the “wrong choice for governor.”

And Coakley’s campaign was ready with a response: a 60-second Web video decrying the influence of outside money that it had waiting, ready for release when the first super PAC ad aired.

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The ad by the Mass Forward political action committee, a pro-Grossman group, says Coakley, the front-runner in a three-way Democratic primary, is not fit to be governor because she does not support Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to limit gun purchases to one a month.

The 30-second spot features four Boston area mothers holding framed pictures of smiling young men who are now all dead.

“We’re all mothers who lost children to gun violence,” says Clarissa Turner, who narrates the video. “My son Willie was murdered in a gang shooting, except he wasn’t in a gang. They thought he was someone else.”

Turner says they all agree with Patrick’s plan as does Grossman but Coakley does not.

“She says it wouldn’t have any effect. She’s wrong. One less gun can save a life,” says Turner, looking directly into the camera while seated in a kitchen.

‘Voters deserve to know — and Grossman must answer for — where this secret money is coming from.’

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Grossman, Coakley, and Don Berwick are all pushing to be the top finisher in the Sept. 9 primary.

The ad is a first in several ways.

It is the first ad by the pro-Grossman political action committee, which legally must function independent of Grossman’s campaign. An independent expenditure super PAC allows for unlimited contributions from people, corporations, associations, and unions.

The ad also appears to be the first time in a recent Democratic primary that an outside group has funded a negative ad against an opponent, something Coakley’s camp has decried. “By refusing to sign a people’s pledge that would stop unlimited secret money from influencing this campaign, Steve Grossman has shown that he is a desperate candidate willing to compromise his values in order to win an election,” said Coakley’s campaign manager, Tim Foley, in an e-mail. “Voters deserve to know — and Grossman must answer for — where this secret [super PAC] money is coming from and whether corporations or individuals doing business with the Treasurer are funding it.”

On Sunday, Grossman’s campaign declined to comment on an unseen television commercial made by an outside entity, but Coakley’s 60-second Web video was a deft response in which the candidate never uttered a word, but instead had 10 voters condemning outside money being spent in the governor’s race.

The video starts by displaying a definition of a super PAC as a voice says, “There’s a new super PAC here in Massachusetts that is supporting Steve Grossman. Does that bother you?”

Then voters respond.

“Super PACs do bother me,” one man says.

“All that money. Not sure where it comes from,” says a young woman.

Colette Phillips, one of the co-chairs of Mass Forward PAC, said the Grossman ad would comply with all state disclosure laws. And, she said, should pending Massachusetts legislation to require real-time disclosure of donors become law, they would abide by that, too.

The PAC was founded by two of Grossman’s friends, Barry White, a former US ambassador to Norway, and White’s wife, Eleanor, who is president and chief executive of Housing Partners, Inc., a full-service national affordable housing firm. The group recently spent tens of thousands of dollars for polling and media production, hiring Benenson Strategy Group in New York and Putnam Partners in Washington, D.C. Both firms worked for President Obama.

“As Democrats invested in the future of our Commonwealth, we believe that gun violence is one of the biggest issues facing our communities,” Phillips said in a statement Sunday. “Steve Grossman will be a champion on this issue and take on the NRA to fight for the strongest gun control measures. Martha Coakley stood against Governor Patrick on a measure that would prevent guns from getting onto our streets. She’s proven that she’s not the aggressive gun control advocate that we need as Governor.”

While Coakley might not favor a one-gun-a-month law, she does support closing the gun-show loophole, banning assault weapons, and requiring background checks for gun purchases, stances that earned her an F from the NRA.

Grossman’s campaign began airing a biographical television commercial last week that portrays him as a progressive businessman who is “the right choice for a tough economy.” Coakley is mentioned not by name but by profession, when it opens: “Who do you trust to grow our economy as governor? A career prosecutor? Or a proven jobs creator?”

Thus far, the PAC has paid $250,000 for its ad to air on all of Boston’s broadcast stations at various times for the next seven days. For example, the commercial will air 74 times on WHDH, so viewers watching such shows as “Today Show,” “Days of Our Lives,” and the News at 5 and 11 could glimpse the ad titled “Mothers,” according to the most recent data on the website of the Federal Communications Commission.

The PAC says this is just the initial ad buy, and that it plans to continue purchasing air time so the commercial will air beyond Aug. 4. It expects the final total to be in the mid six figures.

Turner’s son Willie Marquis Turner was a 25-year-old from Roxbury who was shot and killed in November 2011 by two gang members in Charlestown who mistook him for a threat to their drug operation. He was not in a gang and not tied to the drug operation. When he was shot, he was headed to meet his younger sister, who was struggling in school.

The video ends with Phillips sitting at a picnic table, talking to eight mothers who have lost their children to gun violence. Phillips, a public relations maven, then introduces herself and the super PAC.

Akilah Johnson can be reached at ajohnson@globe.com.
Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.
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