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Coakley camp hints at Grossman, super PAC collusion

The gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Martha Coakley suggested Monday that rival Steve Grossman could be in cahoots with a super PAC supporting his candidacy.

The Mass Forward political action committee, a pro-Grossman group, began airing a 30-second television ad Monday that says Coakley, the attorney general, is the “wrong choice for governor” because she does not support Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to limit gun purchases to one a month. The ad comes a week after Grossman’s campaign began airing its own commercial, portraying him as a progressive businessman who is “the right choice for a tough economy.”

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The two ads coming so closely together “could raise questions of collusion between the Grossman campaign and the SuperPAC run by his close friends,” Coakley’s campaign said in a statement.

Grossman denied having anything to do with the PAC’s effort.

Independent expenditure political action committees, of which Mass Forward is one, legally must function independent of a candidate’s campaign. They can accept unlimited contributions from people, corporations, associations, and unions to spend how they see fit – polling, commercials, websites, etc. — to support or oppose candidates or campaign issues.

The Mass Forward 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. Colette Phillips, a local public relations executive, serves as one of the co-chairs. The PAC’s current ad boasts a six-figure price tag – about $250, 000 – that is expected to grow.

Grossman said that any suggestion that his campaign and Mass Forward are conspiring is simply false.

“Of course it’s not true,” he said Monday at the State House. “We had nothing to do with this ad whatsoever. I saw this ad for the first time this morning.”

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.”

And while Grossman is adamant that his campaign was not involved in the commercial’s production, he does agree with what it says.

“Again, we had nothing to do with it, but I agree with the fundamental concerns that have been expressed by the mothers in the ad. They’re speaking the truth.”

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.

Coakley’s campaign released its own video in response to the PAC’s ad, a web video decrying the influence of outside money that it had waiting, ready for release when the first super PAC ad aired.

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