Three days before Election Day, an ad from a super PAC supporting Annissa Essaibi George prompted Michelle Wu’s campaign to send a cease-and-desist letter to prevent it from airing on local cable TV and local network stations, calling it false and defamatory.
The ad, paid for by Bostonians for Real Progress Independent Expenditure PAC, claims Wu got a “sweetheart deal” on her Roslindale home. It’s an assertion that has been debunked by a Globe review, as well as other outlets, that found Wu and her husband paid fair market value for their two-family house.
It represented a malicious 11th-hour turn in a race that has turned personal in recent weeks.
Recent polls show Wu has a commanding lead over Essaibi George in the mayoral race ahead of Tuesday’s Election Day. The existence of the ad was reported by the Dorchester Reporter on Friday.
In a letter to the advertising arm of Comcast Cable, Gerald A. McDonough, an attorney for the Wu campaign, said, “each individual claim in the ad is itself false and defamatory.”
“The ad is a scorched earth attack, timed to drop in the final weekend before Election Day when it will be difficult to respond,” said McDonough in the letter. “As you know, by law, you are prohibited from airing advertisements that are demonstrably false.”
A spokeswoman for the Wu campaign said she did not know if the stations had heeded the cease-and-desist letter, and the campaign is waiting to see whether further action is needed. The chairwoman of the superPAC, Carol Martinez, who appears in the ad, could not be reached for comment on Saturday. Messages left with an attorney representing the superPAC, which dropped $200,000 on a media buy for ads targeting Wu on Friday, were not returned.
At a canvass kickoff event on Blue Hill Avenue Saturday afternoon that featured Senator Elizabeth Warren rallying supporters, Wu responded to a reporter’s question about the ad.
“What we hear on the ground is that people are ready for change and it’s sad that some of the forces that want to maintain the status quo are stooping to such lengths of false statements and scare tactics,” she said. “But we’re staying focused.”
A recent Globe review showed Wu and her husband purchased a two-family home in Roslindale with Elizabeth Likovich, one of Wu’s closest friends and godmother to her older son, and Likovich’s husband. After 14 months, the other couple sold their portion of the home to Wu and her husband. The records show that Wu and her husband paid fair market value.
Essaibi George previously asked Wu to explain her ties to campaign donor Terry Considine, a Republican businessman and the father of Elizabeth Likovich. The Globe has examined the connections between Wu and that family — suggestions of impropriety have long been quietly pushed in political circles — and found no evidence of inappropriate activity by Wu.
Wu campaign spokeswoman Sarah Anders said in a statement, “We call upon those responsible for this false ad to immediately take it down. Bostonians deserve better than cynical, dishonest smears, and we look forward to continuing our forward-looking, positive campaign until and through Election Day.”
After a campaign event in Roxbury Saturday morning, Essaibi George said she saw the ad on Friday but had nothing to do with it.
“You know that I have no connection with the PAC,” she said. “I asked the PAC to stop months ago. Beyond that I have nothing else to say.”
SuperPAC spending is operated by groups independent of candidates or their campaigns, and can’t by law be coordinated with their efforts.
Essaibi George added that she would like to see the cease-and-desist letter from Wu’s campaign.
While Essaibi George tried to distance herself from the superPAC, the ad’s content mirrors a line of attack she deployed in a recent debate.
During their second debate earlier this month, Essaibi George called on Wu to explain her connections to Considine.
“You’re before the people of Boston asking to be their mayor,” Essaibi George said during their second debate earlier this month. “You should be clear. You should be more transparent.”
Spending by special interest groups on behalf of Wu and Essaibi George has surged recently and, as of midweek, totaled about $2.4 million since Aug. 11, the Globe reported.
On Thursday, a different but similarly named superPAC that is backing Essaibi George, dropped $143,000 on digital advertising and television media. New Balance chairman Jim Davis gave that group, called Real Progress Boston and led by former Boston police commissioner William Gross, $600,000 last week bringing his personal support for Essaibi George to more than $1 million to date, according to state records. On Friday, the group spent another $280,000 on production costs and placing television ads.
Both superPACs supporting Essaibi George have released ads claiming Wu wants to “defund’ the police, assertions Wu has batted away as inaccurate.
Wu also has support from special interest groups. One superPAC, Boston Turnout Project , has spent more than $325,000 on direct mailers, media production, and digital and cable advertising in support of Wu since Oct. 15.
Wu has also been supported by smaller contributions from unions like the Environmental League of Massachusetts PAC and 1199 SEIU, the health care workers union.
Elizabeth Koh of the Globe staff and correspondent Nick Stoico contributed to this report.
Danny McDonald can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Danny__McDonald. Milton J. Valencia can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @miltonvalencia and on Instagram @miltonvalencia617.