Kathleen Matthews' campaign for Congress fired back Tuesday at a super PAC supporting state Sen. Jamie Raskin, arguing the group focused on campaign finance reform was making "outrageous false claims."
Noting Raskin's record on campaign finance as a member of the state legislature, Mayday PAC held an event in Takoma Park on Monday to back his candidacy. The group was founded as a "super PAC to end all super PACs," supporting candidates who embrace changes to campaign funding.
But as the group worked to lift Raskin up, it also took several hard swings at Matthews. In a web video released Monday, Mayday CEO and former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout said Matthews "has been a corporate lobbyist in D.C."
Matthews was never a registered lobbyist for Marriott. The former WJLA-TV reporter and anchor did oversee the division at the Bethesda-based company that handled both communications and government affairs.
"This week supporters of Jamie Raskin launched the first negative attack of the campaign," the Matthews campaign wrote in an email to supporters. "Hiding behind an out-of-state super PAC, they’re distorting Kathleen's record and making outrageous false claims."
Matthews' email to supporters focuses its ire at Raskin but, by law, super PACs operate independently of the campaigns they are supporting. Another proof Raskin wasn't coordinating his message with the PAC: His camp was trying to pitch a story about a different endorsement -- that of Montgomery County Del. Kathleen M. Dumais -- to reporters on the same day.
Asked about the claim that Matthews was "a corporate lobbyist," Teachout noted that Matthews' linked-in page states that she led "brand public relations, corporate communications, social responsibility, international public affairs, and government affairs for a Fortune 200 global hotel company."
"As I understand her job, it was using influence and personal connections to get results for her corporation," Teachout said in an interview. "She's part of a culture in Washington that isn’t working for the public at large."
Teachout also pointed to a Huffington Post story from May that highlighted a political donation Matthews made to Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri in 2014 -- an issue she has been repeatedly asked about. The piece noted that Blunt pushed several policies supported by Marriott.
The Matthews campaign wrote that the Mayday video represented "exactly the kind of politics Kathleen wants to change."
Raskin's campaign said it was not involved with the attacks.
"Senator Raskin, as the Matthews campaign knows, has nothing to do, and will have nothing to do, with this or any other super PAC in America," campaign manager Marshall Cohen said in a statement. "But Jamie welcomes the opportunity to have a public discussion with Ms. Matthews about his extensive record as a campaign finance reform advocate and his proposals to abolish corporate dark money in our elections, as well as any new ideas she wants to present."
The back-and-forth represents a break from the mostly genteel tone that has dominated the 8th District race so far -- and it underscores the impact outside groups can have, even in primary elections. Mayday raised $11 million in the 2014 cycle, and it has committed to raising at least $100,000 for Raskin.
Raskin and Matthews are running in a large field of candidates for the Democratic nomination that also includes Dels. Kumar Barve and Ana Sol Gutierrez, former Obama administration aides Will Jawando and Joel Rubin, and an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University, David M. Anderson.
But it is Raskin and Matthews that have led the pack in fundraising by a big margin. Matthews reported having $892,000 at the end of September, compared with $694,000 for Raskin.
The seat is currently held by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, who is running for Senate.