As the high-profile contest for Maryland's open Senate seat erupted Wednesday into fight over an attack ad paid for by an outside group, Rep. Donna F. Edwards' campaign released a new spot criticizing her opponent on the same issue -- suggesting he helped to negotiate a carve out for the gun lobby.
The Edwards ad, which the campaign said would air in Baltimore and "briefly" in Washington, features the mother of McKenzie Elliott, a 3-year-old girl killed by a stray bullet in Waverly two years ago. It is the second ad from Edwards' campaign -- and both have dealt with the issue of gun reform.
"There are just too many guns on our streets in the wrong hands and nothing will change until we break the gun lobby's stranglehold on Washington," Edwards says to the camera. "So when my opponent and the NRA cut a backroom deal so they could keep buying off politicians, I called them on it, and we won."
House Democrats, eager to roll back the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United, were attempting to press a campaign disclosure bill through Congress in 2010 that was crafted by Rep. Chris Van Hollen. To bring more Democrats on board, House leaders included an exemption of the reporting requirements for National Rifle Association. Lawmakers later tweaked the bill to exempt a broader array of groups.
The bill passed 219-206. The vast majority of Democrats, 217, supported the measure. But 36, including Edwards, voted against. The measured later died in the Senate, failing to capture the 60 votes needed to suspend debate.
Edwards, of Prince George's County, has for months argued the deal represented a caving to the gun lobby. Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, has countered that there were bigger issues at stake, and has pointed out that many other liberal Democrats, including Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, also supported the measure.
Van Hollen has also pointed to an extensive anti-NRA legislative record that dates back to his time in the Maryland General Assembly.
The fight to frame the six-year negotiaton took center stage in the race Wednesday when Politico reported that White House political director David Simas leaned on a super PAC to take down a similar ad on the issue that is running statewide. That ad, paid for by a group called Working for US, featured President Obama -- subtly suggesting that the White House opposed Van Hollen's moves when, in fact, the administration supported them.
The group has said it stands by the underlying facts of the ad, but has agreed to remove Obama from it.