The first outside advertising attack in Pittsburgh political history is targeting Bill Peduto -- and it may be coming from longtime rival Luke Ravenstahl.
A group called "Committee for a Better Pittsburgh" began running an ad today criticizing what it said were Peduto votes in city black communities and against increased wages for low-income workers. (UPDATE: Here's video of the ad, captured by PoliticsPa).
State records show the "Better Pittsbugh" committee was established in April 2011 by treasurer John R. Morgan -- Morgan is also treasurer to the mayor's brother and state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl, and to his ally state Sen. Jim Ferlo. Pittsburgh City Paper reported the mayor's political committee loaned "Better Pittsburgh" $20,000 that same month, though as of last year most had been paid back. Its last state finance report, filed in December, listed no contributors and had a balance of just $141.23. Neither Morgan nor Ferlo nor Ravenstahl campaign veteran Paul McKrell could be reached today, and mayoral spokeswoman Marissa Doyle would not comment on a political matter.
The ad was placed by the GOP firm SRCP Media of Arlington, Va., which worked for clients including Rick Santorum and the anti-John Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.
The Peduto camp tried to tie ad to its main rival in the mayoral primary, Jack Wagner, though by law campaigns can't coordinate with outside groups -- and Wagner says he and Ravenstahl don't communicate either. (Most of Ravenstahl's supporters, however, back the former auditor general.) Peduto's second ad also tried to paint Wagner as a Republican in Democratic clothing.
Said the Peduto camp:
Wagner's Republican friends are lying about Bill Peduto to distract from his votes to raise his own pay and give himself a 50 percent pension boost. Peduto has always supported a living wage. This ad is made by the same Republicans who made the infamous "Swift Boat" ad for George W. Bush. Wagner is running away from his record with help from his Republican allies whose budget he supported.
In its response from campaign manager Henry De Koninick, the Wagner campaign noted Peduto was first to go negative in the Democratic contest, and painted him as the mud-spattered one:
"Bill Peduto is responsible for the shift to a negative tone in this race and the divisive politics he has engaged as a councilman. In the last week, he has launched misleading attacks both on television and in mailboxes that the media has called "campaign dishonesty" and "gross misrepresentations".
. . . Mr. Peduto has spent the last month trying desperately to drag Jack Wagner into this battle but his efforts have been futile. Jack Wagner has been a vocal critic of both this administration, before and during this campaign, and Councilman Peduto. In fact, Jack has spoke out against the culture of dysfunction in city government caused by the divisive relationship between the Administration and Council. However, unlike Bill Peduto, Jack Wagner has been neither a barrier to progress nor a facilitator of further division.
Outside spending in the Pittsburgh market is nothing new -- it was among the nation's leaders last fall because of the Critz/Rothfus race -- but it has never been done in a mayor's race, at least in the post Citizen's United/independent expenditure era.
The $53,000 buy is placing commercials all this week on the city's broadcast TV stations, which is about the same amount of money Peduto and Wagner are putting into the race this week in advance of the May 21 primary.
The Peduto camp's line-by-line response to the "Better Pittsburgh" ad is after the jump: