MIAMI - U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch accused rival U.S. Senate candidate Betty Castor's campaign Thursday of using "dirty" tactics and allowing an independent group to play an overly influential role.
Deutsch said Emily's List, a political action committee that helps female Democratic candidates who support reproductive rights, has indicated plans to spend money on Castor's behalf. He argued that that would be a coordination of campaign activities, which is barred under campaign finance rules.
"I'm not going to let an out-of-state special interest group buy an election or engage in activity that is in violation of the laws ... to try to steal this election," Deutsch said. "Betty needs to make a clear, unequivocal statement that that will not occur."
Karen M. White, national political director for Emily's List, said Florida is a priority for the organization but no decisions have been made on how it plans to allocate its funding across the country.
Castor campaign consultant Doug Hattaway said Deutsch's remarks were misleading. "This kind of overheated rhetoric indicates a campaign unraveling," Hattaway said.
Castor overhauled her campaign structure in recent months, bringing in a campaign manager with ties to Emily's List. Castor campaign officials said 29 percent of last quarter's collections was raised through the organization - more than 4,000 donations averaging $83 each.
The South Florida congressman responded after Castor's camp on Wednesday pointed out campaign finance records showing Deutsch loaned his Senate war chest $500,000 just before the close of the latest fundraising quarter.
The move helped Deutsch report nearly $1.1-million in contributions for the quarter, slightly behind Castor's $1.25-million, while avoiding the appearance of a sluggish fundraising period.
Deutsch said the Castor campaign's calling attention to his loan "besmirches her name."
The party's third candidate, Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas, reported about $700,000 raised in the first quarter, bringing his total to more than $3-million.