03/15/2012 03:31 pm ET

In Nevada Senate Race, Shelley Berkley, Dean Heller Spar Over Outside Spending

Democrats are trying to cut a deal in the Nevada Senate race, like the one that Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren agreed to in Massachusetts, to keep unlimited third-party cash out of the race.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, the Democratic candidate, called her plan "Free Nevada" when she made the offer Wednesday to Republican incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, but so far all that's resulted is sparring.

Speaking for Heller's camp, consultant Mike Slanker responded, "Yet another sideshow in the Shelley Berkley Campaign Circus. 'Free Nevada?' Three quarters of her contributions come from outside Nevada. If the Congresswoman is willing to send her out of state money back, we are willing to discuss her pact."

While that would seem unlikely -- Berkley's out-of-state donations are subject to the same caps and federal restrictions as in-state contributions -- the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) took the response as enough encouragement to offer a bit of a sweetener and a pressure-raiser. It pledged to keep its considerable resources out of the Silver State if Heller agrees to the deal.

"Shelley Berkley and Sen. Heller have both acknowledged the influence of secret third party TV and radio ads," said DSCC Executive Director Guy Cecil. "Shelley Berkley has put forward a fair and reasonable proposal to eliminate these ads just like the one that is in place in Massachusetts. If Sen. Heller agrees to this proposal or a similar agreement, then the DSCC will abide by the agreement.”

Democrats pointed out that Heller complained about outside money in a 2006 congressional primary contest against Sharron Angle. He won.

But the DSCC's counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), saw only hypocrisy on the Democrats' part.

"As with Sen. Heller's campaign, we look forward to hearing Shelley Berkley’s response to the question of her out-of-state campaign contributions," said NRSC spokesman Brian Walsh. "Given all the hard work it must have taken to raise millions of dollars from liberals outside of Nevada, it's understandable that the Congresswoman has been silent so far but the ball is in her court at the moment. If an agreement is ultimately reached between the two campaigns then of course we would honor it, just as we have in Massachusetts."

While both sides are at least expressing an interest in limiting outside cash, such money played a large role in Nevada's 2010 Senate contest.