(CNN) – A front page article in Friday's New York Times could spell trouble for Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, four days before he faces the test of voters in a competitive primary. But the senator and his campaign are pushing back hard against the article, which they consider one-sided and not accurate.
The story, headlined "Exotic Deals Put Denver Schools Deeper in Debt," reports that Bennet, who served as the superintendent of Denver's schools before being named to the Senate, persuaded school board members to strike a deal with Wall Street bankers two years ago to try and plug a $400 million hole in the school system's pension plan. Instead, the article alleges that deal, involving taking out high risk loans to cover mounting debt, "went awry" during the Wall Street collapse and eventually cost the school system millions of dollars.
"I know the New York Times is always looking to break a big story, but in this case, they just got it wrong. This story has been covered by local reporters who have provided more balanced, fair, and accurate coverage. The New York Times got caught up in a heated political primary where my opponent and his supporters have repeatedly tried to score points at the expense of kids and have once again disregarded the facts," says Bennet in a statement released by his campaign.
The senator adds that a report released last week by independent auditors indicates that Denver's schools are in "better financial shape than the rest of the state's pension system. Put simply, we left the district's pension in better shape than any other district in Colorado."
In response to the article, the Bennet campaign has added a section to their website dedicated to the Times article. In it, the campaign says "The New York Times simply got its facts wrong."
The Denver public school system is also pushing back against the story.
"The recent New York Times story contains numerous factual errors related to this transaction and is highly misleading in many respects," says DPS superintendent Tom Boasberg.
In an e-mail to CNN, the New York Times said it stands by its reporting.
"The timing of the story had nothing to do with the primary race in Colorado. We make news judgments on their journalistic merit, not on the impact they might or might not have on an election. The story highlights the creative financing many municipalities and public entities have used that is now adding to their financial burden," New York Times spokesperson Diane McNulty said.
After the New York Times story was posted on-line Thursday evening, The National Republican Senatorial Committee released two emails touting the article and criticizing Bennet.
Bennett is being challenged in Tuesday's Democratic Senate primary by former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff. The most recent state polls suggest the race is very competitive. In campaign commercials, Romanoff has been criticizing Bennet for his Wall Street connections.
Bennet was plucked out of political obscurity early last year when Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter named him to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, who stepped down to serve as Interior Secretary in the Obama Administration. As the sitting senator, Bennet has the backing of the national party and the White House. Romanoff has been endorsed by former President Bill Clinton.
The winner of the Democratic primary will face off in what's expected to be a competitive general election contest against either former Republican Lt. Gov. Jane Norton or Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. As with the Democratic contest, the GOP primary has also turned increasingly bitter this summer.