Democratic NY-19 candidate Sean Eldridge is again trying to cast his GOP target, Rep. Chris Gibson, as an ultra-conservative who is out of touch with his constituents by linking him to a purportedly nonpartisan organization founded by one of his former staffers.

Earlier today, Eldridge’s campaign slammed Gibson for attending a forum tonight hosted by Upstate New York Taxpayers Advocates, or UNYTA, which bills itself as nonpartisan, but also says on its website that it was created ” by concerned North Country citizens who decided to take action to support true fiscal conservative candidates for public office and to speak out against wasteful government spending.”

“All are invited who believe that it is our moral duty to get our fiscal house in order,” the site reads. “You could argue it is the greatest moral challenge America has faced since slavery. And it starts here at home. We invite you to join us.”

Eldridge’s campaign noted that former GOP VP candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin – an outspoken conservative and Tea Party darling – once compared the US debt to slavery, claiming that young Americans would be shackled by the country’s out-of-control spending habits.

UNYTA was co-founded by Mark Westcott, who currently sits on the organization’s executive committee. Westcott was Gibson’s campaign director for his 2012 re-election bid and the former deputy director in his district office. He was paid $43,869 by Gibson’s campaign that year.

“Tonight’s forum is classic Chris Gibson: Organized by his political donors and long-time allies who hold an extremely conservative world view, so that he can talk about how bipartisan he is. Is anyone buying this?” said Eldridge’s campaign manager Mike Reid.

Gibson spokeswoman Stephanie Valle said Westcott was paid in 2012 for work he did as the congressman’s campaign manager, but noted that had nothing at all to do with UNYTA, which was not formed until after Wetscott had already left the Gibson payroll. And then she fired off this response:

“First, Congressman Gibson regularly meets and speaks with respect to individuals and groups across the political spectrum – a skill Sean Eldridge clearly has not yet mastered or even attempted. ”

“Furthermore, after months of hiding from taking a position on anything, it’s good to know that Sean Eldridge actually stands for something. New Yorkers can know that a vote for Sean Eldridge is a vote for unrestrained spending, taxing and borrowing that will reverse the trend of lower deficits and our work toward a balanced budget.”

“Sean Eldridge does not think our country is facing a fiscal crisis, so future generations can count on Sean’s representation bringing more unsustainable debt that will cripple our economy, threaten our national security, and crowd out spending on the essential safety net programs the federal government supports. Given that Sean lacks an affiliation with Upstate New York and identity with the need to actually budget, such a viewpoint is not surprising.”

It is worth noting that while his opponents have tried to cast Gibson as an extreme conservative pretty much since the day he was elected, the congressman insists he’s a pragmatic and middle-of-the-road Republican – in other words, a member of that increasingly rare class of GOP moderates. The National Journal, which annually ranks House and Senate members from most liberal to most conservative, agrees with that assessment.