The Warren Wreck

Harvard professor’s campaign hit by controversies surrounding heritage, taxes, record of partisanship, out of state support

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• May 1, 2012 5:00 am


Frustrated by Elizabeth Warren’s demeanor on the campaign trail and impressed by Sen. Scott Brown’s record of bipartisanship in the Senate, a number of centrist Democrats are endorsing the Republican senator in his bid against the one-time Harvard professor.

Former Democratic Boston mayor Ray Flynn officially endorsed Brown Monday afternoon at Castle Island in South Boston.

Flynn, who also served as Bill Clinton’s ambassador to the Vatican, previously said that Brown "adds a dimension to what is necessary, needed in the U.S. Senate. A bipartisan voice, one that is going to place the interests of all the people, not just Republicans, in center."

Flynn was not the only Massachusetts Democrat to endorse Brown Monday.

Democratic Worcester, Mass. City Councilor and former mayor Konnie Lukes endorsed Brown Monday afternoon at Worcester City Hall, two hours after Flynn offered his endorsement.

Lukes cited the senator’s bipartisan credentials as the main factor behind her endorsement in an interview with the Washington Free Beacon.

"Let’s face it—the commonwealth of Massachusetts is a one-party state," Lukes said. "No party is sacred. If either party gains a disproportionate share of power, mischief results. Then mischief gets followed by gridlock, and then we’re all in danger. We’ve already reached that point in Massachusetts, and we’re getting there in Washington.

"Elizabeth Warren is an unknown quantity," she said. "We all know people make promises before an election and then they get into office and they change. But Scott Brown is tested. He’s proven that he can be bipartisan, and his loyalties have not changed."

Lukes cites Brown’s push for the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act—which passed with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama April 4—as evidence of his bipartisanship.

Brown is also identified as the key Republican senator pushing for passage of the E3 visa bill, which would grant 10,000 U.S. work visas a year to qualified Irish immigrants. The bill was proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) and has the support of all 53 Democratic senators.

Lukes served as the first popularly elected female mayor of Worcester from 2007 to 2010. She describes herself as a "lifelong Democrat" and a social liberal. Former Democratic governor Michael Dukakis appointed her as a commissioner of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

"This has become a national election" Lukes said, "which is why we’ve seen so much out-of-state money entering into this race. But Scott Brown recognizes the need to represent central Massachusetts. He’s campaigned here and he recognizes the problems we face."

Worcester City Democratic Committee chair Candy Mero-Carlson doubts that Lukes' endorsement will resonate with voters.

"Konnie Lukes, quite frankly–I don't think that endorsement means anything," Mero-Carlson told the Free Beacon. "Konnie has endorsed Republicans for the past several years. She lost her re-election as mayor (in 2010) to a very liberal guy by the name of Joe O'Brien. She had run for mayor seven times, and when she finally won it was more like an accident, or people thought she was someone else."

The Ray Flynn endorsement is the one local Democrats are more concerned about–largely due to Flynn's stature with Catholics in the state.

"I think the Ray Flynn one is something totally different than Konnie Lukes," said Mero-Carlson. "Ray Flynn is actually someone who is totally credible."

"I would say that Scott Brown clearly has a stronger claim to bipartisan, crossover appeal," Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby told the Washington Free Beacon. "For two reasons: the record he’s compiled since he’s been in the Senate, and also because there’s a theory that it’s good for the state to have senators in both caucuses."

Brown may also be undercutting Warren’s support with a major Democratic group: public safety unions. Brown received the support of the Worcester patrolman’s union in March after a personal meeting, and has been attempting to win the endorsement of the Massachusetts Police Association.

Warren has not attempted to court Massachusetts police unions, a move that local press has described as a potentially "costly mistake."

"Elizabeth Warren has to shed that Cambridge mystique and work the independent and blue collar voters," Guy Glodis, a Democrat and former Worcester County sheriff, told GoLocalWorcester in March. "Public safety resonates with that constituency, not just in Worcester, but across the state."

"Brown seems to be able to get along with all kinds of different people, while Warren is seen as being more ideologically pure" Jacoby said.

"I don’t think hardcore conservatives will ever be able to look at Scott Brown and say, ‘He’s our guy.’ But it’s easy for hardcore liberals to feel that way about Elizabeth Warren," Jacoby added. "Voters looking for a candidate without a sharp ideological edge will gravitate toward Brown."

Brown previously served as one of only five Republicans in the 40-member Massachusetts state Senate.

Democratic state Sen. John A. Hart Jr. praised Brown’s legislative work during Brown’s first U.S. Senate campaign in 2010. Hart told the Boston Globe, "He does his homework, he’s comprehensive in his approach, and on veterans’ issues he’s one of them and has done a very good job on their behalf."

The Warren campaign has portrayed Brown as "partisan a Republican as they come" in fundraising emails, alleging that Brown works with "the right wing of his party, against the people of Massachusetts."

But Warren regularly engaged in partisan battles with Republican U.S. senators during her failed 2011 attempt to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Patrick McHenry (R., N.C.) accused Warren of lying to Congress to avoid answering questions about the role the CFPB, which Warren designed, would play in the federal government.

"Warren has become a conservative lightening rod, unlikely to muster Republican support in the Senate needed to serve as the agency’s official head," Politico reported in May 2011.

Obama did not nominate Warren to head the agency after Senate Republicans vowed to block her nomination.

Brown’s bipartisan endorsements come in the wake of several controversies for the Warren campaign related to her time as a faculty member at Harvard Law School.

Warren was criticized last week when it was revealed that Harvard Law School officials promoted her slight Native American heritage as evidence of its faculty’s diversity. Then-Harvard Law School president Mike Chmura told the Harvard Crimson in 1996 that Warren is Native American.

A genealogist at the New England Historic and Genealogical Society said, "In her immediate pedigree there is no one who is listing themselves as not white," according to the Boston Herald.

Warren was also criticized for accepting an interest-free loan from Harvard worth between $15,000 and $50,000 in 1996.

The Massachusetts Democratic Party, meanwhile, released a video April 27 attempting to paint Brown as a wealthy Washington insider.

"He wants you to think he’s a regular guy," the ad states before displaying Washington Life magazine photos of Brown at social events. "Brown’s a millionaire," the ad states. "Gone Washington."

But Warren’s income exceeds Brown’s, according to tax returns released by the two candidates.

Brown last week released six years of returns dating back to 2006, showing that he and his wife earned more than $2.5 million during that time – including $1 million from the sale of Brown’s autobiography, Against All Odds, which depicted his background as the son of a single mother on welfare and the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

In the four years preceding his election to the U.S. Senate and his book deal, Brown and his wife—a Massachusetts television reporter—collectively earned between $294,000 and $357,000 per year, including income Brown earned as a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard.

Warren released four years of returns dating back to 2008 showing that she and her husband—a fellow Harvard Law School professor—earned nearly $3.4 million.

Brown’s campaign manager Jim Barnett said that Warren was "clearly hiding something" by not releasing her 2006 and 2007 tax returns.

Warren received more than $100,000 in 2008 and 2009 from a law firm representing Travelers Insurance to help suppress personal injury lawsuits filed by victims of asbestos exposure.

The Warren campaign did not return a request for comment.