Sen. Scott Brown’s campaign and his political action committee are hustling for millions of dollars from K Street lobbyists and Wall Street interests to keep the Massachusetts seat of iconic Democrat Edward M. Kennedy in Republican hands.
Whether the freshman senator can win re-election in the predominantly Democratic state could be a critical factor in GOP efforts to wrest control of the Senate.
Next week, Brown backers are slated to hold at least two fundraisers to fill the coffers of Scott PAC and his campaign. On Dec. 7, his campaign is hosting a money bash at the National Theater, where the play “Jersey Boys” is currently running. And on Dec. 11, Scott PAC is holding a fundraiser at Fed Ex Field when the Washington Redskins take on the New England Patriots.
Financial service lobbyists and other K Street advocates have for weeks been working hard to help the freshman senator win his high-stakes battle for re-election against Elizabeth Warren, a liberal Harvard law professor. Warren is anathema for many finance-sector lobbyists and Wall Street leaders who abhor the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau— a centerpiece of the financial services overhaul—of which Warren was the intellectual architect.
Even though Brown’s campaign had over $10.5 million in the bank as of Sept. 30, lobbyists are in overdrive to raise millions more because Warren’s campaign is off to a fast start and a new poll shows her with a slight edge over Brown.
Deep-pocketed GOP allies such as Crossroads GPS, the Karl Rove-founded group backed by secret donors, have sought to help Brown with negative TV spots against Warren. Last month, Crossroads GPS spent about $600,000 on an ad that said “Elizabeth Warren sides with extreme left protesters,” a reference to the Occupy Wall Street movement.
In response, Warren was blunt: “It’s fair to say that I’ve been protesting Wall Street for years and years,” she said in a TV interview with a Boston station. But when pressed about the tactics of the protesters, Warren said, “Everybody has to follow the law. There’s no exception on that.”
Other advertising firepower on Brown’s behalf is expected to come from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The business behemoth will be engaged early and heavily in Massachusetts with ads as the Chamber did, to the tune of about $1 million, when Brown won his special election in early 2010.
Inside the Beltway, fundraising has been heating up too. On Nov. 30, veteran financial services lobbyist Dan Crowley, a partner at K & L Gates, hosted a breakfast fundraiser for the senator that drew about a dozen other lobbyists. “There is no Senate race that more clearly reflects the choice for the future direction of the country,” Crowley said, pitting the role of government versus the role of the private sector.
Other GOP lobbyists are also in high gear to boost Brown.
“Sen. Brown’s politics are tailor made for New York Republicans who tend to be very concerned about economic growth and fiscally conservative, but more libertarian on social issues,” Wayne Berman, vice chairman of Ogilvy & Mather, told iWatch News.
Berman, whose lobbying clients include financial heavyweights like the Blackstone Group and Carlyle Group, co-hosted an early November breakfast fundraiser for Brown at New York’s tony Lever House.
In his two Senate races, Brown’s top five contributors included four financial giants: Fidelity Investments, Goldman Sachs, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., and Liberty Mutual Insurance, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The most generous donor has been FMR Corp., the parent of Fidelity Investments, chipping in at least $97,000 to his campaign committees from executives and the firm’s PAC.
Executives and PACs affiliated with Goldman Sachs pumped at least $60,500 into Brown’s coffers; at least $51,000 from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance; and at least $46,000 from Liberty Mutual Insurance.
This largess underscores Brown’s role as a solid, but hardly perfect, ally of financial service interests since he took office last year. The Bay State senator has helped big local companies like Fidelity Investments and Wall Street giants by pushing for changes in the financial services legislation last year that met some key concerns. One example: Brown helped eliminate a proposed $19 billion tax on banks.
Nevertheless, Brown’s was the vital 60th vote that smoothed passage of the financial reform bill last year.
The importance of the Brown-Warren race was underscored in early November at an annual retreat held by the National Republican Senatorial Committee for its big donors at a Sea Island, Ga., resort. Brown was the NRSC’s featured candidate at the retreat, and a morning pep talk/campaign update that the senator delivered drew dozens of GOP lobbyists eager for news about his prospects.
Campaign finance analyst Sheila Krumholz, the executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, predicts a deluge of money from both sides. “This will be a showcase race in 2012. There’s big money from Wall Street lining up behind Brown and more lining up against Warren because she’s such a controversial figure. Outside groups supporting Warren will draw a lot of money from wealthy liberals and small donors to attack Brown.”
Already, Democrats and Warren’s nascent campaign are mobilizing to mount a well-funded challenge and some recent polls show her running even.
In less than a quarter of fundraising, the Warren campaign had raised over $3 million, according to its Sept. 30 filing at the Federal Election Commission. Her biggest PAC contributors included the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, the United Steelworkers and former Sen. Russ Feingold’s group, Progressives United.
Outside Democratic groups including a few Super PACs are providing crucial advertising backing and other support.
American Bridge 21st Century, a Super PAC that does opposition research, was an early ally. This fall, the group was credited by the Boston Globe with uncovering a personal values statement of Brown’s on his website that was almost identical to a passage in Elizabeth Dole’s autobiography. Rodell Mollineau, the president of American Bridge, told iWatch News that Warren’s “race is important to Democrats because we want a fighter for the middle class in the seat.”
One of Warren’s heftiest allies is likely to be Majority PAC, a Super PAC set up this year to help Senate Democrats keep control of the chamber. Majority PAC, which can accept unlimited sums but must disclose donor’s names, has been busy hitting up wealthy allies who would like to defeat Brown.
The PAC is hoping to raise millions of dollars for ads to assist Warren’s cause. “There’s a lot of excitement in the donor community for Majority PAC’s plans to support Elizabeth Warren,” said Monica Dixon, the executive director of the PAC.
Other outside Democratic allies are already producing ads attacking Brown’s credentials. In mid November, the League of Conservation Voters launched a month-long almost $2 million ad blitz. An early spot stated that “Brown took $152,000 from Big Oil.”
Another new Super PAC, dubbed Rethink PAC, was started earlier this year expressly to help defeat Brown. The PAC boasts considerable union support in the state: 1199 SEIU and the Massachusetts Teachers Association are two of its financial backers.