PAC Attack

05Dec11

US Senator Scott BrownThe attack ads currently airing against Sen. Scott Brown aren’t anything new. They started as soon as he was declared the victor in the 2009 Special Election to complete the US Senate term left vacant by the death of Teddy Kennedy.

Brown’s win set off a period of deep mourning and hand-wringing in the “progressive community.” But as soon as they recovered from the shocking news that the 12-member Massachusetts congressional delegation would include one moderate Republican, they set about to correct this travesty.

The TV and radio ads began as soon as Brown was sworn in as a US senator. The progressive political action committees weren’t accustomed to a senator from Massachusetts who needed to be told what to do, so they flooded the airwaves with “Tell Scott Brown” spots.

“Tell Scott Brown to stop obstructing progress on global warming.”

“Tell Scott Brown to stop voting with Wall Street.”

“Tell Scott Brown to Release $700 million in Federal Relief Money to Massachusetts.”

“Tell Scott Brown to Extend Unemployment Insurance.”

No one could remember ever having to tell Ted Kennedy anything.

Now that the 2012 election is less than a year away, the anti-Brown PACs have stepped up their activity again. Having a Republican finish Ted Kennedy’s term was devastating enough. The last thing these folks want is for Brown to be elected to a full 6-year term. So the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) recently spent $1.9 million on a TV ad buy targeting Brown. You’ve probably seen the ads. If you own a television, they’re hard to miss.

The ad shows a Brown stand-in shedding his barn coat to reveal a well-tailored suit. (See, Brown’s secretly one of those corporate types.) The ad also shows the Brown stand-in tossing trash out the window of his pickup truck. Get it? Brown hates the environment.

The League of Conservation Voters claims to be a “nonpartisan” group, but they target Republicans almost exclusively. A web search of political candidates that the LCV has endorsed in other states turned up lots of Democrats but so far not one Republican.

Thinkprogress.org has a story about the LCV ad on its web site. The story claims that “Brown has received $152,100 in campaign contributions from oil and gas companies over the course of his career.” No mention of the fact that the LCV is spending over 12 times that amount over two months on its anti-Brown TV ads.

Another group that has entered Brown-bashing sweepstakes is called RethinkBrown. They’ve spent $150,000 to unleash two attack ads so far and they’ve launched a web site, RethinkBrown.com. Who are they? Well, the PAC includes the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union.

I know – I was shocked too.

A major thrust of Rethink’s criticism of Brown is that he accepted campaign contributions from “Wall Street.”

For a region of the country that is home to some of the nation’s major financial centers, pro-business legislators aren’t exactly plentiful around these parts. Whose door would you expect Wall Street to knock on? Bernie Sanders?

Brown was back in his home town of Wakefield, Massachusetts two weeks ago, speaking to the Wakefield business community at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“If businesses do well,” Brown observed, “then everyone does well.”

In fairness, Scott Brown isn’t alone in being targeted by PACs running expensive attack ads. Brown’s presumed Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, has been the subject of an ad campaign funded by Karl Rove’s PAC. That ad points out that Warren has identified herself as the intellectual godmother of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

I’ll let Warren’s own hometown newspaper, The Occupied Wall Street Journal, handle that part of the story.Sen. Richard Tisei

Meanwhile, another Wakefield GOP guy, Richard Tisei, is taking on embattled Congressman John Tierney. Tierney somehow manages to get re-elected year after year despite staking out territory much further to the left of most Democrats that I know.

But Tisei, with his message of fiscal responsibility and moderate positions on social issues, appeals to a lot of traditional Democrats and independent voters.

A year from now, it’s possible that there could be two Republicans with Wakefield ties in the Massachusetts congressional delegation.

Based on the reaction in some quarters to Brown’s victory two years ago, I’d advise having the grief counselors on standby.

[The column originally appeared in the December 1, 2011 Wakefield Daily Item.]

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