Guest blog by CMD's Brendan Fisher
Warren, a Harvard law professor and longtime critic of financial gambling who oversaw the development of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, is running even with incumbent Scott Brown in a high-stakes race for the U.S. Senate. Crossroads GPS is a secretly-funded 501(c)(4) group affiliated with Rove's American Crossroads. A heavy hitter in the campaign spending arena, the group spent $17 million in the 2010 elections, and is expected to spend $150 million in 2012. The group is led by Stephen Law, former general counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Crossroads GPS worked closely with the Chamber in 2010 to fight the Wall Street reforms that Warren supported.
Crossroads GPS is spending nearly $600,000 on the Warren ad, which says "Elizabeth Warren sides with extreme left protesters" and that "at Occupy Wall Street, protesters attack police, do drugs and trash public parks. They support radical redistribution of wealth and violence.”
The ad flashes the words "radical redistribution of wealth" and cites to an article by pollster Douglas Schoen in the Wall Street Journal. Schoen wrote that the protesters supported "radical redistribution," but his own numbers (which were not included in the story) actually showed only 4% of those polled supported the concept. In fact, a greater number (5%) told Schoen they wanted a flat tax, a policy typically supported by conservatives. 35% of those polled offered a much more moderate goal -- they hoped to influence the Democratic party.
In the ad, the Schoen article quote is flashed over an image of a sign that says "fight for socialism, abolish capitalism," apparently implying that the Occupy protesters are socialists and Warren is, too. A section of the Schoen poll not superimposed over the "socialist" image showed that only six percent of protesters identified with the socialist party -- the same number who identified with the libertarian party.
As for the claim that protesters "attack police," Crossroads seems to have reversed the causality. And whatever scattered violence that has occurred amidst thousands of protests over months pales in comparison to the violence that happened on a single college campus, on a single night, when a football coach got fired.
The ad also juxtaposes images suggesting violence with a quote from Warren saying “I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do,” implying she was responsible for any violence that might happen at the Occupy protests. What she actually said in an interview with The Daily Beast during the early days of the protests was this:
Look, everybody has to follow the law. That’s the starting point. I’ve been fighting this fight for years and years now. As I see it, this is about two central points: one, this is about the lack of accountability. That Wall Street has not been held accountable for how they broke the economy. The second is a values question, a fundamental fairness around the way that markets have been distorted and families have been hurt. I’m still fighting that fight. I’m just fighting it from this angle…I want to fight it from the floor of the United States Senate. I think that is a place to make this difference.
The Daily Beast asks: Is showing solidarity with them going to get in the way of that?
It’s not a question of solidarity. I just don’t think that’s the right way to say it. I support what they do. I want to say this in a way that doesn’t sound puffy. I created much of the intellectual foundation for what they do. That’s the right thing. There has to be multiple ways for people to get involved and take back our country. The fight that I’m fighting now is one that is directed towards the United State Senate. That’s just how I see it.
As a 501(c)(4), Crossroads GPS can keep its donor list secret, but NBC's Michael Isikoff reported in 2010 that "a substantial portion of Crossroads GPS’ money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls."
In light of this, the director of the watchdog group Campaign Money Watch, David Donnelly, told The Washington Post's Greg Sargent that Crossroads GPS' Massachussets TV spot really is “an ad by the one percent, for the one percent."
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