Two weeks ago was rough for Scott Brown. Last week was rough for Scott Brown. This week was no different. Of course, political jockeying over tax returns dominated the week – and we’ll get to that here – but there was so much more that took place.
This week saw exposure of Scott Brown reaching for the Etch-A-Sketch quite a bit. We all knew about him trying to Etch-A-Sketch away his earlier advocacy for moving the Red Sox out of Fenway Park. Also, we became aware that Brown made some New Year’s bet to stop drinking in 2012, an odd admission given that there was much discussion about his questionable behavior at a brewery in Canton just a few weeks back, at which he threw back a number of beer samples.
Additionally, though, a couple other, more policy-oriented Etch-A-Sketch moments came to light. First, in discussing when he learned about the practice of insider trading by members of Congress, Scott Brown gave a very different story earlier this month to WBZ Radio’s “NightSide with Dan Rea” than he gave to Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” last November. Second, in his interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week, Brown tried to Etch-A-Sketch away his widely-reported work behind the scenes on behalf of Wall Street to water down the financial reform bill. Both instances indicate that Brown is being demonstrably less than forthright about his record.
This week also saw an increasing focus on Scott Brown’s partisanship, undermining his misleading self-portrayal as an independent voice. Locally, Brown would prefer voters not recall his Republican Party affiliation. To national donors, however, he earnestly portrays himself as the last bastion of political obstruction against President Obama to gin up his out-of-state fundraising.
An unforgettable lowlight for Scott Brown received attention this week, something that should haunt him for a while. Brown’s record includes voting to cut funding for summer jobs for teens. Well, a group of remarkable young adults wanted the funding restored so they could spend their summer working at a job. They rallied outside of Scott Brown’s U.S. Senate office; and, when they wanted simply to register their opinions with Brown’s Senate office, they weren’t even let in the door! In a devastating column, the Boston Globe’s Adrian Walker reasoned:
Constituents (even if some in the group are not yet old enough to vote) should not be treated like an annoyance when they try to walk into a federal building – the people’s building. Certainly a man who was elected on the strength of his regular-guy credentials should get that. Trust me, 25 developers wouldn’t have to meet with Brown’s staff on the sidewalk.
This was a powerful display of elitism by Scott Brown, one that should resonate for a while, especially when one compares it to the interactions with students by Brown’s chief political rival.
We were also treated to a round of ideological hypocrisy from Scott Brown this week. It seems like any time a government official proposes a common-sense consumer safety or public health regulation on any industry, conservatives come out of the woodwork to urge “letting the market work” and to decry “picking winners and losers.” Well, Scott Brown doesn’t let that get in the way of a good ol’ political pander. Whole Foods supermarkets had made a decision to only sell sustainable fish. That is how this corporate actor in the free market decided to work. Well, all of a sudden, Scott Brown determined that the free market couldn’t work anymore. Operating in his role as a government official, he urged a company to change its private decision, arguing that the decision was based on science with which he disagreed. So, the next time Scott Brown decries a government policy as “picking winners and losers” or getting in the way of “letting the market work,” know that he is, indeed, a hypocrite.
Undeniably, the main event of the week surrounded the tax returns of the Senate candidates. First, rightfully so, many media outlets took notice of the fact that Eric Fehrnstrom client Scott Brown was talking a big game on releasing tax returns while Eric Fehrnstrom client Mitt Romney was continuing to refuse to release tax returns from before last year, despite turning over twenty-three years of tax returns to the McCain campaign when being vetted as a possible running mate in 2008.
Second, we’ve all seen the numbers. There’s no need to re-hash that Scott Brown and his wife have made $2.5 million over the last six years, putting him squarely in the 1%, or that their effective federal tax rate hovered between roughly 21 and 28% over the last six years. But there are a few items worth highlighting:
· The Brown family income for his first year in the U.S. Senate (about $840,000 in 2010) was almost triple his income for the year before (about $294,000 in 2009). For someone who claims that people shouldn’t go to Washington to line their own pockets, Brown has made his brief sojourn to Washington very financially lucrative for himself.
· Brown refused to put any of his tax return details online for the public to actually see for themselves, not exactly a model of transparency. Further, as the Boston Herald reported, the Brown campaign “did not allow tax attorneys to come in and view the returns,” lest they come across any inappropriate deduction or other questionable tax maneuver.
· Investigative media outlet ThinkProgress has requested Scott Brown’s tax returns for 1998 to 2005, the remainder of his years in the Massachusetts state legislature. They have received no response from the Brown campaign. By Brown’s own logic, he must be “hiding something.”
Finally, a hodgepodge of other interesting items dotted Scott Brown’s media landscape this week. An editorial in the Barnstable Patriot declared that Brown’s anti-middle class vote against the Buffett Rule indicated that Brown has forgotten “where he comes from,” and he should lose his Senate seat as a result. Speaking of “where he comes from,” the student paper for Brown’s alma mater, Tufts University, mocked Brown’s attempted anti-free market intervention against Whole Foods as “a laughably transparent attempt to pander to the Republican base — by a Republican incumbent desperate to catch lightning in a bottle a second time.”
Also, the conservative Washington Examiner reassured us that “Scott Brown does not have a wandering eye,” capturing a weird exchange in which Brown confirmed, in case there was any doubt, that “I don’t look at other women.” (Huh? Was this an issue?) Finally, Brown remained silent (as far as I’ve seen) on Ann Coulter’s latest classless attack on Elizabeth Warren. While Brown certainly can’t police every crazy thing that every right-wing colleague utters, when someone as notable a lightning rod as Coulter makes such a remark, it practically begs Brown to push back. Chalk up another missed leadership opportunity for Brown.
There you have it. Another rough week for Republican Scott Brown. Stay tuned for next week’s “Weekly Scott Brown-d Up.”