Just days after he stunned the political world by announcing he was bowing out of contention for another Senate seat, Scott Brown made a return to the private sector, joining the board of a Massachusetts-based paper processing company and negotiating a possible deal to appear on Fox News.
A Fox spokesman confirmed Brown is in talks to appear on the network, which recently announced it is not renewing contracts with big-name political commentators Sarah Palin and Dick Morris. It was unclear, however, what role Brown might have on the network. Though Brown has told several Republicans that he will have a gig on Fox, the spokesman said the talks are not final.
Brown would not comment to the Globe. When reached Wednesday night, he said, “I am right in the middle of dinner,” and hung up the phone.
Political observers still expect Brown, a lawyer, to land a lucrative full-time job at a Boston law firm. But his potential foray into political commentary has incited strong opinions among viewers who watched Brown become a media sensation during and after his special election upset three years ago.
Former GOP chairwoman Jennifer Nassour, a frequent political commentator on local news stations, was green with envy. “Good for him,” she said. “I think many of us are sitting here saying, ‘I wish I had gotten that job.’ He hasn’t been making money for years.”
But the possibility of a deal was immediately attacked by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning research center that monitors conservative media and that charged Fox is providing skewed analysis from contributors locked in a revolving door of self-promotion.
The group charged that Brown’s 2010 candidacy was boosted by the network’s right-wing commentators, including Morris, who had urged viewers to visit his own website to help Brown get elected. In another instance, a business contributor said that Brown’s election could boost the stock market.
“During his successful 2010 Senate run, the network openly advocated for his candidacy, helped him fund-raise, and smeared his opponent,” Media Matters wrote.
In recent years, the conservative network has featured regular commentary from former GOP leaders, including presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, President George W. Bush’s deputy chief of staff Karl Rove, and Palin, 2008 vice presidential nominee.
“If hired, Brown’s trajectory would mimic that of Palin,” Media Matters said.
Palin’s contract, reportedly worth $1 million a year, ran for three years but was not renewed in recent weeks. Morris faded from view on Fox after the election, when he maintained that Mitt Romney was going to win by a landslide.
Brown’s special election victory in 2010, to claim the seat long held by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, catapulted the former state senator to national stardom and earned him a book deal worth $1 million.
After his bruising November loss to Democrat Elizabeth Warren, however, his political future seemed uncertain. Many Republicans had pinned their hopes on him launching a comeback campaign for Senate after John F. Kerry was tapped to become secretary of state.
Brown had also become deeply involved in state committee politics, working to get an ally elected chairwoman of the state GOP last Thursday. He persuaded GOP activists that he would be less certain to mount another campaign without her leadership. But the following day, he announced he would not run for Kerry’s seat.
Brown’s negotiations with Fox were first reported by Politico. When asked by Politico whether he would help Republicans win Kerry’s seat, he said, “I’m not dead.”
Also on Wednesday, Kadant Inc., a Westford-based company, announced that Brown is joining its board of directors. Chief executive Jonathan Painter was a classmate of Brown’s at Boston College Law School, said Thomas M. O’Brien, Kadant’s executive vice president and chief financial officer. The late Senator Paul Tsongas had also served on Kadant’s board after leaving office.
Kadant supplies paper companies with equipment and systems used to separate contaminants and recycle paper, O’Brien said.
For his board work, Brown will get the same stipend given to other board members — a $50,000 retainer, plus 5,000 shares of restricted stock units valued at about $135,000 at today’s price, said O’Brien.
Meanwhile, Republicans are still trying to find a candidate to run for the Senate race that Brown declined to enter. Among those weighing candidacies are Cohasset private equity investor Gabriel E. Gomez, state Representative Daniel B. Winslow, and state Senator Bruce E. Tarr. Activists have also been urging former US attorney Michael J. Sullivan to run.
Two incumbent Democratic congressmen, Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston and Edward J. Markey of Malden, have declared candidacies for the Senate special election. Contenders have only until Feb. 27 to gather the 10,000 voter signatures.