Warren overstates Brown’s title as Wall Street’s favorite

Jim Davis/Globe Staff
The image of Elizabeth Warren loomed over her rivals as they met last night for the first debate among the contenders for the Massachusetts Democratic Party’s 2012 US Senate primary campaign.

Elizabeth Warren wowed the crowd in her first debate Tuesday night when she referred to a Forbes magazine article that she said had called Scott Brown “Wall Street’s favorite senator.”

But the statement from the Democratic challenger is a stretch, one that oversimplifies the June 2010 article. In fact, Forbes listed Brown as number 10 on a list of “Wall Street’s favorite congressmen,” a ranking based on contributions from the financial industry.

Six Democrats ranked higher on the list than the Massachusetts Republican, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.


Beyond the headline, the Forbes article offers a more nuanced take on Brown’s record.

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It mentions that he received $442,000 in financial industry campaign contributions in 2009.

“Is Brown, then, beholden to Wall Street interests? Not necessarily,” the article states, noting that Brown supported the financial regulation bill sponsored by Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat.

That’s the same bill that established the consumer protection agency championed by Warren, who helped Frank extensively on the issue when she served as a special adviser to President Obama.

Warren has made her work on that bill the centerpiece of her fledgling campaign for the Democratic nomination, boasting that she fought for the consumer agency from inside a Washington that is “rigged for the big guys,”


But though Brown ultimately supported the bill, he demanded several changes before signing on as a key Republican swing vote in July 2010.

Those changes softened the blow to the financial industry, including one that would allow Massachusetts-based State Street Bank and similar institutions to continue investing a portion of their money in the investment funds they manage.

Brown also fought to prevent a $19 billion tax on large financial institutions that Frank had sought to pay for the regulation.

At Brown’s insistence, Frank came up with a new way to pay for the bill, increasing the fees paid to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and tapping savings gleaned from the early termination of the 2008 bank bailout fund.

“I appreciate the efforts to improve the bill, especially the removal of the $19 billion bank tax,’’ Brown said in a July 2010 his statement affirming his final sign-off on the bill. “As a result, it is a better bill than it was when this whole process started.’’


Brown’s spokesman, Colin Reed , said in a statement that Brown’s opponents are misrepresenting his record because they lack postive ideas “for changing the direction of the country.”

“Senator Brown’s fund-raising is no different than other members of the Massachusetts delegation,” he continued. “And his independent voting record proves that he is a bipartisan problem solver who decides issues exclusively on the merits.”

Warren’s campaign spokesman, Kyle Sullivan, responded that Brown’s place on the Forbes top 10 is significant, given that there are 535 members of Congress.

“Elizabeth made clear she doesn’t expect to be on that list because she’s going to keep fighting the big banks and Wall Street to help middle class families,” he added. “Nothing’s going to change that.”

Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @noahbierman.