Political Notebook

Brown sees a wealth of difference

Even as he defended Mitt Romney’s decision not to release his tax returns until April, Senator Scott Brown, who prides himself on his everyman image, expressed astonishment yesterday at Romney’s vast wealth.

“He’s in a category, and a lot of those folks are in categories, that we don’t really understand, and certainly he has to, you know, release his returns,’’ Brown said in an interview on WTKK-FM, a Boston talk radio station. “I understand he’s going to do that like everybody else does, when they become ready and available in April.’’

Brown, who is launching his reelection campaign with a direct appeal to blue-collar voters in Massachusetts, added: “I don’t know anything about his finances. It’s kind of a different world for me.’’


Asked about the $374,327 that Romney reported earning in speaking fees last year, Brown said, “What a country.’’

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Brown supports Romney’s bid for the presidency, and the two share a political adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom. But they have not always lined up in their messages, stances, and imagery. Brown, for one, has willingly embraced the “Massachusetts moderate’’ label that Romney’s Republican critics have tried to saddle him with. For Brown, it is a mark of independence. For Romney, who calls himself a conservative, it is an insult.

Brown’s remarks yesterday were a reminder of how their campaigns may clash as they appeal to very different audiences. Brown must win over voters in a traditionally Democratic state while Romney has been courting Republicans in states like Iowa and South Carolina that are far more conservative.

Demands that Romney release his tax returns have become an uncomfortable sticking point for the candidate in recent days, drawing attention to his wealth and the 15 percent tax rate that he has said he pays on his income.


Antiabortion activists disagree on initiative

NEW YORK - In poll after poll, Americans say the economy is the paramount issue facing the nation, with hot-button social issues far behind. Nonetheless, abortion probably will be in the election-year spotlight in a slew of states facing possible votes on sweeping abortion bans.


In at least 12 states - including crucial national battlegrounds such as Ohio and Virginia - antiabortion activists are seeking to place “personhood’’ measures on the ballot this year. The measures vary in details, but in general they define human life as beginning with fertilization and are intended to ban abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.

Supporters and opponents of personhood will be seeking to galvanize their camps this weekend during a flurry of rallies, vigils, and fund-raising events marking tomorrow’s 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling. Personhood measures, if approved, would directly challenge that ruling, which established a woman’s right to an abortion.

Thus far, the personhood movement is 0 for 3, losing referendums in Colorado in 2008 and 2010 and in Mississippi in November. Instead of retreating, the movement is trying again in Colorado and expanding to every other region except the Northeast on the premise that it can influence public opinion even if the measures fail.

“These are defeats only if we quit,’’ said Keith Mason, president of Personhood USA. “If we continue on, they are building blocks for success.’’

Mason likened his movement to the campaign to legalize same-sex marriage, noting that gay-rights activists had persevered and made headway despite losing referendums in all 30 states where voters have weighed in on the issue.


For now, it is unclear how many of the personhood proposals will go before voters this year. Authorities have given the green light to gather signatures for ballot measures in Colorado, Ohio, Montana, and California, while legislators in Kansas, Virginia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Alabama, and Georgia have been working on bills that could lead to personhood referendums.

‘I don’t know anything about [Romney’s] finances. It’s kind of a different world for me.’

In Nevada and Arkansas, personhood campaigns are also in place, but have been slowed by disputes over the wording of proposed measures.

In Colorado, the new personhood measure is considered likely to qualify for the ballot again this year because of the state’s relatively low threshold for petition signatures. It is frustrating to the state’s abortion-rights activists, who spent heavily to defeat the 2008 and 2010 measures by better than 2-to-1 ratios.

“Every dollar we’re spending on getting people out to vote is a dollar not spent for birth control or sex education or breast exams,’’ said Vicki Cowart, president of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains.

Criticism of the personhood movement also has come from some antiabortion groups which worry the strategy could backfire if federal courts became involved and uphold Roe v. Wade.

In Nevada, a coalition of antiabortion groups spoke out Jan. 12 against the state’s personhood initiative, saying it will hinder their cause in the long run.

Some national antiabortion groups have made clear that their preferred strategy is to push state by state for incremental legislative restrictions, such as requiring women to undergo sonograms before an abortion, restricting insurance coverage of the procedure, and imposing tough regulations on abortion clinics.


Labor union Fla. ad assails Romney’s business career

TAMPA - Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s Republican rivals have yet to begin running television ads in Florida, but a labor union is spending almost $1 million on an ad attacking the GOP front-runner’s business career.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees will begin airing the ad today on television stations across central Florida. It will run through the state’s Jan. 31 presidential primary.

The ad links Romney’s time heading Bain Capital to corporate greed and Medicare fraud. That’s a similar line of attack employed by Romney’s Republican opponents elsewhere.

The ad is believed to be organized labor’s first major investment in the GOP presidential primary. The union’s political director says Florida represents the last best chance to stop Romney’s march toward his party’s presidential nomination.