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Facing possible Warren challenge, Brown burnishes image as Wall Street reformer

Senator Scott Brown speaks with reporters last month in Boston.Steven Senne/AP

WASHINGTON – Facing a possible challenge from Elizabeth Warren next year, Senator Scott Brown appears to be positioning himself as a steadfast Wall Street reformer in an attempt to defuse one of the Harvard professor’s most important credentials while defending himself against potential attacks on the campaign trail.

“I worked very hard to make sure the banks didn’t act like casinos with our money,” Brown told NECN earlier this month, adding that when it came to landmark financial reform legislation, “I worked on it, I voted on it, I pushed it through.”

Brown helped Democrats pass the Dodd-Frank bill just five months after taking office in 2010. But it was only after the Massachusetts Republican leveraged his position as a key swing vote – winning major concessions from top House and Senate lawmakers – that he signed onto the legislation.

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That gave Democrats enough support to pass the measure.

Most notably, several of the changes Brown forced went to benefit Boston-based State Street Corp. and Springfield-based MassMutual.

By painting himself as a strong supporter of Wall Street reform, Brown appears to be trying to neutralize Warren, a leading advocate for financial reform who is close to a decision about whether to seek the Democrats’ 2012 Senate nomination.

Brown is seeking reelection to his first full, six-year term after upsetting the Democratic Party and winning the January 2010 special election to replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Warren has risen to political prominence among liberals in recent years as a result of her populist brainchild: the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which formally opened its doors under Dodd-Frank in July.

Long an advocate of tighter Wall Street supervision, Warren helped oversee the bank bailout before creating the CFPB as a special adviser appointed by President Obama.

But after the president passed over Warren to lead the bureau, fearing a difficult Senate confirmation process, she returned to Massachusetts and launched an exploratory committee for a possible Senate challenge to Brown – urged on by national Democrats underwhelmed with the current crop of candidates.

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A spokesman for Warren declined comment about her campaign prospects.

Democratic groups are accusing Brown of “trying to rewrite history” ahead of next year’s election, accusing the senator of distorting his position for political gain.

“Scott Brown tried to completely derail this bill,” said Rodell Mollineau, president of a liberal “super PAC,” American Bridge 21st Century. Mollineau worked for the Senate Majority Leader’s office when the bill was passed.

“He was playing his own game of chicken, so for him to sit there and say that he was the savior that rescued the bill is disingenuous at best,” said Mollineau.

Brown’s campaign yesterday fired back at the group, defending the senator’s vote and denying claims that he has been touting his support for Wall Street reform as the prospect of a Warren candidacy looms.

“The senator has always been proud of his vote, and I don’t think there’s anything that’s changed about that,” said campaign manager Jim Barnett.

He added: “The only revisionist history going on is by American Bridge 21st Century. Scott Brown was concerned about how financial reform would affect jobs in Massachusetts, and once those concerns were addressed to his satisfaction, he voted for the bill.”