Editorials

EDITORIAL

Here we go again: Dark money pours in against Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. speaks to governors at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee during a hearing to discuses ways to stabilize health insurance markets​on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Jose Luis Magana/Associated Press/File
Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, spoke to governors Sept. 7 at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing.

There they go again: working long and hard to depict a female candidate as a lying rhymes-with-witch who can’t handle the heat of scrutiny.

Hillary Clinton’s political enemies used that line of attack against her. And now, a super PAC funded largely by Robert Mercer — the hedge fund billionaire, Trump supporter, and major stakeholder in Breitbart News — is using a version of it against Senator Elizabeth Warren.

The super PAC, called Massachusetts First, started running a nasty radio ad against the Massachusetts senator, who’s viewed as a potential presidential candidate in 2020. According to the MassFirst website, its mission is “providing voters with the full and real story on Senator Elizabeth Warren’s failure as a United States Senator and to bring to light her hypocrisy and out-of-touch policy positions.” As first reported by Politico, the $150,000 ad buy was funded by Mercer, whose ties to Trump flow through former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

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The tone used against Warren is familiar. As New York magazine’s Rebecca Traister writes, Warren “is getting Hillary-ed.” Clinton was pilloried, among other things, for accepting big speaking fees from Wall Street, which critics cast as indicators of greed and coziness that made her an untrustworthy hypocrite. The ads targeting Warren call her out as a “hypocrite professor” who has been “raking in hundreds of thousands each year” while students were “taking on massive debt to listen to Warren lecture them on bankruptcy.”

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Other Warren haters are picking up on the hypocrite theme. As Traister also reports, Jeffrey Kuhner, a right-wing Boston radio host, recently badgered Warren about her Harvard salary and the price of her Cambridge home, saying: “You’re part of the one percent and yet you rail against the one percent. Do you not see the hypocrisy there?” Warren didn’t. As she calmly told Kuhner, her goal is to increase opportunity for everyone. This being the golden age of using social media as a tool of self-promotion, Kuhner posted the video of him questioning her. It yielded overwrought headlines disingenuously describing Warren as “frazzled.”

The Mercerization of politics is happening all over the country, most recently in Alabama. It’s part of the axis of dark money and influence-peddling that aims to disrupt American politics on a grand scale. Democrats will have to deal with it. But it should be called out for what it is, as early and often as it’s employed.