July 2, 2012

The Associated Press Equates Scott Brown’s Secret Meetings With Lobbyists And Elizabeth Warren’s Heritage

The Associated Press Equates Scott Brown's Secret Meetings With Lobbyists And Elizabeth Warren's Heritage
Are questions about Elizabeth Warren's ethnicity really as important as Scott Brown's secret meetings with lobbiysts?

This morning, the Associated Press published an article outlining a “battle over transparency” in the Massachusetts Senate race:

Both candidates in Massachusetts’ closely watched U.S. Senate race have championed the virtues of public disclosure — but each has limits when it comes to their own records and history.

What are these limits that the Associated Press is equivocating? For Republican candidate Scott Brown it’s these:

Brown … opposed a Democratic bill requiring more detailed campaign finance disclosure requirements, kept hidden all but one of the names of a committee that hosted a New York City fundraising event for him, and declined to publish his tax returns on his website, although he allowed reporters to view six years of returns in his office […] Brown has also declined to release the names of lobbyists he’s met with in his Senate offices since winning a special election in January 2010 to fill the seat left vacant by the death of longtime Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy.

These are serious breaches of any pledge to be transparent. Lobbyists and fundraisers for special interests unfortunately can have a major impact on public policy. But here’s what the Associated Press seems to equate with Brown’s lack of disclosure:

Brown, however, has been quick to fault his Democratic rival Elizabeth Warren — a consumer advocate and Harvard Law School professor — for a lack of disclosure over her claims of Native American heritage. […]  Warren has been unable to produce any documents to support the heritage claim, and she hasn’t responded to Brown’s call that she release full employment records from the colleges where she taught.

This is weak reporting. Brown’s lack of transparency can have a real impact on public policy. Whether Warren truly has Native American heritage has little to no relevance on public policy and the sort of behavior she will exhibit as a U.S. Senator. The Associated Press should vigorously examine the behavior of both of these candidates, but it should do so in a serious way that does not equate two very different activities.