In a debate, it is not always enough for one candidate to accuse the other of making up numbers from whole cloth --- especially when the opposing candidate presents analysis from highly partisan lobbying groups as "independent" sources on par with the Congressional Budget Office or Office of Management and Budget.
Massachusetts U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren (D) missed the opportunity to highlight the non-independence of the "independent" sources Sen. Scott Brown (R) cited during their first televised debate last week (see video below). He claimed that her policies would raise $3.4 trillion in taxes "on the backs of citizens" and "cut 700,000 jobs nationwide". The numbers were proffered by Brown in response to Warren's criticism of the Republican Senator's votes against three critical jobs bills that she asserted would have been paid for by "a fractional tax on people making more than one million dollars a year."
Warren accused Brown of making up his numbers from whole cloth and drove home her central point --- that Brown is willing to hold middle class taxpayers hostage in order to prevent a restoration of the Clinton level of taxes on the top two percent of Americans.
But she missed the opportunity to call out Brown for his laughably misleading use of statistics from highly partisan lobbying organizations --- specifically the National Federation of Independent Business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce --- as coming from "independent groups"...
In responding to Warren's charge that he voted against American job creation and in favor of the exceedingly rich, Brown responded [emphasis added]:
While, much later in the debate, Warren pointed out that The Boston Globe submitted their competing economic proposals "to independent economic analysts" who determined that Warren's "approach...is 67% more effective at cutting the deficit than Sen. Brown's," she failed to challenge the MA Republican's remarkable claim that the NFIB and U.S. Chamber of Commerce were "independent groups" as opposed to two of the nation's largest lobbyists/propagandists for corporate America, hard-right policies, and the Republican Party.
The notion that either of these lobbying and propaganda arms of corporate America provide a reliable source for Brown's otherwise-unsupported statistics is nothing short of Orwellian.
As noted by Source Watch, while the NFIB claims to be "the leading small business association," it has operated both as a lobbyist, and, through its PAC, the Save America's Free Enterprise Trust, as a major source of funding for the hard-right and the GOP. NFIB is a private member of the Koch-connected, democracy destroying American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), whose Legislative task force system seeks to privatize the means by which legislation is drafted before being submitted for pro forma approval by Republican-dominated state legislatures.
Josh Harkinson, at Mother Jones, described the NFIB as simply a front group for fending off a restoration of fair tax rates for the rich and an "attack dog" for the GOP. "Only 3 percent of small businesses," Harkinson observed, "net more than $250,000 a year, the lowest income that would be affected by Obama's tax plan."
This year, according Harkinson, the NFIB received a $3.7 million, dark money donation from Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS. The "independent" NFIB directed 98% of its political donations to Republicans.
It is surprising that Warren would leave unchallenged Scott's description of either NFIB, or the exceedingly partisan and infamous U.S. Chamber as "independent groups".
As described by Velvet Revolution.us' Stop the Chamber website, the U.S. Chamber is "the biggest lobbying operation in the United States, spending billions of dollars on behalf of big business over the past decade to corrupt the political system." That has included "spending...more than $100 million to defeat initiatives to protect the environment and provide affordable health care to everyone."
U.S. News and World Report noted last year that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was the second highest campaign spender during the 2010 election cycle, outspent only by Rove's Crossroads GPS operation. The Chamber's $33 million in campaign funding in 2010 was spent "mostly on Republican candidates."
The U.S. Chamber has endorsed Scott Brown in this race and purchased $500,000 worth of TV and radio ads in support of his 2010 U.S. Senate special election. With $48 million spent so far on the Brown/Warren contest, in what CNN Money describes as "this year's priciest congressional race," there is no doubt the "independent" U.S. Chamber is pumping big bucks into support for Brown once again this time around.
Moreover, as revealed in a series of articles at The BRAD BLOG, the U.S. Chamber’s political activities may have far exceeded simple lobbying or campaign expenditures. The Chamber was also implicated in a plot to discredit its perceived enemies. That plot entailed the use of 'terror tools' as part of a disinformation scheme that had targeted Brad Friedman, founder and editor of The BRAD BLOG, his family and other progressive U.S. citizens and groups.
The U.S. Chamber, like the NFIB, is anything but "independent".
Fortunately, last week's debate was only the first of three proposed for the U.S. Senate contest which has gained national notoriety, and even infamy on the heels of Brown's personal attack on the family heritage of Warren. The campaign doubled-down on that offensive, racial and personal attack over the weekend when campaign aides were caught on video at a rally for Brown over the weekend making Indian "war-whoop sounds and 'tomahawk chop' gestures" at her supporters.
While Brown appears to have no problem with such unseemly tactics, Warren can respond while still staying above the fray by simply looking into the so-called "independence" of the source for Brown's statistics next time they meet. She should revisit this issue during the next debate and call Scott Brown out for his misleading claims.
Video of first debate between Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Scott Brown, held at the studios of WBZ-TV in Boston on 9/21/12, follows below...
Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.