Organizers of a contentious demonstration in favor of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) admitted Tuesday that they had paid homeless people to wear T-shirts showing support for the Republican candidate.
“Obama Supporters for Brown” is an effort coordinated by Benjamin Thompson, a former elections commissioner who also supports President Barack Obama. He told the Boston Herald that at least four of the attendees at a recent rally were homeless and had received a small "per diem," amounting to roughly $8 an hour, to show up wearing the shirts. Thompson said the money was intended to help cover costs of transportation and child care, and maintained that the recipients were genuinely supportive of Brown's campaign.
The state Republican Party's MassVictory program told the Herald that it had offered financial support to the “Obama Supporters for Brown” effort.
The event also drew attention for another reason: The Herald reported that supporters of Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren stood across the street from the rally and someone from the crowd shouted a racial slur presumably directed at Thompson and other attendees who are black.
"You know those field people and those house people. This election is about that,” an anonymous protester reportedly yelled.
Alethea Harney, a Warren campaign spokeswoman, immediately condemned the remarks, telling the Herald the language was "absolutely unacceptable."
The events are just the latest chapter in an increasingly divisive campaign that has, at times, gotten especially ugly among the candidates' supporters.
Brown supporters were seen last month mocking Warren's claims of a Native American heritage with tomahawk chops and war whoops. The chief of the Cherokee Nation later demanded an apology from Brown, who responded by stating that he didn't support the displays.
And earlier this month, pro-Warren hecklers reportedly mocked a gay staffer for Brown's campaign. The taunts reportedly came from members of the United Auto Workers union, and were later denounced by both the union and the Warren campaign.
The heated battle between Brown, Warren and their supporters is playing out as the candidates seek victory in the most expensive Senate race in the nation. Warren has out-raised all congressional candidates this election cycle, and announced on Monday that her campaign pulled in more than $12.1 million in the third quarter. Brown's campaign later announced that it raised $7.45 million over the same period.
The most recent round of polling showed Warren with a slim lead over Brown.
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