Outside groups are spending big to defeat progressive Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. With little time left before Election Day, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and a Koch brother are taking advantage of a loophole in her anti-super PAC pledge with Republican Sen. Scott Brown to pour at least $1.6 million into the tight race so far.
Warren is hoping to turn that spending into an advantage. She said in an interview with The Huffington Post that the outside money helps clarify the race and that it's telling of how Brown, who has painted himself as an independent, would really vote if reelected.
"The Koch Brothers and Rove and Norquist are coming into this race because they want the Republicans to control the Senate and they know that Scott Brown and the Republicans will keep voting for Wall Street, for big oil and for billionaires," Warren told HuffPost. "These people are not supporting him because he's going to vote both sides on important issues. And they don't even pretend that that's the case. And he doesn't when he's outside of Massachusetts, and that's the real inside-outside."
Brown signed an agreement with Warren in January not to allow super PACs to bombard Massachusetts airwaves with negative television advertisements. The race was supposed to be a relatively civil affair, but cracks in that agreement started to appear in September, when Americans For Tax Reform, Norquist's group, sent out mailers, which were not covered under the pact.
Since then, Americans For Tax Reform has spent a total of $439,233 on the race. Crossroads GPS, a Karl Rove-run "dark money" 501(c)4 that does not disclose its donors, has spent $415,311. That total includes $182,709 used in just the last week on expenditures like robocalls against Warren. For tax reasons, and to keep its donors secret, Rove's group swears most of its money isn't spent on campaign politics.
And then there is the America 360 Committee, a previously unknown group that has spent all of its $442,816 in reported independent expenditures against Warren or in support of Brown. Its reported donations so far have come almost exclusively from William Koch, the lesser known brother of David and Charles, who usually operates independently of them. It too has spent money on anti-Warren mailers.
"I didn't expect Karl Rove, Grover Norquist and the Koch Brothers all to show up in this race, especially after we'd signed the pledge, but they know what's at stake and they're willing to go anywhere and put their money to work," Warren said.
And all that money, she argued, is not going to waste.
"Here in Massachusetts, Scott Brown says he's an independent, a Republican, and he has no say over independent groups. These people would not support him if they didn't know he would vote with them. It's that simple," Warren said.
The Brown campaign did not return a request for comment.
The latest poll in the race has Warren leading Brown by five percentage points.
Pro-Warren groups like unions and the League of Conservation Voters are spending money on direct mail, door-hangers and field organizing, which are also not covered under the so-called "People's Pledge." There are also signs that outside groups on both sides may be biding their time until the last days before the election to launch a final barrage of TV ads -- something the candidates have no power to stop beyond their promise to independently donate half the cost of those ads to charity whenever an outside group buys advertising in the race.
But even without that money, Warren and Brown have had no trouble getting personal on their own. Brown claimed that legal assistance Warren gave to an insurance company in a case regarding asbestos victims let the company off the hook -- something the victims' lawyers themselves disputed. He made his troubles worse when he falsely accused Warren of using actors in her ads featuring those same victims.
"It's really just offensive," Warren said. And she called the news that Brown himself took money from the political action committee of the company, Travelers Insurance, then returned it just before his attack ads began, "the kicker."