The Massachusetts Democratic Party filed an ethics complaint Wednesday night against Sen. Scott Brown, the Republican running for reelection against consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren.
The complaint alleges Brown violated Senate ethics rules by failing to disclose required information about his law practice, specifically the names of his clients.
Last week, as both candidates responded to mounting pressure to reveal more information about their legal backgrounds, Brown's campaign sent a partial list of clients to the Boston Globe. According to the Globe, the campaign insisted that the seven clients on the list accounted for "the overwhelming majority of the work he did" while working as a title agent and real estate closing attorney for about 25 years.
Massachusetts Democrats say that statement is at odds with claims Brown has made in the past. According to his financial forms, Brown earned $140,000 from his law practice between the start of the 2007 and the middle of 2009. Additionally, one of those forms indicated he had not received more than $5,000 from any single client.
But if most of his law practice income came from just seven clients, and if that income added up to $140,000 over two-and-a-half years, Democrats are questioning how it's possible he earned less than $5,000 from each client during that period.
"There's no way that those things add up," said Matt House, a spokesperson for the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
In the last few weeks, Warren and Brown have each tried to portray themselves as the transparent candidate, while suggesting the other has something to hide. According to the Boston Globe article that contained the Brown campaign's assertion about the source of the "overwhelming amount" of his work, "neither candidate has produced a full list of clients, and both have dribbled out the information in recent days in ways that make it difficult for the media and the public to vet."
At the time, according to the Globe, Warren's campaign would not say why it didn't reveal a full list of her clients. Nor did her campaign provide a full explanation to The Huffington Post today.
Warren campaign spokeswoman Alethea Harney did say that Warren has "previously released information on any legal work she has done since 2008, the year she entered public service."
"This is more than Scott Brown has ever released in 25 years in public service," she said. "During that period, he has never disclosed the services he provided for specific clients or if that work posed a conflict of interest with his work in the state legislature."
Brown has repeatedly insisted that he has nothing to hide and tried distance himself from the image of a big time real estate lawyer who handles foreclosures. "I have a very small practice," he told reporters in September. "The last seven or eight, nine years, it was run out of my home, and the clients that I represent are small banks, cooperative banks and a couple mortgage companies, focusing as one of their attorneys on real estate."
But some observers remain skeptical, including Adam Levitin, a law professor and a contributor to Credit Slips, a blog on credit, finance, and bankruptcy. "What did Scott Brown understand about the mortgage market he was facilitating?" Levitin wrote. "Did he recognize that there was a bubble? (He was a town property assessor at one point, so one would think he'd notice this sort of thing.) If not, what does that say? And if so, what does that say?"
The Brown campaign responded to questions about the ethics charge by pointing to a statement from spokeswoman Alleigh Marre. "Elizabeth Warren and her allies are wasting taxpayer money with this frivolous and baseless complaint which seeks to do nothing more than distract from Warren’s record of getting rich working for big corporations against middle class workers,” Marre said in the statement.