01/14/2014 11:39 am ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Third Way Spokesman Says Group Supported Elizabeth Warren's Senate Campaign, Despite Damaging Quote


Matt Bennett, a Third Way co-founder and the senior vice president for Public Affairs for the centrist think tank, said Friday that the group supported Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) senatorial campaign in 2012, despite the fact that he gave a quote to The New York Times in the end of the campaign that was used by her opponents.

"We supported Senator Warren when she ran for Senate, and we would never call for someone to run against her in a primary or anything like that," Bennett said at American University Friday. "We just disagree with her on some things, and that's pretty different than what's happening in Republican politics now where if you step out of line, suddenly a primary candidate comes along."

During the Democratic National Convention, Bennett was quoted by The New York Times with a line that would echo throughout the close 2012 Senate campaign against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.). "If you listened only to Elizabeth Warren, the message was catastrophically antibusiness," Bennett said, according to the Times. That "further drives a wedge between business and Democrats that may not be fair but is the way business perceives things," he added. "And making voters into victims is not a winning strategy." The group shared the quote on Facebook.

The "catastrophically antibusiness" line made its way into the campaign of Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) and a mailer by the Chamber of Commerce. The Brown campaign used the line to give credence to the attack that Warren was not friendly enough to business. "This debate offers voters a choice between Scott Brown, a bipartisan bridge-builder, and Warren, the founder of the radical Occupy protests who even leading Democrats have said is ‘catastrophically antibusiness,'" said a Brown spokeswoman in September.

Bennett defended his group's support for Warren in an email, noting that the group had helped her with policy positions. "We don’t formally endorse candidates, but we worked with Sen Warren’s campaign team (and, I think, her directly) on some substantive issues like national security during the campaign," said Bennett in an email. "You’re right that I was quoted commenting on her convention speech, and that was used by others in campaign lit. I learned of that after the fact."

Third Way took a shot at Warren in December, when the group's President Jon Cowan and Senior Vice President Jim Kessler urged Democrats not to follow her over the "populist cliff" in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Progressive groups called on Democratic lawmakers to renounce their ties with the group -- and while none did, several disavowed the op-ed, which railed against raising social security. Warren called the group "flatly wrong" on social security.



Elizabeth Warren