Popular consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren has been a favorite target of Republican lawmakers since she built President Obama’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau from the ground up. For two years, they stymied her bid to lead the agency she created.
Since Warren announced her intention to challenge Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) in the 2012 election, Republicans have sought to paint her as an Ivy League elitist for teaching at Harvard Law School. Now the Massachusetts GOP is trying another tactic altogether — directly lobbying Harvard not to pay Warren’s salary while she is running for the Senate:
The Massachusetts Republican party has urged the University to withhold Harvard Law School professor Elizabeth Warren’s salary while she runs in the upcoming election for the Massachusetts Senate seat currently occupied by Scott Brown.[...]
In a letter to University President Drew G. Faust, Nate Little, executive director of the Massachusetts GOP, expressed concern that Warren’s Senate run would detract from her academic work at Harvard, and that her ties to Harvard may suggest that the University endorses her.
“For Harvard to continue to employ her as a candidate is inconsistent with the academic mission of the college; detracts from the work that she would be expected to perform as a member of the faculty; and creates the impression that Harvard endorses, supports and is in fact subsidizing her campaign,” Little wrote.
Harvard responded to the letter by pointing to their official policy, which explicitly states that “participation in political campaign activities by senior officials at the University is appropriate so long as those officials clearly indicate that their statements and actions are given in their personal capacities and not on behalf of Harvard.” Warren’s spokesman said the candidate will continue her teaching job and that it will not be adversely affected by her campaign.
It’s odd that after portraying Warren’s affiliation with Harvard as a negative trait that makes her out of touch, the Massachusetts GOP is concerned that the mere appearance of the university’s support gives her an unfair advantage. Additionally, political figures (including former Obama economic adviser Larry Summers and Bush economic adviser Greg Mankiw) have long taught at Harvard without any suggestion that their academic responsibilities were compromised by their involvement in politics.
But Massachusetts Republicans have good reason to be worried: recent polling by Public Policy Polling shows Warren leading Brown by 46 to 44 percent. Warren made it clear in her first campaign video that her campaign’s focus will be middle class families who have been left behind by the recession. “Middle class families have been chipped at, hacked at, and squeezed and hammered for a generation now and I don’t think Washington gets it,” she said.