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MA Experts Say Brown-Warren Spending “Politics As Usual”

Friday, September 28, 2012

 

Top Massachusetts Democratic and Republican political experts, pundits and politicians weigh in on the combined $22 million in out-of-state spending by Republican Senator Scott Brown and Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren in the hotly-contested Massachusetts Senate race.

Most Expensive Massachusetts Race Yet

Democratic state committeeman Paul Giorgio said he was struck more by the sheer amount of cash the candidates have gone through this campaign season, roughly $28 million through mid-August reporting, than by where it went.

"I was actually surprised that they've spent so much money," he said.

"I think that's unprecedented in a state campaign in Massachusetts."

Giorgio, a printer and publisher who has worked on campaigns both inside and outside the Commonwealth, said big-time electoral races extend beyond their home states.

"I think it's a national economy in terms of politics. I'm not surprised that they spent money out of state."

If the Senate candidates want to help the Central Mass economy, said Giorgio, Brown should agree to participate in a Worcester debate.

"That would fill hotel rooms, that would fill restaurants and it would make downtown active."

Political Potential

"Certainly it could be made a campaign issue," said Dennis "DJ" Deeb, a Political Science professor at UMass-Lowell.

Deeb, who was the Republican nominee in a State Representative race in 2002, said he brought up the subject of buying local in his own campaign when his opponent spent a large portion of funds outside of their district.

But the bigger the race, the more difficult it becomes to keep that same focus.

"In the larger scheme of things it doesn't matter, not on a campaign of that scale."

Local Matters

However, former gubernatorial candidate and progressive leader Grace Ross said little things like where campaign materials were produced do make a difference to voters, whether they realize it or not.

"It actually matters," she said. "It sends subtle messages to the people you're trying to reach."

With one economist estimating up to an additional 1,000 jobs could be created if the campaigns had redirected their combined $22 million in out-of-state spending to Massachusetts, the economic angle cannot be underestimated either.

"I think that the job impact of the decision is critical, particularly given that both of these candidates claim they care about job creation," Ross said.

"I think it's something they need to be publicly called out on not doing."

Ross also said candidates can end up coming off as unfamiliar to constituents when their campaign strategies and ads are formed by professionals who may not have an accurate feel for what voters' lives are like on the ground.

Former Massachusetts Speaker of the House Tom Finneran hit on the same point.

"My opinion of DC consultants/strategists is very low," he said. "You cannot beat local knowledge with homogenous cookie-cutter themes."

Tim Cahill, former Massachusetts State Treasurer, said nothing is new in congressional campaigns anymore, with the same firms handling races across a number of states where the only thing that changes is the candidate's name.

"I wish that spending money locally was going to grow in the future, but I am afraid that instead it will contract. If Warren wins her team will take full credit for their 'strategy' and sell it to others across the country. Same with Brown's people," he said.

"It is an unfortunate truth to this business that there are mostly out of state hired guns running every campaign. And most of the money will go out if state unless you are running in DC, Virginia or Maryland."

National Stakes Mean A National Race

Michael Walsh, a professor of Political Science at Westfield State University, said that since the Brown-Warren race may end up deciding control of the Senate, bringing in out-of-state talent is almost a given.

"It has such enormous national implications that i'm not surprised to hear that there's a lot of spending that's national."

Clark University Political Science professor Robert Boatright said he did not think buying local was much of an issue for politicians.

"They generally hire local staff but produce most of their campaign materials through a few large companies. Usually this is a condition that the party campaign committees set for their candidates to receive support," he said.

"I think if you look at any Senate races around the country you'd find similar numbers -- in fact, my guess would be that in many states the percentage of money spent on out-of-state contractors is higher than in Massachusetts."

 

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