BOSTON — The Massachusetts Democratic Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission on Friday charging that Republican U.S. Sen. Scott Brown illegally coordinated with a group affiliated with GOP strategist Karl Rove on automated phone calls targeting Democrat Elizabeth Warren.
The Massachusetts Republican Party responded hours later by preparing its own FEC complaint charging Warren with illegally coordinating with the AFL-CIO on anti-Brown mailings.
The competing claims show the strains being placed on the so-called “people’s pledge” signed earlier this year by Brown and Warren. The pledge is designed to keep outside groups from launching attack ads in the hotly contested race.
While the agreement bars ads on television, radio and the Internet it allows groups to get their message out using mailed flyers and automated “robocalls” designed to reach voters at their homes.
While the “robocalls” paid for by Rove’s group Crossroads GPS are allowed under the agreement, they are illegal if Rove coordinated the ads with Brown, said Massachusetts Democratic Party Chairman John Walsh. By law, candidates’ campaigns are not allowed to coordinate with independent groups aligned with them.
As evidence of that coordination Walsh pointed to a report in The Boston Globe that Brown met with Rove at a Tampa hotel restaurant during the Republican National Convention in Florida. The campaign told the paper it was a chance meeting and the paper later issued a clarification saying the story “may have left the impression that the get-together was preplanned.”
Walsh said the campaign’s explanation “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“Just as Brown starts slipping in the polls, Rove’s robocalls appear,” Walsh told reporters Friday. “Even if they didn’t specifically discuss the robocalls, it’s still illegal for Scott Brown if he was materially involved in the content which coincidentally echo some of Scott Brown’s favorite false attacks on Elizabeth Warren.”
According to FEC records, Crossroads GPS spent nearly $25,000 this week on the calls.
The FEC complaint included transcripts of two of the calls.
One says Warren was “hired to oversee” the “Wall Street bailout.”
Warren headed the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, charged with monitoring the Treasury Department’s handling of the bank rescue fund. The panel wasn’t involved in distributing the funds.
A second call says Warren supports President Obama’s decision to cut over $700 billion from Medicare spending that could “limit the availability of care seniors depend on.”
The cuts don’t affect Medicare recipients directly, but rather reduce payments to hospitals, health insurance plans and other service providers.
In their FEC complaint, the Massachusetts Republican Party alleges Warren illegally coordinated spending practices with the AFL-CIO and the union’s president, Richard Trumka, who appeared at a rally with Warren this month and pledged the union’s support for her campaign.
The complaint says that a “mere four days after Ms. Warren and Mr. Trumka’s joint campaigning, the AFL-CIO announced that it would launch a direct mail campaign attacking” Brown. The complaint described the mailings as “a prohibited in-kind contribution.”
One AFL-CIO mailing said Brown voted for corporate tax cuts, jobs overseas and benefit cuts – charges that the campaign has called false.
Brown did vote against a Democratic bill that would have extended tax cuts for millions of Americans while ending them for wealthier taxpayers.
But Brown also voted against a GOP measure would have continued tax cuts for everyone, including the highest earners. Brown said he opposed the GOP bill because it would have let lapse tax credits backed by Democrats to help some large working families, families with children, and families looking for help covering college costs.
Democratic party spokesman Matt House called the Republican complaint an attempt to “attract attention away from Scott Brown’s potential coordination with Karl Rove.”
The competing claims come as Brown released a new 30-second television ad in which unidentified individuals say Warren “got caught in a lie” and “needs to come clean” about her Native American heritage, implying she used it to help get a job as a law professor at Harvard.
Warren said she was told growing up that her mother had Native American heritage, but she denied it played any role in her offer of a job at Harvard Law School.