PITTSFIELD -- Trying to oust incumbent Repub lican Sen. Scott Brown in the nation's most expensive congressional race this year, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren attributes the outpouring from donors to people that "understand what's at stake."
"It's the direction our country goes; it's about Wall Street accountability; it's about jobs; it's about how our kids pay for college. And that's why they're in it," Warren said Monday in a campaign visit with local media outlets at The Berkshire Eagle offices.
During an editorial board meeting, Warren highlighted prior consumer protection work and contrasted her party's "big vision" with that of Republicans, and her own candidacy with Brown's positions and voting record.
From taxes to health care to energy policy, Warren painted herself as the advocate of "working families," while her opponent, she said, too consistently fell on the side of large financial institutions, the wealthy and big oil.
While crediting Brown with having "taken some good votes," Warren argued that Massachusetts residents deserve a senator they can count on for all votes.
On taxes, Warren criticized her opponent for signing Grover Norquist's no-new-tax pledge, arguing that Brown would sooner "hold hostage" 98 percent of families and 97 percent of small businesses than allow the Bush-era tax cuts to expire for the top two percent, earners of over $250,000 a year.
Warren came out strongly for President Obama's Affordable Care Act (ACA) by citing the ways in which she thinks the bill improved upon Mitt Romney's health care law in Massachusetts.
In addition to covering those with pre-existing conditions and allowing parents to keep children on their plans until they reach 26, Warren said ACA cuts waste from the system and sets aside money to "fund the studies to find ways to get better health care outcomes."
A stark contrast between she and Brown, Warren said, is that she wishes to continue improving ACA, while Brown wants to repeal it.
Warren also criticized Brown for supporting oil subsidies and his lukewarm record on clean energy, of which she claimed to be a major supporter.
Asked how she would handle the partisan gridlock in Washington, Warren pointed out her experience heading up a bipartisan panel after the 2008 financial meltdown.
The panel, Warren said, was selected to hand out accountability and decide potential changes to financial systems at time when the dire circumstances de manded collaboration. Half of the panel's reports received unanimous support, according to Warren.
"I don't want to go to Washington just to disappear, just to say I was a senator; for me, this is about the urgency of the moment," Warren said. " ... You start with something you can agree on and you try to build out from there."
Warren then highlighted her travails to establish a financial watchdog group, which became the Consumer Financial Pro tection Bureau in 2011, saying she resembled a "door-to-door salesman" selling an idea the common wisdom said Washing ton would not accept.
"That little consumer agency has been up and running now for just over a year and it has already forced credit card companies to return more than half a billion dollars to customers they cheated," Warren said. "Not bad. It's a feisty little agency."
For the Berkshires, Warren stressed investments in infrastructure and clean energy, jobs and education, and "keeping the tourism industry competitive."
These investments are had, Warren said, by a state kept on solid financial footing and a "federal government that wants to be a good partner to communities here in Massachusetts [and] all around the country."
The race between Warren and Brown -- one of the nation's closest -- has gained national attention and donations totaling over $60 million at the end of September. Though both candidates agreed to decline funding from super PACs at the beginning of the campaign, residents of the commonwealth receiving automated campaign calls have already seen firsthand that outside groups have found ways to spend money on the campaigns.
Brown has been invited to meet with local media at The Berkshire Eagle offices, but has yet to reply.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.
In her own words
Among the points made by Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren during a campaign visit on Monday:
On the differing party visions for the country: ‘It's based on the big vision of how to build a future, more so than any race we've seen in a long time. The Republican vision is pretty clear: Cut taxes for those at the top and let everybody pick up the pieces. The middle class would pay higher taxes, or cuts would be needed for spending in education, research and infrastructure, or let the deficit grow even more. It's math, as Bill Clinton said, just plain arithmetic. The Democratic vision is everybody pays a fair share, and then we make those investments that build the future, in public education, especially community colleges, which are critical to a trained work force for the jobs of the future.'
On the $64 million cost, so far, of the Massachusetts Senate campaign: ‘I have 50,000-plus donors here in the commonwealth, and more than half of the donations are $25 or less; 82 percent are $50 or less. What has happened is that literally tens of thousands of people have made investments in this campaign because they get what's at stake is the direction the country goes. A big part of this is about a lot of people who've made $5 or $15 or $25 investments. I've never seen anything like it.'