Jonathan Chait

Scott Brown, Still the Fulcrum of American Politics

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:]

Mike Allen turns up one more example of Sen. Scott Brown's outsize influence today:

Brown (R-Mass.) holds the key to yet another bill -- the DISCLOSE act, in response to the Citizens United ruling. Brown is increasingly seen as the make-or-break vote: The path to 60 goes through him. A Democratic aide says: “This, more than any vote he’s taken so far, will prove whether Senator Brown is the independent-minded reformer he has claimed to be.” A letter to Brown from groups supporting the bill: “You can play a pivotal role in enacting strong and effective new campaign finance disclosure laws, which have been made essential by the Citizens United decision.”

This seems like a much closer call for Brown than financial reform, for which he announced his support yesterday. On the one hand, the polling on Citizens United was pretty negative in the immediate aftermath of the decision (which is to say, people didn't want the campaign finance law weakened). On the other hand, Americans have historically not gotten so worked up about campaign finance reform, and I don't see it having the same salience as financial reform in this fall's elections. If I had to guess, knowing nothing about Brown's views on campaign finance, I'd say Brown will oppose the measure, having established his populist bona fides with the financial reform bill. That would fit his general pattern of tacking to the middle on the highest-profile issues while taking care of wealthy interests where he can get away with it. (I described this in my piece on Brown yesterday.) But obviously that's just a guess at this point.

P.S. I should have linked to this blog item by Marty Peretz in my piece. He was first to the Brown party at this publication, and has been absolutely correct, to my mind, in his warnings that Democrats underestimate Brown at their peril.

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