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As the race between Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican challenger Scott Brown heats up, the attacks are growing more intense. In a recent radio ad, Shaheen accused Brown of being too friendly with Wall Street when serving as a senator from neighboring Massachusetts from 2010 to 2012.
Here’s the 60-second ad’s narration:
"Wonder why Scott Brown lost re-election in Massachusetts? Well, he was working for Wall Street, not the people. Scott Brown blocked a major financial reform bill until he could water it down and save Wall Street $19 billion. Scott Brown really delivered for Wall Street, said the Boston Globe. Even after the bill passed, news reports show Brown was ‘secretly serving the interests of Wall Street, working behind the scenes to help the big banks, not consumers.’
"Wall Street thanked Scott Brown by giving him more campaign contributions than any other candidate -- $5.3 million. Now, Scott Brown wants New Hampshire to send him to Washington. Wall Street’s once again spending millions to help. Scott Brown says he really cares about New Hampshire. Come on, don’t be fooled. No matter where he lives, Scott Brown will always put Wall Street first. And that’s good for Scott Brown, but not New Hampshire."
That’s a lot to chew on.
PolitiFact New Hampshire already checked a claim by a pro-Shaheen group that Brown’s actions had saved "big banks $19 billion in taxes," rating it Mostly False.
But what about the ad’s claim that "Wall Street" gave him "more campaign contributions than any other candidate -- $5.3 million"? We decided to take a closer look.
The Shaheen campaign pointed us to calculations by the Center for Responsive Politics, whose opensecrets.org website tracks a wide variety of campaign-finance data. It’s a trusted source that we’ve used many times in the past.
The Shaheen campaign’s $5.3 million figure refers to how much Brown received in the 2012 campaign cycle -- when he lost his seat to Democrat Elizabeth Warren -- from donors categorized as being part of the finance, insurance and real estate sector.
Their dollar figure is correct -- as is Brown’s No. 1 ranking among all Senate candidates for donations from that sector -- but Shaheen’s ad stretches a bit when it calls this "Wall Street." Most "finance" firms have a reasonable claim on being part of Wall Street, but a lot of the insurance and real-estate sectors fall outside that category. Also, not everyone working at these firms is a financial mogul, but their individual donations still count towards the total.
So we decided to drill down a little deeper.
We found a few sub-categories of "finance/insurance/real estate" that are a closer fit to "Wall Street." They include:
• Securities and investment: Brown ranked first among Senate candidates in the 2012 campaign cycle with $2,682,872.
• Private equity and investment firms: Brown ranked first with $556,092 in donations.
• Hedge funds: Brown ranked first with $306,800 in donations.
• Venture capital: Brown ranked first with $262,081 in donations.
This provides support for the notion that Brown ranked No. 1 in these types of donations. But he ranked a little lower in two other categories:
• Finance and credit companies: Brown ranked ninth with $54,450 in donations.
• Commercial banks: Brown ranked third with $297,539 in donations.
Meanwhile, Brown’s total haul from these six categories was about $4.2 million, or about one-fifth lower than what the ad said.
This is not the first time that Shaheen’s campaign has used somewhat loose language in describing Brown’s donors. When a previous Shaheen ad claimed that "Big Oil gave Scott Brown $454,260," we rated that claim Half True, noting that only about 11.5 percent of Brown’s haul came from companies and individuals affiliated with the biggest multinational companies -- what most viewers would consider "Big Oil."
When we contacted Brown’s staff, spokeswoman Elizabeth Guyton said, "Scott Brown’s fundraising is no different than Jeanne Shaheen’s in that they both accept contributions from the financial services industry. The only difference is that Jeanne Shaheen is hypocritically attacking him for it."
However, in the 2012 election cycle -- when Brown was receiving $5.3 million from the finance/insurance/real estate sector -- Shaheen accepted just $64,139 from the same sector, ranking 65th among all Senate candidates. In the current cycle, she has accepted $565,935 from the finance/insurance/real estate sector, ranking her 21st among Senate candidates.
Shaheen’s ad said that in 2012, "Wall Street" gave Scott Brown "more campaign contributions than any other candidate -- $5.3 million."
If you put together six categories that might reasonably be considered "Wall Street," Brown received about $4.2 million in all, and he finished first among Senate candidates in four of those six categories. However, the total amount is short of the $5.3 million claimed in the ad.
The statement is generally accurate but needs clarification or additional information, so we rate it Mostly True.
Jeanne Shaheen for Senate, transcript of "Fooled" (radio ad), accessed Sept. 19, 2014
Center for Responsive Politics, finance/insurance/real estate main page, accessed Sept. 19, 2014
PolitiFact New Hampshire, "Pro-Democratic PAC says Scott Brown 'delivered for Wall Street, saving big banks $19 billion in taxes,'" Feb. 11, 2014
PolitiFact New Hampshire, "Jeanne Shaheen says 'Big Oil' gave Scott Brown $454,260," Sept. 5, 2014
Email interview with Harrell Kirstein, spokesman for Jeanne Shaheen, Sept. 19, 2014
Email interview with Elizabeth Guyton, spokeswoman for Scott Brown, Sept. 19, 2014
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