Brown blasts women’s group

Calls it a pawn of his opponents

By Theo Emery
Globe Staff / April 30, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Senator Scott P. Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, yesterday accused the League of Women Voters of being a “pawn’’ of his critics after the nonpartisan group aired a television advertisement attacking him for a vote to weaken the Environmental Protection Agency.

The dispute stems from an ad sponsored by the group that began airing on Boston television stations yesterday. It features a young girl wearing a face mask and struggling to breathe and accuses Brown of siding with polluters when he voted earlier this month to strip the EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. The group aired a similar ad yesterday aimed at Democrat Claire McCaskill in her home state of Missouri.

“Scott Brown should protect the people. Not the polluters,’’ the ad concludes.

The organization, founded in 1920, presents itself as a nonpartisan arbiter and is well known for its sponsorship of candidate debates.

Brown was sharply critical of the group, saying the spot “reeks of political demagoguery and exposes the League of Women Voters as nothing more than a pawn in the Massachusetts political machine.’’

“It is outrageous for an allegedly nonpartisan group to use sick children to misrepresent a vote about jobs and government overregulation. These type of over-the-top distortions have no place in our political discourse,’’ he said in a statement.

Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League of Women Voters, defended the spots, saying they were intended “to spark a discussion about votes that let polluters off the hook and put our children at risk.’’

“It’s really a shame that Senator Brown does not understand that clean air is a public health issue,’’ she said in a written response to Brown.

Brown and McCaskill, the only senators targeted, are both up for reelection in 2012. The spots have the appearance of issue ads that typically pop up during campaigns. The ad buy is significant, costing over $1 million, and is slated to run on Boston television stations. MacNamara said in a previous interview that the ads were not attacking Brown or McCaskill as individuals and were not connected to their upcoming elections.

Boston University journalism professor Fred Bayles said he was surprised to learn of the ads from a group that typically isn’t known for its advocacy.

“It strikes me as sort of odd,’’ Bayles said. “And even though it’s bipartisan in the sense that they go after a Republican and a Democrat, it’s still political.’’

The ad targeting Brown is in response to an April 6 vote in which 50 senators, including Brown, voted in favor of a budget amendment that would have taken away the EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse cases. The measure needed 60 votes to pass.

MacNamara said that the group also ran ads related to the vote on the Affordable Care Act, the health care overhaul legislation passed last year, and that the group had a long-standing commitment to the Clean Air Act.

“It’s incredibly important that the people of Massachusetts and the people of Missouri have the facts about what the implications are of their senators’ votes,’’ she said.

Brown spokesman Colin Reed said Brown is willing to work with both parties on environmental policy but opposes giving the EPA power to impose what Reed called “new regulatory burdens on American businesses.’’

“Higher energy prices, more red tape, and bureaucracy will kill jobs, and that is the last thing we need during these challenging economic times,’’ Reed said in a statement.

Theo Emery can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @temery.