Vilifying rival, Wall St. rallies for Senate ally

The New York Times reports: The warning has ricocheted around the financial world in recent weeks, in conversations at Midtown restaurants and Washington fund-raisers, carrying urgent appeals for money from financial executives around the Northeast: The battle to re-elect Senator Scott P. Brown, the Republican from Massachusetts, just got a little more interesting.

“Senator Brown is a free-market advocate who believes that our strength as a nation comes from the ingenuity and hard work of its people,” read an invitation to a fund-raiser at a New Canaan, Conn., country club last week, that circulated among hedge fund and private equity executives. His Democratic opponent, the invitation noted, was all but certain to be the financial industry’s most prominent foe: “big government liberal Elizabeth Warren.”

Mr. Brown, a freshman who harnessed populist Tea Party anger to win the seat once held by Edward M. Kennedy, has taken more money from the financial industry than almost any other senator: all told, more than $1 million during the last two years, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of the 20 companies that accounted for the most campaign donations to Mr. Brown, about half were prominent investment or securities firms like Morgan Stanley, Fidelity Investments and Bain Capital. His donors include such blue-chip names as Gary Cohn, the president of Goldman Sachs, and the hedge fund kings John Paulson and Kenneth Griffin.

Mr. Brown, in turn, has been an important ally at critical moments, using his swing vote in the Senate to wring significant concessions out of Democrats on last year’s financial regulation bill, including helping strip out a proposed $19 billion bank tax and weakening a proposal to stop commercial banks from holding large interests in hedge funds and private equity funds.

But the intensity of his relationship with Wall Street was altered in September, when Mr. Brown got a new opponent: Ms. Warren, a law professor and consumer advocate who has described herself as an intellectual godmother of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Ms. Warren’s relentless manner and withering attacks on predatory lenders have won her enemies from Wall Street to Washington, where as a member of an oversight panel she helped usher in the largest expansion in decades of federal oversight of the financial industry. Now Mr. Brown’s support for the industry — and Ms. Warren’s battles with it — are becoming a defining issue in one of the most hotly contested Senate races and a magnet for special interest money.

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