Desperately Seeking Dirt on Warren

Elizabeth Warren's surprise lead in Massachusetts polls only days after she got into the Senate race to oust Republican Scott Brown has thrown GOP operatives off balance.

Their first storyline was that Warren was either a creature of the Beltway or a pointy-headed Harvard professor. Neither seems to be sticking.

On Tuesday, when the Democratic-affiliated polling firm, Public Policy Polling, reported Warren narrowly leading Brown, 46 to 44 among likely voters, Brown spokesman Colin Reed put out a statement contending that "we have always known that Scott would be the underdog against whichever candidate wins the Democratic primary next September."

But this past summer, before Warren enjoyed decent name recognition, Republicans were touting early polls showing Brown leading Warren 53-28, and declaring him a winner.

Now Republicans are putting out the word that there was something duplicitous or corrupt about Warren's leadership of the Congressional Oversight Panel that monitored the Treasury's Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP).

Politico ran a piece this morning headlined, "Warren's TARP Panel under Scrutiny." It quotes a Republican congressman alleging that the panel failed to disclose its own budget, including Warren's own salary; and the authors of the piece rely on undisclosed sources to contend that Warren was cavalier in what she paid her staff.

According to Politico's story,

"For an entity whose purpose was to disclose where government funds went through the bailout, it is very disturbing that they [the oversight panel] did not disclose how they spent the money..." said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a member of the Financial Services Committee who pressed Warren on this issue repeatedly. "It showed more incompetence than anything else. But it raises concerns about how she led that government agency, especially one in terms of getting [the public] disclosure on TARP."

But in fact, the panel's budget and expenditures were disclosed to Congress in several reports that are public record, and its staff salaries were capped at the level of congressional staff. Its total outlays in its more-than-two-year life, as Politico reports, were a paltry $10.5 million. All of the records of the panel, which went out of existence earlier this year, are now on file with the Senate Rules Committee and available for public inspection.

Back before Warren was a political candidate, and she was critical of a TARP bailout program that was extremely unpopular among both Republicans and liberal Democrats, leading GOP figures lavished praise on her. Spencer Bacchus of Alabama, the arch conservative who now chairs the House Financial Services Committee, told Warren when she testified in July of 2009, "This is a panel [COP] that actually is going to end up making the taxpayer some money. Often the consumer, the taxpayer, is not at the table, and I think they were through this panel."

If a sifting of the entrails of Warren's widely acclaimed service as head of the Oversight Panel is the best that Republican spin-meisters can come up with to raise questions about her integrity or competence, they will have pretty slender pickings.

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