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Warren, Brown and the optics of income tax returns

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Let the name calling begin. The latest salvo in class warfare, Bay State edition , finds Elizabeth Warren trying to shake off the “elitist hypocrite” label bestowed upon her by US Sen. Scott Brown.

As the two candidates jockey over just how many years of tax returns they will release, neither candidate is likely to emerge unscathed in the battle between two people who have the financial security that most voters can only dream of.

Warren’s impulse to release two years of tax returns won’t burnish her image if Brown decides to release six. The Brown campaign has already cannily laid a trap for Warren, who has multiple millions in assets and investments, by asking if she voluntarily paid a higher state tax rate.

Brown doesn’t get off scot free, however. The senator’s barn-coat-pickup-truck-man-of the-people image (and new Southie persona) belies the fact that he, like Warren, also has reported assets that tipped the million dollar mark. When reporters pored over his 2008 financial records, they found that he owned five properties including a time share in Aruba and beach front property in New Hampshire.

The interest in the Warren/Brown tax return episode promises to rival the Mitt Romney-Barack Obama comparative worth contest and provides some important lessons about the political optics of tax returns.  

Dueling tax returns is a fight that Romney, who has already filed for an extension on his 2011 return, is never going to win. When Forbes senior editor-at-large Allan Sloan scanned the Obama and Romney 2010 tax returns, he proclaimed multi-millionaire Republican the loser in the public relations war.

It’s not just Romney’s nearly $22 million in income (and 13.9 percent tax rate) that rankles Sloan. “Politically clueless” is how he describes Romney’s return, which includes “a Swiss bank account and tacky looking tax credits.”  Obama gets a nod for being more “politically astute” for decisions related to his nearly $790,000 income (and 20.5 percent tax rate), including steering nearly $50,000 of his book royalties into retirement instruments.

                                                                                                                        --GABRIELLE GURLEY

BEACON HILL

Steve Crosby, the chairman of the new state gambling commission, wants to delay his panel’s takeover of the state racing industry, saying that added obligation would distract from the focus on getting casinos licensed.

Former Methuen Mayor William Manzi says he will run for the Senate seat vacated by Steven Baddour, dropping plans to run for the post of register of the Northern Essex District Registry of Deeds, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Lowell Sun columnist Peter Lucas rants about women taking over in politics and business and includes the line that even the male tokens on Boston TV news shows now ”act like women.” Ouch!

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Weymouth Mayor Sue Kay has proposed a budget that has no cuts and no layoffs but also does nothing to reduce the town’s $1.9 million deficit.

Beaches were very crowded in Gloucester over the long weekend, but the city didn’t collect any money for parking because an ordinance bars beach staffing until May 1, the Gloucester Times reports.

The Haverhill City Council approves 10 more liquor licenses, bringing the city’s total to 70, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Attleboro mayor Kevin Dumas wants the city to use free cash to pay off the debt of its redevelopment authority.

The new owners of the shuttered Evergreen Solar plant in Devens begin lining up tenants.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Demographics look good for Democrats, in part because the minority vote is increasing and the white middle class is shrinking, Governing reports.

Leslie Gelb handicaps the race for the next Secretary of State in Newsweek. Of Sen. John Kerry, he writes: “According to insiders, President Obama is thinking Kerry would travel a lot and successfully, and interfere least with policymaking.”

Rep. Barney Frank gives an exit interview to New York magazine.

A New Bedford Standard Times article wonders what it takes to get fired at NOAA.

ELECTION 2012

Mitt Romney is facing a big hurdle, reports the Globe: Voters don’t much like him. Maureen Dowd parses the “phony mommy wars.” The Trumps give Ann Romney a Trump-ily understated birthday cake.

For the second straight quarter, Republican Richard Tisei raised more money than US Rep. John Tierney, the Salem News reports.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Keller@Large says it’s hard for Gov. Deval Patrick to argue for any kind of tax hike regardless of who’s paying it.

Author Michael Lewis (Liar’s Poker, The Big Short)  interviews himself in the Daily Beast and urges a boycott of the nation’s biggest banks. Citigroup shareholders reject a $15 million pay package for the company’s CEO, the New York Times reports.

In what’s becoming a comical game of revisions to the revisions, the US Labor Department now says it probably erred last month in downgrading its earlier projection of job growth in Massachusetts.  Which means, if you’re having trouble following this, that we’ve been adding a decent number of jobs after all.  

Coming soon: local craft beers in can.

The Atlantic previews the coming book wars.

EDUCATION

Two of the six finalists for University of Massachusetts Dartmouth chancellor have withdrawn.

After 100,000 people sign up for a free Stanford online class, the professor and a colleague launch a company called Coursera to bring more classes to the masses, NPR reports (via WBUR).

HEALTH CARE

Seven Boston area hospitals are set to take part in a pilot program that allows doctors to apologize for errors and make early settlement offers to try to bring down malpractice costs. CommonWealth has the story, as does the Globe. CommonWealth earlier reported on the Michigan program on which the Massachusetts initiative is based as part of its What Works series of features.

Two new studies show mixed results for the state’s children, and The Berkshire Eagle suggests that more needs to be done to combat abuse and neglect.

Community health centers are falling short, according to a new study.

TRANSPORTATION

Municipal bike-sharing programs are not generating enough revenue to cover costs but most cities seem to be okay with the tradeoff, according to U.S. News & World Report. Globe columnist Derrick Jackson says dedicated bike lanes in Boston and Cambridge are going to take our newly-found urban bicycling mojo to the next level.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the city of Lynn, challenging the legality of an ordinance that bars sex offenders from living within 1,000 feet of a school, park, or recreational facility, the Lynn Item reports. CommonWealth did an in-depth examination of sex offenders and the way the state regulates them in a story called “Society’s Lepers” in its recent issue.

An Easton attorney who is vice chairman of the town’s Planning & Zoning Board is facing a disciplinary hearing for misusing a client’s funds.

MEDIA

Subscribers willing to pay for detailed policy coverage in Washington from Politico Pro, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

Twitter was a big part of the Tuscaloosa News coverage that earned it a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news, Poynter reports.

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