The Washington Post published a report late Wednesday night in which the venerable newspaper walked readers through a list of past cases that Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a lawyer, worked on while she was simultaneously teaching law as a professor at Harvard. It was weird all the way around.
The article focused on a list of 56 cases that Warren lent her expertise to in the past. The entire framing used by the Post sets up the story to seem like a big gotcha scoop, although Warren’s campaign had released information about the cases on its website on Wednesday.
The Post’s story also aimed to contextualize the sparse notes the campaign afforded each case, with the end goal seemingly being a pseudo-condemnation of Warren’s client list and high wages. Take the lede, which makes a point to highlight the Massachusetts senator’s hourly rate:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren worked on more than 50 legal matters during her career as a professor at Ivy League law schools, charging as much as $675 an hour to advise a variety of clients, from people with asbestos disease to a corporation facing possible liability over ruptured breast implants.
Am I shocked to discover that lawyers employed as professors by Harvard University fetched a higher wage than I could ever dream to make? No, not particularly.
As the piece progresses, it steadily lays out a list of corporate clients that Warren took on. While this is a useful practice, the execution feels a tad off, given the period it covers is not properly contextualized to consider Warren’s own political evolution. (One month ago, Politico dropped a massive feature on Warren’s movement from diehard conservative to leftie hero.)
That said, it’s tough to go to bat for either side here.
Per that Politico report, Warren switched parties in 1996. But Warren seems to have happily taken hefty payouts from massive corporations well into the early 2000s. This included clients like LTV Steel. In that case, Warren was opposite currently embattled AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who was then representing a mine workers union seeking millions in healthcare funding for retired miners. While it’s her right and her prerogative to cash in on an expensive law degree, there’s not a lot of goodwill building to be had from working for Big Steel or Getty Oil or companies like Travelers Insurance, which employed Warren to help them dodge liability for victims of asbestos.
Again, this is all pretty weird—the Post can’t seem to decide between a straight writeup and a fairly justified hit piece, and Warren’s current reputation as a working class champion does seem at odds with her not-so-distant professional past. But neither side seems to know how they want to handle it, so instead it’s left to readers to figure out just what the hell it all means.