As it has been with banking, so it is with fishing.
That's the case Elizabeth Warren, the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate argued in a visit to Gloucester Friday, citing both of those fields as arenas in which the rich and powerful are becoming richer and more powerful, thanks to government policies that work against the working class.
In an interview at the Times, Warren cited as an example the way the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration commodified the New England groundfishery in 2010 by careful "gaming" of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act to avoid giving the fishermen a vote on whether they wanted to work in the catch share allocation system prepared by the government.
The referendum requirement was written into the Magnuson reauthorization in 2006. A stakeholders' federal lawsuit filed by the cities of Gloucester and New Bedford challenging Amendment 16, the framework for the catch share system, raises a similar challenge to Warren's, and is now before the First U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston, with oral arguments expected in the fall.
Since the introduction of the catch share system used by fishing cooperatives, equity in the groundfish market has consolidated rapidly with small boat businesses selling out or giving up.
"Hard-working people are getting the short end of the stick," said Warren, a Harvard Law School professor who is locked in a tight contest with Republican incumbent Scott Brown.
"Rules keep favoring those with power and money," said Warren.
She said she saw close parallels between the exertion of influence in the banking and financial sector and the way the fishing industry is being manipulated to favor the powerful.
Warren has been in the center of the financial fight, helping to write into the Dodd-Frank Banking Reform Act a consumer protection agency. Frank had assumed Obama would name Warren to lead it, but, faced with fierce opposition from inside and outside the White House, Obama decided against the nomination.
The presidential uncertainty overlapped Frank's high-profile demand for Obama to oust NOAA administrator Lubchenco who came to office with catch shares as her single issue agenda, and then his withdrawal of his demand.
Warren acknowledged she remains "a student" on fisheries issues.
After winning a special election in 2010 to fill the seat vacated by the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 2009, Brown quickly came to see the fisheries policies championed by Jane Lubchenco, President Obama's choice as NOAA administrator, as weighted against the smaller boats. Brown helped form a coastal, bipartisan, bicameral coalition working easily with Democratic Rep. Barney Frank, the acknowledged leader of the movement. Frank also is Warren's mentor.
Brown has also exposed waste within NOAA and has led the push for accountability. He has repeatedly called for the President to replace Lubchenco, a call that has been made as well by Democrats Frank and Rep. John Tierney, who represents Cape Ann, and Republican Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina.
Brown has also filed and supported legislation to halt the expansion of catch share regimens.
Asked whether she was prepared to fight with President Obama over fisheries policy, should she and the president win their races this fall, Warren said she has already proven her willingnesss to fight the powers that be within her own party during the early days of the financial crisis, when she drew the ire of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
"Have you seen the videos? I don't usually say this, but check out my YouTubes during the financial crisis — I spared no one," Warren asserted. "I don't stand on political parties.
President Obama has endorsed Warren on television, but the Democratic side of the fishing coalition has gotten almost nowhere with the White House.
Warren asserted that her commitment to a fairer national fisheries policy was greater than Brown's.
She recalled that he refused to support a congressional effort to increase the pool of health insurance for Massachusetts fishermen because the funding would be a financial transfer from what Brown had termed "Obama care," the health insurance reform law that became a partisan lightning rod. Warren said that suggested Brown had put "his own ideology ahead of what was good for the fishermen."
Her opinion of NOAA's refusal to fire or punish the past leadership of the federal fisheries law enforcement system, found to have abused their authority in abusing the rights of the boatsmen and shoreshide businesses, was the same as Brown's and the bipartisan congressional coalition that was cheered at the rally in March.
Brown reprised his question first issued during a Senate Homeland Security Committee field hearing in June in Boston.
There and again at the rally he asked, "What does it take to get fired at NOAA?"
At her interview with the Times Friday, Warren said "I am deeply, deeply angry no one was punished."
"That is deeply, deeply wrong," she said.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at email@example.com.