Elizabeth Warren

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U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Ann Warren (June 22, 1949)[1] is a U.S. senator from Massachusetts and ran for president in the 2020 Democratic primary, ending her candidacy on March 5th, 2020.[2] Warren previously chaired the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was instructed by Congress to "review the state of the financial system and evaluate the regulatory system's effectiveness in overseeing financial markets and protecting consumers."[3] She is also the Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard University, Emerita.[4]

News and Controversies

Dropped Out of Race

After "disappointing performances in 14 Super Tuesday contests as well as a devastating third-place finish in her home state of Massachusetts," Warren exited the race on March 5, 2020.[1]

Super Tuesday

Warren did not finish in the top two of any Super Tuesday state and finished third in her home state of Massachusetts. However, she did receive delegates from several of the fourteen states that voted on March 3.[5]

Fourth-Place Finish in Nevada Caucuses

In the February 22, 2020 Nevada Caucuses, Warren finished fourth, behind Sanders, Biden, and Buttigieg. Only Sanders and Biden finished with greater than 15% of the county delegates in this contest.[6]

Fourth-Place Finish in New Hampshire Primary

In the February 11, 2020 New Hampshire primary, Warren finished fourth, behind Sanders, Buttigieg and Klobuchar. Neither Warren nor Joe Biden broke 10% of the vote, short of the 15% threshold necessary to secure pledged delegates.[7]

Third-Place Finish in Iowa Caucuses

With 96.94% of precincts reporting, Warren placed third in the Iowa Caucuses in both popular vote totals and statewide delegate equivalents, behind Buttigieg and Sanders.[8]

Change of Opinion on Big-Money Fundraisers

During the December 2019 Democratic debate, Warren criticized Pete Buttigieg for a fundraiser he had held in a wine cave with billionaire donors. Warren said "Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States" and also asserted "I do not sell access to my time."[9]

After the debate, Warren drew criticism for admonishing Buttigieg for the same kind of fundraising she had herself used in past political campaigns. As AP News reported, both Warren and Bernie Sanders "have made scorning the big money part of a broader campaign to rid what they say is its corrupting influence in politics. For Sanders, that’s largely been his practice for decades. For Warren, as the Boston event shows, it’s come more recently. She used more than $10 million from her Senate campaign account, some of it raised at large donor events, to help seed her presidential bid, a fact Buttigieg eagerly pointed out."[10]

A Fall 2019 New York Times article highlighted Warren's fundraising shift between her 2018 Senate run and her 2020 presidential run.[11]

Conflict over Sanders's Call Script and His Alleged Comments in Private Meeting

Throughout 2019, Sanders and Warren remained allied, supporting each other in the early debates when attacked on their Medicare for All plans by centrist Democrats.[12]

By January 2020, however, Politico reported that "The nonaggression pact between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren is seriously fraying", highlighting a Sanders campaign script which read: "people who support [Warren] are highly-educated, more affluent people who are going to show up and vote Democratic no matter what... she's bringing no new bases into the Democratic Party."[13]

Warren responded to the news by saying "I was disappointed to hear that Bernie is sending his volunteers out to trash me", while Sanders claimed he had never seen nor approved the memo, saying "I have never said a negative word about Elizabeth Warren who is a friend of mine. We have differences of issues, that’s what the campaign is about, but no one is going to be attacking Elizabeth."[14]

Shortly after the Politico story, CNN reported Sanders had told Warren in a 2018 private meeting that a woman couldn't win the presidency.[15] Sanders denied the claim, while "Warren herself backed up this account of the meeting, saying in part in a statement Monday, 'I thought a woman could win; he disagreed.'"[15]

An article in The Guardian shortly before the January 2020 debate speculated that the Sanders-Warren conflict would help Biden's chances of winning the nomination.[16]

January 2020 Debate

In the January 2020 Democratic debate, hosted by CNN, Sanders's alleged statements in the private meeting came up.[17] Sanders denied the accusation, pointing out that in 2015, he encouraged Warren to run in the Democratic primary and waited for her to decline before announcing his own bid for the presidency. He also reminded viewers that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by over 3 million votes.[18]

Following Sanders's statement, the debate moderator sided with Warren's account of the meeting, framing the next question: "Sen. Warren, what did you think when Sen. Sanders told you a woman could not win the election?" to which Warren responded, "I disagreed".[18]

After the debate, Warren appeared to refuse Sanders's handshake.[17][19] CNN released the audio of the confrontation a day after the debate. Warren said, "I think you called me a liar on national TV", to which Sanders responded, "You know, let's not do it right now. If you want to have that discussion, we'll have that discussion". The two then agreed to meet at another time.[20]

Claims of Native American Heritage and DNA Test

Warren grew up in a family that told her she had Native American ancestry. Between 1986 and 1995, Warren self-identified as a minority in the Association of American Law Schools directory.[21] Both Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania, institutions where she taught, used Warren to highlight the diversity of their teaching staff. However, there is no evidence to suggest Warren self-identified as a minority in an attempt to improve her hiring or college acceptance chances.[21]

Donald Trump has repeatedly denigrated Warren by calling her "Pocahontas"[22] and challenged her to take a DNA test in 2016, promising to donate a million dollars to a charity of her choice if she could prove Native American heritage.[23] Warren did take a DNA test, the results of which were released on October 10, 2018. The test claimed, "We find strong evidence that a DNA sample of primarily European descent also contains Native American ancestry from an ancestor in the sample’s pedigree 6-10 generations ago."[24] On October 15, 2018, Warren released a video where she and her family talked to the geneticist who provided the test results.[25]

The public reaction to the DNA test reveal was largely negative, including from her supporters.[26][27] Many worried pursuing a DNA test showed poor judgment on her part and that she had fallen into a trap set by Trump.[27]

The executive director of Democracy for America, the group behind the 2014 "Run Warren Run" campaign, said about Trump, "The biggest risk in engaging a bully is that bullies don’t usually stop, regardless of what the truth is" and "When you can’t win an argument, then sometimes it’s not worth having that argument."[27]

Warren has since deleted the tweet and video revealing the DNA test results.[28]

At an August 2019 Native American forum, Warren apologized for her past claims of Native heritage and highlighted her policy vision for support of tribal lands and Native American communities.[29]

Record on Foreign Policy

Warren has been criticized by progressives for her record on foreign policy. While she is squarely within the progressive wing of the party on many issues, her record on war and militarism has at times more closely resembled the mainstream position of the Democratic Party establishment.

An In These Times article claimed she "failed to use her powerful position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to challenge the status quo." The article detailed Warren's votes surrounding issues in Venezuela, North Korea, Israel-Palestine, Yemen, and Iran. The article concluded by saying, "Unfortunately, Warren’s track record tells us she will not lead the charge to demilitarize the United States, nor veer very far from the traditional centers of power in the Democratic Party. The fire and passion with which she goes to bat for economic justice issues simply does not apply to the war machine."[30]

During her time as Senator, Warren worked with defense contractors General Dynamics and Raytheon in Massachusetts at the local level, but has not been as involved on the national level.[30][31]


While senator, Elizabeth Warren drew criticism from the left due to a pro-Israel stance on her website that one author claimed "reads as though it was cobbled together from AIPAC memos and the website of the Israeli Foreign Ministry".[32]

In 2014, The Intercept founder Glenn Greenwald accused Warren of sounding like Benjamin Netanyahu when she asserted that Israel had a right to defend itself in response to a question about civilian casualties caused by its attacks on Gaza.[33]

During her presidential run, Warren dismayed right-wing publications for changing her pro-Israel stance. As The Federalist notes, "In 2014, Warren defended the right of the Israeli military to shoot at rocket launchers in self-defense against Hamas, even if Hamas placed those rocket launchers in Palestinian hospitals and schools. Now she is hiring those who admire Hamas."[34] During her presidential campaign, she has hired an organizer[34] and been endorsed by a politician[35] perceived by right-wing media outlets as too critical of Israel.

Commentary on the Plight of the Middle Class

Warren has written about the plight of the middle class. In her widely-circulated post, America Without a Middle Class[36], she wrote,

The crisis facing the middle class started more than a generation ago. Even as productivity rose, the wages of the average fully-employed male have been flat since the 1970s. But core expenses kept going up. By the early 2000s, families were spending twice as much (adjusted for inflation) on mortgages than they did a generation ago -- for a house that was, on average, only ten percent bigger and 25 years older. They also had to pay twice as much to hang on to their health insurance. [. . .] While the middle class has been caught in an economic vise, the financial industry that was supposed to serve them has prospered at their expense. Consumer banking -- selling debt to middle class families -- has been a gold mine. Boring banking has given way to creative banking, and the industry has generated tens of billions of dollars annually in fees made possible by deceptive and dangerous terms buried in the fine print of opaque, incomprehensible, and largely unregulated contracts.

During a 2010 appearance on The Daily Show, Warren said, "This is America's middle class. We've hacked at it and chipped at it and pulled on it for 30 years now. And now there's no more to do. Either we fix this problem going forward or the game really is over."[37]

Forewarning About 2007 Financial Crisis

According to Politifact, Warren repeatedly warned of an impending financial crisis in blog posts and interviews throughout the early 2000s as well as in her 2003 book.[38] In a 2004 interview, she commented on risky mortgage lending practices, saying, "I think what the landscape shows is the middle class is under assault in a way that has not happened before in our history... Stagnant wages, rising costs, wildly rising debt. It's in everyone's interest to turn that back around."[38]

Political Stances

Warren's political stances place her squarely in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.[39][40] They have been described as "a coordinated systematic attack on accumulated political and economic power."[41] She favors eliminating student loan debt and advocates for free public college. She also supports paid family and medical leave, the Green New Deal,[42] and Medicare for All.[43] She co-sponsored Bernie Sanders's 2019 Medicare for All Act with fourteen other Democratic senators.[44]

Taxation of the Corporations and the Top 0.1%

Wealth Tax to Fund Higher Education

Warren has proposed a tax on the top 0.1% of Americans, which her campaign describes as follows: "The Ultra-Millionaire Tax taxes the wealth of the richest Americans. It applies only to households with a net worth of $50 million or more-roughly the wealthiest 75,000 households, or the top 0.1%. Households would pay an annual 2% tax on every dollar of net worth above $50 million and a 3% tax on every dollar of net worth above $1 billion".[45]

Because Warren claims her wealth tax would generate over $2.75 trillion in ten years,[45] she argues it could easily pay for the cancellation of $640 billion worth of student debt and universal free public college.[46]

Corporate Profits Tax

Warren has also proposed to tax corporations at 7% for every dollar of profit they make above $100 million. In the explanation of this proposal, she identified that "some of the biggest corporations in the country make huge profits but pay zero federal corporate income taxes on those profits" and also showed concern that "In a recent eight-year period, 25 big companies alone claimed $286 billion in tax breaks. And that was before the Republican tax bill slashed the corporate tax rate and handed hundreds of billions of dollars more to corporations."[47] According to Warren's campaign, this tax would bring in an estimated $1 billion in revenue.[47]

Policy Proposals

Many sources have highlighted the breadth and depth of Warren's policy proposals. News articles throughout 2019 claimed "she’s offering the most detailed proposals on the widest swath of issues",[48] she "has Trump’s penchant for bold ideas that go beyond party orthodoxy, and Obama’s focus on detail",[49] and "the sheer volume of her plans, and their detail and variety, is forcing her rivals to play catch-up and stake out their own positions."[50]


National Polling Average

According to data collected by FiveThirtyEight, Elizabeth Warren has fluctuated between second and third in national polling average, behind Joe Biden and competing with Bernie Sanders for second place. Her peak national average was 23.7% on October 16, 2019. In late November, Sanders began to overtake Warren in national polling and he remained in second place throughout December 2019 and January 2020.[51]

In January 2020, Warren averaged around 15% in national polling.[51]

In mid-February 2020, Michael Bloomberg overtook Warren and she fell to fourth place in national polling average.[51]

Early State Polling Averages

According to FiveThirtyEight, Warren's polling average of 14.5% in Iowa had her in fourth place on February 3, 2020, the day of the state's caucuses. Between early October and mid-November 2019, Warren had led in average Iowa polling, peaking at 23.7%.[52]

In New Hampshire, the second state to vote, Warren's polling average of 13.7% has her in third place, behind Sanders and Biden. In New Hampshire, Warren led in polling average between late-September and early November 2019, peaking at 26.9% in the state.[53]

In Nevada and South Carolina, the following scheduled voting states, Warren's polling resembles her national polling: a fight for second place with Sanders throughout fall and winter 2019, then settling into third place by late 2019/early 2020.[54] [55] However, polling data for these states has not been updated since mid-November for Nevada and mid-December for South Carolina.


Fourth-Quarter Fundraising

According to Warren's campaign, she raised $21.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2019, reaching a total of nearly 1,000,000 unique donors. This number put her in fourth place in Q4 fundraising, behind Sanders, Biden, and Buttigieg. The campaign and media outlets showed concern that the Q4 fundraising total had underperformed Warren's Q3 fundraising total of $24.6 million.[56][57]

In the fourth quarter, the average donation to Warren's campaign was $23.[58]

Core Financials

From the Federal Election Commission as of February 2020:[59]

  • Total raised: $93,028,094.84
  • Total spent: $90,728,114.74
  • Cash on hand: $2,299,980.10

Source of Funds

As of September 2019:[60] (percentages may not add up to 100)

Contribution Size Amount Percentage of Total
Large contributions $33,014,242 35.70%
Small individual contributions (< $200 $48,480,592 52.43%
Other (transfer from 2018 Senate fundraising)[11] $10,566,110 11.42%
Candidate Self-Financing $405,778 0.44%

Top Contributors

From Open Secrets:[61] "The money came from the organizations' PACs; their individual members, employees or owners; and those individuals' immediate families".[61] (Only top 15 contributors shown)

Contributor Amount
Alphabet Inc (parent company of Google) $305,754
University of California $293,332
Harvard University $143,534
Microsoft Corp $103,920
Amazon $102,708
Apple Inc $100,838
US Government $84,095
Kaiser Permanente $66,710
AT&T, Inc. $65,658
City of New York, NY $65,330
IBM Corp $64,459
Massachusetts Institute of Technology $62,684
State of California $59,372
City University of New York $58,478
Columbia University $58, 357

Expenditures Breakdown

From Open Secrets:[62]

Type Amount Percentage of total
Salaries $14,488,288 42.21%
Media $7,916,488 23.06%
Administrative $4,915,687 14.32%
Fundraising $3,361,789 9.79%
Unclassifiable $2,771,969 8.07%
All Other $870,960 2.53%
Top Vendors/Recipients

From Open Secrets:[62]

Recipient Amount
Complete Payroll Solutions $4,002,534
Google Inc $1,672,183
ActBlue $1,584,961
FII Marketing $1,490,132
Blue State Digital $1,065,972
UnitedHealth $1,064,695
Bully Pulpit Interactive $894,372
Production Management One $833,053
Facebook Inc $805,420
Action Mailers $532,902
Perkins Coie $483,034
Twitter $416,129

Outside Spending in Favor of Warren

As described by OpenSecrets, "Organizations and individuals looking to do more than just write a check to their favorite candidates can spend unlimited money-- independently-- to buy ads, send mail or otherwise advocate for the election or defeat of specific candidates. Corporations, labor unions and ideological groups may also spend directly on these activities as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. They cannot coordinate with candidates or parties."[63]

Committee Amount in Support of Warren
Democracy for America $10,000

Outside Spending Opposing Warren

Taken from OpenSecrets:[63] (Only expenditures above $5,000 shown)

Committee Amount Opposing Warren
Committee to Defend the President $7,025
Great America PAC $6,105


As of February 2020, Warren was third in endorsements behind Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg, according to FiveThirtyEight's endorsement tracker. The prediction website ranks endorsements based on their position within the party. For example, former presidents and vice presidents are worth 10 points, governors are worth 8 points, U.S. senators are 6 points, and U.S. representatives are 3 points.[64]

Warren's notable endorsements include Julián Castro, who announced his support shortly after ending his own presidential bid on January 2, 2020.[65]

Warren has also been endorsed by U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley, one of the members of "The Squad", made up of "four progressive Democratic congresswomen of color who have become the new face of the Democratic Party, whether you like it or not."[66] Pressley's Warren endorsement broke ranks with her fellow "Squad" members, who have all endorsed Bernie Sanders.[67]

On January 19, 2020, the editorial board of The New York Times endorsed both Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar as the Democratic choices for president. Its endorsement statement read in part: "Senator Warren is a gifted storyteller. She speaks elegantly of how the economic system is rigged against all but the wealthiest Americans, and of 'our chance to rewrite the rules of power in our country,' as she put it in a speech last month. In her hands, that story has the passion of a convert, a longtime Republican from Oklahoma and a middle-class family, whose work studying economic realities left her increasingly worried about the future of the country. The word 'rigged' feels less bombastic than rooted in an informed assessment of what the nation needs to do to reassert its historic ideals like fairness, generosity and equality."[68]


  • 1970: B.S. in speech pathology, University of Houston[1]
  • 1976: J.D., Rutgers Law School


Elizabeth Warren has written over eight books and more than a hundred scholarly articles dealing with credit and economic stress. The Two-Income Trap and All Your Worth, were both on national best seller lists.

According to a 2010 CNN profile, "The National Law Journal has repeatedly named Professor Warren as one of the Fifty Most Influential Women Attorneys in America, and SmartMoney Magazine designated her one of the SmartMoney 30 for 2008. She was also one of eight law professors to be named on the Leading Lawyers in America list compiled by Law Dragon."[69]

In 1995, Warren became the adviser to the chairman of the National Bankruptcy Commission. She then led "Congress’s oversight of the big bank bailout that took place in the final months of the George W. Bush administration".[41] As described by Encyclopaedia Brittanica, "It was as the chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), the body authorized under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act to rescue foundering American financial institutions in 2008, that Warren became a national figure. She then championed the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was established under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act."

In 1981, Warren secured a temporary job teaching bankruptcy law at the University of Texas[70] Between 1992 and 1993, Warren served as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and became a permanent employee there in 1995.[4]

Warren originally did not want to be involved in politics because she worried it would create bias in her research. She was a registered Republican until 1996, when she went to Capitol Hill.[70] As Warren describes, "I quickly discovered that every single Republican was on the side of the banks and half the Democrats were... But whenever there was someone who would stand up for those working families, it was a Democrat."[70]

Congressional Oversight Panel

Elizabeth Warren on COP February report.

The Congressional Oversight Panel, which Warren chaired, was created to oversee the expenditure of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds authorized by Congress in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (EESA) and to provide recommendations on regulatory reform.

"The Panel is empowered to hold hearings, review official data, and write reports on actions taken by Treasury and financial institutions and their effect on the economy. Through regular reports, the Panel must oversee Treasury's actions, assess the impact of spending to stabilize the economy, evaluate market transparency, ensure effective foreclosure mitigation efforts, and guarantee that Treasury's actions are in the best interests of the American people. In addition, Congress instructed the Panel to produce a special report on regulatory reform that analyzes 'the current state of the regulatory system and its effectiveness at overseeing the participants in the financial system and protecting consumers." The Panel issued this report in January 2009. Congress subsequently expanded the Panel's mandate by directing it to produce a special report on the availability of credit in the agricultural sector. The report was issued on July 21, 2009."[71]

The Congressional Oversight Panel was dissolved in 2011.[72]

Consumer Financial Protection Agency

Elizabeth Warren discussing the CFPA

The idea for a Consumer Financial Protection Agency originated[73] with Elizabeth Warren, Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel overseeing the U.S. banking bailout. In a 2007 article in Democracy, Warren wrote,

"It is impossible to buy a toaster that has a one-in-five chance of bursting into flames and burning down your house. But it is possible to refinance an existing home with a mortgage that has the same one-in-five chance of putting the family out on the street... Similarly, it’s impossible to change the price on a toaster once it has been purchased. But long after the papers have been signed, it is possible to triple the price of the credit used to finance the purchase of that appliance ... The difference between the two markets is regulation."[73]

After detailing various ways that the financial industry fleeces consumers, she concluded by calling for a Financial Product Safety Commission that would "establish guidelines for consumer disclosure, collect and report data about the uses of different financial products, review new financial products for safety, and require modification of dangerous products before they can be marketed to the public."[73]

Campaign Media

Campaign website: Warren For President
Facebook: @ElizabethWarren
Twitter (presidential campaign account): @ewarren
Twitter (senate account): @SenWarren
Youtube: Elizabeth Warren

Related SourceWatch

External resources

  • Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law, Emerita, in Harvard Faculty Directory.

External articles


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