Warren talks crypto, student loans and 2024

THE WARREN REPORT — The first bill Elizabeth Warren introduced in Congress, when she was a “brand new baby senator” in 2013, was to reduce the interest rate on student loans.

A decade of pressure campaigns later, Warren helped convince President Joe Biden to cancel up to $10,000 of federal student debt and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. It was one of her biggest policy wins. Then the Supreme Court blocked it.

“I have no doubt about the president’s legal authority to cancel that debt, so long as the Supreme Court follows the law instead of playing politics,” Warren told Playbook during a sitdown interview at her Capitol Hill office Wednesday.

Warren is ending 2022 at an intriguing juncture. Several issues she’s spent years working on — a corporate minimum tax and over-the-counter hearing aids among them — have come to fruition under Democratic control in Washington. She could leverage those wins to run for president again. Or she could — with Democrats holding the Senate, White House and the governor’s office in Massachusetts come January — make another play for a Cabinet spot. She’s already signaled that she expects to have sway in how progressives and her party as a whole approach the next election.

But Warren is adamant — and “very excited” — that she’s running for reelection in 2024. When Democrats take control of the Senate, she’ll have more power to pursue the types of investigations into corporations that helped make her a household name. And she just unveiled bipartisan legislation to crack down on crypto money laundering, though she’s not telling lawmakers to return the campaign contributions they’ve taken from criminally charged FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried. Here are more excerpts from our interview, edited for length and clarity:

What would your new crypto bill do?

On money laundering, almost everybody follows the same rules — banks, brokerage houses, credit cards, Venmo and Western Union — but not crypto. The consequence is drug dealers, terrorists, ransomware gangs and rogue states like Iran and North Korea can use crypto as a way to move billions of dollars and finance their operations without getting caught. My bill, with [Republican Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.)] is the only bill out there that attacks that problem head-on.

Should lawmakers (like Rep. Jake Auchincloss) who took money from FTX officials give it back?

Crypto is an example of the effort that giant corporations, billionaires have been putting in for years to try to influence legislation here in Washington. … To me, the heart of this is what people are willing to do going forward. Are they willing to step forward and put meaningful regulations in place?

You’ve long had a working relationship with Gov.-elect Maura Healey. Do you expect to have any input in, say, finding a new general manager for the MBTA?

My phone is always open and I’m always glad to be helpful. We talk — I want to put this the right way — it’s more casual than that. She will pick up the phone, she’s done this for years, she picks up the phone and calls me about something that’s going on, I pick up the phone and call her about something that’s going on.

Prospects for further abortion protections in Congress are dim with Republicans taking the House majority. What’s the bigger game plan here?

We need to keep this issue lifted up. That means talk about it. That means shine a light on every terrible thing they try to do, on every effort that states make to further restrict the rights of women to make their own health care decisions. Part of it is [also] pushing the [Biden] administration to do everything that they can, to use every tool.

Should Biden run for reelection? Yes. He is and he should.

Do you expect that he’ll have a primary challenger? I don’t think he will.

Would you run for president again, if the circumstances were right? The circumstances are that Joe Biden is running. I’m very happy about that. I am not running for president, I’m running for Senate.

GOOD THURSDAY MORNING, MASSACHUSETTS. PROGRAMMING NOTE: Tomorrow is the last Playbook of 2022. After the hiatus, your scribe will be back on Jan. 3. Have some newsy nugget tucked away? Now’s the time to send it: [email protected].

TODAY — Gov. Charlie Baker attends the Community Behavioral Health Center opening in East Boston and discusses his administration’s work to expand access to behavioral health services at 10 a.m. Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito chairs a Governor’s Council meeting to address sexual assault and domestic violence at 1:30 p.m. at the State House.

“Baker withdraws Amirault pardon recommendations,” by Shira Schoenberg, CommonWealth Magazine: “In a stunning reversal of a controversial policy recommendation, Gov. Charlie Baker on Wednesday withdrew his recommendation to pardon Gerald Amirault and Cheryl Amirault LeFave, who were convicted in a high-profile child sexual abuse case in the 1980s. ‘Following [Tuesday’s] hearing, it is apparent that there are not sufficient votes from the Governor’s Council to support a pardon for the Amiraults. Therefore, the governor is withdrawing his pardon petition,’ Baker’s press secretary Terry MacCormack said in a statement.”

“Governor’s Council votes to commute life sentence of Ramadan Shabazz, convicted murderer who’s served 51 years,” by Tonya Alanez, Boston Globe: “In an unanimous vote, the Governor’s Council on Wednesday agreed to commute a convicted murderer’s life sentence making him eligible for release after 51 years behind bars for killing two security guards during a robbery at a Dorchester store. The favorable 8-0 decision puts Ramadan Shabazz, 73, one final step away from parole.”

“Advocates question conditions at shelter for migrants and families experiencing homelessness,” by Gabrielle Emanuel, WBUR: “Showers in a tent outdoors. Dozens of cots lined up in tight rows. A chilly draft blowing all night. These are some of the conditions alarming advocates at a new facility set up to help families with children who are experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts. State officials opened the temporary shelter and intake center in Devens earlier this week to help manage a spike in new immigrants and families seeking assistance. … But homeless advocates said they were taken aback when they got their first glimpse Wednesday of conditions inside the temporary shelter. They also raised concerns about who is being sent to the intake center and whether the accommodations are legal.”

“After a record high, overdose deaths may be declining slightly in Massachusetts,” by Martha Bebinger, WBUR: “The record-breaking pace of the opioid overdose crisis may be slowing, according to preliminary numbers from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The agency estimated a 1.5% decrease in overdose deaths through September of this year, compared to the first nine months of 2021. Last year, 2,301 Massachusetts residents died after drug overdoses, a 9.4% increase from 2020. State officials welcomed a decline, even if it is a small one.”

“Higher ed board approves plan doubling financial aid, updating college revenue retention,” by Grant Welker, Boston Business Journal: “The state Board of Higher Education unanimously approved on Tuesday a plan to dramatically increase the amount of state funding for financial aid. Board members hope the initiative will be financed through the state’s newly passed so-called millionaire’s tax.”

“Governor Baker signs executive order establishing cybersecurity threat response team,” by Travis Andersen, Boston Globe: “[Gov. Charlie] Baker’s order establishes the Massachusetts Cyber Incident Response Team, or MA-CIRT, helmed by Curt Wood, the state’s secretary of technology services and security, the governor’s office said in a statement. The group’s mission is to bolster the state’s ability to ‘prepare for, respond to, mitigate against, and recover from’ significant cybersecurity threats, officials said.”

“Taxpayer watchdog group to dissolve,” by Christian M. Wade, Daily News of Newburyport: “Citizens for Limited Taxation, a group founded by fiery Marblehead activist Barbara Anderson that pushed through citizen initiatives on proposition 2 1/2 and a 1986 tax rebate law, plans to dissolve amid fundraising issues, dwindling membership and a lack of new leaders to take over the organization. … [Executive Director Chip] Ford said he is passing on the group’s mantle to the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a tax-exempt watchdog group founded by Republican businessman Rick Green of Pepperell, which CLT has worked with on tax-related issues for several years.”

“Boston City Council unanimously approves reparations study task force,” by Saraya Wintersmith, GBH News: “The Boston City Council Wednesday voted unanimously to establish a five-member task force to explore the issue of reparations for Black Bostonians. The measure, which now goes before Mayor Michelle Wu for review, sets the stage for the city of Boston to participate in the growing national conversation about reparations: on how and who to compensate for the generational impacts of slavery and other racial traumas suffered by Black Americans.”

“Study says Boston schools may face ‘fiscal cliff’,” by Michael Jonas, CommonWealth Magazine: “Boston’s Public School system has weathered a steep decline in student enrollment in recent years without any major fiscal fallout, but that’s due largely to a big infusion of money from the city and COVID relief aid from the federal government. As that aid runs out and enrollment continues to fall, while costs continue to rise, a new report warns, the district faces a ‘potential fiscal cliff.’”

“Redistricting lawsuit is heading to federal court,” by Gintautas Dumcius, Dorchester Reporter: “The legal battle over the recent redrawing of City Council district lines has moved to federal court. South Boston civic groups, joined by some Dorchester and Mattapan residents, are suing over the new map, which carves up Dorchester’s Neponset neighborhood and shifts large parts of District 3 into District 4, saying it violates the city charter, the US Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act.”

“Western, Central Mass. leaders advising Healey argue for regional equity,” by Alison Kuznitz, MassLive: “A contingent of Western and Central Massachusetts leaders, educators and activists believe regional equity should forge the focal point of the incoming administration helmed by Gov.-elect Maura Healey and Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll — neither of whom hail from those areas of the commonwealth, where residents feel routinely forgotten or overlooked by Beacon Hill policymakers.”

“Letter from City Councilor Sean Curran asks Gov.-elect Healey to move a state agency to Springfield,” by Jonah Snowden, MassLive: “In a letter sent last week to a member of Healey’s transition team, [Springfield City Councilor Sean] Curran said it would ‘be a game changer’ for the city if the Department of Transportation, the Division of Insurance or the Executive Office of Health and Human Services relocated here from Boston.”

“Healey, Driscoll tease Mass. community events ahead of inauguration,” by Alison Kuznitz, MassLive: “Five ‘community service-oriented’ events will take place across Massachusetts in the remaining three weeks leading up to the Jan. 5 inauguration, including on the Cape and in the Merrimack Valley, as well in the central, southeastern and western regions of the commonwealth.”

“Attleboro’s mayoral special election set for Feb. 28,” by George W. Rhodes, The Sun Chronicle.

— HAYDEN’S ADVISERS: State Sen. Lydia Edwards and former Boston City Councilor Annissa Essaibi George are among the members of the Transition and Community Advisory Committee that will help guide Suffolk District Attorney Kevin Hayden through the first 100 days of his first full term. Edwards is leading the committee along with Robert Gittens and the Rev. Ray Hammond. Members include Essaibi George, Andrea Cabral, Aisha Miller, Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo, Linda Dorcena Forry, state Sens. Nick Collins and William Brownsberger, Communities of Color’s Darryl Smith and La Colaborativa’s Gladys Vega.

— EYEING NORTHERN IRELAND: Former Rep. Joe Kennedy III is reportedly in the running to be President Joe Biden’s U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, according to IrishCentral. Kennedy’s father, former Rep. Joe Kennedy II, had advocated for the job back in 1993 amid ongoing unrest. A spokesperson for the younger Kennedy didn’t respond to Playbook’s request for comment. The White House didn’t respond to WPRI’s Ted Nesi, either. The Kennedys have a storied history of serving as American diplomats — Caroline Kennedy and Vicki Kennedy are currently serving as the U.S. ambassadors to Australia and Austria, respectively.

“Tom Brady pushed crypto to his fans. This lawyer wants him to pay up,” by Steven Zeitchik and Julian Mark, Washington Post: “When Michael Livieratos saw quarterback Tom Brady in a commercial for the cryptocurrency trading platform FTX, he knew exactly where he wanted to put his $30,000 crypto investment. … [T]he odds of restitution for FTX customers like [Michael] Livieratos are slim. … So Livieratos and his fellow plaintiffs are trying a different approach. Working with Coral Gables, Fla., lawyer Adam Moskowitz, their lawsuit seeks to shift the focus from FTX executives to what Moskowitz sees as a larger circle of complicity that includes some of the world’s most celebrated actors and athletes.”

— RELATED: “Tom Brady hires Latham & Watkins to battle lawsuits tied to FTX crypto fallout,” by Benjamin Kail, Boston Business Journal.

— ALSO RELATED: “Court filing reveals that crypto exec Ryan Salame blew the whistle on FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried,” by Clarence Fanto and Larry Parnass, Berkshire Eagle: “A court filing Wednesday says cryptocurrency executive Ryan Salame, the Sandisfield native who owns a half-dozen Lenox properties, blew the whistle on disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried. … Salame, who was co-CEO of FTX Digital Markets, an affiliated company, informed Bahamian securities regulators in the days before FTX collapsed that Bankman-Fried may have funneled customers’ investments to his hedge fund, Alameda Research, setting the stage for the 30-year-old’s downfall.”

“Dems’ star-power strategy,” by Andrew Solender and Sophia Cai, Axios: “Democrats are on the cusp of picking one of their highest-profile members, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), to lead their defense against Republican investigations on the House Oversight Committee. … Raskin received 30 votes at a meeting of Democrats’ Steering Committee on Wednesday, beating Virginia Rep. Gerry Connolly (19 votes) and Massachusetts Rep. Stephen Lynch (7 votes), according to multiple sources in the room.”

“MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle pledges to visit Springfield to address casino’s failure to deliver on hiring, property development,” by Jim Kinney, Springfield Republican: “MGM Springfield’s building at State and Main streets — 1200 Main St. — still has concrete jersey barriers, a temporary-looking awning over its sidewalk and no signs of life behind its windows. It doesn’t have a boutique hotel as was once the plan. The unfinished development of what was Springfield’s first skyscraper is emblematic, says state Rep. Bud L. Williams, of where MGM Resorts International has failed to meet the promises it made in the years-long quest for its operating license leading up to a lavish, August 2018 grand opening.”

“People leaving Mass., workforce shortages harming state economy, report says,” by Alison Kuznitz, MassLive: “An overwhelming outmigration of Bay Staters, an aging state population and a shrinking number of international college students are among the demographic trends imperiling the economic growth potential and labor market in Massachusetts, a new [Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation] report sent to lawmakers finds.”

SPOTTED — Boston City Council President Ed Flynn and Joe Caiazzo at the Boston Pops’ holiday concert last night.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to former Lynn Mayor Tom McGee, Hannah Sinrich, Keith Moon, Jule Pattison-Gordon and Christopher D. Matthews.

NEW HORSE RACE ALERT: BREAKING THE MASS CEILING — Hosts Lisa Kashinsky, Jennifer Smith and Steve Koczela look at women’s ranks in the Legislature. Boston Herald reporter Sean Cotter talks about how hiring woes could alter the city’s longstanding employee residency requirement. Subscribe and listen on iTunes and SoundCloud.

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