Elizabeth Warren Tells Hollywood: "The Game Is Rigged in Congress"

Elizabeth Warren - H 2014
Associated Press

Warren was honored Sunday by the ACLU in Beverly Hills along with Participant's Jim Berk, Cyndi Lauper and Cameron Strang

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, regarded by many progressive Democrats as their party's alternative to Hillary Clinton, told attendees at an ACLU gala in Beverly Hills on Sunday that "economic opportunity is slipping further and further out of reach" for average Americans.

She said bluntly: "We have to face it: The game is rigged in Congress."

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Using the inability to raise the minimum wage nationally, Warren said: "We face a basic question in this country: Who does this government work for? Is government to advance the interests of the rich and the powerful? Does government exercise its power only for those who can hire armies of lobbyists and lawyers? Is it there only to strengthen the strong and enrich the wealthy? Or does government work for all of us?"

In too many instances — whether it's raising the minimum wage or appointing noncorporate lawyers to federal judgeships — the playing field in Washington is tilted against working Americans, Warren said.

Warren was in town to attend the ACLU of Southern California's 91st anniversary Bill of Rights Dinner and to receive the organization's Ramona Ripston Liberty, Justice & Equality Award for her work on behalf of consumers and working families. The accolade is named for the local ACLU chapter's longtime director, who was on hand along with Norman Lear to present the award to Warren.

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Also honored with the organization's Bill of Rights Award for their efforts to further civil liberties were Participant Media CEO Jim Berk; Grammy Award-winner Cyndi Lauper, co-founder of True Colors Fund; Cameron Strang, chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Records and Warner/Chappell Music Publishing; and longtime ACLU board member Marvin Schachter.

"The Bill of Rights Dinner is an important event for the ACLU SoCal because we take time to recognize those individuals who through their work help shape our culture for the better by shining a spotlight on the precious principles of liberty, justice and equality," said Hector Villagra, the group's executive director.

Warren's address was a clear statement of the anti-Wall Street sentiment and economic populism that has made her a darling of the Democrats' progressive wing. That includes many in Hollywood, where she did extensive fundraising for her successful run to unseat the Republican incumbent Scott Brown and recapture the seat long held by Ted Kennedy.

Warren has said several times that she does not plan to run for president in 2016, but segments of the party's progressive left, suspicious of both Hillary's and Bill Clinton's long-standing and friendly relations with many of Wall Street's leading financiers, have been urging her to reconsider. Party regulars — and many of Hollywood's biggest Democratic contributors — already have thrown their support to Hillary, and there is wariness over what a pro-Warren insurgency might do in the run-up to the general election.

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At the very least, a Warren campaign might split the party when it least can afford it, perhaps pushing Clinton to the left at a time when strategists are counting on her centrist record to be an important asset, particularly if the Republicans nominate someone like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz or Kentucky's Rand Paul. Some on the Democratic left still believe that Clinton may founder in the primaries and, if that occurs, would like to see Warren positioned to step in.

In any event, while Hollywood's ties to both of the Clintons are long-standing and strong, there's also a deep reservoir of demonstrated support for Warren.

Warren told The Hollywood Reporter that when she looks out over a Hollywood crowd, she's always struck by the fact they're applauding policies that will end up costing them money.