The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/23/12
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thanks, man. Thanks, Ed. I appreciate it.
ED SCHULTZ, “THE ED SHOW” HOST: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour.
In 2008, when they held the first “the pill kills” rally, that`s the
birth control pill they are talking about, as you can tell over that. When
they held the first one, the first pill kills rally was organized around
the theme of “the pill kills babies”. That was the first year.
They said if you are taking birth control pills, you are killing
babies. That was 2008, the first year they did it.
In 2009, they kept “the pill kills” as their theme, but they changed
the theme for that year to specifically `the pill kills women”. So, if you
take birth control pills, you are killing women. That was their theme in
Then, in 2010, in their third year, it`s kind of hard to go to a new
theme after you`ve said the pill kills babies and the pill kills women.
But in their third year, they decided to say that the pill kills the
environment? If you take birth control pills you are cutting down rain
forests with your womb or whatever. So, that was 2010.
Then, last year, where do you go after that? A new idea for them, new
direction for them. Last year, they decided that the pill kills marriage.
If you take birth control pills, you`re just as bad as the gays? I don`t
know, because the gays kill marriage in other ways, but not with birth
I mean, if you think about it, the gay is specifically not with birth
control. That`s kind of the deal. But now, the anti-contraception forces
at the American Life League after saying last year that the pill kills
marriage, having gone through the pill kills babies, the pill kills women,
the pill kills the environment, now they are planning their fifth annual
the pill kills event.
What is going to be the theme this year? What does the pill kill this
year? They`ve already done the pill kills babies, women, the environment,
marriage – what is the fifth year going to be, for their fifth annual?
Yes, it turns out they are getting lazy. This year`s theme, the pill kills
women and babies. They are just recycling their old themes.
This means in year six, it`s going to be the pill kills the
environment and marriage, whatever else they have left over.
Look for the anti-contraception, be afraid of birth control crusaders
on June 2nd this year outside of whatever facility near you dispenses birth
control, if there`s a facility near you like that still. If you live in
Republican-controlled state, there`s a pretty chance your Republican state
legislature and your Republican governor have at least tried to cut off the
funding for whatever organization dispenses birth control in your
The anti-contraception agenda on the right is not a myth. I mean, I
did not have this sign designed and printed out, right? This exists.
And it has been around for a while. And not even what you can call
the far edge of anti-abortion politics. I mean, in any other movement, you
would call the pill kills guys, you would call these guys the far right
militant fringe. But in the anti-abortion movement, that territory is
taken. The militant fringe in the anti-abortion movement is actually the
part of that movement that kills people and blows up clinics and stuff.
So, the anti-contraception people, you can`t even consider them to be
the fringe. But compared to mainstream American politics, they are – I
guess we can call them on the edge, 99 percent of women say they will use
birth control at some point in their life. So, the people who think it is
murder are nowhere near a mainstream position.
But they are well-organized and they are well-funded. They are
increasingly visible and determined. And these guys are starting to have a
real big effect in Republican politics, kind of all of a sudden.
All of the federal and state level proposals to restrict people`s
access to contraception through their insurance plans, the defunding of the
clinics through which uninsured people and poor people and lots of other
people get their contraception, one of the main Republican candidates for
president saying that as president, he would tell the country about the
dangers of contraception as Rick Santorum said. I mean, this is not
something the Democrats have made up about the Republican agenda.
Republicans are really doing this stuff. Part of the conservative movement
has been pushing them to do it, right?
I mean, in Beltway political calculus, it doesn`t make sense that a
group with a position like this, a position so far outside the mainstream
that it could never pay off in electoral terms, it doesn`t make sense when
the Beltway thinks about these things that a group like this could have any
sway over politicians. That they`d be able to persuade politicians to take
on their deeply, deeply unpopular, super radical view on public policy –
but it keeps happening on the right, particularly around social issues like
I mean, it`s not just the contraception issue. It`s also this – this
was a tour organized last year in the great state of Mississippi designed
to persuade people that if you are raped and the rape causes you to become
pregnant, it`s the proper role of government to force you, to force you, to
force you, the rape victim, to go through with the pregnancy and give birth
by order of the state.
That is a pretty radical new idea of really big government, right? I
mean, a government big enough and intrusive enough to take over the
decision making process from a rape victim and her family as to what she is
allowed to do to her own body to deal with the consequences of having been
raped. That is a very big government idea. That is not a very mainstream
I mean, for decades, even as the Republican Party has become more
draconian and uniformly against abortion rights, even radically anti-
abortion Republicans have at least said that there ought to be exemptions
for rape or incest, right? They at least said women who are raped, or
women who are the victims of incest should be left alone. They should be
allowed to do what they want. The government shouldn`t force something on
those women in particular even if they think the government is going to
force something on everybody else.
But what was for mainstream – what was for decades mainstream in
Republican thought is no longer mainstream in Republican thought anymore.
I mean, what had been a very fringe view in the anti-abortion movement, in
2008, was the view of the Republican Party`s nominee for vice president,
Sarah Palin. She did not believe in exemptions for rape and incest.
The “force rape victims to bear the child” position was also taken up
by five candidates for United States Senate in the next round of elections
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do you feel about abortion? Are you for
abortion, against abortion, are you for it? In what instances would you
allow for abortion?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m pro-life. And I`ll answer the next question.
I don`t believe in the exemptions of rape or incest.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any reason at all for an abortion?
SHARRON ANGLE (R), FORMER NEVADA SENATORIAL CANDIDATE: Not in my
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be
ANGLE: You know, I`m a Christian. I believe that God has a plan and
a purpose for each one of our lives. He can intercede in all kinds of
situations. So, we need to have a little faith in many things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Of the five Republican senate candidates in 2010 who did not
believe in exemptions for rape and incest in terms of wanting to make
abortion a criminal offense, of those five Senate candidates, of course,
four of them – Joe Miller, Christine O`Donnell, Ken Buck and Sharron Angle
– lost their U.S. Senate races even in that very Republican year.
But one of those five U.S. senate candidates did get elected. Rand
Paul did elected, in part on the strength of his forced rape victims to
give birth policy position. You can still see him online bragging about
wanting to force rape victims to carry the child that is the result of the
pregnancy conceived in rape to term. You can still see him bragging about
that on his Web site.
But it`s not just at the federal level. In the states, the basic
principle of making sure that rape victims and incest victims are forced by
the state to give birth if the rape or incest caused them to become
pregnant, that basic principle also extends to the new restrictions that
Republicans are putting on abortion rights.
So, it used to be that, you know, yes, maybe, Republicans are going to
insist on some new waiting period, or medically unnecessary procedure they
were going to force you to have or some lecture that you have to sit
through written by politicians, or some other humiliating and time-
consuming and expensive process designed to make it really difficult for
you to get an abortion, even though technically it`s still legal – it used
to be that those laws in the states also had exemptions for victim that
were raped or victims of incest.
If you were pregnant because you were raped, then maybe you wouldn`t
have to see the same doctor three times or go through the waiting period or
sit through the lecture, whatever it was. There used to be exemptions even
for those kinds of restrictions. Not anymore.
Now rape victims are going to be put through the same rigmarole that
they`re putting everybody else through to make abortions almost impossible
in the states.
That was true when New Hampshire Republicans went for a new waiting
period to exercise your abortion rights this year.
It was true when Georgia Republicans went to move up the time frame,
after which abortion is banned in Georgia.
In Virginia, the forced ultrasound bill that gave Bob McDonnell his
national nickname, that one, after much debate, they decided you could be
exempted from having the state force the medically unnecessary ultrasound
on you if you were a rape victim. But – asterisks – only if you reported
that rape to the police, because otherwise it might not be real enough
In Indiana, Republicans invade against the rape and incest loophole.
In Idaho, a Republican state senator said if a woman brings a, quote,
“rape issue” to her physician, he hopes the physician will ask her about
But I defy you to draw a line on this issue between the fringe and the
mainstream. Where do fringe politics on this issue stop and the mainstream
begins? Because what started with Sarah Palin`s position in 2008 and those
far right Senate candidate positions in the next election in 2010 and what
has been working its way through all these Republican controlled states in
the last couple of years, has now totally taken over Republican
That conceived in rape tour I was talking about a moment ago, that was
part of the campaign to pass a personhood constitutional amendment in
Mississippi last year. A personhood amendment would ban all abortion and
likely ban hormonal contraception in the state.
And we`re not just talking about banning hormonal contraception.
We`re just not talking about banning all abortion, we`re talking about
banning all hormonal contraception and banning all abortion, including for
women who have been raped and/or who are the victims of incest.
All of the Republican presidential candidates this year, all these
four at least signed on to the personhood position in this election cycle.
When Rick Perry was in the race – remember him? He`s always been
anti-abortion but he has believed in an exemption for rape and incest for a
long time. He made on the hustings a public conversion on the rape and
incest issue while campaigning in Iowa this year, saying that when he
watched one of Mike Huckabee`s anti-abortion DVDs, he decided that had rape
and incest victims should also be forced to give birth by the state.
Is there no anti-abortion position that is too fringe, that is too
extreme for mainstream Republican politics anymore? I mean, this stuff is
in presidential politics now. Is there nothing that is too extreme? Is
there nothing that they think might cost them at the ballot box?
It turns out that`s an open question. And it is a very interesting
one. Did you see this today? This is incredible.
Governor ultrasound, Bob McDonnell, the governor of Virginia,
obviously, really, really, really wants to be vice president. He`s about
to start running pro-Bob McDonnell ads even though he`s technically not
running for office. He`s term limited for running for governor again in
But he`s now starting to run ads for himself? So, what are you
running for? He seems to be running for vice president. And as such, he`s
got to try to drop the nickname “governor ultrasound”.
He had just signed into law the forced ultrasound bill. When he was a
state legislature he sponsored 35 different restriction abortion bills.
And as “The Washington Post” reports today, for all 20 years of his career
in public office, he has been one of a kind of fringe radical edge of the
anti-abortion movement people who didn`t believe in rape and incest
In 1999, here`s Bob McDonnell`s questionnaire from something called
Project Vote Smart. Abortion should not be legal when the pregnancy
resulted from rape or incest. The government should force you to give
birth if you get pregnant because you are raped. That was Bob McDonnell`s
public position on this issue. Even when most Republicans didn`t believe
that, he believed that.
When he was running for governor 10 years later, in 2009, that was
also reported as his position. Here`s “The Washington Post” from 2009
while he`s running, “Bob McDonnell supported 35 bills to restrict abortion
when he was in the state legislature, and he opposes the practice of
abortion even in cases of rape and incest.”
Even when other Republicans thought that was a bridge too far, even
when other anti-abortion Republicans thought that was a bridge too far,
even when there was a non-mainstream position in Republican politics, the
rape and incest thing did not bother Bob McDonnell. Rape victims, just
shut up. You do not get a say on it. Bob McDonnell decides whether or not
you are having an abortion.
That has always been his position for two decades – except now he`s
trying to say it`s not anymore. “The Washington Post” reporting that Bob
McDonnell would allow you to have an abortion if your pregnancy was the
result of rape or incest.
And this is new. This is a whole new position for him. He`s never
said this before. He`s never said this to appear he was going to be vice
Asked to explain, his spokesman said there`s been no flip-flop.
There`s been no change. It`s just that Bob McDonnell`s position on this
issue has been misunderstood for two decades. It`s been misreported for
two decades and he`s never complained about it before, which is an amazing
But does also raise a really interesting, and I think, open question,
which is whether the conservative movement and the anti-abortion movement
has been so successful in swinging Republican politics so far to the right
on the issue of abortion that Republicans have now scared themselves and
they are maybe starting to let the pendulum swing back the other way.
Have we reached the limits of Republican radicalism on abortion and
the person of one very, very desperate wannabe vice president from
Joining us now is Nancy Keenan. She is the president of NARAL Pro-
Ms. Keenan, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s nice to
have you here.
NANCY KEENAN, NARAL PRO-CHOICE AMERICA: Hey, Rachel. It`s great to
be with you. Thanks.
MADDOW: You have been a combatant in these debates throughout your
career. Let me ask you in the terms of the way I talked about that, those
issues changing over time. Did I get anything wrong? Do you see this as
being persuaded in the way I just explained it?
KEENAN: A grand slam. I mean, look, Bob McDonnell wants to rewrite
history, and he`s attempting to modify his very anti-choice record to make
it look less extreme. And he is so out of touch with American values and
But as you said, this is a guy that was not on the sidelines of this
debate. He was the quarterback. He was the quarterback as a legislator,
as the attorney general, and now as governor, to pass the mandatory
ultrasound, to take on abortion providers in the state of Virginia. And,
yes, his ambitions are trumping his values here in trying to modify this
But the American public will not be fooled.
MADDOW: Are his ambitions, though, actually sort of opening up a
window for the rest of us into seeing how far is too far for Republicans?
I mean, when we saw Rick Perry who`s always been very anti-abortion, he`s
always been anti-abortion legislator and governor, to see him go through
his public conversion, tearing up on the stump in Iowa, while he`s
campaigning in Iowa, talking about how he no longer believes in exemptions
to the criminalization of abortion, to see that, I sort of felt like there
was no going back.
I thought if that`s what you need to do in order to compete for
Republican votes right now, there`s no going back.
Do you think that Bob McDonnell`s ambition shows us that there is a
place that they feel like they have to pull back from?
KEENAN: Well, I think they can`t be trusted. And I think they know
they are out of touch with America. And he`s trying to modify his
But let`s look at 2010. Many, many of those Republicans ran on jobs
and the economy and as soon as they arrived, whether it was in state
capitols across the country or here in Congress, the first thing they did
is launch the war on women. They can say one thing, but we have learned in
this last year, year and a half, that the fact is they cannot be trusted.
So, they can say whatever they want. The record is the record is the
record. Bob McDonnell can`t be trusted. Mitt Romney can`t be trusted.
And we have to draw the contrast now in about who is standing with
women in this country and protecting their freedom and their privacy and
who are those that will say one thing – say one thing, but literally to
get elected trump their own value system.
MADDOW: Why do you think there was a tipping point on this issue on
the right, though? I mean, we`ve seen obviously the strength of the anti-
abortion movement wax and wane over time. We have seen the number of
Republicans who are willing to be publicly pro-choice shrink over time.
But something happened in 2010 where the number of anti-abortion
restrictions in the states just absolutely spiked. We`re at that same
level again, that same pace now this year even though it`s an election
year. We did see this collapse around the longstanding Republican
consensus that there at least ought to be exemptions around rape and
Why did this start happening so quickly within the last two years?
KEENAN: Well, I think in part – again, they ran on one thing and
then in kind of did a bait and switch. At the same time, you saw this
cumulative effect of women seeing these attacks, whether it was the Komen
situation, whether it was defunding of family planning, whether or not it
was what happened in the states around mandatory ultrasounds and some of
these absolutely egregious pieces of legislation.
And the America said: enough, stop this. And I think they are feeling
that pressure. So, but again, the bottom line is, they can`t run from
And that`s our job is to expose their hypocrisy, expose the contrast
between President Obama and a Mitt Romney and if it ultimately, if it`s
somebody like a Bob McDonnell, whoever is on that side as a V.P. candidate,
that they are all anti-choice from beginning to end. And there is no
modifying their position or their record.
And the American public, I, Rachel, are not going to be fooled. They
are not going to be fooled in 2012 like they were quite honestly, thinking
this was going to be about jobs and the economy in 2010. They`re not going
to buy that this time around.
MADDOW: Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America –
Nancy, thank you for being with us. I really appreciate it so much.
KEENAN: Hey, Rachel. Great to be with you.
MADDOW: Thank you.
KEENAN: Thank you.
MADDOW: I got to say, on this issue, you know, I think – I mean,
what Nancy Keenan was just explaining there about the response to these
things I think is exactly on point in terms of the way that people reacting
to all these measures in the states and the way Republican politics have
changed so much on this issue so much in the last two years.
But why Republicans have just kind of gone off the cliff in terms of
contraception and the number of abortion restrictions and rape and incest
and all this stuff – why the last two years have been so different than
previous Republican movements on this issue? Nobody can explain it.
The combatants in the fight can`t explain it. Republicans can`t
explain it. Democrats can`t explain it. I still don`t know. I will keep
All right. Frank Rich is here for the interview tonight. We`ll be
MADDOW: Sad news for Newt Gingrich today. Today was the day we
learned that of the last four candidates in the race for the Republican
presidential nomination this year, Newt Gingrich is the only one who did
not win Iowa. On election night, the Iowa Republican Party, of course,
said that Mitt Romney had won the caucuses. Then a couple of weeks later
the Iowa party said actually it was a tie. I mean no, actually, we don`t
know who won. I mean, no, actually, it turns out Rick Santorum won.
But now, it turns out that Ron Paul won. Ron Paul won Iowa, it looks
like. That`s next.
MADDOW: At this time tomorrow, we will be getting in results from the
very, very anti-climatic Republican presidential primaries in Connecticut,
Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. There`s precisely no
one on the edge of a seat anywhere in America breathlessly awaiting the
results of those primaries, because the Republican nomination appears to be
all but sewn up.
Even with Mitt Romney having all but sewn it off, though, there
continues to be off-script moments on the Republican side. Things that run
counter to the prevailing sense we have that the Republican primary is
stick a fork in it, done.
Por ejemplo, Newt Gingrich today kicking off a 10-city campaign swing
through North Carolina. Now, North Carolina is not on the list of states
that`s going to be voting tomorrow. North Carolina doesn`t hold its
primary until May 8th. But Mr. Gingrich is apparently still trying to win
Also, yesterday in Philadelphia, where there is going to be voting
tomorrow, the candidate Ron Paul drew a huge crowd despite driving rain.
The campaign says over 4,000 people turned out to hear Ron Paul speak in
Philly in the middle of a drenching downpour.
So, the main idea here, the main script that everybody is reading from
here is that Mitt Romney has got it done, it is over. Frankly, there are
still things going on on the Republican side that make it seem like it`s
not done – at least not totally done.
Perhaps the most off-script thing that has just happened on the
Republican side is that I think Ron Paul just won Iowa. Seriously, this
You`ll recall that the Iowa caucuses on the Republican side were a bit
of a disaster. Remember what the count was like that night in January?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The numbers we`re receiving from the state do not
match the numbers we just received from the county chairwoman right here in
Clinton County. If these are the final numbers –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean the numbers don`t match?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll explain – I`ll explain it to you. John, you
go ahead and explain it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The numbers, madam chairwoman, I`m not questioning
your numbers. I`m saying the numbers you`re giving us now do not match the
numbers that the state central committee has reported so far from your
county, and they say one precinct is missing.
So if your numbers aren`t that missing precinct and these are the
final numbers from Clinton county, excuse my scribble, but 487, not 386,
354, not 324, we can stop right there, Wolf. That would make –
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney the winner.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Romney the winner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Then about 20 minutes after that, strange midnight moment on
CNN, this guy, the state Republican Party chairman in Iowa officially
declared that Mitt Romney had won Iowa. They officially declared Mitt
Romney the winner by eight votes, eight votes out of 120,000 cast.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congratulations to Mitt Romney, winner of the 2012
Iowa caucuses. Congratulations to Senator Santorum for a very close second
finish in an excellent race here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)(
MADDOW: Don`t believe him for a second.
About two weeks after that, the party released final certifiable
results that said that Mitt Romney was not the winner. The Ohio state
Republican Party had changed its mind. They said, first, there was no way
to know who won, then that the results should be viewed as a tie, and then
they said that actually, Rick Santorum had won.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MATT STRAWN, IA GOP CHIARMAN: It is indisputable that the certified
caucus result had Rick Santorum winning by 34 votes.
JAN MICKELSON: So you`re declaring this, then, a victory for Rick
STRAWN: Yes, certified vote results.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: You sure know?
After all of that, after all the disastrous vote counting and the
disorganization, and the chaos, Romney winning and then Santorum winning,
the Iowa Republican Party chairman resigned. Naturally.
And now, 16 weeks after the voting happened and Mitt Romney was
declared the winner, and then 14 weeks after Rick Santorum was declared the
winner, now it appears that Ron Paul is the winner in Iowa.
See, Iowa gets to send a total of 28 delegates to the national
convention in Tampa this summer. One of the delegate seats goes to the new
state party chairman who replaced the guy who was the disaster who quit.
The new guy is an avowed Ron Paul supporter. So, that`s one Ron Paul
This weekend, the state nomination committee that picks 13 more
delegates, that committee was taken over by a majority of Ron Paul
supporters, which means Ron Paul has locked up at least half of Iowa`s
delegates. These 13, plus 14 in the form of the state party chairman, 14
of the 28 delegates, half the delegates are his. He will not get less than
So Ron Paul either wins Iowa, or worst case scenario, he ties for
first place. And while we`re on the subject, it looks like Ron Paul just
won Minnesota, too. Minnesota has 40 delegates total. This weekend Ron
Paul won 20 of them. Now, not all the rest of Minnesota`s 40 delegates
have been allocated yet, but with half of them locked up, Ron Paul cannot
come in worse than first.
Worst case scenario, Ron Paul ties for first place in Minnesota.
Anything better than that, he wins outright. And it should be noted he
warned us this was going to happen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: When the dust settles,
I think there is a very good chance we`re going to have the maximum number
of delegates coming out of Minnesota.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Ron Paul was right. Nobody is getting more delegates than he
did in Minnesota or in Iowa. Or in wherever else this Ron Paul delegate
strategy of his pays off.
The main plot of the Republican nominating process remains mostly on
script. Mitt Romney appears to be buttoning up the nomination, but it is
Want one more example? This weekend in Texas, Texas Republicans met
in their Senate district party accommodations, whatever those are, and this
was no coronation for Mr. Romney, even though everybody thinks he`s got it
I mean, forget the Beltway media narrative here, forget the raw
script, the Ron Paul supporters in Texas were marching this weekend under
the banner of Warren G. Harding. They are citing the Warren G. Harding
strategy of 1920. In 1920, Warren G. Harding went into the Republican
convention with fewer delegates of the surviving candidates and Warren G.
Harding walked out with the nomination. He won on the 10th ballot.
If it worked 92 years ago for the man who would become our 92nd
president, could it work now if the Republican Party keeps this race as
chaotic as it has been in the states? Who knows? If this race keeps going
the way it has been – frankly, Newt Gingrich is due to win Iowa any day
now. Everybody else has already had their turn.
MADDOW: America, meet Tony Rudy. If you already know him, meet him
When you think Tony Rudy, think Jack Abramoff, Republican uber
lobbyist, massive multi-tentacled corruption and bribery scandal.
Tony Rudy was one of the Jack Abramoff`s guys. He was a Washington
lobbyist who was one of the very first people to plead guilty in the whole
Jack Abramoff`s saga. Much of what we, in fact, know about the Jack
Abramoff criminal enterprise was because of Tony Rudy melodiously singing
to federal prosecutors once he turned himself in.
And even though Jack Abramoff himself has now been to trial, been to
jail and has been finally, in fact, released from jail, Tony Rudy has
essentially been stuck in judicial limbo for about six years until now.
Tony Rudy has just become the very last person to be sentenced in the whole
Jack Abramoff corruption saga. Mr. Rudy`s sentence, as handed by a U.S.
district court judge in D.C., five months in a halfway house and three
years probation. Five months in a halfway house, but frankly, a lifetime
in the history of Washington scandal.
This is, for example, is the famous photo of Jack Abramoff, do we have
the other photo? There we go. Jack Abramoff, he`s the guy left in the
black, baggy polo shirt. You can also see Mr. Abramoff`s pal, Ralph Reed,
professional pious, moral schooled, the former head of the Christian
Coalition. That`s also Republican Congressman Bob Ney of Ohio over on the
right in the white polo shirt. He later turned that polo shirt in for
prison stripes instead.
These guys seen here mugging for the camera during an all-expenses
paid trip to the historic St. Andrews golf resort in Scotland in 2002.
This thing, this junket, was a Tony Rudy joint. Mr. Rudy helped organize
the all expenses paid part of this golf trip.
When Congressman Bob Ney got home from that golf trip, he said the
whole thing had been paid for by a group called the National Center for
Public Policy. That group denied paying for the Scotland trip at that
time. But they were hip deep in the Abramoff scandal.
Before Tony Rudy worked for Jack Abramoff, he worked in the
congressional office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He served as an
aide to Tom DeLay in the mid-1990s.
While he was there, Tom DeLay took a 6-day trip to Russia. Again,
Jack Abramoff went along for the ride. Again, all expenses were paid. And
again, like Bob Ney, Tom DeLay claimed the whole thing was paid for ands
organized by this obscure forgettable Washington, D.C. non-profit called
the National Center for Policy Research.
This organization, it turns out, funded all sorts of Jack Abramoff-
related activities. Remember, Abramoff`s goal was to serve his corporate
clients by essentially using corporate money to bribe members of Congress
to support legislation that favored whatever corporation hired him. And
this group, the National Center for Public Policy Research was essentially
one of the ways that Abramoff funneled money or perks to various members of
So, Jack Abramoff would have his clients. The Choctaw Indians, for
example, donate tens of thousands of dollars to this obscure, forgettable
group, this National Center for Public Policy Research, and then that group
would bankroll an all expenses paid trip to Scotland for Tom DeLay. That
six-day trip to Russia that Tom DeLay said was paid for by the National
Center for Public Policy Research, it actually appears to have been paid
for with money that was given to that group by Abramoff`s Russian oil
The money comes from an Abramoff client, it gets paid out to members
of Congress in the form of golf trips or whatever, but because there`s this
little forgettable organization in the middle moving the money, nobody is
supposed to be the wiser about where the corporate money is ending up.
This innocuously named National Center for Public Policy Research was
essentially the middle man between the corporate money and whatever
legislative goal they were paying Jack Abramoff to arrange for them in
A National Center for Public Policy Research. Put a pin in that name
for just a second.
Today, one of the most significant developments in the how this
country makes our laws department was that that the ginormous consumer
products corporation, Procter & Gamble, became the 13th major company to
drop out of an organization called ALEC. Alec is the American Legislative
Exchange Council. It`s a corporate-funded group that promotes conservative
legislation at the state level.
Basically, corporations join ALEC, ALEC then writes model legislation
to serve the bottom line of those corporations. ALEC then spoon-feeds that
legislation to mostly Republican state legislators across the country and
those legislators turn it into law. Corporations get to pay for the
results. They get to shield their influence through this third party group
in order to achieve some policy goals. It`s a perfect setup.
It was a perfect setup at least until ALEC started to get all sorts of
unwanted attention for pushing stuff like the stand your ground gun laws,
laws that make it harder for people to vote as well. I mean, sure, those
things might be good for some corporations bottom line somewhere, but how
about the effect on the rest of us? ALEC last week announced that they are
disbanding their task force that pushed for things like the relaxed gun
laws and laws to make it harder to vote. ALEC is now officially getting
out of that particular part of their game when it comes to making it harder
for people to vote across this country.
Guess who is taking their place? A group called the National Center
for Public Policy Research. That Jack Abramoff-linked, middle man
organization that helped funnel cash and perks from Jack Abramoff`s
corporate clients to members of Congress.
They have now announced they are taking over the voter ID stuff. They
are launching a new voter identification task force in order to pick up
where ALEC left off, to keep pushing bills that make it harder for people
to vote across this country.
Corporate money has always worm wormed its way into politics. Guys
like Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay and Ralph Reed and Tony Rudy made a
transfixing illegal art form out of doing that.
But could a scandal like that even happen today? Would an oil company
or whoever even bother with Abramoff and with the middle man? Will
secretive ALEC and these other corporate front groups even bother
recovering now that they have shrunk in the light of day? Why would they
bother, why would they bother now that corporate money is not only almost
all there really is in politics? It`s now not even legal, it`s now not
considered embarrassing anymore.
Could these scandals even happen anymore if these scandals happen
because of people trying to cover up what they did and now, nobody is
ashamed of it any longer?
Frank Rich joins us to talk about that, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The White House does not want anything in the
papers tomorrow about oil. Or plastics.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Her whole position is green jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This didn`t come from me, OK, so just do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You love this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not going to say I don`t enjoy it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I want to welcome you all
here tonight and thank you for coming.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, Selena. Just a small change in the
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Plastics apparently talked to the president.
White House doesn`t want us mentioning oil or corn starch or plastics.
Just wing it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This (EXPLETIVE DELETED) completely?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, front and back. Very little romance.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s the entire speech. OK? What`s left here?
I`ve got hello and prepositions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Just wing it. That`s a clip from the new HBO show “Veep.”
Joining us now for the interview is Frank Rich, executive producer of
“Veep” and a writer at large at “New York Magazine”. He has a new piece
called “Sugar Daddies: The old, rich white men who are buying this
Congratulations on this, Frank. This is great.
FRANK RICH, NEW YORK MAGAZINE: Thank you. It`s been a lot of fun and
working with a great cast, Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Great writer, Amanda
Leonucci (ph). Trying to tell the truth about Washington and make it
funny, try to make it funny.
MADDOW: You feel like because you have the – because you get to use
humor as your medium you can say harsher things than you could in a serious
RICH: I think humor always works that way and allow you to say
harsher things, including in my regular writing and the writers of “Veep”
can be really funny and really, really harsh, and also use words, of
course, that cannot be used on this network. Because it is HBO, after all,
it is not television.
MADDOW: We had to set up one of these systems that make sure it was
tripled checked that the bleep was complete because I`m quite sure that
nobody has kept their job after not bleeping that word on this network.
RICH: Yes, exactly.
MADDOW: I`m just saying.
In “New York Magazine” this week, you`re talking about dark money in
politics. But you get at one of the things that is least appreciated about
the distance between what we all expected from Citizens United and what we
We all thought that we would is get elections brought to you by Exxon.
Instead what we got is elections brought to you by Sheldon Adelson and
Foster Friess and these individuals rather than corporations becoming
overwhelmingly large players in terms of the money and elections. Why is
RICH: Well, I think that one – I don`t want to minimize, of course,
the role of corporations that you were just discussing because they are big
players. But there is a slight checks and balances on them. If they`re a
company like Procter & Gamble, which dropped out of ALEC, as you were
talking about, they do have shareholders. They do have board members that
might object to it.
They also tend to give to both parties to protect themselves, so when
a party that`s out of power comes back in again, they can still fix
These sugar daddies, mainly billionaires, most of then Republicans,
don`t have any of those obligations that someone running a Fortune 500
company would. They can do whatever they want and because of Citizens
United but also other decisions and rulings by the FEC, they can just give
unlimited amount of money, and sometimes can do it anonymously, as you
know, through things like a rogue organization called Crossroads GPS that
is vaguely distinguishable from the ones that do have to name their names.
So they can go to town. And one thing that I found in this piece is
that at the time we came in, and I think we`re now adding more, there were
25 sugar daddies defined as people who have already in this cycle given
over a million dollars each. And that`s just in primary season.
MADDOW: If you end up with enough of them, do you end up with a less
ideological caste to what they want, or do people who can give that much
money by definition all have at least one thing in common about their
RICH: Well, they tend to have one thing in common, which is they want
no regulation, whatever their business is, and because they are people who
have private companies, they don`t care about shareholders or any of that,
or P.R. or anything of it, so they want to serve their own interest. Some
people may be idealistic and have other interests.
There are a couple Democratic sugar daddies like Bill Maher and
Jeffrey Katzenberg, but I don`t know if their interest are quite the same
as someone like Harold Simmons, a Texas billionaire who`s in the nuclear
waste business, You know? Or Foster Friess, or any of these others?
Romney is surrounded by a couple sugar daddies like Frank van der
Sloot (ph) whose names not known to the public really who attached to
companies that sell weird, in my view, weird health remedies and do all
sorts of strange housewives sell at home and make money kind of schemes.
So it`s really – and they`re all regulated by government agencies who
presumably will be defanged and have employees and friends and cronies of
these sugar daddies in them if there is a Romney president.
MADDOW: The Harold Simmons example I think is interesting because
Simmons has so clearly – and has been very overt about it. Part of the
reason it`s so clear is he admits it – has quite clearly used money in
Texas to get the regulatory climate that he wants for, for example, his
giant nuclear waste dump and some of the other things he wants to do. So
he has had regulations not only stripped, but he`s also had people who
might have claims against him diverted into boards within the state
agencies that could be easily stacked with people who have views that would
be friendly to his business interests.
Do you see somebody – Harold Simmons or others – do you see them
angling for having that acute an impact with their donations at the federal
level than they`ve had in some of the states they`ve been involved?
RICH: I think they`d like to, and I think they`d like to feather the
nests of their cronies. I think they`re in it for a larger scale, that,
you know, someone like Bob Perry not related to Rick Perry, but a Texan
who`s in the home business has given tons of money to Mitt Romney over the
years. He was able to influence sort of regulation of homebuilding in
Texas, but is a big businessman.
Why wouldn`t he want to have a bigger effect beyond Texas? Not that
Texas is small, but I think, you know, we would see a lot of them, and some
of them are up against federal – regulated by federal agencies, like the
federal trade commission, Securities and Exchange Commission or department
of justice in the case of some of Adelson`s gaming interest.
MADDOW: You compiled this list, as you said, of about 25 different
donors giving a million dollars or more to super PACs during this cycle.
Is there anyone who you feel like really isn`t famous but ought to be? I
mean, I think it is interesting to see these guys have an option to give
anonymously and in most cases, they`re giving in ways where they can be
found out. Guys like Foster Friess and Sheldon Adelson seemed to enjoy the
attention a little bit.
RICH: Yes, they gave outrageous quotes on the air, as we know, to
people like Andrea Mitchell.
I do think that there are these guys in the health nostrums like Frank
van der Sloot, there`s another named Lund that should be known, because
they sell products that some people watching tonight may have bought.
Sometimes they`ve been questioned by regulatory agencies about their
practices where the viability of some of their products.
Yes. They`re dealing in consumer goods in a way that a Procter &
Gamble might, but they`re much more tightly held and not famous.
MADDOW: Do you think that over time we are going to see the emergence
of this kind of thing on the left? Do you think that ultimately over time,
even in this election cycle, we`re going to see as much money emerging in
pro-Obama ways, from zillionaires, as has emerged from Obama and for the
other Republicans trying to unseat Mr. Obama on the right? Do you think
it`s just a Democratic lag, or do you think we`ll never see parity?
RICH: I don`t think we`ll see parity. I don`t – I think there are
plenty of wealthy liberals who want to give money to Obama, and some of
them like some people in show business already might step up to the plate.
But they don`t seem, for whatever reason, maybe it`s a character flaw, I
don`t want to be cynical about it, they don`t feel the need to sort of
further their business interests in the same way through the political
Right often, as cites George Soros, who does have interest in public
government, he has –
RICH: At least so far, that`s the kind of person that might step up,
but there aren`t many of them and he may not.
MADDOW: It`s fascinating. When you think – if you think about
politics in structural and not personal terms, if you think about people
having zillions at their disposal being able to influence elections almost
infinitely, to the extent that money is speech, you end up with a
structural disinclination in our politics to deal with the politics of
anybody other than those at the very top – and it`s hard to imagine a way
out of this.
RICH: It`s pretty bad. It furthers the inequality that`s choking the
system as it is.
MADDOW: Yes. Frank Rich, “New York Magazine” writer at large,
executive producer of the new hit HBO show “Veep” – Frank,
congratulations. Thank you.
RICH: Thank you.
MADDOW: Great to see you.
RICH: Great to see you.
MADDOW: We will be right back.
MADDOW: A little late-breaking news for you before we go tonight.
Recently, we`ve been reporting on a trend in the U.S., it`s sort of little
notice and little reported trend in the United States for states to turn
away from capital punishment. This week, Connecticut is expected to become
the fifth state in five years to get rid of the death penalty as a
potential punishment for state prisoners in Connecticut.
But we have been told tonight that it is now expected that California
voters will have the option in November of replacing the maximum sentence
in California for murder, they will be replacing the death penalty with a
sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole. It`s called the
Savings Accountability and Full Enforcement for California Act, the SAFE
California Act, and we are told that it will be on the ballot in November,
giving California voters the option to repeal that state`s death penalty.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for “THE LAST WORD” with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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