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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 04/23/12

Guests: Nancy Keegan, Frank Rich

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 2009. 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 control? 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 neighborhood. 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 this. 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 idea. 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 in 2010. (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 book. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, in other words, rape and incest would not be something? 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 rape. 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 her marriage. 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 presidential politics. 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 Virginia. 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 exemptions. 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 president. 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 political contention. 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 Virginia? Joining us now is Nancy Keenan. She is the president of NARAL Pro- Choice America. 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 priorities. 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 position. 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 position. 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 incest. 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 their record. 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 asking. All right. Frank Rich is here for the interview tonight. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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 that one. 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 weekend. 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 Santorum? 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 delegate. 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 half. 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 not tidy. 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 done. 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. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: America, meet Tony Rudy. If you already know him, meet him again. 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 Congress. 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 clients. 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 Congress. 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. (COMMERCIAL BRESAK) (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 speech. 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 election. 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 way? 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 got. 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 that? 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 everything. 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 agenda? 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 system. Right often, as cites George Soros, who does have interest in public government, he has -- (CROSSTALK) 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. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) 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 good night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END