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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/30/12

Guests: Judith Browne-Dianis, Bruce Braley

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: -- there was Ed, and here we are. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That`s awesome, man. SCHULTZ: We`re still here! We`re still here! MADDOW: Still here and covering the most important story in the country, that Michigan story that nobody else is touching. SCHULTZ: Well, you were the first one that got on the Benton Harbor story. And it has just snowballed, city after city, and there are a number of cities right now that are on the docket, and these folks have done everything they possibly can to get this vote going in November. But of course it`s the technicality of the font size. That shows you how determined that opposition really is. MADDOW: Yes, man. That`s right. Exactly right. Thank you for covering that, man. I`ll talk to you soon. Thank you, Ed. SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We`ve got a big show this hour. The top elections official in any state is usually called the secretary of state. Now, that can be a little bit confusing, because at the federal level, the person who has the title secretary of state is Hillary Clinton. And she`s not at all in charge of elections. She`s in charge of something totally different. But at the state level, the person who has that same title, secretary of state, is usually the person who in that state is in charge of voting, in that charge of elections. Well, in the great state of Indiana, the Republican secretary of state this year, a man named Charlie White, Indiana`s top elections official, was convicted of six felonies this year, including voter fraud. Ow! Prosecutors said that Mr. White lied about his own address on his voter registration forms. He used his ex-wife`s address instead of the address of a condo he shared with his new fiancee because he wanted to hold on to a thousand-dollar a month gig that he had on the town council in the town where his ex-wife`s house was with even after he had moved out of that district. The guy in charge of elections in the state of Indiana was found himself to have committed voter fraud. That is very embarrassing if that is your job, right? Also embarrassing, the fact that upon his conviction for voter fraud, Indiana`s Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, refused to appoint a permanent replacement for him as secretary of state, because, hey, maybe Charlie White might be able to get those felonies busted down to misdemeanors on appeal and then, Charlie White could still serve as state`s top election official, despite himself being busted for voter fraud. Governor Mitch Daniels` hopes were never realized. Secretary of State Charlie White did get busted for felonies, he didn`t get them busted down for misdemeanors, he was felony convicted. He was ultimately sentenced to a year of house arrest. And with six felony convictions, Charlie White did eventually get fired from his job running elections in the state of Indiana. And, no, incidentally, Mitch Daniels is not now going to be vice president, not with something like that dragging around behind him like a tin can tied to his bumper. But it was such a strange case, right? The top elections official in the state being tried and convicted and sentenced and thrown out of office for personally committing voter fraud. It`s rare that you hear about real and not made up cases of voter fraud, but when it does happen, it tends to look like this. It tends to look like this pitiful Charlie White case in Indiana. It`s weird, it`s doing no candidates real benefit. It`s a personal thing. And frankly, it`s kind of pitiful. Here`s another potential voter fraud case that fits that same description. Republican Thaddeus McCotter, he`s been serving as a Michigan congressman for almost a decade. He might be done doing that now because this year, Congressman McCotter`s office failed to turn in enough valid petition signatures to even get him listed on the primary ballot to run for re-election to his own seat. Even if you`re a longtime incumbent, you have to turn in between 1,000 and 2,000 signatures to get your name on the primary ballot in Michigan. And this year, of the nearly 2,000 signatures that Thaddeus McCotter`s office turned in to get him on the ballot, only 244 of those signatures were found to be valid. The state`s election director saying that officials found an unprecedented level of obvious fraud in Thaddeus McCotter`s signatures. Officials found identical petitions that had been photo copied, dates that were cut and pasted on to petition forms, badly cut and pasted on the petition forms. In some cases, the forms were just identical, except for the name of the person who had supposedly circulated the petition. There were just multiple sheets of the same signatures, as if each was a new one. The state attorney general is now investigating this matter as a potential case of criminal fraud. Now, for his indicate, Thaddeus McCotter says he is totally on board with the whole criminal investigation thing, because Mr. McCotter says that he is actually victim here. He says, quote, "Somebody either panicked or it was sabotage." Thaddeus McCotter says, "My gut tells me that we got lied to by someone that we trusted." Thaddeus McCotter does not know how all those cut and pasted and photocopied signatures got on to this petitions, he says. He says it looks like sabotage. And if that`s true, you kind of feel for the guy, right? I mean, you even kind of feel for the Republican Party here. This was not a race where they thought they would have to spend a dime. This is supposed to be a safe Republican district with a longtime Republican incumbent congressman in it. They shouldn`t have to spend a dime to defending his seat. But now, the Republican Party`s choice is either to dump millions of dollars into that state race to try to save Thaddeus McCotter in what is statistically likely to be an unsuccessful write-in campaign to hold on to his own seat or they can try to rally Republicans around this slightly eccentric reindeer herder who did actually manage to get himself on the ballot as a Republican, but nobody had heard of before now. It`s the wealthiest Republican district in Michigan. You guys ready to pick the reindeer herder for your congressman? We`re going to have to wait and see what Michigan`s attorney general says in this case. But based on the look of the petitions, they`ve been made public, based on the assessment of state officials so far, based on what Thaddeus McCotter says himself, this looks like it was election fraud. And as election fraud pretty much always is, like that bizarre Indiana case, it`s rare, it`s ham-handed, it`s pitiful, and it`s no nobody`s real advantage, except maybe in this case, to the reindeer guy who might get this seat. Election fraud happens really rarely. But once in a blue moon, it does happen. Nobody disputes that. Except, of course, Republicans now say that voter fraud isn`t some rare once in a blue moon thing, they say it is rampant, they say it is everywhere. They say it is hugely consequential. It is determining the outcome of elections regularly and it is basically always committed by Democrats. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R), MICHIGAN: As you know, House Minority Leader John Boehner has made the call that we should end funding to ACORN and other groups that are engaged in what we believe to be voter fraud. What we want to do is have a thorough investigation. We want to look at stiffening penalties for this group. Now, to say that ACORN is left-leaning is like saying that Terry Bradshaw may be bald. The reality is that these people have a partisan agenda and what it is doing is precluding the full operation and the integrity of the balloting process. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Congressman Thaddeus McCotter himself inveighing against the evils of widespread voter fraud back in 2008. We need investigations into all these left-leaning groups committing massive voter fraud to advance their partisan agendas to help the Democrats. It`s rampant on the left. This is what Republicans say about voter fraud now. This is how Republicans talk about elections. Just today, Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus raised the very scary specter of voter fraud in Republican Governor Scott Walker`s upcoming recall election in Wisconsin. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I`m always concerned about voter fraud. I`m always concerned about it, which is why I think we need to do a point or two better than where we think we need to be to overcome it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: A point or two better. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus saying today that voter fraud is so bad on the Democratic side in Wisconsin, that the Republican candidate needs to win there by a super extra big margin in order to compensate for all those fraudulent votes that will inevitably be cast for the Democrat. One or two points, he says, in a Wisconsin election. That means he`s talking about something like tens of thousands of votes. Extra votes that the Republicans need to make up because of all the Democratic voter fraud in an election like this. He is that sure that there`s that kind of rampant, one-sided voter fraud that it`s going to decide the election if Republicans don`t do something about it. And, of course, Republicans are doing something about it, all over the country. Where Republicans are in charge, they are working to make it harder to vote and harder to register to vote. According to the folks at the Brennan Center for Justice, Michael Waldman was here from that group last night. They`re a nonpartisan organization that studies and promotes voting rights. According to the Brennan Center, at least 180 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in state legislatures since the beginning of last year -- 180? Fourteen states have passed new restrictive voting laws that could have an impact on this year`s 2012 election. These 14 states account for about 70 percent of the total electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania have all passed new requirements to show new documentation that you never had to show before in order to vote now -- documentation that hundreds of thousands of state residents do not have. There are new restrictions on early and absentee voting. In Ohio and in West Virginia and in Tennessee, in Georgia, in Florida. What`s the matter with early voting and absentee voting? Don`t know! Maybe it makes voting too easy? But these states are cracking down on it, they are rolling it back. There are new restrictions on voter registration in Texas, in Ohio, in Illinois, in ,Maine, in Florida. In the iconic swing state of Florida, the new voter registration and absentee voting restrictions aren`t the only new obstacles to voting there this year. As we have been reporting on the show, Florida`s Republican Governor Rick Scott has started a push to purge thousands of voters off Florida`s voter registration rolls, in time for the election. As in all of these cases, the stated goal of this mass effort to take away thousands of Floridian`s voting rights is supposedly the prevention of voter fraud. In recent weeks, the state of Florida has sent local elections officials a list of more than 2,600 registered voter who is the state says are not U.S. citizens and therefore are not eligible to vote and they have to have their names taken off the rolls. Election supervisors, in turn, have been looking at those lists and finding tons of inaccuracies. Like, for example, Maureen Russo, U.S. citizen, born in Akron, Ohio. The state of Florida wants her purged off the voting list. Bill Internicola, he`s a 91-year-old World War II veteran. He`s a U.S. citizen, born in Brooklyn, New York -- the state of Florida wants him purged off the voter list. Or there`s this guy, seen here posing with his American passport, as well as his local election supervisor, who is a Republican, but who does not want to purge this gentleman off the rolls, even though the state of Florida is telling him to. Even as local election supervisors from both parties have criticized whatever was the flawed process of putting voters` names on the state purge list this year, Florida state officials under Republican Governor Rick Scott are going ahead. They`re vowing to ramp up the purge now. They are vowing to continue, less than six months before the presidential election, to take people`s names off the voting rolls. A state elections official now telling "The Miami Herald," quote, "I don`t have a timetable on hen the next list of names will be send to supervisors, but there will be more names." "There will be more names." The state of Florida will be targeting more of its voters for removal from the voting rolls. An analysis of the existing purge list already by "The Miami Herald" found that it disproportionately targets Hispanics, Democrats, and independents to be purged off the Florida voter rolls. Do you think that pattern is going to continue as the state adds more names to the voter registration purge list? Or has it just been a coincidence that it has turned out that way so far? Joining us now is Judith Browne-Dianis. She`s a civil rights attorney and co-director of the Advancement Project. She represented the NAACP in a 2000 lawsuit to remedy voting rights violations in Florida, in that election. Ms. Browne-Dianis, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it. JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT CO-DIRECTOR: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: You are much more deeply involved in the vagaries of Florida voting law than I am. Is there anything -- did I get anything wrong in the way I explained what`s going on in Florida now in terms of how you understand the facts? BROWNE-DIANIS: You got it right. MADDOW: OK. It`s complicated and it`s quickly changing and a lot of this stuff hasn`t been debated. It seems to being done at the initiative of the administration, of the Florida governor. Is the governor consulting with lawyers in order to -- is this the kind of thing that other states are doing? Is this -- is this a standard process that Florida`s going through, or is this something unusual? BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, I mean, it`s Florida taking out their old bag of tricks. And they have come up with a new list and the list is flawed. I mean, a 91-year-old World War II veteran? I mean, come on. Really, Governor Scott? This is ridiculous. And we`re finding that the list, not only is it flawed, but also the problem is that it should be done so close to an election. I mean, when we`re changing the rules of how people participate in our democracy right before the election, and doing it illegally and wrongfully, you know, that`s got to be stopped. MADDOW: When you say illegally, I know that the Advancement Project, your organization, sent a letter to the Justice Department today, essentially saying that Florida was committing voting rights violations related to this purge here. What specifically are they doing that is -- what is illegal about what they are doing and what do you want the Justice Department to do? BROWNE-DIANIS: Right. So we`ve called on the department of justice because the list is about 60 percent Latino voters. And so, while we know that the state of Florida has targeted black voters in the past, in 2000 and 2004, they also had a bad felon list that targeted black voters. This time, they`ve come for Latino voters. And so what we have said to the Department of Justice is, it`s time for you to step up, because the department of justice can just, you know, just stop this dead in its tracks. And they can do that because the Voting Rights Act allows them to do that because Latino voters are targeted. And so, we`ve called on them to do it, but we`ve also called upon the state to stop the letters, to, you know, to cease and desist with the purges, because we know that it`s unlawful because it`s too close to an election. The federal law says you cannot do these purges so close to an election. And why? Because we know that it`s often done for partisan gain. And that`s what we believe is happening now. MADDOW: Think about the potential harm here, and even if the state of Florida sort of got nailed for doing that. If it was found to be illegal and the state of Florida got in trouble for doing it, if that happens after the election and a voter purge has a desired partisan effect on that election, I`m sure partisan elements in state government in Florida would be happy to pay that price, as long as they got what they wanted out of the election. So if the Justice Department does not choose to intervene here, is there any other remedy to pursue before too much harm is done? BROWNE-DIANIS: Sure. So we have -- we`ve called on the state to stop it, and we`ve given them notice basically saying, you`re violating the law and if you don`t stop, the next step will be litigation. So, if we have to litigate it, we will. And it`s important to put this in the larger context, because basically what Florida is doing, they`re taking one page out of the playbook of voter suppression that the Republican Party has done this year. You know, it`s like -- for them, it`s like the left/right and the upper cut, right? The upper cut is this purge, but before this they made it harder to register and they made it harder to vote by cutting back early voting. And so, they`re moving forward with just a different page of the playbook, where other states have done voter ID as their weapon of choice of voter suppression. MADDOW: You see this, though, as a coordinated effort across states? BROWNE-DIANIS: You know, I don`t think it`s a coincidence, by any stretch of the imagination. When you look at what has happened across the country, it`s all happening in time for the November election. It`s all happening in states where there are Republican-controlled legislatures, and they`re moving very aggressively, and the targets of them are black Latino young voters and elderly who turned out in record numbers in 2008. MADDOW: Judith Browne-Dianis, civil rights attorney, co-director of the Advancement Project. Will you keep us apprised of how this goes in Florida? Thank you. BROWNE-DIANIS: Thank you. MADDOW: It`s nice to meet you. Thank you. All right. Lots still to come tonight, we have a really big show tonight, including the world`s most dubious bus tour. Also, the best new thing in the world that has an adorable accent. There`s lots to come. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: How much democracy can 1 billion angry conservative dollars buy? We`re about to find out. It`s just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When U.S. senators pledged impartial justice in President Clinton`s impeachment trial, the pens they used to sign that oath said, "Untied State Senator" on them, instead of "United State Senator." Untied, it was, in fact, a misprint by the company that manufactured the pens. It did sort of seem like an omen for how the whole impeachment thing was going to work out for those impeachers. Last summer, when former Utah Jon Huntsman launched his run campaign for the White House, his campaign got off to an inauspicious start when among many other errors that day, the candidate`s own name was misspelled on the press passes that his aides handed out to supporters, it was spelled "John" instead of "Jon," without the H -- which who cares, right? Unless it`s the launch of your presidential campaign and you`re a relatively unknown candidate trying to build name recognition in an Internet-driven world where spelling counts. The good news for Jon Huntsman, is that his campaign went so badly this year, with he still might be able to run as an outsider nobody`s heard of the next time he runs in 2016. For 2012, though, the Republicans have got themselves a nominee. Last night, by taking the Texas primary, Mitt Romney surpassed the delegate threshold needed to claim the nomination at the convention in August. Mr. Romney is not just the de facto or likely Republican nominee, he is the projected nominee. It is official as of last night. Mr. Romney`s campaign marked the occasion by issuing a new iPhone app that allows you to superimpose his new campaign slogan, "A Better America," over any photo that you take. Except the word "America" in the Romney campaign`s fancy new slogan and fancy new iPhone app is spelled A-M-E-R-C- I-A. Americia. Amer-CIA. A simple mistake. Don`t take it as an omen. Or an amen. Or an Oman. Stuff happens. Spelling is as difficult as typos are common, both in politics and in television. Trust me, on this show alone, we have made our mistake of shares -- our share of mistakes. In typos, too. And getting words out of order. Sometimes I just stay stuff wrong. Last night I said intiminate, when I wanted to say intimidate. Sometimes stuff goes wrong. But sometimes spelling plus television multiplied by a factor of a thick yet adorable accent and then divided by a young age can be a thing of beauty on TV. A thing of joy. It can be the best new things in the world, tonight, on this show, coming up right at the end of the shower -- right at the end of the shoe -- right at the end of the show! The show! (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is a typo. As I mentioned earlier, this is just a really embarrassing, unfortunate, ill-timed typo on the campaign trail today. Mitt Romney`s presidential campaign releasing an iPhone app late yesterday that calls for "A Better America." At least they meant it to call for that, as you can see here, a typo that no one caught in time, Mitt Romney called for "A better Amercia," which made for I`m sure a not great day at the graphics department at the Romney campaign. It however it did make for a wonderful day on Tumblr, where Amercia today stood with Mitt. Oops. This also is a typo of sorts. It`s not a spelling thing, but it is pure human error. The half of the Internet that was not looking at the new "Amercia is with Mitt" Tumblr was instead giggling about this on Mr. Romney`s campaign Web site, his defense of guns rights. A defense that reads, quote, "As president, Mitt will work to expand and enhance access and opportunities for Americans to hunt, shoot, and protect their families." Americans` ability to hunt and shot their families is something, but it is not the kind of thing that anybody usually says needs enhancing. Those are typos. Those are stumbles. This is not a stumble -- Mr. Romney yesterday entertaining the idea of making a background in business a constitutional requirement for becoming president of the United States. This happened at an off-camera fund-raiser last night. "The New York Times" reporting that Mr. Romney talked about a question he`d got on the campaign trail. Quote, "I`d like to have a proviso in the Constitution, he recalled the man saying, that in addition to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the birthplace of the president being set by the constitution, I`d like it also to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in business before he could become president of the United States." Continuing from "The Times," quote, "Mr. Romney did not endorse the idea, but he seemed to like it." Quoting, Mr. Romney, "You see, then he or she would understand that the policies they`re putting in place have to encourage small business, make it easier for business to grow." However seriously or hypothetically or just for kicks, Mitt Romney is publicly entertaining doubts about President Obama`s qualifications to serve in the office that he now holds. He`s wandering out loud whether he ought to change the Constitution to make it harder for people whose backgrounds do not look like Mitt Romney`s to hold our nation`s office. Mr. Romney brought that up on the night that he clinched the Republican nomination for president. The same night he appeared at a fundraiser in Las Vegas with Donald Trump. Mr. Trump is, in fact, become central to the Romney campaign. He`s recorded dozens of robocalls for Mr. Romney. He`s given radio interviews for him in every state, with the primary in the last few months, while at the same time, Mr. Trump has resurrected the rattling claptrap about whether Mr. Obama was, in fact, born in the United States -- whether he is, in fact, qualified to be president of the United States. Before last night`s event in Las Vegas, the Romney campaign promised their candidate would speak up if Donald Trump raised the birtherism issue at that event right in front of Mitt Romney where he could see him do it. Instead, it was Mitt Romney who brought up the issue of constitutional requirements for being president in the form of a business resume, suggesting that President Obama isn`t qualified with or ought to be constitutionally precluded from holding the office. Donald Trump, in fact, saved the birther part, not for the fund- raiser, but for his interview on FOX later that night. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: What would it take to convince you otherwise? I know that you`re -- are you convinced he wasn`t born here or are you suspicious? DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Well, I think that it`s more likely that he wasn`t born here, but I would also say that if you look at his college records, they may have some good information on his college record that would say, place of birth, and it would be very interesting to see what happened. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: So, Donald Trump and the Romney campaign want the president`s college records? Donald Trump asked about those before last year, supposedly because he wanted President Obama to prove that he belonged at Columbia and at Harvard. Now he wants to look through the president`s college records for clues that maybe the president wasn`t born in America in the state of Hawaii, because even though the president last year released a long form birth certificate showing his father was born in Kenya and he was born in Hawaii, a birth certificate is no longer good enough for the Romney campaign and their most high-profile surrogate.; A birth certificate is not good enough for Donald Trump. You want to see what else surfaced yesterday from the Mitt Romney for president campaign? Mitt Romney`s birth certificate, showing his father was born in another country, but Mitt Romney was born in this one, in the USA, just like Barack Obama`s birth certificate shows. "The Reuters" News Agency asked for the Romney birth certificate last week, and here it is, released publicly on a day when Mitt Romney`s surrogate in chief is out suggesting that a birth certificate for the president is not enough. Donald Trump is useful to Mitt Romney. And Donald Trump says the birther argument is useful. And now, the world has Mitt Romney`s birth certificate, which keeps that argument going -- thank you, Mitt Romney campaign. By playing along, the Mitt Romney campaign is piping that argument from the sea of kookery into the conservative mainstream, and thereby into the mainstream media that does with the conservative mainstream tells it to do. You can still find household name Republicans who rue the decision by John McCain not to join the birther argument in 2008. They`re willing to say that decision may have cost John McCain the `08 election. You can hear Republicans weeping over this in obscure Tea Party meetings, like the one where former Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, who`s running for Senate, the one where he said the federal government needs a birtherism office staffed by the CIA and the FBI. You can hear Donald Trump saying it as he stumps for Mitt Romney, saying that John McCain and the Republicans never should have let the issue go in 2008, saying they should bring it back if they possibly can. After President Obama released his birth certificate, the number of people who doubt his citizenship fell a lot and in a hurry. After that, a solid majority of Americans said that Barack Obama was born in America, no matter what the kook end right wing said. Case closed. Question settled. Go find another issue. The issue was done. It was settled and done a year ago. Why is it coming back now? And why is Mitt Romney helping? (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: In the summer of 2010, a Democratic congressman named Bruce Braley was running for re-election in the great state of Iowa. Bruce Braley was a two-term congressman. He`d won his previous race by a whopping 29-point margin. But then, then, Congressman Braley started seeing ads like this one run in his home district in Iowa. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) AD NARRATOR: For centuries, Muslims built mosques where they won military victories. Now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero, where Islamic terrorists killed 3,000 Americans. It`s like the Japanese building at Pearl Harbor. The Muslim cleric building the mosque believes America was partly responsible for 9/11 and is raising millions overseas from secret donors. But incredibly, Bruce Braley supports building a mosque at Ground Zero. Tell Braley what you think. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Incredibly, incredibly. Remember the Ground Zero mosque nonsense? Do you remember all that? The Ground Zero mosque controversy was a media sensation in the summer of 2010, even though the building in question was neither a mosque nor was it located at Ground Zero. But that summer Democratic Congressman Braley campaigning for re-election all the way out in Iowa was being bombarded with TV ads like that on that entirely made-up issue, as if it was a real issue and as if he had anything to do with it, which he did not. It is the kind of thing a candidate might want to fight back against if he had any idea who it was who was fighting him that way. As you can see at the bottom of the screen there, the ads were being paid for by something called the American Future Fund. And this group, the American Future Fund, didn`t just run the Ground Zero mosque ad against Bruce Braley, they ran all sorts of ads against him -- TV ads, radio ads, robocalls, good old-fashioned mailers, everything. Millions of dollars in ads and attacks spent in his Iowa district against Bruce Braley by this group. Even though he had won his previous race by 29 points, Congressman Braley only narrowly survived this assault in 2010. He had won by 29 points before. In this same district, he barely squeaked by with 2 percent this sometime around. So who did that to Bruce Braley and why? Who was bankrolling that huge effort against him? Who was putting up the money to run TV ads and radio ads and robocalls against him? Where did that money come from? Largely, it came from here. A P.O. box located in the lonely Boulder Hills post office on the outer edge of Phoenix, Arizona? The America Future Fund, it turns out, which paid for that spending blitz against Congressman Bruce Braley got a majority of its funding that year from a pretty much unknown pop-up organization called known the Center to Protect Patient Rights. Have you already forgotten the name that I just said it? Don`t worry, you`re supposed to. And don`t bother trying to Google that name either, they do not have a Web site. In fact, they don`t seem to have much of anything. When you try to find out what this Center to Protect Patient Rights is, who they are, what their agenda is -- pretty much all you can come up with is this, P.O. Box 72465, Phoenix, Arizona, 85050. This grassrootsy-sounding group that`s funding millions of dollars of campaign ads not just in Iowa but against Democrats around the country, it`s actually just a tiny mailbox located in this post office outside the desert in Phoenix, Arizona. That`s it. Where does a post office box get tens of millions of dollars to spend? "The L.A. Times" wrote about this P.O. box invisible group, the Center to Protect Patients Rights. Today, they wrote that that lonely post office box managed to shell out $55 million for conservative groups across the country in 2010 -- $55 million -- funding ads like that one that aired against Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley in Iowa. Beyond that P.O. box, though, nothing much is known about the group. They`re supposedly run by a Phoenix-based Republican consultant, who is a key operative in the Koch brothers` political activities. But in terms of where they got their $55 million to spend on that election, who knows? According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the donors to this P.O. box in Phoenix that`s supposedly an organization, quote, "are almost entirely unknown." Such tax-exempt organizations must detail the groups to whom they gave grants, but not the sources of their funds. So, tada. All voters get to know about whoever`s trying to proverbially kill Congressman Bruce Braley with millions of dollars in false ads and mailers in Iowa, is that they`re housed here in Arizona at a nice little post office. Where`s the money from? Who`s going after him? Who do we blame for the ads being false? Talk to the P.O. box, America, that`s all you`re getting. Thanks to the conservative majority and the United States Supreme Court, this is the American political system now -- unlimited and untraceable money. You are not a candidate running against some other candidate. You`re a candidate running against a void that you cannot name, that you cannot fight back against, because you can`t name it. That you probably cannot keep up with dollar for dollar. It`s not the age-old problem of running against somebody who`s got deep pockets. That`s an old problem. Our new problem is where you don`t know how deep those pockets are that you`re running against. You don`t even know who`s pockets they are. If you like the way that`s already been working in these first couple of years after Citizens United, you`re going to love how it plays out for the rest of this year. Today, reports that groups on the Republican side plan to spend a billion -- that`s billion with a "B" -- to defeat President Obama this fall. And that is not including what the Romney campaign will spend. A billion is an impossibly large number to wrap your minds around in politics. But here`s some perspective, Karl Rove`s group alone are planning on spending as much money this year as the entire John McCain campaign did last time around. The Koch brothers, the only link that we`ve got to that P.O. Box in Phoenix, they are planning to spend even more that what the John McCain campaign spent in its entirety. Koch brothers are planning on spending $400 million, from them alone. More than the whole John McCain spent in `08. How do outside groups on the Democratic side plan to compete with that? At least for now, they don`t. One labor leader telling for their story today, "We`re not making any attempt to match American Crossroads or any of those groups with TV ads. Progressives can`t match all the money going into the system right now." So how do you possibly compete and win against all that dark money piled up against you? Let`s ask somebody who knows. Joining us now is Iowa congressman, targeted by those Ground Zero mosque attack ads, Bruce Braley. Congressman Braley, thanks for joining us tonight. REP. BRUCE BRALEY (D), IOWA: Welcome home, Rachel. Great to have you back in Washington, D.C. MADDOW: Did I get the facts right in terms of what that race was like in 2010? Is that what it was like? BRALEY: You nailed it. It was one of the most unexpected outcomes of any political race. Nobody was tracking me as a vulnerable candidate. And then this mountain of secret cash came flowing down into my race and it was -- I became the poster child of the bad aspects of Citizens United, which is the worst thing to happen to democracy, I think, in my lifetime. MADDOW: How was it different to run against dark money like that rather than just running against an opponent who you can identify and you know how much money they`ve got, because your fund-raising totals are public? BRALEY: Well, in the past, campaign contributions have always been subjected to sunlight. So, if you wanted to find out who was supporting me or membership opponent, with you could go to the FEC Web site and find out where every dollar came from. After Citizens United, that money did not have to be reported. It was secret. In fact, with all these groups you`ve been talking about used that as a recruiting tool to get people to give money. The assurance of secrecy allows them to make these donations without worrying about any negative consequences to their businesses, which would happen in people knew that they were funding attack ads against candidates like me. MADDOW: So you think there`s a connection between what the ultimate message of the ads are that this money funds, the accuracy, even, of these ads. There`s a connection between that and the fact that the money comes from an untraceable source? BRALEY: Absolutely, because you can`t hold somebody accountable for lies and misleading statements when you don`t know who they are. And you showed the post office box in Phoenix, during the middle of all this. I went to the only known address for the American Future Fund, which was a P.O/UPS drop box across from the Des Moines airport. And I walked in and I went up to the counter and I asked to be shown to the offices, and the woman behind the counter laughed. And she said, you`re not first one to ask. MADDOW: Wow. In -- you had a big margin of victory in 2008. 2010, you did win, but it was a much smaller margin of victory. Obviously, it was headwinds for Democrats all over the country in 2010, so maybe some of it was that, but some of it`s got to be this money too. Is there a way to use this sort of dynamic that you face towards your advantage? Is there a way to campaign against that dark money being run against you? Or is, essentially, the damage done once these ads flood the airwaves? BRALEY: Well, they were very sophisticated in how they ran these attack ads against me. They waited until late in the cycle when most people had written me off as not having a tough race and then they unleashed the avalanche. And by the time the word got out, it was almost too late for me to get any assistance from people who could help me push back. So the difference this time is, we see this tsunami coming at us. And Democrats have always relied on a strong grassroots effort to try to mobilize and get people to see what`s at stake in these elections. Now, we can see that very powerful moneyed interests are trying to buy the government they want and have no restrictions, literally, on what they can spend. And that`s why Americans have to wake up and realize, they need to be asking the tough questions. When they see these ads on TV and they have innocuous names, paid for by the American Future Fund, most people don`t realize that this is really a very highly coordinated effort to try to get rid of people who speak truth to power and aren`t going to be swayed by some of these powerful special interests. MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa -- I feel like we`ve been covering this, not theoretically, but sort of from a poli-sci perspective for a while, being able to talk to you about it face to face. Helps me understand it better. Thanks for helping us understand it. BRALEY: You`re welcome. MADDOW: Thanks a lot. All right. Coming up, the most obviously untrue thing you`ve heard all day about a bus. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The best new thing in the world is coming up. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There are two big things, two big political things, going on in the great state of Wisconsin right now, and they have nothing to do with one another. They are two separate, independent, unrelated stories, two circles that are not overlapping. There`s no Venn diagram here. First of all, you`ve got the historic recall election of Republican Governor Scott Walker. That`s him on the left. On his right, on the right is his Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee. There`s only been three governors recalled in the history of the country, and never in Wisconsin. Even with a governor as unpopular as Scott Walker, whose short tenure in office in Wisconsin has turned the state inside-out, has radicalized and polarized the state of Wisconsin like nothing else in modern times. This recall is still going to be tough going for the Wisconsinites who want Walker out of office. A Democratic poll by Celinda Lake put Barrett and Walker in a dead heat today. A Marquette University poll that Democrats are contesting because of its sampling put Scott Walker seven points ahead of Tom Barrett. Honestly, the polls, no matter who they favor day-to-day, are sort of hard to fall in love with in a case like this. I mean, recall elections are hard to poll. Off-cycle elections are really hared to poll. Off-cycle recall elections held in the summer. It`s really hard to poll. Both sides know it is all going to depend on turnout. The recall election in Wisconsin is on Tuesday, six days from today. That`s one story. Now, as promised, on a totally unrelated note that has nothing at all, nothing whatsoever to do with that first story, nothing to do with the potential recall of the Wisconsin governor, totally different story, couple of guys getting a lot of press today. Scott Walker`s biggest potential allies, the Koch brothers, and their political group, Americans for Prosperity, launched a super fun Wisconsin bus tour today. The Americans for Prosperity buses are going to be hitting up 10 Wisconsin cities in four days, starting now -- six days before the Scott Walker recall election. The bus tour is not at all related to the election. And it`s not at all election related theme is a better Wisconsin. The group will also be bussing in people from Illinois for at least one of their Wisconsin rallies. They say food will be provided at these rallies. Of course, the buses free. These guys are not wanting for funding. They never have been. But again, the Koch brothers Americans for Prosperity 10-city bus tour to rally conservatives in Wisconsin this week before the election has nothing to do with the election. That`s what Americans for Prosperity says. They say, quote, "We`re not dealing with any candidates, political parties or ongoing races. We`re just educating folks on the importance of the reforms." Americans for Prosperity is not advocating for Scott Walker, OK? Yes, yes, they`re last bus tour last year was called the "Stand with Walker" tour. But that should not at all be confused with this current tour, which has nothing whatsoever to do with standing with Scott Walker, who happens to be up for recall on Tuesday. Wow, what a coincidence. If this bus tour actually had anything to do with trying to rally the conservative vote for Scott Walker with advocating for Scott Walker in that election that is Tuesday, that, of course, would be illegal. The Koch brothers group could lose their tax-exempt status if they did something like that. If there`s one thing the Koch brothers hate, there`s one thing the Koch brothers might launch a bus tour to fight against, it`s the prospect of the Koch brothers paying taxes. So for now, we have to pretend like the timing of the bus tours and these rallies right before the election, funded by Scott Walker`s billionaire oil and chemical fortune benefactors programs is just a coincidence, which it might be. I mean, Wisconsin is a lovely state to drive around, especially this time of year when the flowers are blooming, the naceam (ph) are out in force, and only the fourth governor in U.S. history could be turf out on his ear before his first term is done. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today: kahuna. A noun meaning a pre-imminent person or thing. It is of Hawaiian origin, or use it in a sentence. The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the big kahuna of spelling competitions. Kahuna. K-A-H-U-N-A. Two hundred and seventy-eight spellers, all under the age of 16, competed in the first rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee today in Maryland. The finals are tomorrow. You may have heard about the speller this year who is 6. A 6-year-old girl named Lori Anne Madison. She`s the youngest participant ever. Young Ms. Madison made it through round two today. She stumbled in round three on the word ingluvies. Seriously, ingluvies. I-N-G-L-U-V-I-E- S. I think probably wrong. But even though it`s called the national spelling bee, interesting note, it`s not only for American kids. Every year, there are a handful of kids from other countries participating in the bee. And this year, that handful includes this young man, 13-year-old Ryan McLellan. He hails from New Zealand. To get what kind of challenge that fact poses at the national spelling bee, consider for a moment the New Zealand accent, as demonstrated by the geniuses on "Flight of the Concord." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (IANUDIBLE) weaving. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weaving is a man`s game. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You put a woman in front of a weaving machine and just watch her go. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, honestly. My dad weaves. My grandfather was a weaver. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought your dad was a sheep lawyer (ph). UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the day. But at night he weaves a lot. And I come from a family or weavers. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve never seen a man weave. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love weaving. I`m weaving at the moment, making a pair of trousers. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Now, if you are a 13-year-old kid at the U.S. national spelling bee and you`re an accent like those guys on "Flight of the Concords," what happens when you`re asked to spell taupe? Torpe? Taupe? Torpe? What? Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JUDGE: This word has a homonym. Taupe. Taupe is a light brownish- gray. RYAN MCLELLAN: Is it French? JUDGE: It`s from French, which formed it from a Latin word. MCLELLAN: Torp? JUDGER: No, no, taupe. MCLELLAN: Torp? JUDGE: Taupe. MCLELLAN: Tarp? OTHER JUDGE: That`s his pronunciation. MCLELLAN: T-A-U-P-E. Taupe. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s his pronunciation. The judge there is trying to save this kid from a potentially fatal error. It`s not torp. It`s taupe. He knows it`s taupe. He`s just from New Zealand. He knows what the word is and he`s just champing at the bit to spell it. That`s C-H-A-M-P-I- N-G, by the way. Look it up if you do not me believe me. This 13-year-old kid`s P-E-R-S-E-V-E-R-A-N-C-E in the face of people who would judge you, who don`t understand you, is obviously the best new thing in the world today. Now, it`s time for `THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END