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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 05/31/12

Guests: E.J. Dionne, Buddy Roemer

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend. And thanks to you at home for staying us with for the next hour. Today was a weird day in politics -- in part because of some unexpected and some still unexplained news from the ghosts of vice presidents and would-be vice president`s pasts. We`re talking about this later on in the show. But in the middle of the afternoon today, we got this news that there was going to be a verdict in the John Edwards sex scandal/campaign finance scandal. That verdict ended up being a delayed verdict and then a partial verdict and then a deliberate verdict, but the long afternoon of uncertainty about that sort of brought the news world to a halt today. While everybody was trying to figure out what was happening in that sorted case when it was going to happen and then ultimately once it did happen, what it meant. Meanwhile, though, as that saga was playing out and every newsroom in the country was riveted to that in confusion, while that was happening, today at the White House, former Republican President George W. Bush and his wife Laura were at the White House being hosted by President Obama and Mrs. Obama. They were there for the unveiling of the Bush`s official White House portraits. There was one strange thing about this ceremony and this event. Did you actually see any of this as it happened? And it was weird because the news day ended up being so unexpected in following all the contours that nobody knew it was going to follow that, event ended up being kind of a comedy show. I said there was a strange thing about it and I`ll tell you what the strange was in just a moment. But did you see any of the footage of this today? It ended up being very funny. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Mr. President, thank you for your warm hospitality. Madam first lady, thank you so much for inviting our rowdy friends to my hanging. I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W. When the British burn the White House as Fred mentioned in 1814, Dolly Madison famously saved this portrait of the first George W. Now, Michelle, if anything happens, there`s your man. I`m also pleased, Mr. President, that when you are wandering the halls as you wrestle with tough decisions, you will now be able to gaze at this portrait and ask, "What would George do?" (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Even his wife throws back her head and laughed at that one. Whatever former President George W. Bush and current President Obama think about each other as politicians, everybody, including the president and the first lady and the former president and the former first lady all seemed to have a really good time at the White House today for the unveiling of these portraits. What would George do? Here`s the strange thing about that very, very pleasant event today, though. You know when George Bush said thanks for letting me bring my rowdy friends. The people who you brought, the people there to witness the portrait unveiling, the people who came with George W. Bush to this event today included his wife, obviously, his family, Karl Rove was there, Colin Powell was there, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld. Conspicuously absent with no explanation as to why was his vice president. No Dick Cheney and no explanation as to why. And it`s not like Vice President Cheney is in seclusion after his heart transplant. This is him post-heart transplant. He is giving speeches. He has been doing specifically political speeches. He`s been making public appearances and public comments. He is preparing to host a fund-raiser for Mitt Romney this summer. But even as every other boldface name from the George W. Bush administration turned up at the White House today for the comedic stylings of G.W. 43, there was no Vice President Cheney. Mr. Cheney, if you`d like to talk about it? Any time. I`m happy to have you here. Please call me. It`s never going to happen. All right. But regardless of that what I think is a very interesting palace intrigue about who turned up and who didn`t turn up today, I do have to say it`s nice to see people from completely opposed political places be respectful toward each other, be appreciative of each other and find something nice to say about each other. It is particularly nice to see that when something as fraught as a new presidential campaign is underway. Especially this particular presidential campaign which not only seems line it`s going to be a very hard fought one. But it started off in the very, very beginning in a very nasty and very inauspicious way. Do you remember the very first campaign ad of the general election this year? I mean, Mitt Romney technically clinched enough delegates for the nomination now this week. But the first ad he ran that wasn`t against one of his Republican opponents but was against President Obama, do you remember that first ad? And what the big scandal was about it? It was this ad. It was way back in November. Mr. Romney still a month and a half away from the Iowa caucuses but he was already going after President Obama in November 2011 ad. In this first anti-Obama ad, he went after President Obama in a way that was really blatantly flagrantly untrue. It wasn`t just some politics lie. It wasn`t like a very interpretation (ph) of some contested event or nuance about something which liberals and conservatives disagree. It was a flat out, run of the mill, unambiguous lie. Here`s the Romney ad. (BEGIN VIDSEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You need to provide relief for homeowners. It`s going to take a new direction. If we keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s what the first anti-Obama Mitt Romney ad of the general election campaign quoted the president as saying. If we keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose. Here`s what President Obama actually said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Senator McCain`s campaign actually said, and I quote, "If we keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose." (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s not politics. That -- that`s a lie. He was quoting somebody else. He was reading somebody else`s words in order to criticize them and Mitt Romney in his camp edited the sound to make it seem like it was something that President Obama said for himself. That is not just standard political slime. That is an outright schoolyard lie. And it`s kind of crazy to think that you would get away with that, right? When the ad first came out in November, the initial response, even in the beltway is this must be a mistake. They have to correct it, right? But, no. Mitt Romney meant it. The ad is still up, still running at Mitt Romney`s YouTube page. They never corrected it even after they got caught. And when Mr. Romney was asked about why his first ad was blatantly lying like this, he was not embarrassed about it. He insisted that his campaign meant to edit the ad like that. It was on purpose. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There was no hidden effort on the part of our campaign. It was instead to point out what is sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Online idiom dictionaries say that the sauce for the goose thing is the old fashioned version of the saying what`s good for the goose is good for the gander -- which you might have heard in normal life. He says the old school way about the goose having a sauce. In any case, that`s how he responded when he got called out on the very first anti-Obama ad when this huge lie and he never apologized. He never corrected it. He is still running it and he said that weird thing about the goose and a sauce. That was his first anti-Obama attack in November. But today, Mr. Romney went back to the goose and the sauce thing again. This is David Axelrod on the steps of the state capital in Massachusetts. He is trying to give a press conference about the Obama campaign`s new focus on Mitt Romney`s tenure as governor of Massachusetts in the early 2000-ies seats. Mr. Romney criticized the Obama campaign for previously focusing on his time at Bain Capital, his time in the private sector. And so the Obama campaign is essentially saying, fine. You don`t want us to talk about Bain Capital. We won`t talk about Bain Capital for a while. Let`s talk about what your public sector experience. Let`s talk about what you were like as a governor? I know that`s what the Obama campaign is trying to do now because I saw the ad that the Obama folks put out today. I saw the written press materials saying this was their Obama campaign message today. But anybody who just went to hear David Axelrod talk about it in Boston today instead did not hear any of that. Instead, what they heard was this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CROWD: Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs? DAVID AXELROD, OBAMA 2012 CAMPAIGN: You can`t handle the truth, my friends. That`s the problem. You can handle the truth, then quiet down. (END VDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was not an organic grassroots spontaneous pro-Romney crowd there yelling at David Axelrod. They later have (INAUDIBLE) soccer stadiums. They were blowing bubbles. They were just doing the chanting together and the screaming. It wasn`t an organic thing that happened. It wouldn`t in Boston. The Romney campaign actually admits that it sent those people down there from the campaign to drown out David Axelrod at the press conference. Mr. Romney personally admitted to that today. And that`s when he went back to the goose and sauce thing. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: At some point you say, you know, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If they`re going to heckle us, we`re not going to sit back and play by different rules. If the president has his people come into my rallies and heckling, then we`ll show them that, you know, we conservatives have the same capacity he does. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Again with the sauce. The idea of the sauce that tastes good on all of the geese. It is delicious goose sauce for many geese. I love it. The Obama campaign has let everybody know in advance that they were going to be pivoting broadly to this issue of Mr. Romney`s tenure as Massachusetts governor, but they let people know in advance that David Axelrod was going to be at the specific press conference at the Massachusetts state capitol today And the Romney campaign -- they knew this was coming. They knew this was going to happen. The Romney campaign cooked up two strategies for trying to distract what the Obama folks were doing today. Their first strategy was literally just to drown out David Axelrod so people could not hear him speak over the din. It`s a mini-Brooks Brothers riot on the steps of the Massachusetts state capitol. The Romney campaign had a second strategy, distract from what the Obama campaign is doing today, to not really respond but to hopefully change the narrative and do their own thing. Their other strategy today besides trying to drown out David Axelrod is they sent their own candidate himself to do a simultaneous stunt on West Coast. So while the George W. Bush portrait veiling thing was going on and being unexpectedly hilarious and charming, and while the nation`s news rooms were riveted to the prospect of this John Edwards verdict that nobody understood, and what the David Axelrod thing was being drowned out by Romney campaign aides and staffers, I guess, who were sent there, while all that was going on, what the Romney campaign was trying to get people to also pay attention to was their big campaign stunt of the day. The Romney campaign told reporters that they needed to get on a bus because they were going to be going somewhere with Mitt Romney. But the campaign would not say where they were going. When the bus finally arrived at its destination, it turns out they were at Solyndra. Solyndra, the solar energy firmed that received a loan from the George W. Bush era Energy Department investment program to try to incubate alternative energy technology, but then the company went bust. Republicans tried for more than a year to make the Solyndra story into a scandal for President Obama. But it didn`t really work. Even their top attack dog in the House on this subject, Congressman Darrell Issa of California, he eventually concluded that there seems to have been no real criminal or political wrongdoing in this case and congressional Republicans have sort of dropped it They tried to make this a big deal. They tried really hard for a long time. They had a lot of help on the subject from FOX News. But they really never got anywhere with it. Now, Mitt Romney is trying again. He tried it again today. He`s been -- had this is the message of the week. They tried it in a big way with the stunt, with the reporters in tow. They did kind of blow it. They blew it in two ways. First, they did this on the day that Obama campaign is spending all of its resources to highlight Mitt Romney`s time as governor. And the big substantive problem with Mitt Romney trying to push the Solyndra story is that Mitt Romney himself did the exact same thing in Massachusetts while he was the governor of that state. His Solyndra, his company is that got taxpayer money to try to build them up and create jobs and invest in important new technologies but then they went bust, his companies like that in Massachusetts, his Solyndras were called Acusphere and Spherics Inc. It was also one called Evergreen Solar. These companies got millions of taxpayer dollars from Mitt Romney as governor of Massachusetts and then they went bust. And, yes, some of the companies were run by big Mitt Romney campaign donors. You probably have not heard a lot about this part of Mitt Romney`s time as governor because everybody was wondering whether he was really going to try to push the Solyndra thing all that hard. Now that Republicans have given up on it and we know he has such a bad hypocrisy problem on the issue. But he is running it with. You`re going to hear about all the companies in Massachusetts that he shoveled taxpayer money into and they went bust. You`re going to hear all about how Mitt Romney did exactly what he says President Obama did. And, oh, by the way, here`s a nice reminder implicitly that Mitt Romney was not particularly successfully -- not particularly successful governor of Massachusetts and not just a rich business guy. So it`s kind of a mess for him to be pushing this at all. That`s problem one. Here`s the bigger problem though. It is the problem of the lying. At that Solyndra stunty photo op thing today, Mitt Romney told a bald faced lie right off the bat. It was the first thing that he said. It was blunt. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: Two years ago, President Obama was here to tout this building and this business as a symbol of the success of his stimulus. Well, you can see that it`s a symbol of something very different today. It`s a symbol not of success but of failure. It`s also a symbol of a serious conflict of interest. An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the administration had steered money to friends and family to campaign contributors. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That is not true. And inspector general did not look into the investment in Solyndra and conclude that administration had steered money to friends and family. That did not happen. That is a lie. Michael Greenwald writes at "Time" magazine and he`s been writing a book about the stimulus. He wrote about this turn in the Mitt Romney campaign today. But it hasn`t really been picked up anywhere else. I`m surprised this is not a bigger story. No real reporter who`s ever followed this Solyndra story as Republicans have tried to make it a big deal would have missed that damning detail. I mean, had there been an I.G. investigation that concluded there was corruption here, that would be a big deal. But that didn`t happen. When the Romney campaign started claiming this in an ad this week, their ad this week said the inspector general concluded that there had been this steering of money to friends and family, "Time" magazine`s Michael Greenwald started asking questions of the campaign. He says, quote, "I asked the Romney campaign for documentation, and it produced a `Newsweek` article asserting that Energy Department inspector general Gregory Friedman testified that contracts have been steered to friends and family." Except that "Newsweek" article was an excerpt from the book "Throw Them All Out," written by peter Schweitzer. Peter Schweitzer served as an adviser to Sarah Palin`s PAC. He edited one of Andrew Breitbart`s Web sites and he`s written a slew of books portraying liberals as pond scum." I actually checked what Greenwald said about the pond scum thing. He is sort of right. One of this guy`s books is literally how conservatives work harder and hug their children more than liberals do. Not kidding. Not making that up. This guy wrote a whole book on profiles in liberal hypocrisy. He also wrote "The Bushes: Portrait of a Dynasty." But here`s the important thing: it`s not just that this guy is kind of sketch as the source for this empirical claim by a presidential campaign. Remember, what Mitt Romney says, what Mr. Romney himself says is that the inspector general looked into Solyndra and concluded that the Obama administration steered taxpayer money to its friends and family. They cite this guy as the source of that claim. But it is a checkable claim. Did it actually happen? Quote, "It turns out that inspector general never testified that stimulus contracts were steered to friends and family. He said his office was investigating whether stimulus contracts were steered to friends and family. So far, it has not confirmed that anywhere." So just like Mitt Romney lied in his very first ad, in a really blunt, schoolyard kind of way. They`re now lying in the new ad that is about Solyndra and Mitt Romney is lying about it personally out of his face at his big campaign stunt today. Even if you do not don`t care that Mitt Romney has his own Solyndras, when he was governor of Massachusetts, what he is saying about this scandal that he is hypocritically trying to lay on the Obama administration is just blatantly not true. It is a lie. It is a checkable thing. He says something was concluded by a inspector general that was never concluded by a inspector general. It is not true. That seems important given that he`s running for president. Even on a busy news day, even after you`ve been driven to the candidate`s photo op at a blindfold on or something, or so maybe you`re little confuse as to where you are, even on a crazy day in American politics like today, with the return of George Bush, but the inexplicable non-return of Dick Cheney, even in a day like this with the totally confusing John Edwards verdict in the middle of it and nobody knew what it meant -- even in this nuts day in American politics, don`t you think that candidate telling a big, blatant lie in the middle of the news cycle deserves a little follow up? "The Washington Post`s" E.J. Dionne joins us next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: An independent inspector general looked at this investment and concluded that the Obama administration has steered money to friends and family, to campaign contributors. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Not true. Checkable, easily checkable. Not true. Actually, a lie. But Mr. Romney keeps repeating it nonetheless. He did so personally today on the campaign trail in California. He has also done so this week in an ad. It`s not true. Joining us now is E.J. Dionne, "Washington Post" columnist and MSNBC contributor: He`s a Brookings Institution senior fellow and he`s author of the blockbuster new book, `Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea in an Age of Discontent". E.J., thank you so much for being here. E.J. DIONNE, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: So good to be with you, and playing my usual role as pond scum, to quote your earlier Mr. Schweitzer, I guess. MADDOW: Who does not hug children adequately, nor do you work hard, because you`re a liberal. DIONNE: I actually like to hug my kids. MADDOW: Sshhh. You`re ruining the stereotype, E.J. OK. So what happened today is we have a presidential candidate telling an easily checkable, very obvious, very overt cut and dry lie. He`s put it in an ad and he said it himself to assembled reporters today. When that happens if a general election campaign for president, what`s supposed to happen next? DIONNE: You`re supposed to turn on Rachel Maddow at 9:00 and watch her call out the lie. I think actually I say that. I think that is exactly what media are supposed to do. I think we may be in this disturbing time of double or triple realities where somebody`s lie is taken to be as good as somebody`s truth because it was in a book somewhere, or it was on FOX or it was on some website. And that becomes sufficient to back up something that if you check just a little further is blatantly untrue. And I think it`s going to be a real challenge to all media but particularly the mainstream media. I`ve been in the old media all my life. I think that our function has to be to try to create a level playing field where the conversation is based on fact. People can have all kinds of opinions. But candidates aren`t supposed to lie. Romney I think is really in dangerous territory but I think we have heard the word "lie" used about him more than I heard used about a candidate in a very long time. There were the two you called out in your piece. There is the famous Obama apologizes for America. He repeated that over and over when it wasn`t true. So, I think this is going to be a real challenge for all of us this kind of campaign. MADDOW: Substantively, the Obama campaign is pivoting right now to Mr. Romney`s time as governor of Massachusetts. They previously were focusing on his time in the private sector which is what Mr. Romney says he would like you to focus on. But if you were him, you would rather be former one term governor of Massachusetts running for president or would you rather be zillion air former private equity executive running for president if he gets a choice in the matter, which does he pick? DIONNE: I find it hard to put myself in Mitt Romney`s shoes, I have to say. But personally, I`d rather run as former governor of Massachusetts in a general election than as business guy in the Republican primary. But then I would run defending the health care plan that he signed in Massachusetts which he is clearly not ready to do. If he did run on his record as governor, he`d have an easier time pivoting to appeal to moderate voters. But we have gone through this story before. There was another governor of Massachusetts who had actually a rather good record as governor who ran for president in 1988. And after all of the attacks on that record, he didn`t fair too well. The 1988 campaign is going to sue the 2012 campaign for plagiarism. But I think we`re about to see a rerun of some of that campaign. MADDOW: E.J., on another subject that you wrote about in the "Washington Post" today, the Wisconsin recall election for the governor there is Tuesday. We learn today that former president bill Clinton is going to Wisconsin to campaign for the Democrat, for Tom Barrett, again Republican Governor Scott Walker there now. Do you think that Democrats have done enough nationally to try to defeat Scott Walker in Wisconsin? DIONNE: I think probably not. Because I do think this is a very important race. I`m not big on recalls or impeachments. But I think what you`re looking at in Wisconsin is a party and a governor who were really trying to tilt the system. You take office and then change the rules so it`s harder to throw you out of office. You do all that voter suppression stuff that you`ve been talking about and then you try to weaken the political organizations that are at the heart of your opponent`s political operations, the trade unions. So I think it`s a big deal. But I don`t know if it does this much good to talk about did the Democrats do enough. A lot of depend on energy on the ground. And I think Bill Clinton being there -- he is very good at provoking energy on the ground. I think it`s a powerful symbol the Democrats that are on the fence. It looks like from the polls that President Obama is running ahead of Tom Barrett in that state. And so Bill Clinton will be a good guy to convert on the fence Democrats. MADDOW: E.J. Dionne, the author of the new book, "Our Divided Political Heart: The Battle for the American Idea In an Age of Discontent," which is great. E.J., congratulations on this successful launch of the book. DIONNE: Thank you so much. MADDOW: Thanks for being here, man. Appreciate it. DIONNE: Good to be with you. MADDOW: We have big developments to night in the state of Florida`s attempt to make it harder to vote. This is something we have been talking about on the show for the last few nights. My colleague Ed Schultz is covering this in even more depth for longer. But we`ve got brand new developments tonight that I do not think you`ve heard anywhere else. Big news on that, coming up next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK, Florida. High school. New Smyrna Beach. Civics class. The teacher in the civics class, Mrs. Cicciarelli. And as part of teaching civics to her high school seniors in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Mrs. Cicciarelli -- her name Jill, but this is high school and she`s Mrs. Cicciarelli -- she distributed voter registration forms to her seniors who would be old enough to vote in the next election. The seniors who wanted to register to vote learned how to do so, how to fill out the form and then Mrs. Cicciarelli took the completed forms to the local elections office and thereby registered her students to vote. She`s a civics teacher. She does this every year. She`s been doing this for years. But this school year the state of Florida did something different after she handed in the student`s forms. The state threatened to charge her as a criminal for turning in voter registration forms just like she did every year. Now the state of Florida says Jill Cicciarelli has violated the state`s strict new voting law signed by the new Republican governor of Florida Rick Scott, Mrs. Cicciarelli facing thousands of dollars in fines for the temerity of trying to register her students to vote. The state also threatened to prosecute her on a felony count all because she was a teacher carrying out the same, regular, annual part of her lesson plan in this is how voting works. Now, it`s a whole different lesson in this is how voting used to work but not anymore. Last spring, Governor Rick Scott of Florida changed his state`s laws to roll back early voting in the state. Also to make it harder to register. The new law requires among other things that anyone who registers voters in the state has to hand in all completed forms no later than 48 hours to the minute after the applicants have originally filled them out. If you fail to do that, hand in your voter registration forms more than 48 hours later, like teacher Jill Cicciarelli did and you`re a potential felon. If that sounds unreasonable to you, if that sounds hash much and impractical and serves little if no purpose, then, as of today, there is a federal judge in the northern district of Florida, in Tallahassee, who agrees with you. Congratulations. This afternoon, Judge Robert Hinkle issued an injunction barring the state of Florida from enforcing the new Rick Scott 48-hour deadline part of its election law. Judge Hinkle called the arbitrary two-day deadline, quote, "harsh and impractical." Writing in his 27-page ruling, quote, the state has little if any legitimate interest in setting the deadline at 48 hours. The short deadline coupled with substantial penalties for noncompliance make voter registration drives a risky business. If the goal is to discourage voter registration drives and that`s also to make it harder for new voters to register, the 48-hour deadline may succeed. But if the goal is to further the state`s legitimate interests without unduly burdening the rights of voters and voter registration organizations, then 48 hours is a bad choice," end quote. Despite the leap off the top rope body slam language of that ruling, despite striking down the part of Republican Governor Rick Scott`s law that made Mrs. Cicciarelli her a potential felon and shut down the age-old good government nonpartisan little old lady voter registration drives to the legal women voters in Florida, despite all that, Judge Hinkle leave intact the other part of Rick Scott`s voter suppression law. Early voting is still slashed in half from 15 days in Florida down to only eight days. Even though you won`t have to avoid -- won`t have to abide by the random 48-hour time frame on turning in voter registration forms. If you do want to do a voter registration drive in Florida, you want to help somebody else register to vote, Rick Scott`s law will still force you to register yourself with the state as if you`re a sex offender or something. And as we have been reporting, Governor Rick Scott is trying to purge thousands of eligible Florida voters off the states` voter rolls. A move that is consistently being resisted by Florida county elections officials around the state. First, the state sent over 2,000 names to the counties to be purged alleging that voters were noncitizens even though that doesn`t seem to be the case in a lot of cases. The state has also upped the purge with a follow up list not 26,000 names but of 53,000 names, that the state wants the counties to purge off the voter rolls. Civil rights groups are asking the Justice Department to intervene in Florida again to stop what the Republicans and the state government are doing there in advance of the election. Here is brand new news on the subject. The Justice Department tonight sent the state of Florida a letter asking that it stop purging its voter rolls. In the letter which we have obtained tonight at MSNBC, the Justice Department says that Florida has not asked for federal clearance under the Voting Rights Act and that the state may be violating the National Voter Registration Act -- again this letter going from the justice department to Florida as to have night. We are reporting it exclusively here. Take this in some, this ruling by the judge in Tallahassee, you take the increasingly outspoken resistance by county election officials to what their state is telling them to do and now this new intervention from the Justice Department -- all this means that this thing in Florida is heating up really fast. Everybody thinks this is a slow news time right now. It is not. Watch Florida. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Whatever you might think of John Edwards` personal conduct, from a legal perspective, there is one thing that John Edwards is not guilty of and it is count called number three. Count number three was accepted and received illegal campaign donations from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon. Today, the jury in John Edwards` campaign finance fraud case returned a not guilty verdict on that one charge. The jury was split on five other counts and so the judge declared a mistrial on them. Prosecutors can retry the case if they like but most legal experts say that is unlikely. So today is win for John Edwards. If found guilty, which he was not, he might have faced 30 years in prison, $1.5 million in fines. John Edwards` legal trouble stem not from his 2004 campaign when he was the vice-presidential nominee as amazing as that now seems. No, the donation that`s we`re talking about here, the ones that prosecutors amounted to fraud, these donations were made during John Edwards` very serious bid for the presidential nomination 2008, when he finished third behind Obama and Hillary Clinton. There were a lot of flaws in that campaign, but it was Mr. Edwards` personal flaws that were his own undoing. Unbeknownst to everyone at the time, John Edwards, this guy with this seemingly story book marriage was secretly carrying on a rather salacious affair during the campaign. Before he had admitted to the affair and while he was still running for president, some of his wealthy donors stepped in with cash to keep Mr. Edwards` mistress out of the public eye. They paid to fly her all over the country and put her up in hotels. They paid for her medical care which became particularly important when it emerged that she was pregnant with Mr. Edwards` child. In total, they shelled out $900,000 for the purpose of hiding John Edwards` mistress during and eventually after the campaign. According to federal prosecutors, this $900,000 amounted to an illegal campaign contribution because it was meant to preserve John Edwards` image as a family man and thus preserve his candidacy. He was charged with six counts of campaign finance fraud. Now, John Edwards denied that these were campaign contributions. His lawyer said that the money was used to protect not his presidential hopes, not his political reputation, but rather his wife, Elizabeth. In fact, one of the checks in question was not cashed until after John Edwards had already dropped out of the race. That payment was at the heart of count number three for which John Edwards was found not guilty. If he got the money after he wasn`t running for president, then it couldn`t have been money to help him run for president, right? Not guilty on that count. But all rest were a mistrial. In a brief statement today, John Edwards thanked the jury for hard work. He thanked his family and then he stated the obvious. That he was the only person responsible for this whole mess. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN EDWARDS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I want to make sure that everyone hears from me and from my voice that while I do not believe I did anything illegal or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. And there is no one else responsible for my sins, none of the people who came to court and testified are responsible, nobody working for the government is responsible. I am responsible. And if I want to find the person who should be held accountable for my sins -- honestly, I don`t have to go any further than a mirror. It`s me. It is me and me alone. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: John Edwards standing there with his daughter and with his parents. There`s no shortage of uncomfortable facts in this case, even disgusting facts in this case. But from a policy standpoint, one unsettling thing here is when you realize the John Edwards trial was about a period of time before Citizens United. Back when $900,000 might be a lot of money in a campaign. Now, now you have a billionaire whose family spent just on Newt Gingrich`s campaign 16 times as much money as is at issue in this case -- 16 times legally. The legal part of that is the crazy part of that. The man who ran for the Republican nomination for president this year who focused his whole effort on screaming about money and politics and trying to fix it has dropped out of the race as of today. He joins us next for the interview. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) EDWARDS: While I do not believe I did anything illegal, or ever thought I was doing anything illegal, I did an awful, awful lot that was wrong. And there is no one else responsible for my sins. None of the people who came to court and testified are responsible. Nobody working for the government is responsible. I am responsible. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Joining us tonight for the interview is as of today, former Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, for whom campaign finance reform was the centerpiece of his campaign. Governor, it is great to see you again. Thanks for being here. BUDDY ROEMER (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It is good to see you, Rachel. MADDOW: I`m not going to ask you why you dropped out of the race because I think I know. But I want to know if running for president -- this experience gave you new insight into how to fix the problem that you ran to address, this problem of money and politics? ROEMER: Yes. I realize we now live in the worst of both worlds, the old debate between the liberals or progressives and conservatives, or we`re between full disclosure and limits. Liberal wanted broad limits. Conservatives wanted disclosure. They both said. We have neither now. Neither. It`s wide open. I mean today`s case with John Edwards was about personal integrity and corruption. We`re talking systematic corruption now, where policy, whether it is military, trade policy, budget policy with earmarks, a tax code you cannot read, Rachel. These issues, these policy issues are moved by cash and big checks. They`re not moved by debate anymore. In fact, when one side is speaking on the floor of the House, the other side is not even there. We`ve quit talking to and with each other. We`re just talking at each other now. And I think the driving force, Rachel, is the power of money. It`s gone berserk. We had it periodically in our nation`s history, in reading Robert Caro`s book about Lyndon Johnson and his beginnings he talked about the turn of the 20th century when Roosevelt and others were trying to bust the trust, the big corporations were running American politics, and running the country in the ground and the populist stood up and there was a movement in this country. I think the same thing is going to happen here. I`m not talking personal corruption now. The John Edwards story is a different story. I`m talking systematic corruption where a president will spend more time on fund-raising in 21st century than any president in the history of the country and I`m not blaming him. He thinks he has to do it to get re- elected, because we have a system where there are no limits broad or narrow and there`s not full disclosure. MADDOW: The reason I think the John Edwards benchmark is so interesting in such an unexpected way because it makes 2008 seem quaint. I mean, there`s always been money in politics. The John Edwards money is particularly disgusting for its own reasons. ROEMER: Yes. MADDOW: But this idea that in a pre-Citizens United, what we were worried about was how less than a million dollars might have been a corrupting or fraudulent influence in that race. We`re talking about -- I mean two brothers from an oil and chemical conglomerate that they inherited from their dad say they are together as two people are going to spend $400 million in this election this year. ROEMER: I just read a book about outsourcing in the military. Good book. At one point the author writes that in Iraq, in 2011, there were 45,000 soldiers and 65,000 private contractors. We`ve made war painless. We`re doing that to politics now. John Edwards outsourced this diversion of money and we`re beginning to see it in so many ways now where politicians hide the source of their money and yet it influences how they vote. I`ve been on your show before and talked about banking. It`s too big to fail still the law? Yes, it is. How many millions of dollars did that take from the banks to buy off the Congress? MADDOW: But in terms of how bad it is now and how quickly it has gotten this bad, one of the things you said in your statement about leaving the campaign today was that 98 percent of people in America do not give a penny -- ROEMER: Not a penny. MADDOW: -- when it comes to making political donations. I`m not sure that I want to try to inspire everybody to give political donations, but does that -- doesn`t that mean people are so demoralized about their ability to have any influence amid this sea of corporate and massive mega- donor money that it`s real hard to imagine fixing this. ROEMER: Well, here`s the jury today. If you could talk to him, I bet here`s what they said -- one of the reasons they found not guilty on indictment number three. Everybody does it. You can hear them talking like that and that`s what America feels now. I`ve been across America for 17 months, and I`ve learned so much. You ask a good first question, what have you learned, Buddy? What do we need to do? We need to tell the stories of corruption and how it affects us and the power of money in this. Right now, the average American doesn`t give a penny, is a spectator on the couch, watches a few debates then makes a decision. I tried to run an approach of $100 limit and I needed 3 million people. If I could get 3 million people at $100, that`s $300 million and, Rachel, I`ll be president of the United States. It can be done. And I think it`s possible. What I thought, though, was the issue of credibility. Buddy, you`re not credible if you don`t take the big checks. Buddy, you`re not credible if you`re not on the debate. Well, they decided not to put me on any of the 23 debates. What I`m going to do now going forward is work on the issue of reform, not as a candidate, but as a citizen and I`m going to try to pull the forces together, left and right -- Larry Lessig, Mark McKinnon -- all the people I work with, we`re going to try to make this issue on the floor of Congress and in the corridors of the White House. And the issue is this, is this a republic where the representatives represent people or is this an oligarchy where representatives represent big checks? That`s the issue. You pointed out in your book in the military, I pointed out in my life on the political trail. Somewhere, somehow, we`ve got to get this together, Rachel, and I failed. But you know two weeks ago in a national poll, I had 7 percent, and only 15 percent of the people knew who I were and the 15 that knew, half of them were going to vote for me for president. This issue is alive, and the two parties are joined at the billfold. I was 20 years a Democrat, 20 years a Republican. I know their strengths and they have strengths, but I know their weakness, it`s the big check. That`s going to be the issue. I make a prediction. In elections forward in the 21st century, there will be multiple parties, not two. There will be multiple issues, not just one and we will handle money and politics like it`s never been handled before. By the way, you know what the law is now, you know what the law is when John Edwards ran? Twenty-five hundred dollars was the limit on individual giving. Is that a joke? MADDOW: Buddy Roemer, you did not go far as a presidential potential nominee in the Republican Party but you are capable as a Republican of talking to people on the left and right about this issue. So as you continue to -- as you continue to stick with this issue, I hope you`ll keep the dialogue open with me and with our friends on the right together. ROEMER: Yes, Madam Vice President. MADDOW: Now, that`s a sure losing bet. ROEMER: All right. We would have been powerful. MADDOW: We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If the money in politics Citizens United eccentric billionaires have been deciding elections has been bumming you out, like I just talking about with Buddy Roemer, in one really interesting and specific way, one way out of this mess for our country might go through the state of Montana. It is maybe the only hope and it is possible. And that`s what we`ve got set for tomorrow night`s RACHEL MADDOW SHOW. I hope you will join us then. 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