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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/06/12

Guests: Sherrod Brown, Ann McFall

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. I feel like I am continuing the conversation exactly with where you just left off. We`re on the same page, man. Thank you. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. All right. Pop quiz, it`s an easy one, but still, pop quiz. Which state has the lowest smoking rate in the nation? Now, I`m not going to make this multiple choice, because as I said, it`s kind of an easy one. Utah, right? Duh. The Mormon Church says you can`t smoke, lots of Mormons live in Utah, and so Utah has the lowest smoking rate in the nation. That`s not that hard to figure out. Here`s the harder question. Which state has the second lowest smoking state in the nation? It is not a state that is Mormon dominated. The answer is the great state of California. And since California has such a huge population, it`s the most populous state in the nation, it`s kind of a good thing for the whole country that California has such a low smoking rate. I mean, fewer people smoking means fewer people getting sick from smoking. It means less human tragedies associated with that. It means lower medical bills for everybody. It is a good thing. Well, yesterday, Californians voted on whether or not to raise taxes on cigarettes in their state. Even though California in practical terms is really anti-smoking, the tax on a pack of cigarettes is low compared to the rest of the country. It`s less than 90 cents a pack in California. The national average is more like $1.50 a back. So this ballot initiative yesterday would up the cigarette tax in this very, very anti-smoking state. And the proceeds from the new tax would go to cancer research. They think it would raise three-quarters of a billion dollars every year, and the money wouldn`t just go to the general fund or to the legislature or to some politician you think you don`t like, it would go to cancer research. So if you hate cancer, and who doesn`t hate cancer -- Californians yesterday had the opportunity to vote on something that would hate cancer in a really useful way. You`d make it so that fewer people would get cancer in the first place, because fewer people would be smoking cigarettes if cigarettes were more expensive, and you could also help cure cancer by funding a lot of research into it. And also for the record, statistically speaking, if you were a California voter who was voting on this thing yesterday, you probably don`t smoke anyway, and neither does anybody you know, except sometimes when they`re drunk, but we don`t need to admit that before last call. I mean, California, understandably, loved this idea, of this new tax on cigarettes in their state. And you know, frankly, California voters loved this idea the last time they were asked about it too. Part of the reason the California cigarette tax is so low is that voters haven`t been asked about it since 1998, the last time they raised that tax was 14 years ago in the state. But it was a voter referendum back then too, and the people of California went with it. They chose to add 50 cents to the cigarette tax back in 1998. That`s how we got the tax, right, that the cigarettes are at now in the state. This time around, even fewer Californians are smoking. And when they first started polling on this subject this year, when they first started polling on the "I hate cancer" bill, people if California loved it even more than they loved the idea back in 1998. The idea of a new $1 a pack cigarette tax was winning by more than a two to one margin in the state Sixty-seven percent of people in California saying they were in favor of this new cigarette tax. That is a slam dunk. The poll was released by the Public Policy Institute of California in March -- March -- March of this year. March of this year is not that long ago. March is a number of weeks ago, that is small enough that you do not have to take off your shoes in order to count that number of weeks. It was in March, March that Californians were for the new cigarette tax at a rate of 67 percent. But also in March, the tobacco companies started their ad campaign against the tax. And boy, howdy, did they start it. You know, we talk about big numbers or at least big-sounding numbers in policy and in politics all the time. But let me put it this way. You think the right spent a lot of money on the Scott Walker recall yesterday? I mean, they broke every state record, right? That was off the charts, post-Citizens United, special loophole, unlimited spending, tens of millions of dollars spent in that Wisconsin race as the whole country looked on in amazement at the amount of money that was flowing to Scott Walker. Well, the tobacco companies in California had a war chest that was bigger than the whole Scott Walker deal. Do you want to know where the most money was spent in politics yesterday? Bigger than Wisconsin was just one side of this one ballot initiative in this one state. Tobacco companies ponied up close to $50 million to fight the cigarette tax ballot initiative in California. And hey, wouldn`t you know it, it worked. Before the ad campaign, remember, in March, 67 percent of Californians were going to vote for the cigarette tax. What happened last night? Fifty-fifty split. In terms of the preliminary numbers they`ve got out so far, it looks like the tobacco companies have won. The other side is not conceding yet. They want all the absentee ballots counted and everything, and it is very close, but it is roughly a tie, and the cigarette tax may have lost, even though it was at 67 percent popularity just a couple of months ago. So that was $50 million well spent, right? I mean, $50 million well- spent dollars can make "I hate cancer" a losing idea. Fifty million well- spent dollars could make apple pie and loving mom a losing idea. Large numbers in politics eventually just all sound like large numbers. We lose the ability to even compare them, let alone to understand them fully. But unlimited corporate money in politics now means that any issue, any candidate, any state from here on out can be a race like this now. So you can have the American Cancer Society and the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, and the California Medical Association. You can have celebrity cancer survivor endorsers like Lance Armstrong and celebrity political endorsers like Michael Bloomberg, you can have all of the experts, you can have all of the great and good and philanthropic and high-profile and good and saintly on your side, you can have everybody who knows the issue on your side, you can have two-thirds of the public on your side before anybody has done anything other than explain the basics of what`s going to be on the ballot. But even on an issue this popular, this incontestable, all it takes is unlimited corporate money on the other side, and everything else is outweighed. We talk about big numbers all the time, but qualitatively, that`s how it goes now. That`s what it`s like now. That`s where we are at. I am in Washington tonight, which is why the backdrop looks different. The studio looks a little deferent than it usually does. Last night, though, I was in our home studio in New York City. And when I am sitting in my usual seat at my usual desk in New York, we have what we call an R.P., a rear projector. That`s the visual thing that`s up over my left shoulder, so on your right. It`s our not so magic wall in the studio. And that`s where we put whatever the visual is for what`s going on in that segment. This is how we opened our show last night. As the polls were closing in Wisconsin, this is how we started our coverage of what was expected to be the very close recall election in Wisconsin. Turnout! Turnout! Turnout! Because the exit polls showed that the Wisconsin race was expected to be super-duper close, everybody`s expectation was that the Democratic side had made it close by turnout efforts, by get out the vote efforts, by on the ground organizing. Yes, Scott Walker had a huge financial advantage and with that financial advantage, he had owned the air waves in the state, blanketed the state with paid advertising, that was paid for my by his corporate and billionaire and corporate billionaire donors. But if it was close, as everybody who subscribed to those exit polls, all the networks believed it was going to be -- if it was close, it must be because Democrats had a ground game going on. Democrats may not have had the money, but they had the people power, and therefore if they could hit a home run in terms of turnout, then the Democrats could win. That must have been what made it as close as it looked in the exit polls, and that must be the way that Democrats could win it. And on the Democratic side, it worked. I mean, in the sense that they did get very, very high turnout. And also, it did not matter. I mean, yes, axiomatically speaking, even higher turnout would have worked to the Democrat`s obviously. But you know what? The Democratic side got spectacularly high turnout in Wisconsin, and it was not enough. It was not enough to make up that huge chasm between the candidates created by the differential in money. What had Scott Walker done with all that money that he had? Ads. He ran ads. He ran paid TV advertising, starting as far back as Christmas. Democrats, meanwhile, knew they couldn`t compete on those grounds. They knew they`d never have that much money, so they were counting on their ground game to kick in at election time, much later on. They did turn out their voters at election time. But look at this, if you look at one exit poll at all, look at this one -- look at when people decided who they were going to vote for. This is nuts, right? Eighty-six percent of people say they decided which way they were going to vote months ago. Months ago, when it was wall wall-to-wall paid Scott Walker ads on TV and that`s it. Wall-to-wall paid Scott Walker ads, which were things that he was able to buy because he had a lot more money. Not in every election, but in just about every election, if you are outspent eight to one, then you are going to lose. I mean, there`s occasionally going to be a Hail Mary, miracle underdog, how inspiring, but over time, structurally speaking, remove the personality and just talk about this in political science terms, if you are outspent that kind of way, if you are outspent the way Republicans can outspend Democrats now with unlimited corporate money, the Democrats are going to lose, structurally, almost all the time. Today, I interviewed the Democratic House leader, Nancy Pelosi, former speaker of the House. It was an event marking her 25 years in Congress. And we talked about what happened in Wisconsin last night and I asked her how Democrats are planning to deal with that. Listen to her response. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You have consistently talked about public financing for elections and how important that is. You`ve championed the Disclose Act, for example. REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA: I still have you. MADDOW: Yes, I`ve ranted about it. I guess that`s different. You`ve spoken, I`ve ranted. But one of the things that I think is so important about what`s happened in Wisconsin, not just last night, but what gave rise to the recall in the first place was the fact that the Wisconsin Republicans under Scott Walker were using public policy to essentially dismantle public sector unions. And Democrats do not have a way to compete in terms of big outside money in elections. And that is the reality now in Wisconsin. It is the reality in states where they have essentially eliminated union rights, and it looks like Republicans, particularly after last night`s results, will be emboldened to pursue that in as many states as they can. That`s a -- I think, structurally, that`s a pretty dire electoral situation for Democrats. And I`m wondering if there`s a secret Democratic plan "B" that I don`t know about, something to bridge the distance between now and the hoped-for days of public financing for election, which I don`t know when that`s going to happen. PELOSI: You mean, apart from Rachel Maddow? MADDOW: If I`m the plan, that`s a bad plan. (LAUGHTER) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was just her initial response. The plan is what?! Luckily, I am not their only plan. In fact, I`m not their plan at all. Nancy Pelosi, as you heard me mention at the top of the question there, she is a proponent of publicly financed elections, she has been forever. But she does, in fact, lay out what she sees as the plan that Democrats need to follow in order to get out of this structural mess they are now in, in which structurally, over time, in a way that is not attributable to any one candidate or any one race, they are at a almost critically crippling disadvantage. Here`s her plan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PELOSI: We are in a situation where there`s endless -- this is not about well, should we put money here, put money -- endless money that does not have to make a decision about one race or another. So, you have endless money just with misrepresentations suffocating the system. You have voter suppression -- voter suppression, by some of the same people who were elected in 2010 at the state levels and the rest, suppressing the vote. Twenty states have initiatives that are in place or on the way to suppress the vote. And you have poisoned the debate with the dialogue -- suffocate the system, suppress the vote, poison the debate. So, what`s the average person say? A pox on both your houses, I don`t even know what you`re talking about -- and they turn off to it. And that is a victory for the special interests. It`s a victory for the special interests. We might as well just go to those people and say, who do you want to be president? Who do you want to be speaker? Who do you want to be governor in our states? Because there`s no way to contend with that much money. So we have to -- we have to disclose, that`s really important -- disclose, win, reform, and then overturn the Supreme -- amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision. We have to do that. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Disclose, win, reform, and then amend the Constitution. I mean, win is obviously a short-term goal. Constitutional amendment to get around Citizens United? That is a very, very, very long-term goal. Do Democrats have a realistic way to survive in elections, even in the short-term, to even try to get to the medium term, let alone that long- term, if Republicans are essentially systemically defunding the Democratic Party in a way that renders Democrats incapable of competing? The Democratic senator who is now facing one of the largest onslaughts of unlimited corporate cash in the country, if not the largest, is our guest next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio joins us in just a moment. In the midst of chaos of the 2000 presidential election, the late and much-missed Tim Russert legendary boiled down that contest in 2000 two three exclamatory words -- Florida! Florida! Florida! With an exclamation point on each one. Now it is 2012, and the words are the same, but the punctuation is different. Now it`s like, Florida? Florida? Florida? It`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: There`s no doubt the message was sent across the country, and in many ways, even beyond, to any local official, to any state official, to any federal official, to anyone in office, be their Democrat or Republican or alike. And I think the message that was sent was: voters do mean it when they say that they want people to take on the tough issues. PELOSI: Disclose, win, reform, and then overturn the Supreme -- amend the Constitution to overturn the Citizens United decision. We have to do that. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: That`s the two ways the two parties are talking about a challenge that lays ahead and the opportunities they see for making things go more of their way. Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and her unambiguous view of the Supreme Court Citizens United ruling, preceded there by Scott Walker of Wisconsin who survived his recall challenge last night. Joining us now is Democratic senator from Ohio, Sherrod Brown, who is running for re-election in Ohio this year and is fighting against many, many millions of dollars from outside groups. Senator Brown, thanks for being here. SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be back. MADDOW: Do you see parallels in your re-election race, in terms of the funding and outside interests in supporting your opponent with what happened last night with Scott Walker? BROWN: I see some. I mean, what -- you know, what you can control in a campaign may be going well, but what you can`t control obviously is economic issues of what`s happening in the country. And the other thing you can`t control is the money. We have seen it in my race, there`s been more outside money than any Senate race in the country. They just did another big buy, the other side did, up to about $9 million, most of it since last November, but it`s been going on for 14 months. We`ve been outspent 4 1/2 to 5 to 1 -- 4 1/2 or 5 to 1. MADDOW: You`re the incumbent being outspent to 5 to 1. BROWN: And the money is -- we don`t know who the money is we face, it`s directed by Karl Rove, clearly. It`s a lot of oil company money, we figure. It`s conservative billionaires. You know, when their sides -- when our side spends money, if a rich progressive would come up and spend $10 million, and we win, they don`t get material benefit from it, they feel good, but don`t make money from it. If some of the right wingers win, the loyal people and all that, they get an estate tax, they get tax cuts, they get weaker environmental rules, they get anti-labor laws. I mean, that`s partly at what`s at stake with this. But we can win with having a better organization. We have something called the Grassroots Victory Fund in Ohio, which is going to do get out the vote and identify voters and all that you do that way, and we need to have enough on the air, and so far we will, but we are concerned. If the funding -- we figure they`ll spend $20 million or $25 at least in outside money, let alone what my opponent spends, and that does, of course, concern us. MADDOW: There are always great underdog stories every election cycle, someone who wins despite a huge cash advantage. But that is the exception. That is the inspirational story. And generally whoever has the most money wins. Usually incumbents have the most money. Are we now entering a cycle in which Republicans will always have the most money in every election because of the policy alliance with corporate America who`s giving the money? The Republicans will have the spending advantage no matter who the incumbent is. BROWN: I think that`s right. If it`s a competitive race. There are races where you can`t -- Senator Whitehouse in Rhode Island probably won`t have a lot of money spent against him because he`s strong in a pretty Democratic state. But in a competitive, that`s right. But I don`t believe being outspent means you lose. I think if you have enough, and we have had huge support on the Internet, huge direct mail, and I have 51,000 people that have contributed to me. Citizens United has, in one case, 17 people have given $50 million to Citizens United. I mean, that`s the contrast here. But if you have enough, even if you`re outspent two or three or four to one, you can win. I don`t know if you can win if you`re outspent eight to one, but if you do what you need to do -- that`s why we`re always build this grassroots effort. And at the same time, as we`re running, we`re building the effort on Citizens United to fight back. As I`ve said to you before, I do this on your show. My wife says it sounds like carnival barking, but my Web site,, we`ve got 150,000 people, some of them from -- many of them from this show that have come and signed up in our Citizens United petition. Other progressive senators are doing the same to build this grassroots effort for a different Supreme Court, you know, the president winning`s important in this, the different Supreme Court, a constitutional amendment, eventually. Because our system, when they`re coming at voting rights from the grassroots up, in spending this kind of money trying to buy elections, it is -- it is potentially disastrous for our democracy, especially when you see the demise of newspapers at the same time. And that`s why fighting back on this case and, you know, signing up at and doing all the grassroots things we`re doing can mean we win. That`s why I`m still encourage and still optimistic, in spite of Wisconsin, in spite of the tobacco issue in California, we can win if we have enough money and I`m convinced of that. MADDOW: You were talking about a people power versus money power dynamic, and I keep playing about that clip from Nancy Pelosi, because it`s important to think about the time horizon here. Democrats are seeking reform, so it`s not always going to be people power versus money power. So it can be a more even contest between the two sides. But the idea of what it would take to actually change campaign laws enough to make a big difference, that is long way off, isn`t it? (CROSSTALK) BROWN: Yes, it is. Politics is always spoken with an upper class accent. I mean, the people that have the most influence in politics are always wealthier people, of course. I mean, that`s what too often society is. But it`s been a level enough playing field, you know, that we`ve enacted workers compensation and mine safety and women`s right and Social Security and minimum wage and safe drinking water laws and clean air laws and all the things, protections for women`s rights and civil rights that we care about. When the playing field is even a little uneven, relatively level, we can get back to that with the right kind of grassroots efforts. And all the candidates, you know, it`s not liberal conservatives, it`s which side you`re on. If you can convince the voters, as I`ve been able to do in my state, as others have, that have won progressive races, that you`re on their side, it makes all the difference in the world -- and political parties matters less to voters, ideology matters less. Are you on our side when it comes to Wall Street? Are you on our side when it comes to drug prices? Are you on our side when it comes to trade rules and tax laws and all of that? And that`s the message every day that needs to come out of progressives` mouths. MADDOW: Sherrod Brown, U.S. senator from Ohio, the number one target in terms of Senate race this year, and so far in terms of dark money, in outside money. BROWN: It`s an honor. Thanks. MADDOW: Of a sort. Thank you, sir. BROWN: Of a sort. Thank you. MADDOW: Now, I have to tell you, you may have heard Senator Brown mention his campaign Web site there. In the interest of fairness, I need to tell you that his opponent`s Web site is And that`s even. BROWN: Whoa! MADDOW: I know. BROWN: Did you just know that out of the top of your head? MADDOW: I spent some time browsing there myself. Of course, he`s always welcome here as a guest on this show. Given the recent history of American presidential campaigns and elections, there are two stories in the news right now that are really conspicuous in their absence. They really ought to be everywhere, and they are both coming up here tonight if not anywhere else on cable news. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: You know how we do a department of corrections and sometimes we also do a best new thing? Tonight, it`s the best new correction in the world. Maybe ever. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Nonpartisan, highly respected, civic-minded, do-gooderism is back in the state of Florida. The League of Women Voters of Florida and Rock the Vote announced today that they are ready to start up voter registration drives again in the Sunshine State. Whoo-hoo! Both groups had stopped holding voter registration drives there after Florida`s Republican governor, Rick Scott, signed a new law last year that treated people who run voter registration drives as potential felons. In some cases, it threatened to make them felons by virtue of their voter registration efforts. If, for example, it took you anything other than 48 hours to return to the state somebody`s filled out form, you would be treated by the state of Florida as a criminal and threatened with steep fines among other punishments. These good government groups will be able to start registering voters again thanks to a ruling by a federal judge last week who struck down key parts of the Rick Scott`s new "make it harder to register to vote" law. The judge called that 48-hour decline, for example, harsh and impractical. He said in his ruling, quote, "The short deadline coupled with substantial penalties for noncompliance make voter register drives a risky business. If the goal is to discourage voter registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, then 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." In other words, if Rick Scott was hoping to make it harder for new voters to register, then this new law is totally the right way to go. But in terms of the state`s legit interests, the judge says, yes, no. So the 48-hour deadline part of this law is now being blocked. And the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote are getting back to the business of helping people get registered to vote in the crucial state of Florida. That is thanks to a judge and no thanks to the state government. But in the meantime, another voter rights issue in the state of Florida has attracted attention and potentially intervention now from the Feds. Governor Scott has pushed for a major effort to purge the state`s voter registration rolls this year. An effort that is aimed at kicking people who are not eligible to vote off the voter rolls. As part of that effort, they put together a purge list of more than 2,600 Florida voters they had identified as noncitizens who should be removed from the registration rolls. The problem is that local election officials found the list to be riddled with inaccuracies. Quote, the state-produced list of nearly 2,700 suspected noncitizen voters was generated with some outdated data, targeting hundreds of actual citizens who are lawful voters. So far, no one has been purged who has not admitted that he or she is a noncitizen. That was from the "Miami Herald" yesterday. Today the "Orlando Sentinel" reported on the statistical infrequence of voter fraud in the state, which, remember, is the whole reason Rick Scott claims he needs to purge the voter rolls ahead of this year`s presidential election. In the "Orlando Sentinel," the quote is, "notwithstanding the concerns of Scott and Republican legislators, state records show that voter fraud simply hasn`t been a problem for the past decade." One longtime county election supervisor told the paper that fraud simply isn`t much of an issue. Quote, "You are more likely to walk off your office and get hit by a bolt of lightning." Late last week, the civil rights division of the Justice Department told Florida to stop purging voters off its registration rolls, saying the purge appeared to violate the Voting Rights Act, as well as the National Voter Registration Act. That letter was sent to the state of Florida on Thursday of last week. The Justice Department gave the state until today to respond to that letter. And today, Governor Rick Scott`s administration did respond. They are not agreeing to the Justice Department`s request that the state stop their quest to quick people off the state`s voter rolls. They say they respectfully disagree with the Justice Department on the whole "it`s illegal" allegation. They say they refuse to stop the voter purge process. They accuse the federal government of being the one who`s with really violating federal law here. The old, I`m rubber, you`re glue tactic. And they are demanding a response from the Justice Department to their own letter by Monday. The state of Florida, in other words, appears to be sort of gleefully picking a fight here, launching an inevitable standoff with the feds on the issue of kicking people off its voter rolls this year. And given that this is Florida that we`re talking about, and it`s this time of year in this year, this fight, this standoff that has begun has really big political implications. Here is a wild card, though: Rick Scott`s administration can`t actually directly kick voters off the rolls. They`re not in charge of the rolls. All they can do is send purge lists to the counties, to county election supervisors, and tell the people who work at the county level that they`re supposed to kick people off the rolls. It is up to the county, to the county officials, to actually do the purging, because they`re responsible for elections in their counties. And lately the county officials in Florida are not much in a mood for what the state is telling them to do. On Friday, local elections officials in Florida announced that they would be discontinuing the state directed voter purge, because they found the state`s data to be flawed. Oh, and also, there was that whole thing where the Justice Department said what the state s doing is illegal. The president of the state`s association of supervisors of elections told the "Palm Bach Post" on Friday that the Justice Department`s letter and mistakes that the county elections officials had found in the state`s purge list, frankly, made the purge undoable. Quote, "There are just too many variables with this entire process at this time for supervisors to continue." Rick Scott can thumb his nose at the Justice Department, but he cannot force local elections officials in Florida to carry out his voter purge. So what happens next? In terms of practical implications for whether or not you`re going to be able to vote in Florida, that still may mostly rest in the hands of people like our next guest. Joining us tonight for the interview is Ann McFall. She`s Volusia County`s supervisor of elections. She was our guest in November when she challenged the voter fraud case involving a teacher trying to organize a registration drive at her high school in San Rosa County, Florida. Ms. McFall is a Republican. Ma`am, thank you very much for joining us tonight. It`s really nice to have you here. ANN MCFALL (R), VOLUISA CO. FL SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS: Thanks for having me back. MADDOW: Why did you make your initial decision against enforcing the voter purge list in your county? MCFALL: Well, you know, Florida statute says that loose maintenance, maintaining the voter list is done in odd-numbered years. We did that in 2011 and we did a great job. And at the 11th hour, just before the August 14th primary, this is thrown in the laps of 67 supervisors. Of the 2,700 names that were thrown out there statewide, there were just 15 in Volusia County. We started contacting these 15. Of the 15, the first two, one was in the military overseas. I am not going to write that person a letter, saying you have to be removed from the rolls. The second one proved that she was, indeed, and always has been a U.S. citizen. So, it so looked like the list was bogus, if you will. It was outdated. Of the 15, 10 have never voted in Volusia County, ever. So I just quietly put the list aside. I did the minimum necessary. I sent 15 letters out, gave the people 30 days to respond. Half of them have responded, but I`m not going to remove anywhere from the rolls. There is a federal law in the NVRA, the National Voter Registration Act, that says in federal elections, you cannot change, with few exceptions, you cannot change a person`s voter registration history within 90 days of a federal election. So, we aren`t going to do anything with it, no matter if Governor Scott says do this. We just can`t do it. It`s against the law for me to do that. MADDOW: The response that you`re describing in terms of your own decision-making process on this echoes not exactly, but in substance, mostly echoes what we`ve been hearing from all across the state. County election supervisors speaking through the association that you have, county election supervisors who are Democrats, who are Republicans like yourself. A lot of people across the state have been responding this way. Is it a source of friction or conflict now with the secretary of state`s office or with the governor`s office that by and large the kind of response you`re describing is what the governor`s initiative here has been greeted with? MCFALL: Well, I think you`re absolutely right, Rachel. I`ve never felt so empowered as supervisor since I`ve been -- since I`ve come back from the state association meeting that was held in Tampa in May. I was quietly steaming about these 15 people, and then all of a sudden, other supervisors got up, Republicans, Democrats, NPAs, got up and started providing testimony to the division representatives. There were people with hundreds on the list, most of which were U.S. citizens. How can I say, show me what -- show me your evidence that you`re a U.S. citizen? I was never asked that when I registered. Nor was the other 11 million people in Volusia -- in the state of Florida. So why all of a sudden are we having to ask for evidence that you are a U.S. citizen? It just doesn`t make sense and I just felt so humbled by listening to the other supervisors. MADDOW: Before I let you go, I just want to ask if maybe you can -- if you think there is an answer to that question, that you just raised at the very end there. Why is this happening? Why are they doing this? Why with this the timing, with the kind of pressure that they`re putting on you and the technocratic approach that you and you`re other county supervisors seem to have to this issue, why do you think this is happening? MCFALL: I don`t want know. I just hope that it isn`t some sort of partisan posturing, but I`m afraid that`s what it`s turning out to be. I can assure everybody who`s listening tonight that the 67 election supervisors in Florida take extreme pride and work very, very hard at giving fair, equitable, and transparent elections. Whoever wins will win. Whoever loses will lose. There is no partisanship in any way, shape, or form with the election supervisors in Florida. And that is what is so very, very frustrating. MADDOW: You are a firewall in your job, is what it comes down to, ma`am. Ann McFall, the supervisor of elections in Florida`s Volusia County, Republican election supervisor in Volusia -- Ma`am, thank you so much for being here tonight, ma`am. I feel a feeling we`ll be talking again soon as this continues to unfold. Thank you. MCFALL: Thank you so much. MADDOW: All right. Former Vice President Dick Cheney famously said that he did not serve in the military during the Vietnam War because he had other priorities. Turns out he is not alone. The story of another prominent serving his country challenged Republican telling stories that didn`t comport with his previous stories is next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Some days one news stories dominates all the others. It smothers its editorially worthy rivals in a Darwin-ish survival of the loudest. Yesterday, that loud dominant story was of course the recall story in Wisconsin. The governor, Scott Walker, surviving his recall election, even as Wisconsin Democrats did appear to take control of the state senate. But the dominance of the Wisconsin story yesterday meant that when other things hit the wires yesterday, even if they were otherwise newsworthy stories, they sort of got squeezed out of the news cycle. This particular story that got squeezed out of the news day yesterday, I got to wonder if it`s going to get a second chance, because really nobody picked it up yesterday, even as it seems like kind of a big deal. It`s from the "Associated Press". The headline, as you can see here is "Romney`s nonmilitary record faces new scrutiny." It is about Mitt Romney and Vietnam. Vietnam, of course, has been kind of a centerpiece in presidential elections in recent years. In the last election in 2008, Senator John McCain made his own heroic ordeal as a POW in Vietnam the basis for his campaign for the president. It was the biographical hub from which emanated all of the other spokes of that campaign. And the election before that in 2004, another Vietnam War hero, Senator John Kerry, a combat veteran who received three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star and a Silver Star, he was slandered and slimed for his Vietnam service in the swift boating effort funded by a handful of conservative Texas billionaires. A swift boat didn`t use to be verb, it was just a boat, until it became shorthand for Karl Rove era conservatives, going as far as to attack and lie about a man`s hero`s combat service record. In that same election, President George W. Bush`s own avoidance of serving in Vietnam through well-connected assignments to stateside National Guard units, that issue somehow became a scandal working in the president`s favor rather than against him when a disputed CBS News report on the subject led to the forced resignation of Dan Rather, that network`s main anchor. Dan Rather has a new book out that in part re-litigates that issue of George W. Bush`s Vietnam-era service still today. Barack Obama is a post-Vietnam War president, our nation`s first. He was a toddler when the war started. He was barely a teenager when the war ended. But his opponent in the general election this year, Mitt Romney, is a generation older than President Obama. He`s right in the sweet spot in terms of his age group. He`s 65. He`s almost exactly the same age as George W. Bush. Mitt Romney was 20, 21 years old at the height of the Vietnam draft, but he did not serve. Like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney`s father at the time was a very, very prominent man. He had been president of the American Motor`s Corporation. He was the governor of Michigan. He was a leading candidate for the Republican nomination for president in 1968. Well, in 1965, Mitt Romney went to Stanford University. As a freshman, he protested in favor of the war in Vietnam and against anti-war protesters. In this photo, he`s holding a sign that says, "Speak out, don`t sit in." In October of that year, his freshman year, Mitt Romney received his first deferment from Vietnam because he was a student at the time. The next summer, in July of 1966, Mr. Romney got his second Vietnam deferment. This time, it was for being a missionary in his church. Because Mitt Romney`s church, the Church of Latter Day Saints, was in favor of the war in Vietnam, not every Mormon missionary automatically qualified for a deferment from service because of his service to the church. But Mitt Romney somehow did qualify for that deferment. And his deferment for being a missionary was for longer than the two years that a Mormon mission usually lasts. His deferment was for more than two and a half years. In 1969, after his mission was over, Mitt Romney`s deferment for religious reasons came to an end, and he came back to Stanford and got new student deferments. It was 1970 before Mr. Romney`s deferments finally dried up. But by then, the combination of declining troop numbers and his draft number meant that he never served. He`d had five straight years of four straight deferments through the height of the war and he never served. In 1994, when he was running as a candidate for United States Senate, Mr. Romney told "The Boston Herald," quote, "I was not planning on signing up for the military. It was not my desire to go off and serve in Vietnam. But nor did I take any action to remove myself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft." Except of course as "The A.P." notes this week in the story that everybody is busy ignoring, Mitt Romney did exactly that. He did remove himself from the pool of young men who were eligible for the draft. He sought and got four separate deferments over five years to keep himself out of going to Vietnam, the war he demonstrated in favor of. Here`s the weirder thing -- here`s the thing that you might think would be a bigger deal in this presidential race now that Mitt Romney is the projected Republican nominee. During the Vietnam War, he got deferments so he said he wouldn`t have to serve. In 1994, he said he never sought any deferments to avoid serving. He had received them but he said he didn`t. He also said at the time, "It was not my desire to serve in Vietnam. That was what he said in the 1990s." Then when he started running for president a decade later, he said this. He said, "I longed in many respects to actually be in Vietnam and be representing our country there. In some ways, it was frustrating not to feel like I was there as part of the troops fighting in Vietnam." That`s what he told the "Boston Globe" in 2007. So when he was draft eligible, he got four deferments. In 1994, he says it was not his desire to serve in Vietnam. But by 2007, he says he had longed in many respects to fight in that war. This is not about changing your viewpoint on the war over time, which pretty much the whole country did. This isn`t even about getting deferments or volunteering to serve. It`s about whether or not you can admit the truth that you did seek deferments. Why did he lie about that in 1994? Does he admit now he did seek those deferments during the war? And how can the same guy say when he`s running for one office that he had no desire to serve in that war, and when he`s running for the next office he says he longed to serve in that war. Which is it? And has he settled on one of those directly contradictory stories about himself he`s going to try to sell us this time around? And does the press care? The press used to care about candidates who are Mitt Romney`s age and what they did during Vietnam. Mitt Romney has extraordinary trouble telling the truth. Not just positions of his opponents and empirical data. He even has trouble telling the truth about himself, even really important things about himself -- things that the press used to care about, at least when the candidate in question was a Democrat. This is a real story. You may not have heard about this story yesterday when "The A.P." published this big piece because maybe Wisconsin was sucking all the oxygen out of the news cycle. But I think it is a weird wonder that you are not hearing more about this story today. Stay tuned. I hope. Stay tuned. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This show has committed a grievous error, and I`m sorry. It has to do with a story we brought you last week about a one-time 2012 presidential hopeful Thaddeus McCotter. Congressman McCotter kind of accidentally pretty much lost his job a couple weeks ago. He got disqualified off the ballot for the primary in his own re-election. His campaign didn`t turn in enough valid signatures to get him on the ballot. What they turned in was this massive whole pages of the same signature just photocopied and turned in twice or three times, stuff obviously cut and pasted clumsily. When the extent of the problem became clear last week, Congressman McCotter vowed to cooperate with an investigation into the apparent fraud here and he, he`d tried to hold on to his seat by running as a write-in candidate. Then, over the weekend, the congressman changed his mind, said he wouldn`t run as a write-in candidate after all. He would retire. As of today, he`s off the primary ballot. He`s not writing a write-in campaign. He`s retiring from Congress. That`s the Thaddeus McCotter story, including the update. Now, here`s the grievous error we committed in reporting on that story and how the Republicans were going to try to deal with this mess. Could they decide to get behind the one Republican who did qualify for the ballot? There is a Republican on the ballot. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: 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 who nobody had heard of before now. It`s the wealthiest congressional district in Michigan. You guys ready to pick the reindeer herder for your congressman? (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. Grievous error. The grievous sin. We reported on this candidate`s existence by simply showing you this to source the fact that the only Republican on the primary ballot for this congressional seat in Michigan is a reindeer farmer. We showed you this newspaper article when we could have shown you the reindeer and the reindeer farmer himself. This is from the candidate`s Web site. Not his campaign Web site, which is much less interesting. This is from his business Web site, which is Oldfashionedsanta.OMG if you ask me. The photo caption reads, quote, "Owner Kerry Bentivolio scratches reindeer ear on warm spring day." Obviously, the rule is, if you`re talking about a congressional candidate and his reindeer and you, in fact, have pictures of that candidate and that reindeer, it is a grievous sin to not share those pictures with everyone. I regret the error very, very much. But those reindeer are so cute. That does it for us tonight. "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell starts right now. Thank you. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END