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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 06/07/12

Guests: Noam Scheiber, Justin Elliott

RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: I`m sending a warning to the fish right now. But you, my friend, are rubbing it in, because I`m not going fishing next week. ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s not an environmental warning, because it`s catch and release, but thank you. MADDOW: All right. Thank you, man. Appreciate it. Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. You know, you may have noticed this week that we have a new graphics package on our show. For example, at the end of a segment, instead of this -- this is what you used to see at the end of a segment. Can we play that? All right. Now, that`s what you used to see. But now, instead, you see this. That`s our now thing. I like it, right? It`s kind of like the difference between regular camouflage and digital camouflage, right? Digi camo. In any case, we have a new graphics package. We`re very proud of it. We like it very much. But sadly, in making the change, in switching over to our new graphics package, we have had some really fun errors. My favorite visual error that we committed this week with our new graphics package was on the very first segment of the very first night of the new graphics package. The first time we tried to put up this little graphic that we put up all the time, which is our e-mail address -- here`s how you e-mail the show -- this is what we put up. That is not how you spell my name. Who knows who that e-mail goes to! It was very embarrassing to spell your own name wrong on national television. We did that on Monday night. And then when we realized that we had done that, I showed the graphic again, I apologized for it, we corrected it with, and we moved on. That`s what you do, right? When you get something wrong, you acknowledge you screwed it up and you fix it. I once mixed up the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and I said, "With great conviction, that the Constitution has no preamble," which was totally wrong and with was super embarrassing. And when I realized I had said that super embarrassing wrong thing, I apologized for it, I corrected the error, and we moved on. Mistakes happen. In private life, they happen, in public life, particularly if you talk for a living, you get stuff wrong. It`s not the end of the world. But if you talk for a living, if you are a public figure, what does it say about you when you don`t care if you get stuff wrong. If when you screw up or maybe if you are trying to lie and you get caught trying to lie, right, if you get caught and you`re now on the record as having said something either inadvertently or on purpose that is provably and obviously not true, what does it say about you if you don`t want to correct the record? I mean, if you`re going to continue to be a public person, if you`re going to be a person who people are supposed to believe when you speak, you cannot allow yourself to become known as a person who lies. Like, here`s an example. This is the Facebook page of Republican Congressman Jeff Landry of Louisiana. On his Facebook page, he is highlighting an interview he did this week with a right-wing radio show. In that right-wing talk radio interview, Congressman Landry said this. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) REP. JEFF LANDRY (R), LANDRY: This is an administration who has no problem granting special status or waivers to Muslims as they two through TSA screenings. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: Muslims don`t have to go through TSA screenings? Muslims get special waivers for the TSA? No! That`s not true, at all! Not even close. It was a Glenn Beck conspiracy theory a couple of years ago on the Internet machine. Now, granted, that was the height, I guess, of Glenn Beck`s influence in the Republican Party, so, you know, Glenn Beck cracks a crazy conspiracy theory in the Glenn Beck corner of the internet and Republicans all believe it for a second. But when somebody made the mistake of actually checking to see if it was true, frankly, it ruined everything. Then-Senator John Ensign, ah, John Ensign, he`ll be back on the show later, he asked at a hearing, he asked the head of the TSA, if somebody said that they didn`t want to go through TSA screening because of their religion. Here`s how that went. It was very quick. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I respect and we respect that person`s beliefs. That person`s not going to get on an airplane. THEN-SEN. JOHN ENSIGN (R), NEVADA: And there will be no exceptions, just because of religion? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. ENSIGN: That was -- the -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. ENSIGN: OK. That was the answer that I was looking for. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: The answer you were looking for, bluntly disproving that conspiracy theory pip mean, it`s bluntly disproven. Even if you are a refugee from Glennbeckistan, it is just not true. But still, these things, they never die on the right. And so, a conservative congressman from Louisiana is still in this past week advancing this totally disproven conspiracy theory that President Obama says Muslims don`t have to go through TSA screening. Now, Steve Benen, who produces for this show now, Steve called Congressman Jeff Landry`s office after he heard that the congressman had said that -- called the office to find out what the hey the congressman was talking about with this Muslim/TSA screening waiver thing. And the congressman`s press officer, at first, denied that Congressman Landry had ever said any such thing. Steve then calmly noted in his calm Steve Benen way that there was, in fact, tape of the Congressman saying it. The press officer then tried again, came up with another answer, said that what the congressman must have meant is that anybody in a head scarf is exempt from TSA screening, and that is not what Congressman Jeff Landry said in this interview, but also, for the record, it is not true. Congressman Landry`s Facebook page, where he posted this interview, where he talks about the Muslim TSA waiver that doesn`t exist, it is on his own Facebook page, but it is now full of comments from all over the Internet of people saying, essentially, dude, not true. You have to correct that. You don`t seriously believe that, do you? Where did you get that from? So far, Congressman Jeff Landry has issued no correction on this. This happens. I assume that he will, right? But, this happens. It`s like when Rick Santorum, when he was still in the race for president, remember when Rick Santorum advanced his theories about how the Dutch kill all their old people? Remember that? They murder the elderly in Holland systemically, leading the old people to flee the country in droves ahead of all the murdering. That`s what Rick Santorum said. None of this is true. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: In the Netherlands, people wear a different bracelet if you`re elderly. And the bracelet is: "do not euthanize me." Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands, but half of the people who are euthanized -- and it`s 10 percent of all deaths in Netherland -- half of those people are euthanized involuntarily in hospitals because they are older and sick. So, elderly people in the Netherlands don`t go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they`re afraid because of budget purposes that they will not come out of that hospital if they go in with a sickness. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: None of what Rick Santorum said there is true. None of it. One of the most enjoyable Republican primary segments we did during the whole Republican primary this year is when we had the really handsome Dutch news anchor on the show to check all of those assertions that Rick Santorum made, and, yes, nothing that he said was true. So, Senator Santorum never corrected the record on the Dutch thing. He never said he was wrong. He is sticking with that one, apparently, even though it is not true. None of it is true. I did have some hope, though, because Senator Santorum did try to correct another one of the whoppers that he told on the campaign trail. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SANTORUM: I was just reading something last night from the state of California, and at the California universities, they`re -- it`s seven -- I think it`s seven or eight of the California system of universities don`t even teach an American history course. It`s not even available to be taught. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Amazing, right? Totally not true. Totally untrue. Not true at all. American history classes are available to be taught and are, in fact, being taught, at every single one of the University of California campuses. After a very long and for me very deeply intellectually satisfying discussion of that particular error with Rick Santorum`s chief strategist at the time, on this program, in which the chief strategist, John Brabender, he`s a very nice man, told me that he thought that Rick Santorum took his reputation for honesty seriously enough that he would correct that assertion if it was, in fact, shown to him to have been wrong. After that, we wrote Senator Santorum and pointed out how he was wrong, and Mr. Santorum wrote me a letter back, trying to correct it. He took back, retracted his assertion that the University of California doesn`t teach American history, and instead he asserted that what he meant to say is that the University of California doesn`t teach survey courses in Western civilization. And of course, they do teach survey courses in Western civilization. So the replacement assertion was also untrue. But, at least he tried. At least there was an attempt. It was a failed, misfire of an attempt to correct the record, but at least there was an effort to correct the record. There was a recognition that there is a record, and that it ought to be correct. And that you ought to be at least trying to make yourself seem like a trustworthy person. And you know, there`s a little spark of that too in the way that Congressman Landry`s office responded to the overtures from Steve Benen. I mean, there was an effort to worm out of it. At least there was some sense that it was wrong to have told a lie and that however gymnastic you have to get to try to explain that lie, you should, in fact, try to explain your way out of it. You wouldn`t want an overt lie on your record. You wouldn`t want to be known as somebody who tells lies. That would be shameful. That shame, which can lead a person to full-on out apologize or try to worm out of it or come up with a new lie to cover up the old one, that shame, no matter what it does, that shame itself, that lying is wrong. That shame is valuable. And that is why it is a big deal that the Mitt Romney for president campaign does not seem to have that sense. Again, the issue is not making mistakes, screwing up, getting stuff wrong. Everybody screws up, everybody gets stuff wrong. It is a question of how you deal with that and how you feel about that. Whether you have a sense of shame or regret or a desire to correct the record, when you, in fact, say something that is false -- when you put your name and your word and your credibility behind something that was untrue. I mean, I know we don`t have high expectations of politicians truthfulness, right, or the general level of honesty in political speech, we do not have high expectations of that, but this is something qualitatively different. Mr. Romney gets caught saying things that are factually wrong, and the thing that is different about him is that he does not mind. He doesn`t fix it. He doesn`t even try to worm out of it. He doesn`t appear to feel any shame about it at all. And he is happy to keep telling the lie once he knows it is a lie. What is that? Because it is a very consistent thing now. And I have not seen this before in big deal top of the ticket politics in this consistent a way. Particularly from somebody who`s just running for office and not already holding office and being arrogant about it. From the very first general election style ad that Mr. Romney ran against President Obama back in November, this was an evident problem of theirs. You may remember this ad. It was the one where this is how they quoted President Obama. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We 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 -- lose -- lose. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Lose, lose, lose. That was how Mitt Romney quoted President Obama. Here`s what President Obama actually said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: Senator McCain`s campaign actually said, and I quote, "If we`re going to keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose." (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Cutting that quote the way they did and ascribing it to Barack Obama, when what Barack Obama was doing was quoting somebody else for the purpose of criticizing the statement, that is just a flat-out lie. That is not subtle. That is not the kind of thing you get away with, even in politics. That is really too black and white, that was too blatant, which was the reaction to that ad from Mr. Romney by even the very cynical Beltway press. I mean, even they were horrified. And the most important thing now about that lie by the Romney campaign in their first ad about President Obama is that when they were called out on it, even by the Beltway press, they did not fix it, and Mr. Romney himself was not embarrassed about it when he was asked about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There was no hidden effort on the part of our campaign. It was, instead, to point out that`s what`s sauce for the goose is now sauce for the gander. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: His first ad against President Obama, yes, it`s a lie. Yes, he has been called out on it. No, he is not embarrassed. And to this day, they have not taken the ad down. It`s the exact same dynamic of what Mr. Romney said last week when he was standing in front of that Solyndra plant. You may recall our reporting that he said, that the inspector general had investigated the loan of that company and found that taxpayer money had been directed to the Obama administration`s friends and family. ] No such thing happened. The inspector general did not conclude that. It`s a lie. And it is not a subtle one. And it`s really easily checked. Here`s ABC News calling him out on it. Here`s the "Associated Press" calling him out on it. Here`s "The Chicago Tribune" calling him out on it. Here`s "Fortune" magazine calling him out on it. We called him out on it. Mr. Romney told a lie when he said that, and has been nailed for telling that lie, yet he has not taken it back and not corrected the record. And again, perhaps more importantly, they are still running an ad that includes the same lie. So their candidate is saying it personally, it is in an ad that they are continuing to run, that I have been called out, it is factually untrue what they`re saying, but they`re running with it anyway. And now there`s a new one. He`s doing it again. A couple of weeks ago, Mitt Romney started citing this book on the campaign trail. It is a book by Noam Scheiber called "The Escape Artists: How Obama`s Team Fumbled the Recovery." Mr. Romney says this book proves that President Obama passed health reform even though he knew it would hurt the economy. So President Obama deliberately hurt the economy in order to pass health reform, which is going to be bad for the economy. Mr. Romney said two weeks ago that that`s what this book reports --- waggling Noam Scheiber`s book, citing by name. Noam Scheiber responded at "The New Republic," the magazine where he works, saying, that`s not at all what`s in my book, that`s not what my book says, and I never reported that. And now again, despite that, as of last night, Mitt Romney is making the same claim again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I saw something that I thought was pretty disturbing. A book that was written in a way that`s apparently pro-President Obama was written by a guy named Noam Scheiber, and in this book, he says there was a discussion that the fact that Obamacare would slow down the economic recovery in this country. And they knew that before they passed it. The idea that they knowingly slowed down our recovery in order to put in place Obamacare, which they wanted, and they considered historic, but the American people did not want or consider historic, is something which I think deserves a lot of explaining. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You know what I think deserves a lot of explaining? The fact that Noam Scheiber`s book does not say that, which Mr. Scheiber very pleasantly pointed out the first time that Mitt Romney said that untrue thing about the book. But Mr. Romney is sticking with it. Health reform is not expected to slow economic growth. There`s no evidence that the Obama White House thought that health reform would slow economic growth. Noam Scheiber`s book does not say that the Obama White House thought that health reform would slow economic growth. None of those things is true. And none of that appears to bother the man who keeps saying it. Joining us now is a guy you might have heard of, named Noam Scheiber, senior editor at "The New Republic," and author of "The Escape Artists: How Obama`s Team Fumbled the Recovery," which is a starring role in the Mitt Romney misunderstanding book club this week. Mr. Scheiber, thank you very much for joining us. NOAM SCHEIBER, AUTHOR, "THE ESCAPE ARTIST": Thanks for having me. MADDOW: I also want to apologize for Mr. Romney calling you Schreiber. SCHEIBER: Par for the course. MADDOW: Right. The first time that Mr. Romney raised your book on the campaign trail, that we know about, a couple of weeks ago, he said, "In the book," talking about you, "he talks about how Larry Summers, who was the president`s chief economic adviser advised the administration that if they put in place Obamacare, it would slow down the recovery." He repeated in the sound bite that you just heard last night. Just for the record, in a way that he`ll understand, is that what`s reported in your book? SCHEIBER: No, the argument, if I understand it correctly, is that there was something sort of intrinsic to the American -- to the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform act, the expansion of government or whatever it was, that would slow down the recovery, that would hurt the economy, and that, you know, despite that, despite knowing that, they went ahead and did it anyway. I found no evidence of this. I encountered no administration official who felt that way. They all thought this was a good thing to do. It was in the long-term interest of the economy. And they had no inkling -- there was never any discussion that this would be something that would actually crimp the recovery going forward. MADDOW: While you have been put under the spotlight here, and in particular, this particular part of the argument in your book has been put in the spotlight, as far as what I understand what you were reporting there, and the context of those discussions between Larry Summers and President Obama, in the context of your interview with Larry Summers, that was about whether or not passing health reform, essentially, used up so much political capital, that they could not pursue a second round of stimulus spending. It was about what to focus administration time on, not what there would be economic slack for. SCHEIBER: Exactly. I was making a basic opportunity cost argument, that if you throw all of your energy and all of your capital behind this big reform initiative, it`s possible that it`s going to crowd out your opportunities to do other things, like pass another round of stimulus, as you say. And, you know, in fairness, I think, I certainly came to the conclusion that that was a possibility. That it did prevent their efforts or at least complicate their efforts to go back and get more stimulus. And I think, you know, certain Obama economic advisers at the time raised this concern. But, again, there was never any discussion of this idea that the act itself would somehow damage the economy. And there was never anything for that matter said with certainty oar even high probability that by doing this, you are sort of dealing us a slow recovery. This was the standard conversation that goes on within any administration about the trade-offs between different policy initiatives. And obviously, the president felt that the possibility, the chance of doing health care was sufficiently important, that it was worth the trade-off. MADDOW: Noam, since Mitt Romney has been talking about your book on the campaign trail, in at least these two instances, I don`t know, there may be more, have you had any communication with the campaign? Did you get any response after your initial note that you published at "The New Republic," saying that you were being misread? SCHEIBER: No. I`ve been in touch with them. I consider myself a reporter. I report on both the Obama campaign and the Romney campaign. I try to be sort of as disinterested and respectful as I can be. I`ve certainly been in touch with them about other things, but we have not -- we have not discussed this directly. MADDOW: Well, if they don`t want to talk to you about it and they do want to talk to me, please send them my way. SCHEIBER: I will point them in your direction. MADDOW: Yes, that`ll work. Noam Scheiber, senior editor at "The New Republic," the new book is called "The Escape Artists: How Obama`s Team Fumbled the Recovery" -- Noam, thanks very much for being here and helping us to understand this. I really appreciate it. SCHEIBER: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: All right. We will be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The super sad, true politics story of a man whose name is Kreep -- coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The Supreme Court decision that got rid of all the campaign finance laws in this country, the decision that brought us the eccentric billionaires that determine our fate elections that we have now, it is sometimes easy to forget now that what that court case was based on was a movie. It was based on this movie, "Hillary: The Movie," which is essentially a long form ridiculous right-wing talk radio style political ad against Hillary Clinton, very thinly disguised as a movie, very thinly disguised as a documentary -- very, very thinly disguised. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She`s driven by the power, she`s driven to get the power. That is the driving force in her life. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is steeped in controversy, steeped in sleaze. That`s why they don`t want us to look at her record. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ll tell you something. She`s no Richard Nixon, she`s worse. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ruthless. Vindictive. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Venal, sneaky. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ideological. Intolerant. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Liar is a good one. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yes. The effort to broadcast that ridiculous right-wing political attack ad against Hillary Clinton without triggering campaign finance restrictions on political ads was the case that led to the Citizens United decision, which handed over American elections, wholesale, to corporations and anonymous eccentric billionaires. But the renewed attention to that Citizens United decision now, because we are now reaping the fruits of that decision in our current elections, it turns out it`s also a pretty good reminder of where that case came from -- this right-wing cottage industry of marketing really out-there conspiracy theories about Democrats to conservative audiences who will pay to see them. An underappreciated part of the Citizens United argument was that the Citizens United people thought that there was good money to be made with this crazy anti-Hillary Clinton conspiracy theory movie. It`s part of why they wanted to air it when and how and where they did. And those technical specifics about where they wanted to air this thing made up the path that the Supreme Court followed to their revolutionary decision to get rid of all the campaign finance laws. But since Barack Obama is the one who won the presidency instead of Hillary Clinton winning the presidency, the out-there conspiracy theory cottage industry that`s making money off of his presidency for conservatives is, of course, the birther industry. Perhaps you would like to purchase this birther DVD from the "World Net Daily" superstore, regularly priced $19.95 plus shipping and handling, but it`s on sale now. And you can bundle your purchase with "Where`s the birth certificate?" bumper sticker, also available from the "World Net Daily" superstore. If you don`t like that particular format for the bumper sticker, don`t worry, they`ve got it in this other design too. It`s magnetic, easy on, easy off, for the low, low price of $9.95, plus shipping and handling. An autographed copy of "where`s the real birth certificate?" is available for the low, low cost of $22.95, plus shipping and handling. That`s the birther book written by the same guy who wrote the swift boat book against John Kerry in the 2004 election. See? It`s a business. It`s good business for these guys. It`s frankly a stable business at least election to election. Conservatives are always willing to shell out at least some money for this stuff. The question, though, is whether or not this stuff just lives on out there on the fringe, or whether it gets mainstreamed, whether or not Republican politicians have to answer for this stuff if they benefit from it politically. Hello, George W. Bush and the swift boaters. But there`s also a question just beyond the question of association, right? There`s a question of whether these individuals who are out there on the fringe, selling these super out-there conspiracy theories on the right, whether those individuals themselves can be mainstreamed. In 2010, the queen of the birthers, the Moldavian dentist known as Orly Taitz, she ran for secretary of state in California. More than 500,000 Republicans voted for her in California. But she came in second, she lost. On Tuesday night, we reported that Orly Taitz is trying again. She ran as a Republican for the U.S. Senate race in California this year, trying to unseat Dianne Feinstein. In California`s new everybody runs at once primary system, which they`re trying out for the first time this year, there were 24 names on the ballot on Tuesday night for senate. The way it works is that the top two finishers out of 24 would then run against each other in the general election in November. Now, as the incumbent, Dianne Feinstein, unsurprisingly, came in first. But who came in second? Who`s going to run against her in the fall? Well, even though Orly Taitz did poll second to Dianne Feinstein in some robopolls before the election, Orly Taitz, in the end, did not come in second. She came in fifth, out of 24. She got more than 100,000 votes. But the mainstreaming the birther`s dream is not dead. You may remember a guy we covered back in the day named Gary Kreep, creep with K? Does that ring a bell? Back in 2009, "Talking Points Memo" dragged up this birther infomercial from Gary Kreep. It`s an infomercial entitled, "Where was President Obama born?" And that`s not just a question for Gary Kreep. For him, it`s an opportunity. And for you, it`s the opportunity of the lifetime. Call him now for your chance to give Gary Kreep $30 so he can send some faxes and stuff about President Obama being secretly foreign. Call now! (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) NARRATOR: Join hundreds of thousands of American who simply want the truth. As a thank you for being part of this petition drive, you will receive this exponentially created got a birth certificate bumper sticker. Also, you can help the United States Justice Foundation in their efforts to force President Obama to produce his birth certificate by making a gift of $30 that will enable us to send a fax on your behalf to all 50 state attorney generals and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, demanding they force President Obama to supply his official state of Hawaii birth certificate. GARY KREEP: In addition, we petitioned Congress to -- petition campaign to block the certifying of the Electoral College results until after our lawsuit had a chance to be heard or Mr. Obama had produced proof he was a natural-born citizen. Unfortunately, Congress refused to do anything about that, despite rumors that at least one congressman was going to challenge the results, no one in Congress did it. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Gary Kreep. All right. So, Orly Taitz may not have made the cut as the Republican nominee for Senate in California this week. Close, but she didn`t make it. But that guy, the guy from the birther infomercial looks like he has gotten mighty, mighty close to being elected as a judge in the same state. In a superior judgeship race in San Diego, Gary Kreep has been narrowly ahead since polls closed. With 100 percent of the precincts reporting, and before they started counting the absentee ballots, there was just a 56-vote difference between Kreep, the birther infomercial guy, and the other candidate. The other candidate is named Peed, this is a case of Kreep with a "K" versus Peed, P-E-E-D. We will do it with the music and everything so you believe me. See? Election music, that`s how you know I`m not kidding. It`s Kreep versus Peed. Gary Kreep versus Garland Peed. This is a superior court judge race in San Diego. And we have new results for you tonight. Updated results in Kreep versus Peed. As of an hour ago, Garland Peed has taken a very tiny lead. If you guys laugh in the studio, I will not get through this. You must hold on so I can hold on. Garland Peed is a 27-year veteran of the San Diego county prosecutor`s office. He`s been a prosecutor for 27 years. And yes, he has a funny name, but he totally gets it that he has a funny name. He is flush with understanding. This is from his -- enough! This is from his Facebook page. Look, the little kid in front who`s like, look what it says on my front, ha-ha! And there`s this one from his Facebook page, who looks like maybe the dog`s name is Garland, and some evil, obedient school despot ordered him to wear this around after he had an accident indoors. Garland Peed, veteran - - I`m not doing this! Garland Peed, veteran 27-year prosecutor versus Gary Kreep, the birther infomercial guy, in a race to be a judge, and the birther infomercial guy now trails Mr. Peed by a wee little 4/100 of a point after the latest tally trickled in, which for whatever it means for the state of justice in San Diego County, is probably going to do wonders for jacking up the prices of bumper stickers that say that the president is a secret alien. There are 108,000 absentee ballots left to count in this judgeship race in San Diego. Kreep versus Peed --, think good thoughts. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: If you happen to employ your best friend and his wife and then you sleep with the wife and then you pay the wife off, and then you set the husband up with an illegal lobbying gig to try to get rid of him, we now know the best way for you to get off easy for all of that behavior. Be a United States senator when you do it. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The huge amounts of money that are spent on political campaigns now, the unprecedented money spent on political TV ads in particular, did you ever wonder why with all that TV ad spending, local TV stations aren`t getting rich? Why, yes, being a local news reporter is still an awesome job, but the pay is really not very good and you share a cubicle with three other people and do your own makeup, and if you`re the sports guy, sometimes you also have to be the weather guy, because if he`s out, there`s no sub. If there`s so many political ads being bought on local TV stations, why aren`t they getting super rich off all of that? In part, it`s because that local TV stations are required by law to sell spots at their lowest advertising rate. So when one Virginia advertising columnist speculated this week that there might be so many ads this election in Virginia, that they might shut out all the non-political advertisers from Virginia TV stations, that was a good news/bad news idea for local TV stations. I mean, on the one hand, yay, they`ll be selling their whole inventory of ad stays, but on the other hand, all of that inventory could be at the cheapest possible rate, even in the primest of prime-time. The reason there`s regulation on the ad rates for political ads is because we have a public interest in how electioneering is done and who has the ability to do it. One of the rights we have with respect to political ads is we have a right to know who`s paying for them. Who`s paying for those political ads you`ll be seeing this year and how much they are paying to run them. We have the right to know, by law. That`s public information. But let`s say you want to exercise that right. In order to find out who`s behind the attack ads that you see running in every commercial break during your local newscast or during "Two and A Half Men," or whatever, the only way you can exercise your right to know who paid for that ad and how much they paid for it, which is your right to know, the only way you can exercise that ad, is to physically drive to the TV station in your area and ask to see that information, in print. TV stations are required by law to maintain records on political ad buys and to make them available in a public file that they keep on site for anybody who wants to see them. But that doesn`t mean that they`re required to make those records any more easily available than that. So if you want to see the public file, you have to physically go and get it, during regular business hours, and if you want to make photocopies of that, that means you are probably going to be wrangling the photocopier yourself and paying for those copies. Enter the Federal Communications Commission with what sounds like kind of a common sense idea, to make this public information access lets 1950s- ey. Back in April, the FCC decided on a new rule that says, hey, seeing how it`s the year 2012 and all, how about the TV stations just put that public information upon the Internet machine, where everybody can see it. Sounds like a reasonable idea, right? Putting public information on the Internet where people can actually get it. Apparently, no. Apparently, no, that is not a good idea, that is a bad idea -- to the Republicans in Congress, at least. Republicans in a house subcommittee have just voted on a straight party line to block that new rule by the FCC. That new rule that says that stations have to post what`s already supposed to be public information online so people can actually get it. Now, this is not done and over yet, in Congress. It still has to go further in the House and it has to go through the Senate. It`s got a ways to go. Also, there`s litigation on this as well. But in the meantime, the investigative journalism all-stars over at "ProPublica" have decided that watching and waiting for this to wind its way through the system is kind of boring. And so, crowd-sourcing, they are orchestrating what amounts to an end run, I guess, around the whole debate. Starting this spring, they have enlisted help from grad students at Northwestern University`s journalism school. The students physically went to Chicago`s local TV stations, they got the public file, but then they scanned the file and posted it online. And then they asked for other volunteers from around the country to do the same thing. Quote, "Since TV stations won`t put it online themselves, we decided to do it ourselves and we want your help. We intend to enlist more readers in checking their local stations as the election campaigns slog on. The general election is likely to usher in even greater spending and such spot checks could keep an eye on how big spenders are influencing the election." So far, we`re told about 375 people from across the country have volunteered to help, to help gather this supposedly public information, to help make it actually available to the public. Eight news organizations have been consulting with ProPublica on the project and they are now in the early stages of collecting all that wannabe public stuff. Joining us now is Justin Elliott, he`s the reporter who has been spearheading this effort for "ProPublica," and just pointed to me, you`re the guy who reported on the birther infomercial when you were back at "TPM" in those days. JUSTIN ELLIOTT, PROPUBLICA: That`s right. I`ve interviewed Gary Kreep several times. MADDOW: You are THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW all-star tonight. We are very happy to have you. It sort of seems like this is the unpaid intern version of a hostile takeover at TV station. You know, hey, TV stations, you may not want this unpaid labor of us making your records available online, but we`re going to do it anyway. Is that kind of how it`s been greeted? ELLIOTT: Yes, we haven`t gotten any resistance from TV stations. It is the law. Any member of the public can go to a TV station, show up, request to see the political file, and they have to give you access to these file saying what campaigns, what super PACs, what other outside groups are buying ads, when they`re buying them, how much they`re paying. Also, there`s group who`s on the board of directors, which can be useful in cases of sort of mysterious, more opaque groups. But, yes, I mean, we`re hoping this becomes irrelevant if this FCC rule goes into effect and all of the station or at least of the beginning of the top 50 markets will have to put all the data online on an FCC Web site. MADDOW: So while we have been frustrated about and learning about the new opacity in terms of who gives money to fund super PACs in particular, but also some of the other ways that campaign donations themselves can be made more opaque now, this is a way to see it at the end. You can at least know who`s putting the money down to purchase a thing. It seems to me though that in terms of that having utility, you would want to be able to aggregate that information. And so, that`s the idea of putting it online, right? So you can have searchable, indexable database? ELLIOTT: Right, exactly. Although, I should say, the FCC database, if it ever makes it online, is not going to be searchable unfortunately. They bowed to the broadcast industry`s demand on that, so the industry will be able to put in the data in whatever format they want, but it will still be better than having to go physically to the stations. I mean, to some extent, it`s hard to know what we`ll be able to find out from this information until we see it, but there has been some interesting reporting going on around the country. In Michigan, for example, there was a story based on a reporter going to the stations, that showed you had five conservative anti-Obama groups that were using the same ad buyer and doing a sort of relay race style of ad buying, where one group would buy one week and the next the next week and so on. And -- MADDOW: So, all of their ad buys look smaller than you would know if you were -- than you would know if you`re pursuing them group by group. ELLIOTT: Exactly. And it was a pooling of resources by taking it one week at a time. So that would not have been obvious at all, because it looked like it was five independent groups, unless you saw this data. I mean, there could be a whole host of stories that could come out of this. MADDOW: This ProPublica plan on doing this certain open-ended terms. See what you get and see how useful you can make the information? What`s your plan? ELLIOTT: Yes, certainly. We`re going to look at this data as it comes in and see what we can figure out about how money`s being spent by both the Obama and Romney campaigns, as well as all the outside groups. MADDOW: Excellent. Justin Elliott, a reporter for "ProPublica," which does better and better work all the time -- Justin, thank you very much. I really appreciate. I`m glad you landed there, too. Congratulations. ELLIOTT: Thanks. MADDOW: All right. For a United States senator, the upside of behaving very, very badly is the same as anybody else`s upside of behaving badly, right? Whoo-hoo! But even if the upside is the same, even if you are a United States senator, it turns out the downside of behaving badly is way different than it is for normal people. As in, there isn`t a downside. As in, get out of jail free, Senator. Feel free to the resume the whoo-hoo at your leisure, you`re safe. Fresh data on that, just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Nobody wants to be bitter. Nobody likes to be bitter. Everybody`s a little bit bitter. And tonight, some of the best, most well-articulated bitterness we have seen in a long, long time, coming up in the bitterest new thing in the world today. I assure you, they are not bitter at you. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Someone might be going to jail in the John Ensign sex and ethics scandal. Somebody could spend a year in jail and having to pay a $100,000 fine. Here`s who it`s not. It`s not the former Republican senator himself, the one who, quick recap was, shtupping his own staffer who was married to another one of his staffers, who was also reportedly the senator`s best friend. So it`s not the senator himself who could be going to jail, the one who was shtupping the best friend`s wife, the one who then fired both the best friend and the wife, the one whose parents later cut the mistress` family a check for $96,000. Hey, why not? The one who set up the husband of the mistress, his former best friend, with a lobbying job in apparent violations of ethics rules, the one who resigned just before he would have to testify in front of the Senate Ethics Committee. The one who is now back home in Nevada where CNN`s Dana Bash recently found him sticking his fingers in cats` mouths. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. JOHN ENSIGN, VETERINARIAN: Say ah. Stinky breath. Yes. He`s got the gingivitis. DANA BASH, CNN (voice-over): One minute he`s examining a cat. The next he`s bandaging up a dog. If this hard working veterinarian looks familiar, he should. ENSIGN: I`m Dr. Ensign. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. ENSIGN: Nice to meet you. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Former Senator John Ensign is alive and well, apparently a little humbled, but gainfully employed as a veterinarian in Las Vegas. He`s not charged with anything. So, it`s not him who might be going to jail in this case as of today. Here who else is not in serious trouble and potentially going to jail: Senator Tom Coburn., the ostentatiously pious senator from Oklahoma, who is reportedly said to have negotiated a cheaper payoff to the senator`s married mistress and her husband. They had originally demanded $8 million apparently but they ended up accepting a check for a little under $100,000. Senator Coburn, of course, the same senator who later met with the mistress` husband in the job that John Ensign had set him up in as a lobbyist in violation of Senate rules. The rules say you have to wait a year to do that. But no, that was not true of the meeting with Senator Tom Coburn. They did not wait. Last month, the Senate Ethics Committee reprimanded him for improper conduct of the case. It was the equivalent of a hand slap for the senator who I should note has never answered our many requests for clarification on whether he cooperated with the Ensign investigation in exchange for any kind of immunity. Since John Ensign quit the Senate rather than testify, the Senate Ethics Committee deems the matter closed. But in court today somebody pled guilty and may go to jail, but who is it who might go to jail? By now, you have probably guessed. It`s the husband, John Ensign`s former best friend, whose wife the senator slept with, the guy who lost his job with the senator because of that. Doug Hampton was originally charged with seven felonies for violating the lobbying ban in the lobbyist job that John Ensign set him up in. But today, he pled down to a misdemeanor. Prosecutors say they will recommend he`d get anywhere from potentially no jail time up to maybe six months, but the judge could go higher. Moral of the story, if you`re going to break the rules in a sleazy sex and ethics case like this, make sure you`re a United States senator when you do it. It`s like kryptonite to accountability. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: OK. Best new thing in the world tonight, which tonight I should say is the bitterest new thing in the world today -- which I don`t think is a word, but you know what I mean. For a long time, there was an NBA team in Seattle called the Supersonics. They were league champions in 1979, and people totally loved them in Seattle. But four years ago, in the summer of 2008, Seattle lost its team. The Seattle Supersonics and all their history left Seattle for Oklahoma City, and people in Seattle felt betrayed, really betrayed. In part because when the new owner bought the team in 2006 from the guy who owns Starbucks, the new guy buying the team said he would not move the Sonics out of Seattle. But then two years later, he moved them. He moved them out of Seattle and to his hometown of Oklahoma City. The Starbucks guy and the city of Seattle -- they sued the new owner to keep the team. Seattle did get a little cash settlement but that was it for the Sonics. The Sonics were gone. The Seattle Supersonics became the Oklahoma City Thunder. And then last night, the Thunder, not the Sonics, but the Thunder made it all the way to the NBA finals. So woo-hoo for Oklahoma City. And ouch, I mean, ouch for Seattle and for Washington state, right? But here is the thing that makes this both the best new thing in the world and also the bitterest new thing in the world today. How are you going to react to this if you are the Pacific Northwest and you`ve lost your team in this particularly underhanded way to Oklahoma whereupon they succeed in this way? Well, this was the headline this morning in the "Tri-City Herald" in Kennewick, Washington: "Sonics advance to the finals, oh, wait" -- as in oh, wait, they`re not the Sonics anymore. The subhead explaining, Oklahoma City steals team and steals game from San Antonio. You know, when you get dumped by the person you`re seeing, no matter how big a person you are, do you really want that person to find total bliss with the perfect other person? You want your ex to be having all that bliss celebrated publicly in the lead story in the news every night? We get it, Seattle, we get it Sonics fans, we all get it. It is the best new thing in the world today but also the bitterest. And sometimes those things are the same thing. That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a good one. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END