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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/16/12

Guests: Sherrod Brown

ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: That`s "THE ED SHOW". I`m Ed Schultz. THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now. Good evening, Rachel. RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Ed, if you`re at all uncomfortable putting the hat on, please loan it to me. I have none of the same squeamishness. SCHULTZ: OK. (LAUGHTER) MADDOW: Thanks, man. And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. When Barack Obama took office in January of 2009 the economy was in absolute free fall. It was -- the Wall Street collapse and the overall financial collapse that occurred at the end of the George W. Bush presidency. Just free fall. I mean, great depression time. Yawning abyss. And so shortly after being sworn in as president, the new president and the Democrats in Congress pushed through something that used to be a noncontroversial way of dealing with big economic downturns. When George W. Bush had had an economic downturn to deal with in 2008, he passed a stimulus. When Ronald Reagan had an economic downturn to deal with in 1981, he passed a stimulus. When this new Democratic administration took over in the middle of a huge economic downturn in 2009, they did the same thing. They passed a stimulus. Even though a stimulus had been a noncontroversial bipartisan tool of economic policy in the past, in 2009, with the new president, Barack Obama, in office, Republicans decided they were going to be against anything this new president put forward, even if it was the kind of thing that they had supported in the past under presidents of both parties. And so they decided they were against the stimulus. Every single Republican in the House of Representatives voted no on this stimulus. But they didn`t just vote against it. They also made a big public case that the stimulus bill was bad for the country. That it would do harm to the country. That it wasn`t just a pointless or even worse than pointless to spend money in this way to try to help the economy, it wasn`t just a bad idea, it was an immediate evil that was going to make the country worse off than it already was. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), MAJORITY LEADER: The president, in tandem with Democrats in Congress, have pushed through a $787 billion bill full of pork barrel spending, government waste, and massive borrowing, cleverly called stimulus. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Government waste, cleverly called stimulus. Republican Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia there. And that was a typical example of the kind of things they were saying. And whether or not you agree with Congressman Cantor`s argument, it is an intellectually cogent stance if you think about it, right? I`m voting no on this thing. I think it will be harmful. If this is done, it not only won`t help anything, it will hurt the economy. So I`m voting no. It has an internal logic. It makes sense. It makes sense unless you are the person making that case in public who is also writing this letter in private to the secretary of transportation asking for the terrible, horrible stimulus money to come to your district. Stimulus money that, quote, "will provide much needed new jobs and economic growth throughout the region." That`s what Eric Cantor wrote to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. After bashing the stimulus as pointless waste, here`s Eric Cantor touting the benefits of stimulus money when it made its way to his district. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CANTOR: We can create a lot of jobs, again, the estimates of job creations are 85,000 to 160,000-some jobs for common wealth, most of that in this area. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: There were a bunch of Republicans who did this, and the issue here is not that there was going to be this money laying around and they didn`t want that money to be around at all, but as long as it was there, you try to get some for your district. That`s not the issue here. The issue here is that these guys were making a public case that this money is bad, that it would hurt the economy. But then privately, they were asking to please get some of that money because of how good it would be for the economy. You clearly don`t believe your own public arguments when you`re making private arguments alongside them like that. You`re just making a totally craven political case that has nothing to do with what you know to be true. This happened to dozens of Republicans across the country. This was Congresswoman Jean Schmidt of Ohio saying in public, quote, "I did not believe that it would create the jobs that were promised. I take little pleasure in being correct." But here`s Jean Schmidt in private, writing to the Labor Department asking for that stimulus money. That, quote, "will not only save jobs but create multiple jobs within southern Ohio." Well, which is it? Here`s Republican Congressman Phil Gingrey of Georgia getting all publisher`s clearinghouse with a giant check for stimulus money that he not only voted against but he publicly criticized as a boondoggle, an a dismal failure. Look how big the check is. Republican Congressman Mike Castle of Delaware trashed the stimulus. He voted no on the stimulus and then he went back to Delaware and handed out giant stimulus checks in his district talking about how good it was going to be for job growth. It was so embarrassing, right? One of the Republican congressmen who was making that same public case at the time was a Republican congressman named Paul Ryan, from Wisconsin. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We can do better than this. This bill, this economic stimulus package, is unworthy of our new president`s signature. This is just a long spending wish list from every spending interest group that`s out there. If you`re going to go out and borrow $825 billion -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So re-craft it for me, Congressman. Re-craft it. RYAN: This is not going to work. That`s what our concern is. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: This is unworthy of our new president`s signature, this is a giveaway to special interests, this is not going to work, not going to work, he says. A year after the stimulus passed, Paul Ryan went on a local radio show in Massachusetts where a guy named Joe from Stoughton asked him, hey, you weren`t one of those Republican congressmen with the giant check, right? You weren`t one of those Republican congressmen who was a real hypocrite on the stimulus, were you? Here`s how that exchange went on that radio show. (BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) CALLER: I assume you voted against the stimulus, and I`m just curious if you accepted any money in your district? RYAN: No, I`m not one of those people who votes for something and writes the government to ask them to send us money. I did not request any stimulus money. (END AUDIO CLIP) MADDOW: I did not request new stimulus money. I`m not one of those people. Yes, in fact, he is one of those people. He did that exact thing that he denied right there. And his hypocrisy on this issue criticizing it publicly then privately asking for it for himself, it did get some attention at the time. But, frankly, Paul Ryan was just a back bench Wisconsin Republican. I mean, granted he was one who wanted to be known as somebody who`s very serious about government spending but he just wasn`t all that famous and the issue of his hypocrisy on the stimulus eventually blew over for a while. But, now, Paul Ryan is not just a back bench congressman from Wisconsin. Now, he`s about to be the vice presidential nominee of the Republican Party. So, now, his record is getting a little renewed attention. "The Associated Press" and the "Boston Globe" this week dug up further evidence that despite what Paul Ryan told Joe from Stoughton, the congressman had, in fact, requested stimulus money while he was saying publicly that it was a horrible, awful thing that would hurt the economy -- which means he was lying in that local radio interview in 2010. He lied to good old Joe from Stoughton. Now that it is the national media, though, that is nailing him for having been a hypocrite on the stimulus and not just being a hypocrite, but lying about it, I mean, saying in public it would be horrible for the economy and saying in private that it would be great for the economy. Saying publicly that it was a disaster and privately that he would please like some of it because it looked great, now that he`s getting nailed for that publicly, he`s not just lying to Joe from Stoughton, now he is lying to the entire country that is trying to vet him as to whether or not he`s qualified to be vice president. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: A report came out again today in the "A.P." It was a repeat of that "Wall Street Journal" article from couple of years ago where you had asked for stimulus money for your district. Is that accurate? Is that report accurate? RYAN: I never asked for stimulus. I don`t recall. I haven`t seen this report, so I really can`t comment on it. I oppose the stimulus because it doesn`t work. It didn`t work. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: No, I never asked for stimulus, he says. Yes, you did. "The Wall Street Journal" reported on you doing it. The "A.P." reported on you doing it. "The Boston Globe" reported on you doing it. If you want to see the letters, here`s Paul Ryan in October 2009 writing to the secretary of labor, Mr. Romney not only asking for stimulus money but noting it would help place 1,000 workers in green jobs. Here`s Paul Ryan that same month writing the secretary of energy, asking for stimulus money that would help, quote, "develop a workforce" in Wisconsin to make commercial buildings energy efficient. Here`s Paul Ryan, 2009, writing to the Energy Department for funds to, quote, "stimulate the local and area economy by creating new jobs." I thought stimulus can`t do that. He said the stimulus funding would create or retain approximately 7,600 new jobs. This company he`s writing on their behalf here actually got $20 million thanks in part to Paul Ryan`s fulsome praise of how much stimulus money for that company would create jobs in his district -- $20 million of that wasteful pointless money that would do nothing to create jobs, but you nevertheless begged for it because of your private argument about how much good it would do. Your private argument that apparently you thought you would never have to answer for on the national stage. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: A report came out again today in the "A.P." It was a repeat of that "Wall Street Journal" article from couple of years ago where you had asked for stimulus money for your district. Is that accurate? Is that report accurate? RYAN: I never asked for stimulus. I don`t recall. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I never asked for stimulus. So that was today. It`s one thing to not answer for it, to Joe from Stoughton, right, on a local radio show that you`re pretty sure nobody in your home district, let alone national political circles was expected to have archived no matter how great the Dan Rea Show is on WBZ. It`s another thing to lie blatantly in the face of black and white evidence that proves you are lying, that proves you are lying about your own record. Do you believe the game-change account of the 2008 presidential campaign? This kind of thing happening with John McCain`s vice presidential nominee, with Sarah Palin, was the cause of crisis in that campaign. Do you remember how that played out in the "Game Change" movie? Remember this scene? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why haven`t you released a statement saying Todd was never a member of the Alaska Independence Party? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because that would be untrue. He was a member. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He checked the wrong box. He registered by accident and rectified the error immediately. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a member for seven years. I`m sorry, Governor, but there is only a few weeks left in this campaign. You have got to stop saying things to the press that are blatantly untrue. That is not the kind of campaign that we are running here. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: "You have to stop saying things to the press that are blatantly untrue. There`s only a few weeks left in the campaign." Late tonight, after being confronted with the reams of evidence that he did, in fact, request stimulus money, Paul Ryan released a new statement acknowledging the truth. It says, quote, "After having these letters called to my attention, I checked into them and they were treated as constituent service requests in the same way matters involving Social Security or Veterans Affairs are handled. This is why I didn`t recall the letters earlier. But they should have been handled differently, and I take responsibility for that. Regardless, it`s clear that the Obama stimulus did nothing to stimulate the economy and now the president is asking to do it all over again." It did nothing to stimulate the economy, even though I wrote letters saying please give me this money, it will help stimulate the economy. And then I signed my name at the bottom of those letters. If I did request all that stimulus money, which I did, by the way, I did it by mistake, my staff did it. I signed it, yes, but it was my staff. Paul Ryan is not Sarah Palin. At least he`s not Sarah Palin yet. We`ll see how it goes at the convention. But this is a problem for the Romney/Ryan campaign and it gets at a bigger problem for Mr. Ryan`s running mate, that the Romney campaign still has not solved which also came to a sort of very difficult head today. And that is that Mr. Romney`s answer for why he won`t release his tax returns is that we`re supposed to trust him when he tells us what is in them. Today, Mr. Romney said he looked back at his last decade of tax returns and wants to assure us we should trust him. He looked at it and it turns out he never paid zero taxes. Never paid less than 13 percent in taxes, we should trust him. He`s not going to show the evidence of that. He wants us to believe it when he says it. Mr. Romney says he never paid zero. Paul Ryan says he never requested stimulus money. Yes, this is about the effectiveness of government efforts to stimulate the economy and, yes, this is about the low, low tax burden of the truly rich and famous in this country. But at a more basic level, it is also about how comfortable you are with just looking people in the eye and saying something even about yourself that is not true. Something checkable about yourself that you know you may get caught on, and just saying it anyway. Joining now is, Ezra Klein, who`s columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC policy analyst. Ezra, it`s great to see you. Thanks for being here. EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC POLICY ANALYST: Good evening. MADDOW: Which Paul Ryan is right? The private Paul Ryan who said stimulus money would help his home district, or the public Paul Ryan who said it was a waste of money at the time, and who now says looking back those letters were a mistake, it really was all a waste, it didn`t help? KLEIN: Look, I have no way of knowing how these letters were handled internally to his office. Constituents services seems plausible to me. I just don`t know. It`s the second part of his statement, the one where it says, we know it failed, we know it didn`t work. We know it is not true. We just know that. I mean, number one, just take the practical case. Here`s what the stimulus included in it, right? Tax cuts. That was about a third of it. Paul Ryan, if he believes anything in this entire world, believes tax cuts create jobs. He`s been very clear on that. Another big part of it was infrastructure, getting people to build roads and bridges. I don`t know what the theory of the economy is under which when you hire somebody when you give them money to build a road or a bridge, it doesn`t create a job. But it`s not one that anybody I`ve actually ever met hues to. And then the third part of the stimulus, one of the big other parts was you gave money to state and local governments in order to keep teachers and firemen and other public employees on the job. And if you`re curious about whether or not that is a real thing, whether or not those jobs are real, over the last two years, we have lost 600,000 of them. They show up in the Bureau of Labor Statistics report every single month. Paul Ryan releases a press release about it every single month. Everyone is aware those jobs have been going away. It is really unclear how you can stand with a straight face and say not that you don`t think the stimulus was the absolute best way to do that, because that`s an argument that could be had, but that it just doesn`t work. The stimulus, itself, is a failed economic theory. It`s ridiculous. MADDOW: Did Republicans used to accept the idea of stimulus? I mentioned, you know, a George W. Bush stimulus, a Ronald Reagan stimulus. There were many others. I picked those out to make a point. But it does seem like an economic tool that isn`t the least controversial thing in the world, but at least used to have the logic of it accepted in a bipartisan way, right? KLEIN: Including by Paul Ryan. So in 2001, there`s a great debate, there`s a great hearing between Paul Ryan and an economist named Kevin Hassett, who`s currently affiliated with the Romney campaign. They`re out there and sort of talking about the Bush tax cuts. The Bush tax cuts, remember, were originally there to pay down a big surplus. We had all this money, needed to do something with it, we`ll give it to you in a tax cut. Then the economy began to break down, we were going into a recession. Suddenly, we didn`t have this clear, large surplus anymore. So, the conversation, the rationale for tax cuts flipped instantly. It went from we need to pay down the surplus to -- hey, this would be a great way to stimulate the economy, too. We need it in order to be recession proof. And Kevin Hassett and Paul Ryan have this exchange in this debate about, you know, the problem was before they just didn`t do their stimulus fast enough. You need to do it deeper. And there are some differences between doing a permanent tax cut and doing a temporary tax cut, which are relevant and worth talking about, again. But Paul Ryan pretty clearly says there the problem with past stimulus is we needed more. And, by the way, the Romney campaign this morning, including by Kevin Hassett, had this op-ed in which they said, if you believe these two economists who are fairly important in these discussions, Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, you should know -- the Obama administration should know in a long recession, in a long recovery like the one we`re in, stimulus is ineffective. So, I went back and look. How much did Ken Rogoff think we should have in stimulus? A trillion dollars over two years. And what did Carmen Reinhart say about stimulus? That she would tattoo it on her forehead that it had done an enormous amount to help. So, even the economists, they rely and they cite -- don`t say, don`t believe the things they claim to believe right now. MADDOW: Ezra Klein, columnist for "The Washington Post" and MSNBC policy analyst. Knowing that I could talk about the raw politics of this on my own and turn to you to talk to the policy about -- talk about the policy on this made me very happy today. I`m really glad that you`re able -- KLEIN: It made me very happy as well. Thank you. MADDOW: Thanks a lot, man. I appreciate it. All right. Senator Sherrod Brown is here tonight. That is still to come. Amid just election chaos in the state of Ohio. And the terrifically awkward new thing we just learned about what the Romney/Ryan ticket is about to do next. The worst vice presidential rollout in modern American political history continues, a pace, it turns out, right into the weekend. That story is ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio is here tonight for the interview. That`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have just learned Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan is going to be celebrating his one-week anniversary as the Republican Party`s vice presidential pick by taking a trip to the great state of Florida on Saturday. Specifically, Mr. Ryan will be campaigning in a place called The Villages. The Villages is a sort of jumbo-sized retirement community, about 90 miles west of -- about 90 miles from Tampa Bay. And The Villages is as close to a mandatory campaign stop for Republican candidates as it gets. And here`s why. As the "Tampa Bay Times" notes, there are 61,000 registered voters in the villages. It`s one retirement community. It`s located in a crucial swing region of a crucial swing state that Republicans really need to win. And here`s the thing about those 61,000 registered voters in The Villages. The Villages are really, really, really Republican. There are twice as many Republicans in this place as there are Democrats. And they are super serious about voting. The average turnout in the villages is 80 percent -- 80 percent. Remember, there`s more than 60,000 voters there. So, all of that has made the villages a perennial stop on the Republican campaign trail. It`s where Florida`s Republican governor, Rick Scott, you might remember, where he went to do a big, elaborate, tightly- choreographed ceremonial budget signing last year. Remember this? It was the event that had people in Florida calling him "Kim Jong-Rick" for a while. It was the event where Governor Scott was inexplicably surrounded by smiling schoolchildren. What are all those grimacing schoolchildren doing in the middle of a giant retirement home? Well, according to the "Tampa Bay Times," quote, "Charter school students were bused in to surround Scott for the signing. They were handed signs to wave, and when Rick Scott was done with the signing a man in a Tea Party t-shirt started encouraging the students to chant Rick Scott`s campaign slogan. And the Kim Jong-Rick staged enthusiasm staged with the schoolchildren thing didn`t happen until after the Scott administration had scoured the area for Democrats and dissenters and had them removed from the scene. Look at this. At the urging of Scott officials, Sumter County authorities escorted a group of more than a dozen Democrats, mainly retirees who live in The Villages, from the event. Staffers and Republican operatives searched the crowd of about 200 looking for people holding anti- Scott signs. They are noted and asked to leave. Those with pro-Scott signs were allowed to stay. That`s The Villages. That`s why and how Republican Democrats always do vote opts there. Romney has been to The Villages twice this campaign season. In fact, The Villages is where Mr. Romney became so moved about his own thoughts about how awesome America is that he awkwardly burst into song. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s a song that captures that for me. O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains majesty across the fruited plain. Can you sing that song? I love that song. You know that song? O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountains majesty above the fruited plain. America, America -- (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That`s The Villages in Florida. See, I think he thought the crowd was going to stand up and join in like a choir and then they didn`t really, at least not enough of them did. But, you know, they did clap for him when he was finished through all that. I mean, they like Republicans at the villages, even the ones who try unsuccessfully to lead them in impromptu patriotic sin sing-a-longs. That`s where they`re sending Paul Ryan Saturday morning, a guaranteed Republican win because it`s absolutely chockfull of Republicans. But don`t forget, it`s chockfull of older people. Apart from a specific exception, you`re not allowed to buy a house in The Villages unless you`re age 55 and older, and Paul Ryan is the kill Medicare guy from this Republican Congress. So, who knows? Mr. Ryan might find a tougher crowd at The Villages than other Republicans have found, but my guess is it will be pretty tightly stage managed. At least one would expect it would be tightly stage managed. I mean, the Romney/Ryan ticket is only a few days old now but their campaign has been had a hard time explaining what they`re doing on Medicare, whether to turn it into a discount coupon program for buying insurance or whether they`re going to run away from the Paul/r Ryan kill Medicare budget and say whether there`s another reason they wanted him on the ticket. I mean, despite the fact this had to be concern number one for the Romney campaign when they were thinking about picking Mr. Ryan in the first place, the Romney campaign really seems to not have figured out which way they`re going on this issue yet which is astonishing. I mean, in his first big interview after announcing Paul Ryan as his running mate, Mitt Romney right away started to try to run away from the kill Medicare Paul Ryan plan. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BOB SCHIEFFER, CBS NEWS: Your campaign has been trying to make this election a referendum on Barack Obama. Now, some people are saying you are making it a referendum on Paul Ryan`s budget plan. ROMNEY: Well, I have my budget plan, as you know, that I`ve put out, and that`s the budget plan that we`re going to run on. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Ryan who? Budget? I have my own plan. That was Sunday. Then the very next day, Mr. Romney started running on the Paul Ryan budget. Even specifically on the kill Medicare part of the Paul Ryan budget. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: The items that we agree on I think outweigh any differences there might be. My plan for Medicare is very similar to his plan for Medicare. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Ah-ha. So, Sunday, it`s my plan, not his plan. Monday, our plans are the same. Then, Tuesday, it turns out once again they`re totally different. Watch. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SOLEDAD O`BRIEN, CNN: This is from JOHN SUNUNU, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: That`s right. O`BRIEN: It sounds awfully like the Paul Ryan Medicare plan. SUNUNU: But it`s very different. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: OK. So, Sunday, it`s my plan, not his plan. Monday, the plans are the same. Tuesday, the plans are very different. Wednesday? On Wednesday, a local reporter in Wisconsin asked Mr. Romney why he was running away from his running mate`s plan. So, Mr. Romney then started running on the Paul Ryan kill Medicare plan again. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why now are you distancing yourself, at least from the Medicare portion of the Ryan budget? ROMNEY: Actually, Paul Ryan and my plan for Medicare I think is the same, if not identical, it`s probably close to identical. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Yay! So that`s four days. Two totally separate plans. They`re the same plan. They`re totally different plans. They`re identical plans. It has been hard to keep up. They picked the Republican budget guy, but they are not running on his budget. They`re running on Mitt Romney`s budget which is either exactly like the Paul Ryan budget or completely different than the Paul Ryan budget depending on -- I don`t know, what time of day it is? And when you ask them about the overall budget that they are running on, not just on Medicare, when you ask them about the overall economic plan they`ve got, about what it does and when. Look at what happens. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS) RYAN: I don`t know exactly when it balances because we haven`t -- I don`t want to get wonky on you, but we haven`t run the numbers on that specific plan. WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: How many years would it take for the Romney budget to result in a balanced budget? ED GILLESPIE, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN: Wolf, I`m not sure of that myself, actually. SCHIEFFER: When are you going to tell us where you`re going to get the revenue? ROMNEY: Well, we`ll go through that process with Congress. BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Will we soon see a plan that`s specific about which loopholes to close? RYAN: That is something we think we should do in the light of day, through Congress. (END VIDEO CLIPS) MADDOW: The Romney/Ryan campaign -- not only cannot tell you whether or not they are running on a budget similar to or different from Paul Ryan`s kill Medicare budget. They also cannot tell you the most very basic bottom line of their own supposed plan, whatever it is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RYAN: We have to run the numbers on that specific plan. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: We haven`t run the numbers, says the Republican budget guy who they tapped to be vice president about the campaign`s budget. Paul Ryan was supposed to be the serious numbers guy. That presumably is why the Romney campaign picked him to be the vice presidential nominee. That`s the image that he had -- the numbers guy, the specific guy, the clear policy choice guy. Whether or not he ever deserved that image, the campaign is now doing its very best to ruin that image. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Lost in all the Paul Ryan hoopla late on Friday night were a few news items. Among them, the new CNN poll that showed 63 percent of Americans think Mitt Romney should show the public more of his income tax returns. Mitt Romney has heard the voice of the people on this subject. I mean, I assume he has. He has people monitoring that stuff, wouldn`t you think? His response to the country`s plea for transparency may surprise you. It`s coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We have been showing these images lately on the show. People queuing up to vote in Ohio in 2004. That year in Ohio, voters waited in line for eight hours or more just to get a ballot. The problems were especially bad in Ohio cities where voters tend to support Democrats. And where in 2004, voters discovered polling places were really just not ready for everybody who wanted to vote. That night, that night of the long lines, George W. Bush, of course, won the state of Ohio, and Mr. Bush won a second term as president. And a few months later, a congressional committee called out Ohio for the way it had run that election. Congress called on Ohio to reform its elections to make things work better. But it was not just Ohio where people waited if line in 2004. In Florida, that year, people also waited in long hours in lines at the polls. We went back to look for old footage of those lines in Ohio, we also found these images, people lined up at the polls in the great state of Florida waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting for the chance to vote. That night, George W. Bush, of course, won the state of Florida as well. After the debacle of the `04 election, officials in the states took another look at early voting. At whether offering more days and more hours for early voting might help more voters vote without it taking all day, and lots of people leaving the polls in frustration without voting because they just didn`t have the time to wait. Voters also decided maybe there was something to that early voter thing. Maybe they`d be -- they`d better get their ballots in early, wherever they could the next time around. This is the percentage of people who voted ahead of time, who voted early in some key states in 2004. And here is the percentage of people who voted early in 2008. The additional percentage is that blue bit there, right? Each of these states is considered a swing state now for this next election in 2012. Look at that list. Where early voting went up in 2008, when it grew, all of these states flipped from red to blue, from choosing the Republican nominee in `04 to choosing the Democratic one in 2008. The percentage of people voting early went up and perhaps coincidentally Mr. Obama won. In Colorado, in Florida, in Iowa, in Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Virginia, all these states who had gone for George Bush in the previous election, when early voting increased, the Democrat running for president won. Empirically, it would appear that early voting is at least correlated with Democrats doing well. You cannot say that early voting causes Democrats to do well, but it is apparently linked by circumstance. And empirically, the link would make sense because early voting, in particular, is popular with voters who tend to support Democrats. Consider Florida. In the last election in Florida, a clear majority of the African-Americans who cast a ballot cast their ballot early. More than half the African-Americans in Florida who voted, voted early. A million-plus African-American voters, they voted in person and early. By percentage in Florida, only half as many white voters did that. So, early voting mattered to African-American voters in Florida more than it did to other voters. And early voting was crucial to Barack Obama`s victory in Florida. Likewise, in Ohio, African-Americans in the Cleveland area make up just over a quarter of the population. But they cast more than half that county`s early ballots in 2008. Barack Obama won Cleveland by 39 points. In the Columbus area, African-Americans make up just a fifth of the population, but they were a third of that county`s early voters. Barack Obama won Columbus by 20 points and he won Ohio to go along with Florida. And, of course, he won the presidency. Did early voting, and in particular, African-American voters, and other minority voters taking advantage of early voting opportunities in great numbers, did that cause Democrats to win the White House in 2008? Again, the link may merely be correlated and not causative. It could just be coincidence. But you know who else noticed there was a link between early voting and Democratic success? Republicans noticed. In Florida, Rick Scott signed a bill that cuts early voting from 14 days to eight days. It also takes away voting on the Sunday before the election when many African-American churches carpool to the polls. And in Ohio, Republicans tried to cut early voting in half. They eventually had to settle for cutting just the last three days, when almost 100,000 Ohioans voted in 2008. Then Ohio Republicans tried to offer more time for early voting in Republican counties than in Democratic counties. So you really could vote more easily if you live in a red county. Ohio Republicans tried that and it almost worked -- until yesterday. Under public pressure and I think maybe some embarrassment, Ohio`s Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted finally announced that he was cutting back early voting equally for everyone. He caved on having more early voting hours in the Republican counties than in the Democratic counties, but the rule in Ohio now, he says, will be less early voting for everyone. What that means for Democrats running in Ohio, from the president and from our next guest, Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, is in one of the hottest races in the country, is just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) RICHARD LUI, MSNBC ANCHOR: You look back on 2008, blacks -- the black voters, rather, they cast 56 percent of all early in-person ballots, according to the "Columbus Dispatch". So the perception could become very difficult and people might say, this is disproportionately affecting minorities. JON HUSTED, OHIO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, let`s understand, those last three days, that`s out of my hands. That`s in state law. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: State law passed by the Republican legislature in Ohio, signed into law by the Republican governor since the last election. That was my colleague, Richard Lui, with Ohio Secretary of State Jon Houston this morning, pointing out in 2008 that a majority of African- American voters in Cuyahoga County, which is where Cleveland is, voted early in person in the weekends prior to the election. Yesterday, Secretary of State Jon Husted announced all 88 counties in Ohio will have same hours for early voting. There will be moderately extended hours beyond business hours during the week but no voting on weekends at all. Joining us now for "The Interview," Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, running for election this year. His opponent is a man named Josh Mandel. Senator Brown, thanks for being here. It`s nice to see you. SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be back. Thanks, Rachel. MADDOW: The secretary of state in Ohio said he opposed these new rules because he wants to level the playing field. Do you think he has succeeded in that? Do you think everybody has equal access to the polls now in Ohio? BROWN: No, he acts like that`s a nod to good government by taking away the advantages that overwhelmingly white suburban upper, more higher income Republican counties have. But what he`s done is -- I mean, it`s happening on both ends. We`re seeing on the one hand billionaires put huge amounts of money into political campaigns, overwhelmingly on the Republican side, they want tax breaks, they want weaker environmental laws. They want more Wall Street involvement in government instead of less. And on the other end, they`re keeping -- they`re tightening up voter rules to the point of keeping people away from the polls. What you point out at the beginning of this show, the beginning of this segment, Rachel, is after 2004, even Republicans in Ohio and Ken Blackwell, were embarrassed about what Ken Blackwell did, the secretary of state in those days, and they bipartisanly, they were in the majority, Democrats assisted them on this, set up early voting and made it much more accessible. So they basically are rolling back reforms they made, and in no time really in our lifetimes have we seen us go backwards on access to the ballot. This is just morally reprehensible to allow more and more big money on one end and shut people down on the other end that would like to vote early. MADDOW: What explains, in your mind, that abandonment of that consensus that we used to have in this country about the expansion of voting rights, about the idea that partisanship didn`t have a role in the administration of elections? Obviously, there`s been crooked elections officials here and there throughout American history. But in recent history, we all used to think we were all sort of polling in the same direction, particularly after there had been some national embarrassments. How did it change so fast and go so far? BROWN: I think these -- I think they feel so threatened by Barack Obama, so threatened, the far right and some of their large corporate interests, particularly Wall Street and the oil industry feel so threatened by Democrats winning, by Barack Obama, that they are willing to change the rules. The rules on campaign finance were pretty much agreed to. Full disclosure, put limits on outside -- try to ban outside money, put limits on what people were contributing on voter laws, make them more accessible as long as we did them fairly and honestly and transparently. On both ends of that, they`ve really betrayed what -- they betrayed the national interest and betrayed our values of what we stand for as a country. They also really undermined their own agreed to reforms of less than a decade ago. And they should be ashamed of themselves for that. MADDOW: Ohio voting rules and access to the polls is obviously critical, dead critical for your re-election effort in this campaign. Also for the president`s re-election effort, Ohio as always, incredibly important part of the campaign. But one of the things that we are seeing nationwide and particularly in all of the swing states is that Democratic voter registration efforts are not keeping pace with Republican registration efforts this year. We`ve had a couple pieces of new data this week saying however much concern Democrats are expressing about this, Republicans are registering more voters since the last election. What do you think about that, and does it apply in Ohio? BROWN: I don`t see that in Ohio. I`ve heard some of those stories outside Ohio. We have such momentum last year from Issue 2, the collective bargaining legislative -- collective bargaining bill, first time in American history when collective bargaining rights were put on a statewide ballot. We won with 61 percent of the vote, beating back the efforts to take away collective bargaining rights. We have momentum that way. I think that will continue, but it`s all about organizing. I asked people on your show before to come to, sign up to help us fight back on the big money in these campaigns. To help us fight back on Citizens United. To help us organize. And that really is a key to winning, to winning for the president and for my re-election. MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio -- thanks for your time tonight, sir. BROWN: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: All right. Remember that old Ronald Reagan saying, trust but verify? That old saying got a workout today. Please stay with us. More ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Housekeeping here. Senator Sherrod Brown just gave out his web address on this show, which I do not begrudge him. But in the Interest of fairness, I should mention that his Republican opponent in this election has a web address, too, which is M-a-n-d-e-l. All right? We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Son of Boss was a criminal tax avoidance seem for corporations in the 1990s. The Marriott Corporation was one of the companies that got nailed for avoiding taxes illegally using that scheme. Mitt Romney was on the board of Marriott Corporation. He was the head of the audit committee on the board when her Marriott engaged in the tax avoidance scheme, for which they got caught, and for which they have to pay tens of millions of dollars in fines. Son of Boss. The Cayman Islands is an island sort of catty-corner from Cuba and Jamaica, an island where there are lots and lots of post office boxes that attend to people who do not live in the Cayman Islands. That`s because pretending your money lives in the Cayman Islands is a famous scheme for avoiding paying taxes on that money in, say, the United States. The one year of tax returns we do have for presidential candidate Mitt Romney shows holdings of his in the Cayman Islands. Switzerland is very far away from the Cayman Island. It is sandwiched between France and Germany and Italy. It is famous for being neutral in war time. It`s famous for the Swiss Alps, for fancy watches and pocket knives. And it`s famous for its bank accounts. If you get a Swiss bank account, the Swiss will ask no questions. Their banking secrecy laws make Swiss bank accounts very convenient if you are seeking to hide money that would be somehow embarrassing, say, money that represents the proceeds from some shady business, or money that you were trying to shield from taxes. The one year of tax returns we do have for presidential candidate Mitt Romney shows him having a Swiss bank account. Herein the good old US of A, we have something called an IRA, an individual retirement account system. IRAs were set up as a savings and investment vehicle for regular, middle class Americans. In exchange for their being a limit on how much you can suck away into one of these accounts each year, the government shields the money in that account from taxes. One of the great mysteries of Mitt Romney`s taxes is that even though there`s basically a $6,000 a year limit on what you can put into your IRA, the one year of his tax returns that we have seen shows that his IRA contains more than $100 million. How did that get there? No idea. But putting it there in some ways shield it from taxes. "The New York Times" did a quirky little front page story a couple of weeks ago about this house in Missouri City, Texas, on which Mitt Romney owns the mortgage. He doesn`t live in the house. He doesn`t know apparently know the people who do, but the people who do live there send their mortgage payments every month personally to Mitt Romney. They refinanced with him as if he were a bank, but he`s just a guy. They refinance with him personally just a couple of months ago while he was running for president. The reason he owns that couple`s mortgage is that he bought it in the 1980s as part of a tax avoidance scheme. We know very little about Mitt Romney`s massive and complicated financial history. Michael Moore said on this show the oh day, we know less about Mitt Romney`s finances than we do about the surface of Mars now. But we do know a little bit about Mitt Romney`s finances and what we know is all these exotic and picayune and aggressive and occasionally shady tactics that he has used to avoid paying taxes. Today, after telling ABC News a couple of weeks ago he would go back and look at his taxes to see what tax rate he has been paying. Today, Mr. Romney said that he finally did go back and look and it turns out, he says, he has never paid less than 13 percent in taxes. He will not elaborate on what he means by that. He will not prove it. He will not release any documentation to back up that claim. He just wants us to trust him that if he were to show his taxes, that`s what they would say. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: I did go back and look at my taxes and over the past ten year, I never paid less than 13 percent. I think the recent year was 13.6, or something like that. I paid taxes every single year. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: In 2002, 10 years ago, when Mitt Romney was running for governor of Massachusetts, his taxes were relevant then, not just on the question of whether he was actually paying any taxes, specifically in that race, there was a question about whether Mr. Romney would be allowed to even run for governor. It was not clear he had been living in the state for the seven years that was required for the Massachusetts Constitution in order to run for governor. His defense at the time was that he had been filing his taxes as a Massachusetts resident an that showed he was legally qualified to run for governor. But then, just like now, he would not prove it. He would not release his tax returns to show this I think this he was claiming about them. His spokesman then, who is still his spokesman now, Eric Fehrnstrom, told "The Boston globe" in 2002, 10 years ago, when he was running for governor, that the Romney campaign did not have to prove anything. We should just trust him. Eric Fehrnstrom insisted to "The Globe" that, quote, "The GOP candidate, Mr. Romney, had filed his returns as a Massachusetts resident." But he told "The Globe" reporter, "You`re going to have to take my word for it." Anyone who took Mitt Romney and Eric Fehrnstrom`s word for it back in 2002 got played for a sucker, because those tax returns did not say what they said they did. Mr. Romney had not filed as a Massachusetts resident. Despite all the "trust me, trust me, take my word for it, you don`t have to see them, trust me." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: The Democrats point to Romney`s house in Utah ,which was listed as his primary residence to support a challenge. They also want to see his tax returns. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We now learned from his own lips this afternoon that Mr. Romney lied yesterday when he said he had filed resident tax returns in both Massachusetts and Utah. REPORTER: Romney acknowledged he amended his 1999 and 2000 Massachusetts state tax returns to make him a resident here. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: He went back and did it retroactively. Everything we know today about Mr. Romney`s tax history is his Herculean and mostly successful efforts to avoid taxes. He just named somebody as his running mate whose budget would have resulted in Mr. Romney paying less than 1 percent in taxes in the one year of his tax returns that we have seen when he made tens of millions of dollars. Nevertheless, Mr. Romney today insisted that we should trust him when he tells us he`s never avoided taxes altogether. He`s never paid less than 13 percent. He won`t prove it, but he wants us to take his word for it. The last time he and Eric Fehrnstrom were up against a wall like this and he said to trust him, it turned out he was not telling the truth. Do you think he`s telling the truth now? Do you trust him? Do you trust him enough to be comfortable with him as president of the United States? That does it for us tonight. We will see you again tomorrow night. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END