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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 08/20/13

Guests: Michael Sergeant, Scott Surovell

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW: Thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour. The city of Winston-Salem has not quite a quarter of a million people in it. It is a substantial city. Big companies are based there, several colleges are based there. Winston- Salem is the fifth largest city in the state of North Carolina. The mayor of Winston-Salem right now is this man, his name is Allen Joines. He is a Democrat, and he is up for reelection as mayor this year. The challenger on the Republican side is this man, James Lee Knox, who works for a local towing company. And despite being the only Republican challenging the incumbent mayor of Winston-Salem for the mayor`s job, James Lee Knox has just lost the support of his local Republican party. The Forsythe County Republican party has announced that they no longer support James Lee Knox in his bid to become the next mayor of Winston- Salem. This comes after Mr. Knox admitted using with the local paper describes as several derogatory terms including the "n" word in a confrontation with a local elections worker last year. Mr. Knox acknowledged that he used the racial slur after the 2012 election. He said he was trying to find out the name of a black elections employee with whom he had exchanged words during early voting. During a conversation with another county worker, Mr. Knox referred to the woman using several derogatory terms including the "n" word. Mr. Knox says he does not believe in using such words but that he, quote, "got frustrated." That`s how he explains it. He got frustrated. You get frustrated and out pops the "n" word. She was black. You know, as you do. So reportedly, the state Republican party in North Carolina decided to not get involved in this situation in Winston-Salem, but the local party did drop their support for Mr. Knox. After initially telling the local paper that he felt that the local Republican party had stabbed him in the back. Well tonight Mr. Knox officially just quit the race. I think this has happened early enough that it probably means his name will be off the ballot and that means the winner of the Democratic primary in Winston-Salem will go on to run for mayor without any Republican opponent at all. For an off year in politics, for an odd-numbered year, right, there`s been a kind of a lot of elections drama in North Carolina this year and a lot of it has been happening in North Carolina`s college towns. Like in that dramatic development today in Winston-Salem. Also there`s been some drama in the Boone, North Carolina, which is the home of Appalachian State University. The new Republican majority board of elections there last week decided to close the voting site on campus at Appalachian State. No more voting on campus there. And if that were not enough, the new Republican majority has also decided to limit early voting to just one site in Boone, North Carolina. They have combined three precincts to create what will be the third largest precinct in the whole state with 9,300 voters all crammed into one voting location that has just 35 parking places. It includes the school, but as Ari Berman reported today at "the Nation" this one remaining voting location is not only not on campus, it is not accessible by public transportation. It is over a mile from campus, and a mile from campus is along a 45-mile-an-hour road that doesn`t have a sidewalk. So good luck, students. Just try voting in that part of North Carolina. Over the opposite corner of the state in Elizabeth city, in the far northeast corner of the state, the chairman of the local Republican party there has formally challenged the right of one candidate who wants t run for city council there. Montravius King is a student at Elizabeth City State University, which has a historically black college. The local Republican party chairman challenged Montravius King`s right to run for office specifically because he lives at school on campus and he is registered to vote there. The new Republican majority and board of elections agreed with the Republican county boss. They ruled this week Mr. King is not qualified to run for office which means that Mr. King and all the other students who vote at that school might also be ruled not just not eligible to run for office locally, but not eligible to vote. Because the qualifications for being a candidate and the qualifications for being a voter are exactly the same. And they`re saying so far he can`t be a candidate. That Republican party chairman saying he will, indeed, challenge the right to vote of all students at that historically black college in North Carolina. And with that happening, North Carolina lawyers and some leaders from the NAACP went to Elizabeth city state today. They went to that historically black college to start looking into that situation. And back up in Winston-Salem where they`re having that trouble with the mayor, we reported on the show yesterday that the new Republican majority board of elections there has been making a push to stop all the early voting at Winston-Salem state university. It`s another historically black school. The local paper reported on that a couple of days ago. The Raleigh paper, the news and observer picked up the story yesterday. The story even got picked up in South Carolina, of all places. We also reported on the story last night here on this show, and now all of a sudden that elections board sees no rush, no rush to shut that voting center down on campus. They had previously said they were going to vote on that at tonight`s meeting with the new Republican majority on the board. Right? But now all of a sudden they`re saying, what`s t rush? Urgency, what urgency? Now they`re not going to bring it up until next year. That same news report noting the board`s last two meetings had been filled to capacity. Board of elections meetings in August filled to capacity. They had already been planning to move tonight`s meeting on this contentious effort to close down the early voting site at the school. They already planned to move tonight`s meeting to a different floor of the building in which they usually meet in a larger room in order to accommodate what they would been told to expect was going to be another large turnout. Winston-Salem state students are just getting back right now, still arriving on campus this week. But the student body president is Johnny on the spot here saying student leaders were planning on attending tonight`s meeting. And with that expected large turnout, with that reaction and that attention in the press, to what they had planned on doing, they have put it off for a year. And in fact the elections director for the county is now saying that no public comments about closing down this voting site will even be allowed to be spoken at tonight`s meeting which they are still holding in the larger room. So, all of a sudden they are very shy about what they had been planning to go right ahead with tonight. The fight in North Carolina is getting to be a very interesting fight, and I think from a national perspective, it feels like it`s happening all of a sudden. But the more we talk to people in North Carolina and pay attention to the local press and local discussion there, you get the sense in North Carolina it doesn`t feel all of a sudden. It feels like we`re getting to the loud part of a natural crescendo. Started, of course, in 2010 when Republicans did really well in the midterm elections in North Carolina. Once they got in in 2010 because they did great, they took advantage of the fact they were there in a sense this year and they redistricted the jeepers out of North Carolina. Thus earning themselves supermajorities in both houses of the legislature to go along with their new Republican governor, North Carolina`s first Republican governor in 20 years. Pat McCrory had been the seven-term mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. He was thought of as a Republican who might conceivably govern the way that mayors tend to govern which by necessity tends to be a kind of technocratic moderate get things done kind of way of working. It has not been that way with him as governor, though. With his supermajorities in the legislature, with the Republicans` ability to do whatever they want in the state for the first time in 20 years, they are going for it. And it has been a hard, fast and rather radical right term on everything in the state from abortion, to taxes, to funding education, to northeast recently this very dramatic move getting attention on voter suppression, voting rights. Moral Mondays in North Carolina, on Mondays, in North Carolina. Moral Mondays started back in June. People started showing up at the state capitol, protesting inside the state capitol building getting arrested week after week. More than 900 people have been arrested so far in those demonstrations altogether. Now that the state legislature is out of session, they have been moving moral Mondays around the state. The first one they held outside the capitol was in the mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina. Thousands of people showing up on a Monday to protest their government, look at that, in Asheville. Last night moral Mondays on the road was in Charlotte which, of course, is where Pat McCrory spent seven terms as mayor before he became the governor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (INAUDIBLE) this evening and she joins us live. Quite a few people showed up. Maybe more than was expected. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely, Paul. Two thousand people according to Charlotte Mecklenburg police. But all of these protesters have one thing in common. They are frustrated with the direction the state legislature has taken in Raleigh and they wanted their voices heard. Everything from cuts to education, to the new voter I.D. law, women`s rights, the new tax laws, the changes in the capitol have folks fighting mad. Take a listen. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m furious for our students, for women, for poor people, for old people, for sick people. I just feel like the state of North Carolina has taken a huge step backwards. It`s just not right. And I`m ready to fight. I`m mad. I`m angry. And I`m ready to fight. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Fighting mad. In that larger than expected crowd last night in the governor`s hometown of Charlotte. The protest movement in North Carolina is promising enough now. Promising enough to people who are fighting against what the Republicans have been doing in that state. That our guest last night on this show, nine term state Senator Ellie Kinnaird, she announced yesterday she is quitting the state Senate at 81 years of age. After 16 years of service, she is quitting the Senate. She`s 81-years-old but not quitting because she wants to retire. She`s not retiring. She`s not quitting in protest of the new voter I.D. law or in protest of any of the other things Republicans have done. Ellie Kinnaird is instead resigning to fight, to work full time outside the system with the people who have been turning out for all of these protests all over the state. Dovetailing with this now very interesting, very energized fight in North Carolina is new news today from national Democrats. That they plan a 50-state strategy. They plan to wage a 50-state sort of counteroffensive to try to advance voting rights everywhere in the country. It`s not just a defense to what the Republicans have been doing, but as an alternative to what the Republicans have been doing. As an alternative to how aggressively Republicans have been trying and succeeding in many states to roll voting rights way, way, way back. Joining us now, Michael Sergeant. He is the president of the group called American Values First. They are organizing this 50-state initiative to encourage efforts that make voting easier in every state. Mr. Sergeant, thank you very much for being with us tonight. MICHAEL SERGEANT, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN VALUES FIRST: Thank you so much for inviting me, Rachel. MADDOW: So seeing the "Washington Post" reporting on this today was the first I learned about it, and I don`t totally understand. I feel I have been waiting to hear some sort of national answer from Democrats about a national strategy to combat what is obviously a national Republican strategy to roll back voting rights. What exactly are you doing? SERGEANT: Well, what the American Values First voting rights project is working on id a 50-state strategy to promote policies and legislation that will, you know, ease access to voting as well as opposing the myriad of voter suppression measures going on in the states. Over 30 states right now have either passed legislation or are in the process of passing legislation that would make it more difficult for people to vote. And we are talking about students. We are talking about the disabled. We are talking about elderly. We are talking about minorities. This is really a truly -- it`s an attack upon, you know, American values and, you know, American rights. MADDOW: We have been reporting on that for years now in terms of these very aggressive Republican efforts, very similar Republican efforts in lots of states to try to roll back voting rights wherever and whenever they can. What we`ve seen so far in terms of a pushback is a lot of legal fights, right? The department of justice, whether or not they can use the voting rights act, in some cases defending states` voting rights against what Republicans are trying to do there. We`ve also seen local fights organized by local community groups and politicians like I just documented in North Carolina. We have not seen any sort of national strategy organized by Democrats spanning multiple states to try to push for it. So when you say you`re going to fight to turn back this tide, what exactly are you going to do? SERGEANT: Well, you know, a big part of the program really is, you know, the mobilizing and working with state legislators around the country actually passing the laws and are in position to oppose these laws. That`s one of the things that, you know, American values first and the voting rights project is working on. We have the ability to work with legislators across the country, you know, it should be legislators of whatever political persuasion, who believe that all Americans have the right to vote and we should -- and it should be encouraged and should be made easier, not more difficult. And unfortunately, far right, many far right forces have been working on limiting the right to vote, you know, to try to guarantee certain political objectives. MADDOW: Can you give us any idea of the scale of your efforts and how you are connected to Democratic Party politics or Democratic Party organizations at all? How long are you guys going to be around, and how big a deal are your efforts going to be? SERGEANT: Well, I mean, we are planning on being around and working on this issue as long as it needs to be worked on. And unfortunately, I think it`s something that`s going to need to be worked on for a long time. You know, we work, you know -- the American Values First w with legislators, state legislators across the country, and that`s the first line of defense regarding protecting people`s rights to vote. And American Values First works very closely with the democratic legislative campaign committee which is the Democratic Party organization that works with democratic state legislators across the country. MADDOW: Democratic legislative campaign committee. Now I have to set a new Google alert. Michael Sergeant, president of American Values First. Thank you for helping us understand your efforts tonight. It is nice to be in-touched. Thanks. SERGEANT: Right. Thank you so much, Rachel. MADDOW: Now, we have been reporting on this story for as long as this show`s been on the air, we`ve been reporting on voter suppression and protecting the right to vote. And every time you get sort of national- level Democrats to talk about it, they tell you how bad the problem is and they tell you how much it must be fought. But the fight has been a state-to-state fight and a lot of it has been a legal fight, and a little bit of it has been a legislative fight. But to imagine the Democratic Party waging a national 50-state political fight on this subject, I feel like that`s something that everybody`s been waiting for. Everybody`s been covering this. Everybody`s been watching this happen for years, has been waiting for. This rollout of this American Values First thing has been very subtle. And that was certainly their first national TV appearance. We shall see if this turns into a big deal. We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: There were a lot of big legislative achievements in President Obama`s first term. Health reform obviously is the big one. Something Democrats have been trying to achieve for 60 years. President Obama and the Democrats in Congress got that done. Also, Wall Street reform to try to stop the worst of the abuses there that led to the financial crisis at the end of the Bush presidency. To preclude the possibility of another giant Wall Street bailout like we had at the end of those years. Also the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act so women can sue to get equal pay as men doing the same work. Also, the nuclear arms treaty with Russia. The START treaty, the repeal of don`t ask, don`t tell, expanding the hate crimes law, overhauling student loans to take out the weird subsidized private middleman in the loan system that was there for no reason, that 9/11 first responders bill, the stimulus. Remember cash for clunkers? Right. The president had a lot of legislative accomplishments in his first term. Particularly when he had Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress. In his second term, the president has been pretty clear about what he`s aiming go with this half of his presidency. He`s talked about taking action on some tough stuff. Climate change. He`s already made a go at federal gun reforms although that has been a tough slog already. And of course, the big Kaduna, everybody is waiting to see how it turns out, say it with me now, immigration reform. Starting about five seconds after the 2012 election results were announced, even lots of Republicans and lots of conservative pundits agreed that there was really no excuse to keep not fixing our stupid and broken immigration system which has been stupid and broken for decades. It has been stupid and broken for so long because of Congress` inability to get it fixed. The previous Republican president could not even get his own party in Congress to go along with his effort to fix the system. But in 2012, after losing the presidency to a democratic president, who went from 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008, to 71 percent of the Latino vote in 2012, as Mitt Romney just got trounced, after the 2012 election results, even Republicans were conceding it was time to fix the immigration system. And thus was born a vague mist-like esoteric sense in Washington that something would happen. Surely if the political logic is this clear and so many important people even in Republican politics see that political logic that is so clear, then surely doesn`t it seem like something will happen? Feels that way. And, yes, after hemming and hawing of almost epic proportions, the United States Senate, controlled by Democrats, did pass an immigration bill. The Senate is controlled by Democrats, but 14 Republican senators crossed over to get it passed. Passing in the Senate, though, does not mean it has passed into law. And having a vague misty sense that it must pass, that it ought to pass, that it might pass, that surely it`s got to pass, right? That vague abstract positive feeling that it should pass is also not the same thing as something actually passing into law. It really does have to go through the house, too, and the house really is controlled by Republicans. And whatever funky smelling cloud of smoke has settled over the beltway`s reasoning on this subject about how surely it`s got to pass, it doesn`t seem like the Republicans are going to let it pass. The chairman of the house Judiciary Committee is a key gatekeeper for this thing. If it can`t get past him, it can`t get past his committee. And if it can`t get past his committee, then, it can`t get a vote. And last night, he did a town hall at which he said he will do everything he can to ensure that the Senate`s comprehensive immigration bill never gets taken up in the house. He said he is flat-out opposed to the whole point of the bill and it will never happen. He is saying he will do whatever it takes. He will do whatever he can. And what he can do is stop it. Plainly. Personally. He said that around 7:00 p.m. eastern last night, and although this vague sense persists in the punditocracy (ph) that surely something is going to happen, it has to pass. Republicans would be insane not to fix this problem for themselves. Even though that un-sourced, feel-good sense still seems to pervade Washington and people who are paid to watch it for a living. If the Republicans who control the house say no, then it`s no. It`s not going to happen. And as of 7:00 p.m. last night, they are saying no full stop. And I know that in the marginal sense of what has just been advanced, it`s just this anonymous guy, Bob Goodlatte nobody could pick out of a lineup. It seems like a processed story and it`s not getting press today because he`s not all that famous. But he`s the head of the committee who has to make it happen and he`s saying no, and this is a huge moment on a huge issue, arguably the hugest issue in Washington for four years. And Republicans are flat-out saying, no, don`t care, we aren`t going to do it. Put a pin in this story today, even though the headlines about it have not been huge, put a pin in it. Unless something changes radically, the Republicans just killed immigration for the foreseeable future in this third week of August 2013. And on their heads will fall the political consequences probably for a generation, hence. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Governor -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. How you had been? You guys got any problems you want me to handle, a fire anywhere, people trapped? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No? Like a bad automobile accident where you need me to help some folks? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nothing like that. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need me to get a cat in a tree? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I think we`re all set here. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Trooper, what do we got? UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mayor, thank you for coming. There`s a two-alarm fire on state street. We do have a car broken down on route 1. And yes, a little girl lost her cat in a tree. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As you were. Governor, I`ve got this. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Booker. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Last year Republican governor Chris Christie of New Jersey joined forces with the Democratic mayor of New Jersey`s largest city, Newark, Cory booker, to create a video parody of their political selves, which is great, right? And a moment to move past our political differences. We are all united in making New Jersey laugh at us. It was a great publicity stunt for both of them. It was all in good fun. Until it became an awkward situation. Because now, when it comes down to actually throwing support behind a candidate for political office, Governor Chris Christie really cannot side with his buddy, the really very popular mayor of Newark, Cory Booker, who is now the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in New Jersey. Chris Christie and Cory Booker go way back, you know? I mean, for guys in opposite parties with big national profiles, they have a lot of mutual respect. Even a mutual publicity stunt under their belts. But now, partisan politics dictate that Chris Christie cannot go with Cory Booker anymore. Now, he has to go with somebody amazing who is running against Cory Booker for that Senate seat. And the photo op just happened. And it was capital "A" awkward. It was oh, God, no, awkward. And we`ve got that coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The largest newspaper in the state of Virginia has today called on Virginia`s Republican governor to resign from office, citing his diminished credibility and a drained capacity to lead the commonwealth. "The Virginian Pilot" newspaper in Norfolk today said that the prospect of Governor Bob McDonnell`s continued leadership is untenable. He must devote his full attention to sorting out his personal and legal problems, and for the good of his office, for the good of the state, for the good of every Virginian and his family and himself, Governor Bob McDonnell should resign. This is the second major Virginian newspaper to call for Governor McDonnell`s resignation. The first was "The Daily Progress" newspaper in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week. Even the "Washington Post`s" pretty doctrinaire Republican columnist, Jennifer Rubin, is calling on Governor McDonnell to resign. The latest calls for the governor to step down follow the news reported in the "Washington Post" that federal officials spent yesterday meeting with lawyers for both the governor and his wife. Separate lawyers now for each of them. We`ll have more on that in a moment, though. They spent yesterday meeting with the governor`s lawyers and his wife`s lawyers, giving those lawyers a chance to argue for why federal prosecutors should not bring criminal charges against Bob McDonnell. Asked today about that repeatedly by reporters, Governor McDonnell said he did not want to talk about it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can you tell us at about the results of the meetings today with your lawyers? GOV. BOB MCDONNELL, R-VA.: No. I came to talk about hiring veterans and why that`s important. I can talk to you about the budget. We had a great day yesterday, but I don`t have anything else to say on that. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was sunny Governor Bob McDonnell today in Fairfax, Virginia, fending off one of many questions about essentially whether the Commonwealth of Virginia should be bracing itself right now for their sitting governor to be criminally indicted. It was just about a month ago that someone created a new website at, for the purpose of hosting precisely one piece of paper, a piece of paper containing this apology from the governor, saying the governor was quote, "deeply sorry" for the embarrassment certain members of my family and I brought upon my beloved Virginia. It`s always a very strange way of phrasing it, right? Going out of his way even in his apology to say it was certain members of his family for whom he was apologizing, and only secondly was he apologizing for himself. That weird dynamic was pushed to the fore late on Friday night when in a Friday night news dump for the ages, Governor McDonnell`s spokesman told the "Washington Post" that, yes, there was even more that the governor had not yet admitted to about his corruption scandal and his ties to a troubled Virginia company. But these new disclosures that they were letting out late on Friday night, they wanted to be very clear about these new disclosures, look at this, that these new things, these new problems they`re admitting to just now, they were definitely all the wife`s fault. The governor didn`t even know. Oh, and also the governor and his wife have hired separate legal teams to represent them now. What the governor is blaming on his wife, this news they broke late Friday night, is the first news we have had since the scandal broke months ago that Governor McDonnell and his family had a personal financial stake in this company from which they took all those gifts. More than $140,000 in cash and a Rolex watch and a Bergdorf Goodman shopping spree and a lakeside vacation home and the loan of a white Ferrari and all the rest of it. Potential prosecution of the governor hinges on whether those gifts and that cash he took from the company were essentially bribes, payment for official actions that Bob McDonnell then took as governor to benefit the company that was giving him all the loot. His wife traveled around the state and around the country touting the company`s products. The governor and the first lady hosted a product launch event for the company at the Virginia governor`s mansion. The governor and the first lady arranged meetings for the company`s CEO with top state health officials so he could lobby the state on how great his company`s products are and how great they could be for the state and they should be covered under all the state employees` health insurance. Were all those favors that the governor and his wife did for that company, were all of those favors done in exchange for what they got from that company? For the Rolex and the cash and everything else that the governor took for himself and his family from the company`s CEO. That has been the question up until now. That is the quid pro quo question that presumably federal officials were discussing with the McDonnell family`s his and hers lawyers all day yesterday in Virginia. Now, though, you can add to that this new admission from the governor that his family also had tens of thousands of dollars of stock in the company, themselves, bought allegedly by the first lady at times that coincided with the official actions that she and her husband took as governor and first lady to help that company. She bought stock the day she flew to Florida to tout that company`s product to researchers. She bought stock the day after she arranged a meeting between that company`s CEO and a top Virginia state health official. So think about that. Not only was the first family taking very expensive gifts and cash from this company that they were helping, they were also helping themselves by helping the company, because they had a personal financial stake in it. A personal financial stake. Stock in the company that the governor had never before disclosed. "The Post" has since reported that Governor McDonnell knew about the stock as early as 2011, but he is just admitting to it now. On Friday night. In the middle of the night. Blaming his wife. Ahead of the meeting on Monday morning where his lawyers and his wife`s separate team of lawyers got their chance to beg federal prosecutors to please not bring criminal charges. Oh, and also, there are reportedly still more gifts from this company`s CEO to the McDonnell family that still have not been disclosed. Apparently reported in the "Washington Post" with two sources, we`re talks about golf clubs for each of the governor`s college-aged twin sons, and also an iPhone for the first lady. OK. Anything else? Seriously. Anything else? I mean, when Governor McDonnell apologized a month ago and said he had paid everything back, when he did that a month ago, he made the kind of implicit promise that all apologizers make. Which is that the story`s over. This thing for which I need to apologize has been disclosed. You know what I did wrong and I`m sorry for it. It`s over. In Bob McDonnell`s case, we have no idea. The apology a month ago has preceded just another month of yet more new details of new stuff that he did and he took and was hoping to get away with. Things he has known about for years, like the stock ownership that he was still trying to keep secret even after supposedly coming clean and making his big apology. And so, yes, what next? I mean, golf clubs and iPhones have been added to the list. Stock options -- stock in the company has been added to the list. What`s next? Presumably there`s more. This now shows signs of only getting worse, not better. If him apologizing was not him coming clean, then there`s no reason to think that there isn`t more to come. Joining us now is Delegate Scott Surovell of the Virginia legislature. He was one of the first members of the legislature to call for the governor to resign. He made that call back in July. Thank you very much for being with us tonight. STATE DEL. SCOTT SUROVELL, VIRGINIA: Thanks for having me, Rachel. MADDOW: So you have suggested that if the governor doesn`t resign on his own that maybe the legislature should look into trying to force him out using other measures. Do you still think that would be appropriate? And would that mean impeachment? SUROVELL: Well, it certainly sounds like there`s an indictment that`s imminent, and if it turns out that the governor does get indicted and his wife gets indicted, I think that`s something we need to very seriously look at. MADDOW: So far, Ken Cuccinelli, who is the Republican candidate for governor, the current attorney general of the state, who has his own ties to this scandal himself, having accepted about $18,000 worth of gifts from the same CEO involved in this scandal, he has said that there should be broad-scale ethics reform in the state, not that there shouldn`t be specific accountability for the governor but that the ethics laws in the state should be changed, and that would be the appropriate response. What do you think about that? SUROVELL: I don`t think there`s any question that Virginia`s ethics laws need some revision. I`ve made a series of proposals in that regard. Ken Cuccinelli suggested that we need to have a special session on that now. I think that would be -- now is not the right time. We have elections in about 80 days. I just think right now a special session on ethics reform would be kind of a political sideshow, and we ought to wait for our general session, which starts in January. If we do have any special session, I think if the governor is indicted and he refuses to resign, then I think the only special session we ought to have should be one for the governor to come and explain himself to us. If he doesn`t resign, we ought to be talking about having impeachment proceedings. MADDOW: Mr. Surovell, following this from a national perspective, the thing that`s been remarkable about it, beyond the personal career trajectory here, this fall from grace from somebody who had been talked about as vice presidential or even presidential timber, to have fallen in this really shabby and tawdry scandal so quickly, the thing that has been notable about it has just been that it never seems like it`s over. Even after the apology, even after what seemed like the initial rush of almost unimaginable disclosures in this, there`s just been more. Every few days, there`s more and more and more and more. Why do you think that is? What do you think is the overall truth of what happened here? SUROVELL: You know, Rachel, this state has a proud 237-year history. We`ve had 71 governors. We`ve never seen anything remotely close to this in the history of this state. And from the second these stories started to come out, you started to hear a drip, drip, drip. And it never seemed to end, and you always heard there was something else coming out, something else coming out. Even just last week, the governor, I think, gave a -- he issued a statement indicating he had returned, he and his family had returned all the tangible gifts they had received from Johnny Williams. When the governor was asked if he would tell everybody what those gifts were, he said, no, he`s not going to provide a full accounting of the gifts. And it`s clear we still haven`t had a full disclosure of exactly what went on between the governor`s family and this guy. Still to this day after three months of this. And after repeated calls from myself and other legislatures for him to come clean, he hasn`t come clean. And I think there`s more out there, and that`s one of the reasons I called on him to resign. He`s clearly distracted by it and not being forthright with Virginians about what`s going on here. MADDOW: You are a Democrat, the handful of politicians in the state, legislators in the state who have called on the governor to resign are all Democrats. I wonder if what your sense is of the prevailing political winds. We`ve now got two major papers in the state, including the Virginian Pilot, largest paper in the state today, calling for the governor to resign. Still there have been no elected Republicans who are joining those calls and saying he ought to go. There`s really been no Republican criticism of Governor McDonnell at all. Do you think that has to change? As newspapers around the state, in particular, start really turning on the governor in this? SUROVELL: You know, I would think that that would be a good start. There`s been one member who suggested we ought to have some ethics reform. But nobody`s really called on him to resign. But I think if he`s indicted, which it seems like is very probable, I think you`re going to start to hear people on all sides say it`s time for the governor to resign his position and turn it over to the lieutenant governor. And, you know, from what I`ve heard, from what I`ve read in the papers, that could be imminent with what you were just talking about, with him meeting with the U.S. attorneys just yesterday. We`ll see. What disappoints me is that we, you know, this state shouldn`t be outsourcing its ethical responsibilities to the federal prosecutors. Our constitution places ethical enforcement with the Virginian legislature, which pre-existed the federal government by ten years. And the idea we should hide behind federal prosecutors and leave it to them to figure this out is a little disappointing to me. But I think if he`s indicted, I think you`ll start to see some action. MADDOW: Delegate Scott Surovell represents southern Fairfax County in the Virginia legislature. Thank you very much for your time tonight. I realize this is not just a personal story, this is a political crisis for your state, and I appreciate your being willing to talk to us about it. Thank you. SUROVELL: Thanks for having me. MADDOW: Governor Chris Christie has made a major endorsement in the race for New Jersey`s open U.S. Senate seat, and it probably didn`t go the way he wanted it to. That`s next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, is an acutely and dramatically image-conscious politician, which is funny because he wants his image to be that he doesn`t care what people think about him. But he so desperately does. So when he vetoed the ban on .50 caliber sniper rifles in New Jersey, a ban he, himself, had proposed in the first place, and he also partially vetoed background checks for guns in New Jersey, which is supported by 95 percent of even gun-owning New Jersey households, when he signed those vetoes, image-conscious Governor Chris Christie made sure to do it late in the day on a Friday night in August. Look at the time here, 7:27 p.m. on Friday. You do something in a time like that in the hopes that nobody will notice what you are doing. At the same time he made the decision on the gun things, though, he also made the decision to ban the creepy quack therapy that tries to turn gay people into straight people. But that one he made sure to announce on Monday morning, right at the start of the news cycle, so he could get lots of praise for being a brave, brave guy for doing that, while nobody noticed him caving on his own gun proposal. Chris Christie is acutely image-conscious. And so it has got to sting, it has got to really chap his hide today that Republican political etiquette requires that he, as governor of New Jersey, as a Republican, as somebody who presumably wants to be president, he has got to endorse the Republican Party`s nominee for the United States Senate from his state. Everybody knows who the Democratic nominee for Senate is, right? Cory Booker, mayor of Newark, New Jersey, he`s a pretty popular guy, nationally known, heavily favored to win that seat. But the Republican Party nominated somebody, too, they nominated this guy. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEVE LONEGAN, NEW JERSEY SENATE CANDIDATE: President Obama, don`t tread on my freedom. President Obama, don`t tread on my liberty. President Obama, President Obama, don`t tread on me. Don`t tread on me. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: Steve Lonegan. He is a perennial candidate in New Jersey. The only actual office he has ever held was mayor of Bogota, New Jersey, population 8,200. But this kind of guy who runs for everything, he really is a perennials candidate. He even ran against Chris Christie for governor a few years ago. By some political miracle, called low turnout election in August, he has now become the Republican Party`s nominee for the United States Senate. The real one. And of course, Democratic groups are gorging on the buffet that is Steve Lonegan`s history of public statements. The group American Bridge has been circulating a reel that`s essentially like Steve Lonegan`s greatest hits, circulating them for entertainment value, for its fundraising value, presumably, but also for nationwide Republican branding value. Because he`s like Christine O`Donnell minus the witch. It is amazing that this is the guy who the Republican Party has nominated for the United States Senate. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) LONEGAN: You know, I`m a right-wing radical. I don`t think there should be any minimum wage. This is a Ponzi scheme, you know, the biggest disappointment I had last week was when Rick Perry came out and called Social Security a Ponzi scheme, and all the controversy around it, is that he didn`t stick to his guns, because it is. I am going to put forth what I called the Lonegan plan. People are going to say, well, doesn`t this mean a tax increase for the poor? And the answer is yes, it does. I have no interest in paying for your health care. I`d hate to see you get cancer, but that`s your problem, not mine. I didn`t hear Mark Levin`s ideas about Medicare or Medicaid. I think both of these programs are destined for destruction for the next generation, and I think they should be done away with and privatized, that`s what I think. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And so the way acutely image-conscious Governor Chris Christie had to spend his afternoon was cozying up to that guy, talking about what a great Republican he`d be in the U.S. Senate, and how much he supports him, and hopes he wins. Yes, Chris Christie and Steve Lonegan, this is going to be one of those relationships that is going to be fun to watch it develop. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Duck walks into a drug store and asks the pharmacist for some chapstick. The pharmacist says, here`s your chapstick. The duck says thanks, would you put it on my bill? Crickets. It`s OK, that was a bad joke. And bad jokes, things that fall flat, get crickets. There is actually a cottage industry of mobile crickets for all occasions, and any location. Browsing, without any real effort, I found 39 different apps for cricket sound effects available on the iPhone. They all say they`re promising to fill that awkward silence from a bad joke or another faux pas with the appropriate cricket sound effects. Instant funny. Look at this one, out with a bunch of pals and somebody brings out the lamest diss on the planet? Give them some crickets. Because actual silence is not good enough at making a point. We have learned to fill silence with the sound of crickets. To highlight the fact that there is silence, that something is not working. Earlier this month, "The Columbia Journalism Review" documented the life cycle of a scandal, in our national news media. They plotted the attention that one scandal got in terms of news coverage, just by counting the number of stories that were done during the course of the scandal. They focused on three news outlets that cover a lot of national political news, and from which many other news organizations often take their cues. So near the beginning of the IRS scandal, there was a huge spike in interest in coverage, running an amazing 66 stories at the scandal`s apex, during its second week. The "Washington Post," 16 stories that week; "The New York Times," nine stories that week. But as the facts of the story emerged and changed, it became clearer and clearer that the scandal was not actually all that scandalous, interest in the story at the three news organizations rapidly petered out. And it stayed petered out. Which means the news consumers were given lots and lots and lots of information at the outset, that this allegedly scandalous thing had happened, but when it turned out that President Obama was not Richard Nixon, readers had a much harder time figuring it out. Today we have been given even more information about how unscandalous the IRS scandal really is. How it was not a plot by the White House or the Obama administration to bankrupt its enemies and target the Tea Party. How workers at the IRS were also asked to be on the lookout for progressive groups, just as they were conservative groups. Much more proof that it was not a one-sided deal. It follows last month`s evidence that the IRS was also targeting progressive groups, and the evidence before that, that showed being singled out for scrutiny by the IRS was not really a political thing at all. On top of all that, we again have even more documentation that the IRS scandal has been disproven. More exoneration. And so of course. Silence. Give them some crickets. This is how scandal journalism works, right? There is no reason to feel high and mighty about it. It`s understandable. Something is a lot more interesting when it seems like it might be terribly, horribly wrong. Point at the horribly wrong thing, look at it, wave your arms, draw attention. But when something actually turns out to be not that wrong, when the facts of why it is scandalous are difficult to explain, that story is not anywhere near as interesting to tell, but it is twice as important. Sometimes hearing crickets is not the result of a bad joke. Just disinterest in letting people know how stuff that turned out to be the truth. Now it is time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL." Thanks for being with us tonight. Have a great night. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END