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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/17/13

Guests: Joe Dorman

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Anyway, thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. Once upon a time, a member of Congress shocks a watermelon. He shot a poor defenseless watermelon with a pistol. He thought that shooting a watermelon in his backyard might help him prove his theory that President Bill Clinton was secretly a murderer. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) THEN-REP. DAN BURTON (R), INDIANA: We at my house with a homicide detective tried to re-create a head and fired a .38 four-inch barrel into that to see if the sound could be heard from a hundred yards away, even though there`s an earth mover making all kinds of racket and you could hear the bullet clearly. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: You could hear the bullet clearly when he shot the watermelon. Or maybe it was a pumpkin, perhaps a honey dew, whatever. It was a fake head that he made out of a fruit or vegetable at his backyard. He shot it and that proved to him at least that a former deputy White House council who killed himself in the early `90s had probably been murdered by President Bill Clinton or something. It was never totally clear what exactly he was after with the backyard stunt. But Indiana Republican Congressman Dan Burton did shoot a watermelon in his backyard. Congressman Dan Burton also spent years and millions of dollars mounting a full scale congressional investigation into the Clinton White House Christmas card and the list of people to whom this evil dastardly Clinton Christmas card was sent. There`s got to be a scandal there somewhere. Dan Burton also demanded to know whether taxpayer dollars were being extended to respond to fan mail that was sent to the Clinton family cat, who you will remember was named Socks. What? You think Socks writes his own letters? Congressman Dan Burton was involved in a lot of really embarrassing stuff involving witch hunting the Clintons in his time in office. He also had his share of his own embarrassments. He got caught out in an FBI investigation of Pakistan`s military secretly funneling money to members of the U.S. Congress. He got up on the House floor and inveighed against President Clinton for his sexual immorality. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BURTON: No one, regardless of what party they serve, no one in which branch of government they serve should be allowed to get a away with these alleged sexual improprieties. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was Congressman Dan Burton speaking on the House floor, not long before he himself admitted that he too had had a long extramarital affair which included him fathering a child who he had kept secret for years. For all the years that he was saying publicly that politicians should never be allowed to get away with their affairs. That particular bit of hypocrisy led to Shelly Lewis to give Dan Burton the greatest congressional nickname of all time, she calls him Hoosier Daddy. Hoosier, Indiana. Hoosier Daddy. Anyway. So, Dan Burton had his own scandals, but Dan Burton`s lasting legacy in Congress was not just his own scandals and hypocrisies, but rather the way he tried to make up scandals for other people and specifically the way he use the power of one specific part of Congress to mount witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt. After the 1996 election, when President Clinton was re-elected in a landslide and the Republicans lost seats in Congress, the Republicans in the House decided that they were going to put Dan Burton in charge of the House Oversight Committee. That was the perch in which Dan Burton had the power to investigate the White House Christmas card and Socks` fan letters and the Vince Foster suicide with the shooting of watermelon thing, and Whitewater, and White House fundraising and, and, and, and. In the six years that they let Dan Burton keep that chairmanship, he used the facts that he was chair of that committee to issue more than 1,000 subpoenas. He issued so many subpoenas, at one point, he issued a subpoena to a man who just had a name that sounded similar to one of the 140-plus administration officials to whom he sent subpoenas as if they were party favors. Dan Burton was just crazed with hatred for the Democratic president. He told his hometown paper, quote, "If I could prove 10 percent of what I believe happened, Clinton would be gone. This guy`s a scumbag, that`s why I`m after him." And that is what Dan Burton decided should be the way that Congress would treat the sitting president while Bill Clinton was in office. It`s kind of clear from the get-go, as soon as he got that chairmanship that him being in charge of that very powerful committee was going to be a little (WHISTLING). Democrats on the committee wrote him this letter after he had only been chairman for two months expressing, their alarm that in the first month alone of his chairmanship, he had already issued 46 subpoenas. He also unilaterally had declared a new Dan Burton protocol for documents, in which he declared that he and he alone had the power to decide if he could release to the media any and all of the documents that he obtained by subpoena. And since the documents he was trying to get by subpoena were things like oh, say records of doctors visits to the White House to treat members of the Clinton family, the Democratic members of this committee, they were able to sort of shut Dan Burton down a little bit. They were at least able to get a ruling from the congressional parliamentarian saying that, actually, it`s the whole committee not just one guy who has to decide how documents get handled and what documents could get released to the press. There`s really nothing that could stop Dan Burton from being the amazing congressman that he was for all those years that he was there. But the Democrats way back in 1987, they were able to stop that one thing about him and him deciding what documents he was going to release, no matter how secret they were, right? Now, though, the Republicans are bringing all that back. Republican congressman whose now in charge of the Oversight Committee is Darrell Issa of California. In 2011, when Darrell Issa`s committee held hearings on TSA security at airports, the TSA submitted to their committee, confidential information for their eyes only, about security breaches at U.S. airports. And as soon as those confidential documents were given to Darrell Issa, hey, look, they ended up in "USA Today". They ended up in the news. "USA Today" was very excited to have that scoop. They wrote the documents obtained in advance by "USA Today" were submitted to a House subcommittee on Homeland Security. And then as soon as they were submitted to that committee, they were forwarded immediately to the press. In 2012, same thing, Darrell Issa convened a hearing on the Fast and Furious gun program. The ATF sent him documents that were just not confidential, they were sealed by a court officially, because they were going to be used in a criminal case. But as soon as Darrell Issa got them, he published them. He put them in the congressional record. Quoting for them, describing them in detail. Roll Call noted at the time that because those wiretap applications were under court seal, releasing that kind of information to the public ordinarily would be illegal. Ordinarily, but Darrell Issa does not care. He just releases what he wants to release. Later in 2012, he held hearings on the attack in Benghazi. The State Department had released to him information about specific Libyan nationals who had worked with the U.S. government in their country. At his hearings on Benghazi, Darrell Issa revealed their identities, the Libyans who were working with us. Oh, what could possibly go wrong. Congressman Issa, quote, "did not bother to redact the names of Libyan civilians and local leaders mentioned in the cables." Yes, why would he? Congressman Darrell Issa is a human sieve. He`s a piece of Tupperware where like the lids shrank in the dishwasher, but the container never did, and now, it`s never really going to close again. It`s not airtight. It doesn`t hold water. I mean, at least Dan Burton said he wanted to be able to freely release whatever documents he felt like as a form of political intimidation. Darrell Issa doesn`t seem to be able to stop himself from doing it. The Fast and Furious documents, the ones that were under a court seal, when the Democrats in the Justice Department came back to him on that and said what are you doing? This stuff was ordered sealed, as part of a criminal case, you can`t release this -- his office`s explanation for why they leaked those documents is that they forgot they were under court seal. Oops! But now, Darrell Issa is doing his thing on his next obsession which is Obamacare. The top Democrat on his committee has just written to Congressman Issa complaining that nobody wants to give their committee any sensitive material anymore because Darrell Issa leaks it all. Because telling Darrell Issa anything that`s a secret is the equivalent of putting that secretly up on a billboard. Quote, "Just last week, your office leaked to CNN emails that that just been produced to the committee, relating to the security testing for the Healthcare.gov Web site. It does not appear that you took any official action associated with this leak such as a letter or even a press release, but rather it appears that your staff simply e-mailed the documents to a CNN reporter as soon as they received them." That letter was sent late last week. At the same time, the White House, the Obama administration also just started saying no to Dan Burton - - I mean, Darrell Issa. Darrell Issa had asked for documents that the department of health and human services says would essentially provide the blueprint for potential cyber attacks, not just on Healthcare.gov, but on any spectacularly constructed federal IT system. It`s the security testing documents for this Web site. As such, these are obviously really, really sensitive documents and if there`s one thing that Darrell Issa has shown he has no capacity to handle responsibly, it is really sensitive documents. And so, the Obama administration as of the last few days is now officially and in writing saying to Darrell Issa, no. No, you cannot have these documents that you want to have. You can see them, but you cannot take them with you. You can look at them. You can review them. You can review them with your own staff and with your own experts, but you cannot have copies of this stuff, because every time you get copies of anything, you e-mail them to CNN. It`s amazing fight and that fight remains unresolved. Yesterday, the administration went so far as to go around Darrell Issa and write to John Boehner as speaker of the House and say, if we don`t get anywhere with Darrell, could you please make sure he stops leaking our confidential information. It`s a really interesting fight in Congress. It is a legit fight and it is one for which there is lots of precedent earned in part by the man who called 34 witnesses and demanded more than 40,000 documents to investigate this Christmas card back in the 90s. But now, our new version of Dan Burton, Darrell Issa is taking hiss show on the road. We reported in the last few weeks on how Darrell Issa has been in Georgia and in North Carolina and Arizona, doing what he calls congressional field hearings. But which are essentially traveling Darrell Issa road shows, where he`s arranged all the testimony in advance, he asks specifically for what he would like to hear. Only people opposed to Obamacare have been invited to testify at these previous hearings. Members of the audience are not allowed to speak at them at all so anybody who wants to say anything positive about Obamacare has basically been talking out on the streets and in front of Darrell Issa`s hearings because they are not allowed to speak if they go inside. And the state of Texas, the proportion of the population that does not have health insurance of any kind is the highest in the nation. And Texas is doing everything it can to try to keep it that way. They could have cut the number of people who are uninsured by half just by agreeing to expand their public insurance program, which the federal government would have paid for under Obamacare. Texas said no to that as soon as they had a chance to say no this past summer. And then this past month, Texas went so far as to pass this 64-page long set of regulations that`s designed to make it almost a criminal act, almost legally impossible to help someone sign up for private health insurance in Texas. In Texas, health care navigators will be banned by law from explaining to people the differences between types of health insurance plans that are being offered. They will be barred by Texas law from recommending to anyone that they do sign up for health insurance. Texas is doing everything it can to keep Texans from having health insurance, by any means necessary. And Darrell Issa loves the Texas strategy. And to celebrate it, he brought his traveling anti-Obamacare road show to Texas last night, specifically to go after the health care navigators issue the way that Texas has. And although Chairman Issa did make a little progress, he did allow one Democrat to speak last night, otherwise he just called on Republican congressmen so they can talk about how much they hate Obamacare. That`s what they call a hearing. There was this one amazing moment when one of the Texas Republicans at Darrell Issa`s fake hearing, decided to call essentially a new witness, at least to bring forth the new evidence, when he sprung a surprise on the people assembled for the Darrell Issa hearing and decided to play for everybody there at the hearing a little thing he saw on FOX News. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEFF SESSIONS (R), ALABAMA: The American people are frustrated with these changes and it is simply adding to the confusion surrounding their health care. And then we heard this, and I would have you look at the screen. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: And when you look up at the scene, what they were showing -- look, it`s Bill O`Reilly. They showed clips from the Bill O`Reilly show at their fake hearing, so as to get at the facts of Obamacare. Amazing. And then at the very end of the hearing, the administration, the administrator who was in charge of Medicare and Medicaid for the state of Texas, he testified at this fake hearing, he testified that private medical information is not stored online at the healthcare.gov Web site. And Darrell Issa was incensed by this system, and his response to the administrator, according to "The Dallas Morning News" was quote, "you need to watch more FOX, I`m afraid." That`s a quote. If you really want to know what`s going on with Texas health care, I`m afraid you`re going to have to watch more FOX News, guys in charge of Texas health care. Darrell Issa is not the most amazing member of Congress ever, but he is right up there. I mean, he`s never shot a watermelon as best as we know, but give him time. Right now, the Obama administration is in a really big fight with Darrell Issa over what powers he has claimed for himself and the fact that he leaks like a sieve whenever he gets any sensitive information. At the same time, though, Darrell Issa is now calling himself the lead overseer in the nation, of our national rollout on health reform. And as such he is now traveling the country holding essentially sham congressional hearings at which he shows clips of the Bill O`Reilly show and berates health care administrators about how they need to be watching more FOX News if they really want to understand what`s going on. This cannot possibly end well, can it? Joining us now is Zeke Emanuel. He`s a former health policy advisor at the White House. Dr. Emanuel, thanks very much for being here, it`s nice to have you here. ZEKE EMANUEL, UPENN: Nice to be back. MADDOW: So at these somewhat ridiculous field hearings, Congressman Issa this week decided to target navigators. What is a navigator and why are they needed? What role do they play in the law? EMANUEL: Well, navigators are people who help other people who are looking for insurance go through what they care about, what kind of insurance they want, help them with the Web site or if they`re doing it on paper, help them on paper. We should remember, navigators have a long history. I mean, we called them other things, agricultural extension workers to help farmers adapt to certain new seeds, we had these kind of extension workers to help people sign up for Medicare in the past. We have used this kind of technique for many different approaches and different kinds of outreach by the government. And I think one particular function they serve is in complicated families. You know, it`s one thing to go on and shop for two parents and two kids. But there are a lot of families in America that have a lot more complicated relationships, a grandmother raising a granddaughter or a niece, and those kind of situations create problems for getting insurance and figuring out what people are eligible for and the navigators can help those kind of people. MADDOW: I think what the congressional Republicans were doing in Texas last night, aside from playing FOX News clips and berating state administrators that they didn`t understand it if they didn`t understand FOX, which was amazing. Aside from that, I think what they were doing is they were trying to nationalize, at least put a national spotlight on what Texas has done to shut down navigators. I looked through those 64 pages of regulations, they essentially tell you that it`s against the law, it`s at least against state regulations to tell anybody the differences between various health plans or to advise somebody that they should sign up for health insurance. It seems like they have made it essentially almost criminal to help anybody sign up. Do you think that that will have an overall substantial material effect on whether or not Texans are going to be able to get signed up? EMANUEL: Well, I think it`s going to have an effect. The navigators are an important element. There`s lots of other ways people can sign up. But there`s certain people who are either suspicious of things on the Internet, find healthcare complicated and having someone they can talk to right next to them who can help them and guide them through the process is going to be important. Almost all of us have been frustrated when we have gotten on the web and tried to call a help line, and having someone next to you instead of at the other end of a telephone can be a very good way to navigate complicated issues. And I think that`s -- you know, they are trying to try everything they can to obstruct people being helped and I think this is -- you know, the intention is pretty clear, Texas has made very clear that they don`t want any part of Obamacare, even though they do have about a quarter of their population without health insurance. And that I think is the tragedy that the very poorest of the poor in Texas are going to be the people particularly hurt by their policies. MADDOW: As we come up on new enrollment deadlines as we roll through the end of the year and toward that important March date for example, one of the things that seems like it`s another sort of X-factor in terms of whether or not it`s going to affect how many people sign up is this plan by the insurance companies, the insurance industry to spend roughly half a billion dollars on advertising next year -- letting people know about their options, trying to encourage them to sign up. What do you anticipate in terms of the effect of that spending? EMANUEL: Well, I think, you know, this is a case where the insurers are aligned with the expansion of the exchanges because this is the new area of business. This is going to be a growth market. They would like to see people come in to these markets. They want to see a balance pool that has young people as well as sick people. It`s in their interests and I think they`re showing this by advertising and trying to get people to sign up. I think that will correspond with a push by the federal government and the president to get more people to sign up and to make them aware of their options, now that the Web site is working reasonably well, I notice that over the last couple of days, they improve the shop and compare that is the unanimous shopper where you can just see what`s available in your state, so that you can see the actual premium you`ll pay with the subsidy included. So, these improvements are being made and I think they`re getting ready for a big push for people to sign up over the -- they basically have about 3 1/2 more months, and I think this wave of advertising by the insurance company is going to add to that push. MADDOW: Yes, half a billion dollars never hurt, at least. Zeke Emanuel, former health -- EMANUEL: Right. MADDOW: -- policy manager at the White House, thanks for talking with us tonight. It`s good to see you. EMANUEL: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: Thanks. All right, if New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was hoping that today was the day that people stopped talking about a certain traffic jam on the world`s busiest bridge, turns out today is really, really not that day. Starting to make a leap today and has helped that story motor its way, way beyond the tri-state area. How this became a national story today is coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: We just screwed something up on screen. I`m sorry. We showed a member of Congress introducing a clip from the Bill O`Reilly show at a congressional field hearing in Texas last night, and although I said out loud that it was Congressman Pete Sessions of Congress, on screen, we apparently said it was Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama. It wasn`t Jeff, it was Pete. It wasn`t the senator, it was the congressman. Sessions either way, but Pete not Jeff. Like I said, but not like we showed. How embarrassing, terribly story. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: This is such an amazing story I cannot believe it. All right. This is a man named Frank Abagnale, who you may have heard of. Frank Abagnale was an airline pilot for Pan Am Airlines, for Pan Am. Frank Abagnale was also doctor, he was also an accomplished lawyer. He also spent a little time teaching college. All of that by the ripe old age of 21. Frank Abagnale was a con artist. He was actually never any of those things by trade. But he managed to convince people he was all of these things even when he was still just a teenager. If you recognize the name Frank Abagnale, it was probably because you have seen this movie, "Catch Me If You Can". Frank Abagnale`s life story, his career as a con artist portrayed in that movie by actor Leonardo DiCaprio. After Frank Abagnale was busted for pulling off all those impersonations and for cashing fraudulent checks across the country, he did serve a stint in prison, but then when he got out, he went to work for the government. He took a job with the FBI, doing consulting for the government and teaching FBI agents how to catch fraudsters like him -- teaching the FBI the tricks of the trade that he had enjoyed s for so long. And we now know that that means that the Frank Abagnale, one of the country`s most prolific and famous con artists was working inside the U.S. government at the same time that a federal fellow government employee somehow managed to pull off one of the craziest con man stories since the days of Frank Abagnale. This is just absolutely nuts. Meet John Beale. John Beale for more than two decades was an employee of the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency. He actually was a legit environmental expert. He worked on the Clean Air Act in the 1990s. But during his tenure at the EPA, John Beale for years and years, somehow managed to convince his supervisors that he was also simultaneously secretly working for the CIA. He convinced his bosses and apparently everybody at the EPA that he was an undercover agent at the CIA, and because of that, he just had to disappear from his work at the EPA for very long periods of time and they shouldn`t really ask him about it. The deception started in 2001 when Mr. Beale informed one of his EPA managers that he had been assigned to a special advisory group, working on a secret project with the director of operations at the CIA. That`s the branch of the CIA that conducts covert operations. His assignment, Mr. Beale said, required him to be out of the office for one day every week. Now his manager at the EPA signed off on that agreement. But one day a week at the CIA, at the, quote, "CIA" soon turned into lots of days a week. In June 2008, Mr. Beale failed to report to the EPA offices for approximately six straight months. Mr. Beale told EPA managers and employees that he was spending time working for Langley. Langley, of course, shorthand for CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. So, in 2008, he disappeared for six whole months without telling anybody. And then here`s the kicker: during this lengthy unexcused absence, Mr. Beale continued to receive his EPA salary. Mr. Beale is not just a low profile EPA employee. He was the single highest paid employee at the EPA and he just disappeared to go be a spy, he said. And it was not just those six months that he took off in 2008. John Beale also took two whole years off between 2011 and 2013 all under the guise of his super-duper top secret work at the CIA. Now, as you might imagine, the folks at the EPA eventually started to get a little bit suspicious about the CIA story, after a while. But every time they questioned him about it, he always had an answer. Quote, "To explain his long absences, Mr. Beale told EPA officials that he was engaged in intelligence work for the CIA either at agency headquarters or in Pakistan. At one point, he claimed to be urgently needed in Pakistan because the Taliban was torturing his CIA replacement while he was away." And this thing worked. The EPA believed him. Even when they questioned him and he said stuff like that. They believed him and they kept on paying him to the tune of nearly a million dollars all in, in salary and benefits. John Beale did not get busted until earlier this year. He pulled this off for more than a decade. When the EPA`s inspector general`s office asked him what he was really doing when he claimed to be working for the CIA? Here`s the answer, quote, "John Beale stated that during these periods, he was actually was working around the house, riding his bicycle and reading books." He said he perpetrated this lie to, quote, "puff up the image of myself." The EPA`s assistant inspector general who led the agency`s investigation into John Beale told NBC`s own Michael Isikoff, quote, "I have worked for the government for 35 years and I have never seen a situation like this." He has never been to Langley. The CIA has no record of him ever walking through the door let alone employing him. John Beale pled guilty to fraud this past September. In federal court tomorrow, he is finally going to be sentenced. As I said, this is a crazy story. Watch this space. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The winter Olympics in Russia are less than two months away, they start on February 7. And today, the White House announced the American official presidential delegation to represent the United States at the opening ceremonies and the closing ceremonies of the Winter Games. Now, in years past, the leaders of the U.S. delegation to the Olympics have been really high profile political figures like First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, President George W. Bush. This year, though the leader of the U.S. delegation will be former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. Now, no offense. I really mean no offense. But Janet Napolitano isn`t even a member of the president`s cabinet member. She is currently the president of the University of California System. But she`s top of the delegation. In addition the delegation includes the U.S. ambassador to Russia, a presidential assistant from the White House, a deputy secretary of state and a bevy of former U.S. Olympians, figure skater Brian Boitano, speed skater Bonnie Blaire, speed skater Eric Heiden. Also, two U.S. athletes who are openly gay. Tennis star Billy Jean King and ice hockey Olympian Caitlin Cahow. Ha, take that, Vladimir. No word on whether the decision to send this particular group, including two openly gay athletes has been made in response to Russia`s recent spate of anti-gay legislating, and anti-gay violence, which the U.S. has denounced. But the combination of having openly gay people in the delegation and pointedly, not sending any high ranking high profile people from our government, it does seem at least like a particularly satisfying snub. I don`t know exactly if that`s how they meant it. But that`s sure how it feels. More ahead. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The woman you see here in this picture won the lottery. She may not look all that lucky. She is after all standing in the wreckage of her own life. This picture was taken this past May when a giant tornado destroyed the town of Moore, Oklahoma, where she lives. You`ll remember that that tornado was one of the biggest tornadoes every recorded on earth, more than a mile wide, with winds greater than 200 miles an hour, leveled everything in its path, including this woman`s house. But look, she is pointing to something, right? She`s pointing to the purpose built storm shelter where she rode out the terrifying storm that wrecked her house and her whole neighborhood. "The A.P." photographer who took this picture reports that the woman and her husband had literally won a lottery for government rebates on shelters, they won which meant the cost of it was paid for it and so they got a shelter, and when the storm hit them dead on, they lived because they had that shelter to climb into. Over the last decade or so, the town of Moore, Oklahoma, has really been in a true Tornado Alley. After another deadly tornado there in 1999, the federal government helped thousands of people pay to install storm shelters. The federal government helped people afford this reinforced steel and concrete rooms that are designed and tested to help you survive what otherwise might not be survivable. And these shelters work. I mean, that`s the important part, right? After the utter devastation this year in Moore, Oklahoma, scientists from Texas Tech where they design safe rooms and they test them, they went to Moore and they walked though the neighborhoods looking for evidence of how their research had held up in the actual storm and it turn outs that the old-fashioned under ground shelters, yes, they worked. Also the newfangled above ground shelters, they also worked. Underground, above-ground, if you got into a purpose built shelter, you survived. That`s the way most of the tiny town of Tushka, Oklahoma, rode out the storm in 2011, in their old underground shelter, and also in their modern above ground safe room at n the local school. What matters is having somewhere safe to go to, having a shelter, and not everyone has that -- sometime with heart-breaking consequences. You might remember that in Moore, Oklahoma, this year, the tornado struck a pair of elementary schools, one of them hit square on. In the harder hit school, the walls collapsed and seven children died. They were smothered in the collapse of their building, because when that tornado hit, they really had nowhere to go. Schools in Moore, Oklahoma, do not have shelters or safe rooms. All around the town of Moore who had those safe rooms were opening those hatches and those doors when the storm passed finding themselves and their neighbors alive. All of those kids in that school who had no place to take shelter, those kids were lost. After that storm, Oklahoma`s Republican Governor Mary Fallin, she got asked whether the state should do more to put shelters in schools. She said the public should have, quote, "a very vigorous discussions as to what we can do within budgetary means." In Oklahoma, within budgetary means depends on what your town can afford or wants to spend, whether your town is relatively wealthy or relatively poor. Or whether your town was lucky enough to win a grant from the federal government, which might help. This spring, after those grade schoolers were killed in more, local Democratic lawmaker in Oklahoma decided he was going to try to do something about that vagaries. How can it be that you have to win a lottery to prepare for tornadoes, that people in rich towns will have ways for their kids to survive storms but nobody else will. How can it be when we know what works? State Representative Joe Dorman asked the legislator to set aside $5 million to build safe rooms in the 2/3 of Oklahoma schools that do not have them, 2/3. And when Oklahoma`s very Republican legislature blocked that idea, Mr. Dorman decided he would ask Oklahoma voters directly to approve that funding. Volunteers fanned out across the state, collecting signatures at comic bookstores, and at gun shows, at football games and hockey games, which I`m not sure I know they had in Oklahoma, but they do. They kept working after Governor Fallin said she would not support the proposal to build the storm shelters for Oklahoma schools. They kept working even after the state reworded their ballot measure. They worked until the deadline yesterday, and ultimately they felt short by about 25 percent, in bright red anti-tax, small government Oklahoma. Now, the story could have ended there. You try a couple of ways to get something done, you work really hard at it, you come up short, the state says no. What did you expect in Oklahoma, light? But that has not been the end, because today, Joe doorman announced that he`s taking another run at the issue and lots of other issues aside very different means. Today, he says he`s taking the very first steps to run for governor next year as a progressive Democrat in Oklahoma. Joe Dorman wants to run for governor in Oklahoma against a Republican incumbent who won last time by 20 points. Call him crazy, but his first exploratory town hall is scheduled for a day after tomorrow. He`s going for it. Joining us now for the interview is Oklahoma State Representative Joe Dorman. He`s leader of the petition drive for those storm shelters in Oklahoma schools. And he`s now a man who is officially thinking of running for governor. Representative Dorman, thanks very much for being with us tonight. STATE REP. JOE DORMAN (D), OKLAHOMA: Thank you, Rachel. MADDOW: So, Mary Fallin won the governor ship in 2010, by a huge margin, and Oklahoma is really, really Republican, or at least votes really, really Republican. What makes you think that you might be able to unseat here next year? DORMAN: Going out and visiting with the persons that signed this petition, the Oklahoma voter who saw a need for storm shelters in schools, many of those people expressed disappointment in the governor. And I will tell you, they admitted they were Republicans and they were ashamed that she was opposed to this issue. And I have hope that we will see some success with that, that we will keep this effort up and people will vote for the individual, they won`t just vote for the party, that we will see some common sense prevail here. MADDOW: Why do you think that your referendum drive to try to get storm shelters into the schools, why do you think it came up short, that must have been a big disappointment? DORMAN: The problem we faced was opposition from our state capitol. The polling number showed that this was very popular. Initially, the Republican Party chair in the state fought us. Then Governor Fallin joined in that discussion. And then Attorney General Scott Pruitt challenged our ballot title. Our state superintendent of public construction Janet Berezi (ph) came out opposed to this. We saw Republican official after official fight this and this was simply to put this issue on the ballot to let the voters decide. MADDOW: You could argue that a central progressive idea may be the central progressive idea is that the people should use the government -- should be able to use our government to accomplish together what we can`t do alone. Like, for example, building storm shelters or for that matter schools to put them in. Why is that central idea such a hard sell in Oklahoma? Why at least have the Republicans in Oklahoma been so successful selling against that idea? DORMAN: And it`s a difference between the officials inside the capitol building and those citizens outside. They had to lie and mislead and confuse the voters in Oklahoma to throw in that doubt. We had so many people that were supportive of this, until time and time again, these officials kept throwing doubt to the voters. And I`m convinced we would have accomplished this goal if they would have kept their mouth shut or they would have provided a suitable alternative. To this point, the only alternative Governor Fallin has proposed is to let the local districts raise their own property taxes, the way they can do it right now. There`s been no other solution presented. MADDOW: Do you expect that if you are going to be running for governor, and you`re going to be the Democrat on the ballot in November this upcoming a year, that this issue about storm shelters in schools will be a central part of your campaign? DORMAN: I can promise it will be a central part of the campaign and it will be a continued discussion. We are going to work hard to make certain that that Oklahoma voters have the opportunity to vote on this issue sometime in 2014. The voters and the people who worked hard in this position, they deserve that opportunity to have a vote. MADDOW: Joe Dorman, state representative from Oklahoma, leading the fight to try to get short shelters in Oklahoma schools. It is still amazing to me that the majority of schools in your state do not have them. Now, a potential candidate for governor in your state. Good luck to you sir. Stay in touch. Let us know how it goes. DORMAN: I will. Thank you very much. MADDOW: All right. Still to come, the biggest little traffic jam in the whole wide world, today made it all the way to Washington. Please stay with us. That story is ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: On the one hand today, the United States Senate did the unexpected. They got one giant step closer to passing a budget, something we haven`t done as a country since 2009. At the same time, on the other hand, as Senate Republicans managed to scrounge up the votes to do this, they also announce that they have no plans and no intention to pay for the spending that they just voted for, thank you very much. The Senate`s top Republican, Mitch McConnell, told reporters that the House or the Senate will be willing to vote for a debt ceiling increase next year, which, of course, is necessary in part because of the debt they just agreed to incur. So, to review what they just passed in the house and what they are about to pass in the Senate, Republicans will not agree to pay for when the bill comes due in March because fiscal conservatism? Lost the calculator? Something? More ahead. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Hey. So it`s been a big day for the New Jersey bridge story. It was in multiple pages "The Washington Post" today, also in "The New York Times." Politico.com finally picked it up. The national press and the Beltway press all know reporting how one of Governor Chris Christie`s appointees, one of his high school buddies suddenly and without explanation ordered the shutdown of two of the entrance lanes onto the world`s busiest bridge. That decision, quite predictably, caused gridlocked the entire town of New Jersey for nearly a week back in September. Just crushing epic traffic that paralyzed a whole town for four days imposed on purpose with no warning and no reason given. But the initial attempt to explain was traffic study. There was a traffic study? Yes, there was a traffic study. That claim was quickly contradicted by the executive director of the agency that runs the bridge. He said, no, there was no traffic study. Then, it turned out that two weeks before onramp-magadden, the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee, apparently had rejected request to endorses New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in his bid for re-election. Governor Christie was on his way to an easy victory. He did not need anymore small city endorsement to ensure the huge margin that he got in his reelection. I mean, in those terms, it makes very little sense that his allies would intentionally gridlock that town, use the busiest bridge on earth in order to teach that small city mayor a lesson. His high school friend resigned saying that the story was distracting. Governor Christie has continued to insist that there was nothing political at all about the Fort Lee traffic jam. Nothing to see here. Mistakes were made and whatever those mistakes were, don`t ask me, it has nothing to do with me. That`s been his line so far. Today, a big move in the case. Today, New Jersey lawmakers investigation the shutdown had subpoenaed any and all communications between Governor Christie`s office and the agency that runs the bridge during the period when the shutdown happened. And just like the press on this scandal, the investigation on this scandal has spread from the local regional issue to now being a national one. The chairman of the commerce science and transportation committee in the United States Senate has now sent a letter to the agency that runs the bridge, stating his concerns about political appointees abusing their power. Quote, "Unwarranted lane closures with no public notice can have serious ramifications on interstate commerce and safety in the region. As the committee with oversight responsibility of the Port Authority, I continue to have serious concerns." And then, there are posed some pointed questions. What is the standard process for lane closures? How long does this planning process typically take? What process was followed for the lane closures? Who knew about the decisions to close the lanes? Did anyone conduct research into the potential impacts of closing access lanes to the busiest bridge in the nation? And on and on and on. The Senate is asking for a response to all of those questions and many more by the middle of January. But wait, there`s more. That same Senate committee and its chairman, Senator Jay Rockefeller, have also now asked for a federal investigation. They have asked the federal Department of Transportation to launch their own simultaneous federal agency investigation into what happened in New Jersey. Whatever did happen still has not been explained. Governor Christie has gone so far as to say mistakes were made. He`s gone so far as to accept the resignations of his top two appointees at the agency, to long time political allies of his. But so far, he`s still trying to stick to the line that it was a traffic study. That has never seen credible and the executive director of the agency says it`s not true. What a federal inquiry now and a new round of subpoenas on the issue, it seems like we are likely to learn definitively whether or not the traffic study line is true. And if the traffic study line is proven to not be true, what happens to Chris Christie then? 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". Thanks for being with us. THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END