Guests: Gene Cranick, Robert Reich, Lee Fang, Angry Bob, Michael Musto
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Cranick fire, day two: As Americans recoil at the idea that any local government would let a man‘s house burn down because he forgot to pay a $75 surcharge, some come out in favor of the fire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: If you don‘t pay your $75, then that hurts the fire department and you would be sponging off of your neighbor‘s $75.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Of course, that also ignores Gene Cranick‘s offer to pay on the spot.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENE CRANICK, HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE: They put water on the fence line out there, they never said nothing to me. Never acknowledged. They stood out here and watched it burn.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The local blowback to the fee from a chief of another fire department there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF KELLY EDMISON, OBION COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: It‘s not the best solution. The last thing a firefighter wants to do is not be able to help when they‘d like to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: The politics of a la carte government with Chris Hayes, the preview of a Tea Party America this provides with Robert Reich, and our special guest—to respond to those who call him a freeloader—Gene Cranick.
Foreign money already in our electoral system, courtesy Citizens United. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce says, don‘t worry, they are keeping it separate, walled off. A Chinese wall?
“Worst”: the GOP candidate for governor of Oklahoma will only speak after all the Democrats have left the room.
And the latest Christine O‘Donnell farce.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I‘m not a witch. I‘m not a witch.
CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, DELAWARE SENATE CANDIDATE: I‘m not a witch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Not that. Her claim that her father was Philadelphia‘s local Bozo the Clown. There are Bozo truthers. It turns out dad was only an unofficial Bozo, a vacation relief Bozo.
And we‘ll be joined by a real Bozo and a real witch who are not happy.
And as to Ms. O‘Donnell, boy, is her nose red.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
In both the small and big picture it represents the breakdown of government, and knowing hands-off, recklessly minimalist approach—an a la carte system that openly invites specific destruction in the short term and the deconstruction of basic governmental services in the long term.
In our fifth story: The home that was allowed to burn to the ground over a $75 fee not paid.
Now drawing the cheers of some conservatives, eager to defend the policy and blame the victims with local county authorities evidently unmoved by this, the home of Gene and Paulette Cranick burning as firefighters watched because they failed to pay their $75 subscription fee.
But last night, the Obion County Budget Committee of Tennessee chose to expand the subscription-only fire service, pay-to-spray. The decision was two years in the making and will not go into effect immediately, and also not changed by recent events.
Meantime, the “prince of too bad for you,” as well as other conservatives, happily defending the system and explaining how that system worked exactly as intended.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: If you don‘t pay your $75 then that hurts the fire department. They can‘t use those resources and you would be sponging off of your neighbor‘s $75 if they put out your neighbor‘s house and you didn‘t pay for it. I mean, if your neighbor didn‘t pay for it, you it did, and they put out their house, your neighbor is sponging off of your $75.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And as soon as they put out the fire of somebody who didn‘t pay the $75, no one will pay the $75.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Which, if true, is why government services should never be constructed to put people in these situations in the first place—not the homeowner, nor the firefighter.
But back to the “they got what they deserved” chorus. The “National Review‘s” online blog and Daniel Foster, quoting, “I have no problem with this kind of opt-in government in principle. But forget the politics: what moral theory allows these firefighters admittedly acting under orders to watch this house burn to the ground?”
Good for you. And that was the compassionate entry.
“Dan, you are 100 percent wrong,” responded Kevin Williamson. “The world is full of jerks, freeloaders, and ingrates—and the problems they create for themselves are their own.”
“The National Review‘s” Jonah Goldberg sadly noting how well the system works. Quoting, “Here is the more important part of this story, letting the house burn—while I admit sad—will probably save more houses over the long haul. I know that if I opted out of the program before, I would be more likely to opt-in now.”
No, that is not the important part of the story. Indeed, when the fire chief within Obion County was asked about the county budget committee‘s decision to expand pay-to-spray, he was at first diplomatic and then frank.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHIEF KELLY EDMISON, OBION COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT: I think it would be really effective. It‘s not the best solution. Without a doubt, the best option is a true fire tax—eliminates us having 911 or whoever to check to say, are they covered or not covered? And the last thing—last thing a firefighter wants to do is not be able to help when they‘d like to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: And what about the fire department‘s proposal, one that in trying to achieve a local government solution tells the larger story about what government should be doing to protect its citizens? The Obion County Fire Department‘s 37-page presentation to establish county-wide fire protection—the very proposal considered by those budgetary functionary authorities before they decided to expand pay-to-spray.
Page five of the fire department proposal. Purpose: “To formally establish a county-wide fire department which will provide quality fire protection and emergency response to all areas of Obion County in a timely manner with no subscription fees or requirements for response.”
Page four, overview: “No other emergency agency responds solely on a subscription basis, ability to pay basis, or under the threat of not responding if you don‘t pay your bill.”
Page six, explanation: “It is becoming more difficult to convince municipal leaders that the municipal fire departments responding to calls outside the municipal boundaries and for which no compensation is guaranteed is just the right thing to do.”
The fire department presented five different funding solutions, including one which would increase property taxes slightly for all residents or one that will increase the monthly electric bills by $3. Also presented, a county-wide subscription fee of $ 116 for household for those rural homeowners living outside the municipalities.
Joining me now once more from outside where his home was Gene Cranick.
And, Mr. Cranick, we thank you again for your time tonight.
I know it‘s hard to believe people could be that cold, but they are. How do you respond to those people who are saying today that you got what you deserved somehow?
CRANICK: Well, I respond to those people like this: like the shoe is on the other foot—
CRANICK: -- on their foot, and see what happens. It happens to anybody. I don‘t care. You forget things and I did. I suffered the consequences for it.
So, I‘m not a freeloader. I‘ve worked all my life for everything I‘ve got.
And so—and another thing about it, they have waived these fire fees before. They waived them at my son‘s house three years ago in December. They waived them over on another road over here in out of town and saved the guy‘s house. But I know they waived them before. So, therefore, they could have waived mine.
I would have paid it. My neighbor offered to pay them. I don‘t know if it was $500 or $5,000 to spray the house down, put it out. But, no, they sprayed the fence row.
OLBERMANN: My understanding is that you heard about some of the coverage on some other cable networks today about this, people who said that it doesn‘t matter, that rule has to be enforced. What do—what do you think about that point of view, the coverage on FOX News, for instance?
CRANICK: Well, I say to this—to those people that they don‘t know the whole story about everything, and they shouldn‘t be judging people when they don‘t know what they‘re talking about.
OLBERMANN: The idea that this has to—if they had somehow gone in and put out the fire without you having paid, that that would hurt the system, that that would punish all the people that did pay—does that make any sense to you?
CRANICK: No, it don‘t, because I would have paid.
CRANICK: I offered to pay. I told them I‘d pay whatever it took.
OLBERMANN: From what we‘re gathering from looking into this today, it looks like the firefighters do not like this system. The politicians apparently like this system. How do you respond to that disagreement between those two parties?
CRANICK: Well, I don‘t know but I did understand the man who was calling the shots on this fire told them not to put no water on it—
CRANICK: -- was within half a mile of playing golf. He was playing golf right down here on the golf course, within a half a mile. That really tells you that they really care.
No wonder we can‘t get any industry or anything in this little old town around. Why should—why should I want to put up a business or build a new home around when they‘re not going to do you—when they‘re not going to treat you right?
And another thing is, and I don‘t know whether I‘m right or whether I‘m wrong, I haven‘t researched it yet, but part of my tax dollars goes—comes back to this town, I think, for fire trucks and the personal things. And I know it goes in to their general fund. They don‘t just use it for fire trucks or the police department or whatever.
And I know for a fact that they take their prisoners, when they take a prisoner, they built this new thing up here about $3.5 million and I understood it‘s supposed to have a jail in it. But they don‘t. They take all their prisoners over to the county to Union City to the county. So, what do they even need all that up there for? They‘re not going to use it.
OLBERMANN: That they could afford, but your $75 they could not afford. Let me ask you this, let me just see what the—if there‘s something a little nicer to this story than we‘ve told everybody about. And I know you‘re living it and none of it is nice for you, but what‘s the reaction of your neighbors to this? I mean, you mentioned your neighbor was willing to pay on the spot as you were as this fire was going on. Has it generally been compassionate and neighborly?
CRANICK: Most everybody has been compassionate and neighborly, and I talked to a guy from the city today, he lives up in the city, and he said he hated it. But that was the rule up there. He hated it that it happened. And the way it happened and everything. He hated it.
I understood some of the firefighters went home and were sick.
CRANICK: Some of them even cried over it. I appreciate it.
OLBERMANN: Let me ask you one more and we‘ll let you go again with our thanks. What‘s next for you and the family?
CRANICK: Right now, I don‘t know. We haven‘t talked. We‘ve got to wait until our insurance company comes around and says it‘s all right to clean up and everything. And then we‘ll clean up and we‘ll go from there.
Will we build back now or later? We‘ll be—we‘ll all just have to make a decision later on this.
OLBERMANN: All right.
CRANICK: So, we may not build back and then again we might build something. I don‘t have any idea.
OLBERMANN: All right. We‘ll be in touch with you if we have your permission to do so and, again, in the interim—
OLBERMANN: -- thanks for your time and continued—our continued best wishes in this terrible situation.
CRANICK: All right.
OLBERMANN: Gene Cranick, thank you.
CRANICK: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Mr. Cranick‘s story has resonated nationally, culturally, in a way he could not have foreseen or truly could we have predicted the huge reaction. About that, let‘s bring in the Washington editor of “The Nation,” MSNBC contributor Chris Hayes.
Good evening, Chris.
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Before we get to Beck and the—you know, “I say let them crash” crowd, what is resonating here and why is it resonating?
HAYES: I think it‘s resonating because it‘s sort of the reductio ad absurdum entirety of the kind of Tea Party, John Galt, you‘re on your own agenda. I mean, the idea that every single last thing is a matter of individuals.
Margaret Thatcher famously said there‘s no such thing as society, there‘s just individuals and that there are no public goods, there is sort of self or solidarity. There‘s nothing, absolutely nothing that weigh do collectively as a society that we sort of mutually agree to that we bind each other to through the formal government, through paying taxes and receiving public services.
The extremism of the view that refutes that, which is substantiated in the policy in this county is when you‘re faced with the consequences of it, it‘s so morally abhorrent that I think it really—it does resonate because it‘s a picture of what a certain section of the political spectrum is trying to drive us towards.
OLBERMANN: All right. Beck and the crowd from “The National Review,” who, for the most part, with the exception of Dan Foster to some degree, I think he gets a little check mark next to his name for expressing sort of the human point of view on this as opposed to the robot viewpoint, or the Ayn Rand viewpoint, they were all focusing on how well the system worked instead of questioning the whole system itself, weren‘t they?
HAYES: Right, exactly. I mean, that‘s so interesting, right?
You‘re talking about this moral hazard problem.
The point is that, as you said in the beginning, this is why you do not structure these services in this way. And, in fact, in a sort of interesting way, right, it‘s sort of an argument for single-payer health care. I mean, the whole thing Michael Moore makes in his film “SiCKO” is that we have single-payer firefighting.
And the reason we have single-payer firefighting is exactly to avoid this kind of situation. We all pay our taxes. We all receive this universal benefit and there‘s a tremendous amount of political science literature and sort of comparative political economy that shows that these are kinds of structures that are most efficient that work best.
So, Social Security is the same thing. We all pay in. We all universally receive the benefit.
When you look at the health care bill, right, it makes you wonder about how we would design a fire department today in the face of kind of right-wing obstruction and corporate interest, because the health care bill is basically mandatory insurance, right? It requires everyone to buy the equivalent of fire insurance and it sanctions them if they don‘t, as supposed to just having this neat and somewhat simple and efficient single-payer system.
OLBERMANN: We did, by the way, in many parts of the country, try firefighting by subscription.
OLBERMANN: And one of the results, I believe, about 1770 or so was that New York burned out.
OLBERMANN: Not really a big sort of Chicago fire. It was a smaller town at that point. I may have the year wrong by quite a lot. But just to indicate we did try this before and prove—
HAYES: There were badges on the building.
OLBERMANN: On the buildings. Yes, excellent. And then otherwise you let it go up in smoke and they‘d realize that really doesn‘t work long term if you have any buildings within, say, a half mile of the fire.
OLBERMANN: All right. We have here ideological people for whom empirical results like that mean nothing. Would Beck have been saying the same thing if people had been injured in this fire or killed? I mean, do we know the on-demand fire department would not have stood back and let people been injured or killed? Isn‘t theoretically that part of this equation?
I mean, do we know if they would have stopped it if, you know, the five adjoining homes didn‘t subscribe at a square mile of Tennessee went up in flames as a result?
HAYES: No, absolutely. And I mean, moral hazard is moral hazard, right? So, if you really want to bring the hammer down, if you really want to disincentivize not paying your $75, nothing would do that like a bunch of third-degree burns or, you know, Lord forbid, a casualty in the family, right? I mean, that would really—I mean, to use Jonah Goldberg‘s logic, right, you‘d really think twice about not paying the $75.
The whole point is it shouldn‘t be an opt-in subscription service. I mean—and you can imagine extending this to all sorts of things. I mean, blessedly, we have rules that hospital emergency rooms have to take patients. But on can imagine punitive measures being undertaken by certain right-wing state legislatures try to repeal that, right, to check people are, I don‘t know, up on their taxes, for instance, or have paid all their bills or check the credit rating of people that got dropped off at the emergency room with a bullet to the chest.
I mean, what you‘re seeing here is—are two things. One is a kind of ideological commitment to this principle that there is no public sector, there are no public goods. The other, I think, a more kind of dispositional aspect that‘s really part of conservatism going very far back and manifesting the Tea Party with a sheer punitive kind of contempt in the face of suffering.
I mean, you know, Kevin Williamson calling people ingrates and losers and jerks. That runs through the whole kind of Ayn Rand Galtian framework and you see it in all the Rick Santelli rants and Tea Party talk about sponges and moochers, this contempt for people as supposed to just sort of basic human compassion.
OLBERMANN: Yes. Two points, as Mr. Cranick point out, didn‘t some of his taxes go to the fire engines and, number two, let me say this, I haven‘t had the opportunity before: “Atlas Shrugged”—piece of crap.
Chris Hayes, Washington editor of “The Nation”—thank you, Chris.
HAYES: As Twitter length review right there.
OLBERMANN: Yes, and all it needs. Thank you much, my friend.
HAYES: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: One quick note: we have been inundated with offers of help from you for the Cranicks. We‘ve spoken with Mr. Cranick about this off the air. He is very touched.
As you heard him say, he wants to talk about it with his family. He has to assess the insurance situation. He will keep us posted and we will keep you posted. And thank you—thank you kindly for the thought.
Robert Reich on a little terrifying snapshot of a Tea Party America supplied to us by one tiny story in Obion County, Tennessee—next.
OLBERMANN: The Cranick fire as a definitional difference between the America you and I know and the America the Tea Party and Republicans apparently want.
With more evidence of foreign money coming into the midterms via the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the demand that he be investigated by the IRS for his midterm money.
The Republican candidate for governor of Oklahoma will speak at the same event as the Democratic candidate, provided all Democrats leave the room first.
And she‘s not a witch and it turns out her father is not actually a Bozo. The newest adventure of old Christine—ahead on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: American conservatism used to be about common sense, common sense values, doing what the average man or even woman knows is right, no matter what some pointy-headed think tank academic egghead says his or her political theory says has to happen.
But in our fourth story tonight: Faced with a local story which American firefighters were under orders not to fight a fire as it burned down a law-abiding American‘s home, national conservatives weighed in as we showed you in the previous segment.
The verdict: this, a family‘s home burned to the ground, his family‘s cat and dogs dead. This is no unfortunate side effect. This is the desired end. This is what they want.
Free loaders and sponges to be made examples of those who can‘t afford to pay given reason to sacrifice their health, their kids‘ education, whatever it takes, to pay more—pay more for health insurance, pay more for Social Security, pay more for fire prevention, pay more for police, pay more for ambulances. You name it. Pay after you paid already, pay or we‘ll burn your house.
How did common sense traditional values and conservatism leave the firefighters watching a man‘s house burn down who benefits?
Let‘s bring in former labor secretary in the Clinton administration, now at U.C., Berkeley, the author of “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America‘s Future,” Robert Reich.
Welcome back to the program, sir.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER CLINTON LABOR SECRETARY: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: What‘s the argument here? Why is it morally better to have a system in which those who can and do pay—they get the fire department service, and those who do not, lose their homes?
REICH: Well, at least the conservative argument as I understand it, and it is a little bit hard to understand it carried to this extent, is that people need to bear the consequences of their own behavior. That creates a better society.
Now, obviously, people do need to bear the consequences of their own behavior, but carried to a degree like we have here, where somebody who forgets to pay the $75 fee or somebody who is unfortunate enough to have something bad happen to them, doesn‘t get help really does create a very different—fundamentally different kind of society than the society you and I and most former conservatives, people who used to talk about community, really see and understand.
OLBERMANN: What—is there an end game here? I mean, if they applaud a man‘s home burning down over a $75 fee, what is the ideal economic system they would establish if they could? Is this the next economy that you‘re talking about in the title of your book?
REICH: Well, I hope not. Although there is a movement, Keith, to have a kind of—well, I call it social Darwinism, a survival of the fittest. If we coddle people—this is kind of a tough love idea. If we coddle people, if we save people from the consequences of what they do, society gets flaccid, it gets kind of morally bankrupt.
We saw a little bit of this in the first days and actually the first years of the Great Depression. Herbert Hoover and his secretary of the treasury, Andrew Mellon, said, we ought to purge the rot out of the system. Let people basically stew in their own juices. Don‘t save anybody. Don‘t do anything. Government has no role. Just balance the budget.
But, you see, we are in a very complicated society. We are interdependent. We do need each other, and that kind of view gets us just deep into trouble—deeper into trouble.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I‘m paying for his fire truck when he needs it and he‘s paying for my medical insurance when I need it. That‘s the premise of the interdependence. It‘s not more complicated than that.
But back to this other idea, this replacement society. Who benefits from pushing and implementing these kind of economic philosophies? Is there a real motive behind—oh, yes, just the survival of the fittest?
REICH: Well, I think the ulterior motive is very clear. I mean, if you are already well connected, if you are very wealthy, if you basically don‘t have to worry about all of these services, if you can take care of yourself, then the notion that we‘re not all in it together is very comforting. You don‘t have to pay for them. You don‘t have to worry about them because we against them and them and they are the people that would otherwise take from us who have it all.
And, Keith, in this kind of society right now, unfortunately, we have never seen—at least since the 1920s and the 1890s, the era of the robber barons—this degree of concentration of income and wealth. And so, you have a lot of people who are very comfortable, don‘t have to worry about their house burning down, don‘t have to worry about not having protection, they can get private security guards.
And they are, in effect, saying to themselves, we don‘t want to pay with our tax dollars or anything else for the protection or the well-being of them. Let them take care of themselves.
OLBERMANN: What about the people who don‘t want that to be America? Are there Democrats who are going to stand up for this? Is this—is this man‘s story is not supposed to be somebody‘s campaign? Are we not supposed to ask every Tea Partier and Republican where they stand on Gene Cranick‘s house?
REICH: Well, hopefully, we don‘t have to go through this particular instance every time.
REICH: But there are a lot of issues. I mean, look what we just had a big debate about unemployment insurance and the Republicans again and again said, no, we don‘t want to extend unemployment insurance because that will deter people from getting jobs.
They forgot the basic reality that is that there are five people for every job opening right now and in most states unemployment insurance only pays a fraction of the normal wage. So, why would anybody want to take unemployment insurance if they had a job available? No, it doesn‘t work that way.
But again and again, we are seeing in this coming election, whether the issue is health care or unemployment insurance or the issue is what do we do about jobs overall, the unemployment situation—the fundamental question, the fundamental question, Keith, is: are you on your own or are we all in this together?
And I think Democrats have to say over and over and over again in a civil society, in a modern society and there is a society—Margaret Thatcher, remember, said there was no such thing as a society. But in a society there are very important ways in which we‘re all in this together because through no fault of your own, you might get into trouble. You might be drowning and if you didn‘t pay for your beach sticker, you would not otherwise get the lifeguard to save you.
OLBERMANN: Yes. That‘s one step removed from where we are right now.
Former labor secretary, Robert Reich—as always, thanks for your great insights on this.
REICH: Thanks, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Good news: that Citizens United decision has no impact on our elections and your freedom. Pay no attention to the Chinese money that appears to be flowing into the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
OLBERMANN: Hey, guess what? Turns out there is evidence of foreign money flowing into the American election courtesy of the Citizens United decision. Details ahead.
First, the sanity break. And the Tweet of the day is ripped from the day‘s headlines. From Haymakers—that‘s just identified as Michelle. “The Tea Party coloring book requires only one crayon, white.” Nice.
Let‘s play Oddball.
Last week, you will recall that we introduced you to a kitten in a tea cup. We all had our heart strings tugged and then we went on with our lives. However, someone liked the concept and decided to make it more hip-hop. Say hello to bunnies in paper cups. Aw. I think we can all agree that the quality of the cup is not nearly as nice, but the cuteness of the animal is, at very least, comparable. Which leads me to the obvious question: when will we see the video of the puppy in the beer stein?
Literally breaking news tonight from the president‘s speech at “Fortune‘s” Most Powerful Women‘s Summit in Washington. The presidential seal became unsealed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Especially in fields like science, technology, engineering and math. We cannot sustain—whoops. Was that my—oh, goodness. That‘s all right. All of you know who I am. But I‘m sure there‘s somebody back there that‘s really nervous right now. Don‘t you think? They‘re sweating bullets back there right now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Two dollars to the first conservative who says that‘s some sort of sign from God. Fire the presidential sealer, or maybe it was a witch.
Finally to La Paz, in Bolivia. President Evo Morales and a group of his bodyguards decided it would be a real good idea to play a soccer match against their political rivals. All was going well until President Morales decided to have some polite discourse with a member of the opposing team. Hello.
The president says he was merely retaliating after a hard foul and refused to apologize. So I‘m thinking Obama versus Tea Party basketball game, no ref.
Time marches on.
Why worry about the Citizens United decision? All it‘s led to is Chinese money apparently being funneled into the campaign spending by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. And questions about whether the IRS should be looking into Karl Rove‘s midterm moolah, too. Next.
OLBERMANN: One of the many great fears following the Supreme Court‘s January Citizens United decision is that not only could anonymous American special interests have undo influence on our elections, but because the donation process is conducted in secret, so could foreign interests. In our third story, today, explosive new reporting that alleges the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is using money from foreign donors to pay for attack ads mostly benefiting Republicans.
The Chamber of Commerce says it will spend 75 million dollars this election cycle, a large majority of that money used to support Republicans with attack ads like this one against Jerry Brown in California. Because the Chamber files as a 501-C6 nonprofit trade association, it is not required to publicly disclose its donors. The American lobbying behemoth in recent years going global.
According to a report today on the website Think Progress, the Chamber has opened several foreign chapters known as business councils or AM-Chams. A membership of those Am-Chams includes American businesses based abroad, as well as completely foreign corporations, some of which are controlled by foreign governments. Citing today‘s report, these foreign members of the Chamber send money either directly to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, or the foreign members fund their local Chamber, which in turn transfers dues payments back to the Chamber‘s H Street office in Washington, D.C.
These funds are co-mingled with the Chamber‘s 501-C6 account, which is their vehicle for the attack ads. According to Think Progress, through the U.S./Bahrain Business Council, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce raises over 100,000 dollars a year in money from foreign businesses in Bahrain, and 200,000 dollars a year from India, through the U.S./India Business Council affiliate.
The report also alleges, quote, the “U.S. Chamber of Commerce appears to rely heavily on fund-raising from firms all over the world, including China, India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Russia and many other places. Taking the accusations seriously, officials from the Chamber responding in two separate statements to Politico.com, saying “AM-Chams are independent organizations. They do not fund political programs in the United States. We are careful to ensure that we comply with all applicable laws. No foreign money is used to fund political activities.”
The second bite at the apple underscoring its contention, quote, “no foreign money from AM-Chams or otherwise is used to fund political activities.”
Late today, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota called on the Federal Election Commission to investigate the allegations made by Think Progress.
Lee Fang is the blogger, researcher and author of the report today at Think Progress, and he joins us now. Lee, good evening.
LEE FANG, THINKPROGRESS.ORG: Good evening.
OLBERMANN: The idea that the Chamber of Commerce has some imaginary wall in the bank account separating the foreign and domestic money, intuitively it sounds like that‘s not possible. Is that your finding?
FANG: Well, here‘s what we know: they‘re spending an unprecedented 75 million dollars in attack ads, basically. They‘re going to foreign businesses and foreign individuals saying, you know, if you send us checks, you‘ll have a voice in American public policy debates. They‘re sending those checks to the same bank account used for the attack ads.
So, you know, these funds—they‘re fungible. They can be moved around. We really don‘t know. What‘s alarming is the Chamber of Commerce hasn‘t put out any documentation. They haven‘t proved that there‘s some firewall. They‘re just saying, hey, trust us.
OLBERMANN: Your report mentioned money going to the Chamber from corporations controlled by foreign governments. What do you know about that?
FANG: Well, I have here a membership application that they‘re distributing in Bahrain. They‘re saying in this application that foreign companies are welcome, and that they should wire the money to the same tax entity that is used to run attack ads. So we don‘t know the extent of this. As you mentioned, we‘ve documented how the Bahrain Petroleum Company, a state-run oil company, is a member. The State Bank of India, one of the largest state-run banks in India, is a member. We‘ve documented at least 300,000. But it‘s probably just the tip of the iceberg.
OLBERMANN: Do we know anything else about the motivation of the foreign corporations and giving money to the Chamber of Commerce? No matter where it goes out, why is it going in?
FANG: Well, the Chamber of Commerce made one of their top priorities killing the Disclose Act, campaign finance law which would have added transparency and made a lot of this shady attack ads very difficult to run. Or at least they would have had to disclose their funders.
So, you know, the Chamber has lobbied against closing loopholes for companies that ship our jobs overseas. They lobby for unfettered trade deals. And overall this fits the pattern. Earlier this, year taking money from BP, as I should note, another foreign firm. Tom Donahue, the head of the Chamber of Commerce, said that taxpayers should pay for the oil spill in the Gulf. They took money from health insurance companies and lobbied and ran ads against health insurance and health reform. So we don‘t know the extent of this.
OLBERMANN: The claim that they‘re taking precautions to not break the law, isn‘t that really one of the sort of side problems here, that some of this at least is not against?
FANG: Well, it‘s illegal for foreign nationals or foreign corporations to spend money in American elections. However, because of the Citizens United decision and because the Chamber of Commerce lobbied to kill the Disclose Act of campaign finance law, there‘s a loophole where we don‘t know if they‘re actually using these foreign funds. And we don‘t know who is funding these attack ads.
So they basically created a loophole for themselves. So if they‘re breaking the law, we don‘t really know.
OLBERMANN: Last point, another loophole, two watchdog groups today filed complaints with the IRS over the Karl Rove 501-C4 group, which is called Crossroads GPS, because 501-C4s are not supposed to be primarily political. But this seems to be spending a ton of money on ads to elect Republicans. Do you have any idea if or when those loopholes are going to get closed?
FANG: I don‘t. But I do know that one of the top political operatives at the Chamber of Commerce went earlier this year to work with Karl Rove, and actually helped him set up this vast network of shady attack groups. And they‘re doing a similar thing, because they don‘t have to disclose their donors. And they‘re running millions and millions of dollars of attack ads.
So here we have an election that‘s about jobs and the economy, but it‘s also about the integrity of future elections, because you have these rich and powerful interests coming in and trying to subvert our democracy.
OLBERMANN: Lee Fang of ThinkProgress.com. Great reporting today.
Great thanks for your time.
OLBERMANN: Worst persons; he‘s also hinted that unemployment benefits are unconstitutional. Does that include the ones his wife got?
First she had to deny her own confirmation that she dabbled in witchcraft. Now Christine O‘Donnell has to deny her own contention that her father was a bozo.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, live from Newark, Delaware. She tried to talk to somebody at O‘Donnell headquarters. Her staff was insulted. And Rachel was ejected.
OLBERMANN: First it was the Junior Anti-Sex League. Then it was dabbling in witchcraft. Now she has to face charges that a member of her family was an unauthorized bozo.
That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches, time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Ralphy May (ph), comedian, winner of “Last Comic Standing,” and now self-described idiot, after he walked up to a dog in the baggage claim at the airport in Guam. “I love dogs,” May says. The dog promptly sat down next to Mr. May. Another dog appeared. May patted it and it sat down next to him, too.
They were, in fact, drug sniffing dogs and they sat down because that‘s what they do when they recognize the drug smell on somebody or some thing. Mr. May had a small quantity of medical marijuana in his bag. But he only paid a small fine because, as he put it, the Customs agent said they knew I didn‘t mean to smuggle drugs into Guam, because no drug smuggler would be stupid enough to walk up to the dogs and pet them.
The runner up, Joe Miller, the Tea Party candidate for Senate from Alaska. Yesterday, he was claiming the federal minimum wage was unconstitutional. Anything that isn‘t in the Constitution, he says, is unconstitutional, you know, like federal taxes and unemployment benefits. Federal unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits like the ones his own wife got in 2002 and 2003 after she lost her job. Lost her job that consisted of working for her husband as a part-time clerk. Apparently, that convenient scheme is in the Constitution.
By the way, just to amp up the hypocrisy here, Miller has also attacked incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski on charges of nepotism.
But our winner, Oklahoma Republican gubernatorial candidate Congresswoman Mary Fallon. She has taken this whole only talk to your Tea Party supporters thing to a new level. Late last month, she attended the annual Presidents Forum at the Jim Thorpe Museum in Oklahoma, where she and her opponent, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Jerry Askins were asked to speak.
Fallon would speak, then take questions. Then Askins would speak and take questions. Just before she was to speak, Congresswoman Fallon insisted that Lieutenant Governor Askins and her staff leave the room, and then she demanded that former State Senator Mike Morgan, another Democrat, be removed or she would not go to the podium.
Look, I don‘t know how to put this in a way you might understand, congressman. Oh yeah, I‘ve got it. Let me reverse engineer a GOP phrase. How are you going to take on al Qaeda if you can‘t take on an ex-state senator named Mike? Congresswoman Mary Fallon, Republican candidate for governor of Oklahoma, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: Once again tonight, Christine O‘Donnell‘s campaign must explain yet another round of inflated credentials. Our number one story, the candidate lets everyone know that she is not a witch. Now it turns out, however, her father is not really a clown. In a moment, a real bozo and a real witch will join me to share the outrage. We first learned on this news hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE IN DELAWARE: I‘m not a witch.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: To hide from her past dabbling, O‘Donnell hired the marketing firm Strategic Perceptions to create the political ad. The company already well-versed in matters of the occult, also claiming responsibility for the Carly Fiorina Demon Sheep ad. FCINO. Then there is the matter of the recent “New York Times” profile of candidate O‘Donnell and her family. According to that piece, her father, an actor named Daniel O‘Donnell, played Bozo the Clown. Christine O‘Donnell‘s brother, also named Daniel, confirming with Times reporter Mark Leibovich, “Bozo the clown is a franchise. And back then, every major city had their own Bozo. He was Philly‘s Bozo for a time.”
This did not pass muster with a group of Bozo truthers. The truthers scouring the Internet for further proof that Mr. O‘Donnell was, indeed, the official Philadelphia Bozo coming up empty. Their demand for Mr. O‘Donnell‘s bozo certificate prompted Mr. Leibovich to call up the elder Daniel O‘Donnell and investigate.
“Who told you I was bozo,” Mr. O‘Donnell asked Mr. Leibovich, instead of answering the phone “hi, boys and girls.” After Mr. Leibovich told them it was Daniel O‘Donnell the younger, the elder O‘Donnell admitted he was, in fact, not the official certified Philadelphia Bozo, but rather a fill-in bozo, subbing in when the accredited Bozos would get other gigs.
To quote, “to be an official bozo, you had to go to a special school in Texas,” which Mr. O‘Donnell never attended.
As promised, here to discuss this latest resume team—padding from team O‘Donnell, Bozo and a witch. I thank you both for your time tonight, considering the circumstances. I‘ll start with you, Mr. Zo. Your reaction to Mr. O‘Donnell‘s admission that he is, in fact, a rogue Bozo, a Fozo, if you will?
ANGRY BOB, COMEDIAN: Look, Keith, that kind of talk will get you black-balled. There‘s no such thing as a rogue clown. I mean, there are unions. There‘s meetings. There‘s dues. There‘s even a secret horn blow. Sounds more like a scab to me, Keith.
OLBERMANN: So he didn‘t go to the special school. Did you go to the special school?
ANGRY BOB: I went to the special school twice. I wanted it covered.
OLBERMANN: Does it upset you that he only dabbled in clowning?
ANGRY BOB: Dabbling? Dabbling? Clowning isn‘t dabbling. Clowning is a life choice. Do you dabble being a doctor? Does the Pope dabble? Keith, are you dabbling doing the news right now?
Look, Keith, I spent 20,000 dollars on huge foot implants. That‘s not dabbling. That‘s commitment.
OLBERMANN: Actually, I am dabbling in doing the news right now. Let me switch for a moment to the witch. Spiritually speaking, what kind of witch are you? Are you a good witch or a bad witch? Are you Margaret Hamilton or Melissa Joan Hart?
MICHAEL MUSTO, “THE VILLAGE VOICE”: I‘m sort of the Wicked Witch of the West Village. No, I‘m more of a Christine O‘Donnell kind of witch. I‘m anti-evolution, which means I think witches were created by God. And your little dog was, too. Come see me in “Wicked.”
OLBERMANN: You look vaguely familiar somehow.
MUSTO: This is not going on my reel, whoever I am.
OLBERMANN: You also have several rather expensive looking accessories.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Is that necessary to be a proper witch?
MUSTO: Bling is essential to being a witch. Look at Little Kim. And you‘ve heard of the witch and the wardrobe. Hello? Where is my lion? Christine, did you catch the film?
OLBERMANN: Are you offend that, after seemingly embracing the fold originally, Christine O‘Donnell is now distancing herself from witches?
MUSTO: I am. This whole I am not a witch, I am you—Christine, what are you sayinG? You don‘t have a broom up your ass? I know I do. This is offensive to the witch/Wiccan community.
OLBERMANN: Do you—I bet it is. Do you think that Christine O‘Donnell is telling the truth about her past? Or is there something suspicious about her claim that she only dabbled in witchcraft?
MUSTO: Well, we‘ve all had a Satanic picnic or two. But I think she‘s holding back. Nobody just dabbles in witchcraft. That‘s like saying I committed a slight case of murder. She is suffering from an identity crisis, which, by the way, is what Christine calls homosexuality, coincidentally enough. Is she related to Rosie O‘Donnell?
OLBERMANN: Do you think that turned her off to witchcraft? Or what did turn her off then? Was it love of meatballs? Can you be a meatball eating witch? Is there a conflict there?
MUSTO: No, I know for a fact that her favorite foot is toe of frog and eye of Newt Gingrich. She gets it every Monday at Olive Garden, all you can eat.
OLBERMANN: Let me go back to Mr. Zo. Do you think that Mr. O‘Donnell‘s repudiation, to borrow a phrase, of clowning led Ms. O‘Donnell to dabble in witchcraft and swerve off into that category?
ANGRY BOB: Well, I don‘t think clowning leads to witchcraft. Maybe the other way around. I think clowning more leads to obesity and alcoholism. But I wouldn‘t know anything about that.
OLBERMANN: Mr. O‘Donnell claims his role as fill-in Bozo, he would ride around in the Bozo mobile. Does that have verisimilitude to you? Does it sound accurate? What is your preferred mode of transportation?
ANGRY BOB: Look, let me tell you something, Nader scuttled the clown repeal in the ‘60s. Don‘t you remember reading “I‘m Funny at Any Speed.” I‘ll tell you right now, I don‘t want to talk about this, Keith. It‘s a very depressing moment in my life. Next question, please.
OLBERMANN: You had corvette blow up under you, I know. To the witch again; Ms. O‘Donnell is trailing her opponent here. Should she instead embrace her past and consider using witchcraft to get ahead?
MUSTO: Yeah, I mean, she is anti-masturbation, anti-sex. Finally, there is something we can all agree and rally around, something good, and she‘s denying it. Christine, put the wart back on. Embrace your inner sorcerist. I would even vote for you if you came out of the broom closet, if I could see the leaver. I‘ve been making love to myself a lot. What you say about that is so true, Christine.
OLBERMANN: Let me close for both of your reaction to this. Is O‘Donnell missing an opportunity? Could America experience a campaign of historic importance, the first witch fathered by a clown to run for Senate?
ANGRY BOB: Let me say one thing, that—and I‘m going to say this, it wouldn‘t be the first time. And that‘s all I‘m going to say. Sarah Palin—I have said too much.
MUSTO: Speaking of which, I‘m busy casting a spell on the Wicked Witch of Wasilla. I‘m going to drop a house with a view of Russia on her.
OLBERMANN: Bozo and the witch, many thanks. Actually, our friends Angry Bob and Michael Musto, in rare form, both of you. Thanks a lot.
ANGRY BOB: Thank you.
MUSTO: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you. That‘s October 5th, the last day of Earth‘s existence, apparently. I‘m Keith Olbermann, good night and good luck.
And now a little bit more serious look at the O‘Donnell campaign, to discuss why what happens in Delaware doesn‘t stay in Delaware. Ladies and gentlemen, live in Newark, here is Rachel Maddow. Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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