Guests: Barney Frank, Jan Schakowsky, Ryan Grim, Ed Rendell, Dana Milbank, Deidre MacNab, Dennis Baxley
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Rein in Wall Street? Not if the Republicans
have their way. As protesters are arrested in the nation`s capital, the
GOP says no to a consumer advocate to watch out for us.
Newt`s surge is rattling Romney and has team Obama paying attention.
Block the vote -- Florida`s voting law is one of the toughest in the
country. We`ll talk with the Republican lawmaker who helped to create it.
Plus it`s bye-bye Blago for 14 years.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D) FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR: Rudyard Kipling in his
poem "If" among the thing he wrote was if you can meet with --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Welcome to POLITICSNATION. I`m Al Sharpton.
Welcome to POLITICSNATION. I`m Al Sharpton.
Tonight`s lead, a decisive moment for who we are as a country. Too
often in Washington it`s all about the spin or some political smoke screen,
but sometimes an issue comes up that just clarifies everything. It makes
everything crystal clear. Having someone fight for consumers is one such
issue, and is happening now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In history, the
reforms we passed put in place a consumer watchdog, who is charged with
protecting everyday Americans. Financial institutions have plenty of
lobbyists looking out for their interests. Consumers deserve to have
someone whose job it is to look out for them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Democrats are trying to appoint this man, Richard Cordray
to head up the consumer financial protection bureau. He`s a strong middle-
class advocate, with backing from officials in both parties. So it`s no
surprise Republicans are attacking the president`s nominee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, (R-KY) SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Now he`s suddenly
making a push to confirm his nominee, because it fits some picture he wants
to paint about who the good guys and bad guys are in Washington. He`s
setting up a vote that he knows will fail so he can show up and say he`s
shocked. This is what passes for leadership right now in the White House,
and it`s truly unfortunate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Appointing a consumer advocate is unfortunate? What`s
unfortunate is that no top executive was held accountable for the financial
crisis, none. But Republicans don`t seem to mind that as 176 House
Republicans voted again financial reform, as did 37 Senate Republicans.
And even though it passed without their help, they`ve been attacking the
legislation ever since. And 44 Senate Republicans has vowed to block any
nominee to head consumer protection, even popular consumer advocates like
Americans are fed up. This is why hundreds of protesters took to the
streets in D.C. today. Dozens were arrested protesting a system that
benefits the one percent at the expense of the other 99. It`s about time
the GOP listens.
Joining me is Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat from Massachusetts.
He`s one of the authors of the Dodd/Frank bill, one of the landmark
achievements that arose from the financial crisis. He`s also the top
Democrat on the financial -- the House financial services committee. Mr.
Chairman, thanks for joining me this evening.
REP. BARNEY FRANK, (D) MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, reverend. This is
an important moment, so I`m glad to have this opportunity to discuss it.
SHARPTON: Why do you think the Republicans continue to attack reforms
that help American consumers?
FRANK: Well, for some of them it`s ideological blindness. They
believe the free enterprise system, which we believe in, but which we think
needs regulation to work well, is best left totally unregulated. How they
can look at what disasters we had from the past years, I don`t know, but
they still do that.
And then some of them frankly have decided politically for fund-
raising and other purposes they`re better off with the financial
institutions who don`t want reform. That`s not true of all of them, but
some of them, rather than the consumer. In this case --
SHARPTON: Now, Mr. Chairman, explain to the people what exactly this
consumer person would do that would head this agency. Exactly in layman`s
terms, what he would do for consumers?
FRANK: Until we passed the Bill last year, if you had a fight with
the bank, if you had a fight with any financial institution, and you
complained, when theoretically there were laws on the book to protect you,
the interpretation of the laws war left to the people in charge of the bank
FRANK: The Republican view, which was expressed by the chairman of
the committee, Mr. Baucus, the Republican chairman today, who said the
regulators aren`t there to whatever the banks. He said they`re there to
serve the banks. The fact is, for example, the biggest single amount of
consumer protection legislation before we passed the bill was under the
jurisdiction of the Federal Reserve Bank, and Mr. Greenspan announced he
didn`t believe in it.
What we want was this -- we believe that consumer legislation should
be administered by an independent agency. The regulators are there to
worry about the saved and soundness of the banks, and because of that being
their preoccupation, they tend to undervalue consumers.
What we did find was the major advocate consumers were at the state
level of the attorneys general. That`s why the president correctly picked
a former state attorney general to head the agency, Mr. Cordray. But what
we did was to say here`s the deal. We`ll take the powers that now exist
and give them to an independent agency that isn`t going to be influenced by
And we also said we want to go beyond that and give the agency the
power to regulate agencies that are not now regulated, that have grown up
since regulation, check cashers, people who sell remittances, payday
The way it works now, if the Republicans continue to refuse to do
their duty, we`re not asking them to vote yes. Let`s have a vote, up or
down. They are saying, no, they don`t like the law, so they`re going to
violate the constitutional oath to vote on these things. And we will then
not have the power to regulate payday lenders.
One of the problems we have is with service members. We`ve got 18,
19, 20-year-old kids, they`re away from home for the first time, they`re
getting a paycheck, and they`re vulnerable, not to everybody. A lot of
these people are honest, but to the few who want to abuse. We have in the
administration, in the consumer bureau, as head of an active military Holly
Petraeus, whose name will be familiar. Her husband is General David
Petraeus. She doesn`t have the full power she should have to protect these
service members who can be fleeced.
And what the Republicans are saying, and this is important to know --
SHARPTON: So the Republicans are blocking this?
FRANK: The Republicans, 44 Republicans have announced not that
Cordray is a bad guy or that they disagree with him, but because they don`t
believe there should be an independent consumer protect agency, they will
not allow the vote to come up. The will filibuster. We need 60 on votes
to break a filibuster.
And it`s a violation of the constitution. The constitution has two
different rules, one for passing and amending legislation, another
confirmation. They don`t have the ability to get the bill through to
amendment, which they want, to weaken in and put the bank regulators in
charge. They`re announcing while the constitution says they should advise
and consent -- we`re not insisting they vote yet, but they shouldn`t block
SHARPTON: And 63 percent of the American public say that they want to
see more government oversight on financial companies. And then when you
look at the fact that we have seen this graph where you corporations are
spending money on lobbying. President Obama said banks have money to pay
lobbyists, but consumers don`t, doesn`t that prove the point? Thirty U.S.
corporations spent more money on lobbying than they paid on taxes.
FRANK: Well, this is a problem here. By the way, it`s not just on
the consumer bureau. You`re right to focus on this. Incredibly to me,
they are trying to go back to the point where derivatives are not
regulated. We have an agency that we gave the power, for instance, to stop
speculation in oil and food, which drives our prices. The right wing has
announced speculation doesn`t have any effect on prices, which is an
incredible statement, and they are trying to keep the money away from the
agency to fight speculation.
In this case tomorrow -- Mitch McConnell, you had him on. He said we
pretend to be shocked. I`m not shocked when Mitch McConnell acts in an
obstructionist way. This is a man who announced his main goal is to defeat
President Obama. I am ready to point on you, and he complains why are they
making me vote on this? Because that`s your duty. And if the Republicans
say we don`t want an independent consumer agency to deal with payday
lending, check cashing and all those abuses for soldiers and others, then
let them stand up and say so.
SHARPTON: Chairman, you`re talking about politics a minute. Mitt
Romney talking about redistributing wealth. Let me show you this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He is seeking to replace
our merit-based society with an entitlement society. And in an entitlement
society, everyone receives about the same rewards regardless of the
education they pursue, regardless of the effort, regardless of the
willingness they have to take risks, and that would just earn, by some, is
redistributed to others. In that kind of setting, by the way, the only
people that truly get disproportionate rewards are the people who do the
redistributing, the government folks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: It is amazing, but it is clear what we are up again. The
lines are drawn very clearly. Chairman?
FRANK: Let me say, Al, that`s a lie. No one is for that. No one is
saying everybody gets the same amount. And when your opponents have to lie
and so blatantly distort what you`re saying that`s a good sign that they
know that real arguments on the merits will work.
SHARPTON: Chairman Barney Franks, thanks, as always.
FRANK: Thank you, Al.
SHARPTON: Ahead, Republicans are playing games to protect the one
percent, but what will the president make them fold on?
Plus, Gingrich rising -- amazing new polls show him flying high.
We`ll show you Willard`s plan to take him down.
And block the vote, voter suppression laws in Florida. We`ll
investigate those tonight.
You`re watching POLITICSNATION on MSNBC.
SHARPTON: President Obama has the Republican party in a pretzel over
the payroll tax fight. The American public wants to raise taxes on
millionaires. A whopping 64 percent is for that. But the Republican Party
is determined to protect the rich and raise taxes on everyone else. That`s
right, I said raising taxes.
The fight now is over the payroll tax cut. It puts an average of
$1,500 in the pockets of the middle class. But if there`s no deal, middle-
class families will see an average increase of $1,000 in their taxes. And
the Democrats are talking tough today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: I have a simple message
for my Republican colleagues. We will make sure we pass this tax cut for
middle class before the end of this year. We`re not going to leave town
until it`s completed. And I say to my Republican colleagues, we can do it
the easy way or we can do it the hard way.
SEN. DICK DURBIN, (D) ILLINOIS: The president made it clear in our
meeting in the Oval Office this morning he is committed to this payroll tax
cut. We`re staying in Washington until we get that job done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: The president is calling Republicans out on the hypocrisy.
It`s another end-of-year showdown. Joining me now is Congresswoman Jan
Schakowsky, Democrat from Illinois, and Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief
of "The Huffington Post." Thanks to both of your for joining me.
Congresswoman, let me star with you. Let me get this right, Republicans
are for a tax increase? Am I getting this right?
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY, (D) ILLINOIS: So far, so right. They`re for a
tax increase on the middle class. Oh, heaven forbid on the wealthiest
Americans. And Grover Norquist, who is the king of no tax increases, seems
to have agreed with that. He explained to the Republican conference today
that raising taxes on the middle class actually wasn`t a tax increase. I
don`t exactly figure that out. I don`t understand it.
So they in order to protect the income of the millionaires and
billionaires, they are willing to raise taxes on the middle class.
Incredible. We`re going to stay here.
SHARPTON: Ryan, Grover Norquist, known for getting pledges signed
that members of Congress will not under any circumstances vote to raise
taxes, is now saying the fact that middle-income families will have an
increase of $1,000 on their taxes is not a tax increase.
RYAN GRIM, "THE HUFFINGTON POST": Right. It`s completely
inconsistent because when he talked about the Bush tax cuts expiring a year
and a half ago, he said if the Bush tax cuts expire that`s a tax hike on
hardworking Americans. That was the Republican talking point, that
expiring tax cuts are the same thing as a tax hike. You know, there are
reams and reams of transcripts to support that. So the notion that a tax
is going up because of this tax cut expiring rather than the Bush tax cuts
expiring, that`s not a tax increase. It doesn`t make any sense. It`s not
a serious attempt here.
SHARPTON: They seem divided on this, even the Republicans. Is there
some fear? Because obviously they can`t believe that people are that silly
to think an extra $1,000 is not an increase.
GRIM: They`re extremely afraid of this, because if they don`t act on
this, the moment that your taxes go up, Congress will be out on recess.
They`ll be back in their districts, and they`re going to be swarmed with
angry constituents asking why they got a smaller paycheck than a couple
weeks ago. It won`t take much Googling to figure out what happened.
SHARPTON: Congresswoman, even John McCain is saying that the GOP
doesn`t have its act together and the Democrats are doing a good job, even
John McCain is saying that.
SCHAKOWSKY: Well, you know, this isn`t some sort of academic
exercise, either -- $1,000 for 160 million Americans really makes a big
difference, especially this holiday season, you know? People are trying to
figure out the budgets and can we actually put some presents under the
tree, and can we have that turkey for our Christmas dinner, or gifts for
Hanukkah. This means a lot to people. I don`t think it means that much to
the wealthiest Americans, $1,000. They probably think that`s nothing. But
I want to tell you, al, we are not going to leave here. We are just not
going to leave here.
SHARPTON: I`m glad I hear you talking tough because that`s what a lot
of us have been wanting to hear, the Democrats fighting tough like Jan
Schakowsky. Look at Chuck Schumer today. I was so proud of the senior
senator from where I reside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (R) NEW YORK: There`s some talk that Speaker
Boehner next Wednesday will throw us some kind of proposal and go home?
Don`t go home, Speaker Boehner, because we`re going to be here, and you`ll
be embarrassed before the American people if you do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Congresswoman, is there new fighting spirit among Democrats
in the Congress, Senate and House?
SCHAKOWSKY: You bet there is. This is a nonnegotiable issue. We
have to do really three things. We have to extend the payroll tax cut for
working Americans, for the middle class. We have to extend the
unemployment insurance benefits, or we`re going to see millions of people
next year without any source of income. And we have to make sure that
doctors aren`t going to cut their Medicare patients off because we aren`t
going to extend the doctor fix.
So we need to do those things before we leave. We`re simply not going
to go home. And I really dare the Republicans, we all do, to say really?
You`re going to leave people with nothing over the holidays? You`re going
to go home? Not going to happen.
SHARPTON: You heard it right, the congresswoman dares them, and we`re
going to fight. One thing I learned a long time ago, if you fight, you may
lose, but if you don`t fight, you`re guaranteed to lose. Congresswoman Jan
Schakowsky and Ryan Grim, thanks for joining me.
SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you, Reverend Al.
GRIMM: Thank you.
SHARPTON: Ahead, Rick Perry`s pathetic last-ditch effort -- attacking
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK PERRY, (R) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There`s something wrong in
this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can`t
openly celebrate Christmas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: No, Rick, there`s something wrong with that ad.
Plus the Republican base found the anti-Romney, or did they? Inside
Newt`s big events with lobbyists tonight.
And all of a sudden Florida Governor Rick Scott loves education. He
proves my theory again -- do unpopular things, become very, very unpopular,
SHARPTON: Folks, let`s talk for a minute about Florida Rick Scott.
Remember him? He`s the Scott Walker of the sunshine state. In less than a
year in office, Scott pulled off all the right`s favorite radical moves.
He`s turned down federal money that would have created jobs. He`s forced
welfare recipients to take drug tests. And he`s made it harder to vote.
One of the worst moves was cutting education funding. In May Scott`s
budget slashed funding for schools by $1.3 billion. But Florida voters are
paying attention to Scott`s agenda, and only 26 percent approve of the job
he`s doing. Congratulations, governor. You`re the least popular governor
in the country. It`s a real honor.
I guess Governor Scott is getting the message that doing unpopular
things make you unpopular. It seems to be that he`s taking the hint,
because today Scott announced next year`s budget. And what a difference a
few months makes. Now Scott wants to increase school funding by about $1
Governor, did you think one good move would make voters forget about
everything else you`ve done? We`re on to you, Governor Scott, and that
poll shows everybody in Florida is on to you, too. Nice try, but we all
SHARPTON: Welcome back to POLITICS NATION. Make no mistake about it.
Newt Gingrich is for real. Brand-new polls just released show Newt is on
fire. In Iowa, Newt has a 13-point lead over Willard. In South Carolina,
he`s opened up a massive 23-point lead. In Florida, check this out. He`s
obliterating Romney, 48-25. This is no flavor of the month, this is no
trend. This is the real deal. And now, the Obama team is on alert.
Politico reports the White House is taking Newt`s rise in the polls
seriously. Quote, President Obama`s advisers are frantically rewriting a
playbook that has been three years in the making. There`s a wary
recognition that Gingrich may be catching a wave that is both powerful and
Meanwhile, it`s do or die time for Willard, and he`s gearing up for a
Joining me now is NBC News political analyst Ed Rendell, former DNC
chair and Pennsylvania governor. And Dana Milbank, political columnist for
"The Washington Post." Thanks to both of you for being here tonight.
Governor, let me start with you. The rash of polls with Gingrich on top is
extraordinary. Is there any way to stop Newt, in your opinion?
ED RENDELL, FORMER DNC CHAIRMAN: Sure. (INAUDIBLE) Al, I know you
have. In the Iowa poll, the poll that was just released, 55 percent of the
respondents say, they`re not certain, they haven`t made up their minds
totally about who they`re going to vote for, which means the situation in
Iowa is very, very fluid. And you`re going to see Newt start getting Newt.
You`ve already seen the Ron Paul add which I think is a very effective ad
starting over the picture of Newt and Nancy Pelosi next to each other on
Global Warming. And you`re going to see shots from the Romney campaign,
shots from the Perry campaign. And the question is, with all of the fodder
there is about Newt, you know, having earned $100 million by being a K-
Street lobbyist, which is anathema to the Tea Party, with all that fodder,
the question is, will those 55 percent have made up their minds, will they
flip again? And I think there`s a possibility.
SHARPTON: Now, Dana. When you look at Romney`s plans for next week.
Increase TV ads, do more media interviews, skip fund-raisers, visit with
voters in key states, campaign aggressively. I mean, it looks like Willard
is trying to get up and energize and fight back. Can it work?
DANA MILBANK, POLITICAL COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well,
that`s all that`s left for him to do, Reverend. I don`t think the White
House is scrambling and alarmed and worried. The White House is delighted
at the prospect of running against Newt Gingrich. Romney not so much. The
most troubling thing in that poll particularly for Romney is not that Newt
is going up, but that Romney is stuck there like 20 percent, maybe 25
percent. That`s where he always has been. He`s just never been able to
close the deal with the rest of the party here. Now, his tactic was to
stand back, let these guys fight it out and hopefully nobody would emerge.
Well, guess what? While Mitt Romney was standing back, somebody did
emerge. It wasn`t the guy that anybody expected to emerge. The good news
for Romney is, there`s more debates coming up, there`s more opportunities.
Voters are just beginning to pay attention. They`re certainly not sold on
Romney, but they`re equally not sold on Newt Gingrich right now.
SHARPTON: Now, Governor, Romney`s latest ad is part of this Gingrich
attack plan, it plays up his moral character, long marriage, and his
commitment to his family. Those are not too subtle attack on Newt`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think people understand
that I`m a man of steadiness and constancy. I don`t think you`re going to
find somebody who has more of those attributes and I do. I`ve been married
to the same woman for 25 -- excuse me -- I`ll get in trouble -- for 42
years. I`ve been in the same church my entire life. If I`m president of
the United States, I will be true to my family, to my faith, and to our
country, and I will never apologize for the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Is that kind of ad effective, Governor, or could it
backfire that he`s getting a little personal?
RENDELL: No, I don`t think so. And I`m looking in the genre of
political ads, that`s pretty mild these days. If that`s a slap after
Gingrich, it`s inferential slap. But it`s also I think trumpeting what is
one of Mitt Romney`s strong suits. He is a very stable, secure guy, and I
think there`s a sense of comfort with voters about Mitt Romney. In the
Philadelphia suburbs, for example, which are the key to whether you win or
lose Pennsylvania, I think republican voters and independents would be
comfortable with Romney. Not so with Newt. Newt is just too erratic for
and too all over the lot for those voters.
SHARPTON: Well, Dana, let`s look at these polls of the Iowa caucus
voters. When you ask about who could be president, Gingrich 40 percent,
Romney 19. Who could handle a crisis? Gingrich 44, Romney 16. Who could
beat Obama? It narrows, 31-29. If Newt is this popular in Iowa caucus
among Iowa caucus voters, if he wins Iowa, comes out respectable in New
Hampshire and then win South Carolina in Nevada. Does any have a momentum
that`s going to be hard to turn around?
MILBANK: Well, sure he would, Reverend Al, but that`s still a fairly
big if. And I think the most important number you just mentioned is that,
when they look at who`s going to -- who be stronger against President
Obama, it narrows to a virtual tie. And I think that the republican voters
in Iowa realize that he is not the strongest candidate. There`s just so
much antipathy towards Mitt Romney that they`re willing at least many of
them are to take that gamble, anyway. But, you know, you can`t really look
at South Carolina and Florida now, without knowing what`s going to happen
in Iowa in New Hampshire. And I may be the last one to believe this, but
it still seems to me that the republican voters will come to their senses
and not hand the Democratic Party this enormous electoral gift.
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this, Governor. You talked about the
Tea Party and not being induced and probably turned off by a K-Street
lobbyist. Politico reports that Gingrich is attending a dinner tonight
hosted by two major lobbyists. He`s the anti-Romney, but he`s getting his
money filled with the big guys, with the big pockets. Now, mind you,
Occupy Wall Street people are getting arrested on K-Street today, he`s
having a fund-raiser with that crowd tonight.
RENDELL: Big mistake. I think if I would running Newt Gingrich`s
campaign, I keep him as far away from K-Street and Wall Street as I could
until we got through those first four or five primaries. But one thing I
think you have to factor into all of this, Al is that Mitt Romney has the
most important commodity for staying power and this primaries and that`s
money. Mitt Romney could -- let`s assume you`re right and he loses
everything except New Hampshire. He loses South Carolina, he loses Nevada.
I`m not sure he loses Nevada because that has got a strong Mormon influence
in the Republican Party, but let`s assume he does, and then loses Florida.
He has the ability to bounce back in Michigan and other places, because he
has money, and his money won`t dry up very quickly. So, I think we might
be looking at a situation where it`s almost Hillary Clinton and Barack
Obama again, where we go deep into the primary season.
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you this. We are seeing -- while we are
talking about Newt and Willard at the top of the ticket, the rest of the
crowd is getting a little mean. Rick Perry released this very mean-
spirited ad bashing homosexuals in the military and says that President
Obama is attacking faith in America. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I`m not ashamed to
admit that I`m a Christian, but you don`t need to be in the pew every
Sunday to know if there`s something wrong in this country, when gays can
serve openly in the military and our kids can`t openly celebrate Christmas
or pray in school. As president, I`ll end Obama`s war on religion and I
fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage. Faith made
America strong. It can make her strong again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Governor, is this desperation by Rick Perry and others at
the bottom of the polls now to try to get some attention, are they trying
to appeal to a far-right extreme to try and rejuvenate their campaigns?
RENDELL: Well, I think it`s a little both, Al. And I think it`s a
mistake. If I were Rick Perry, I would be trying to knock Newt Gingrich
down. Because if Newt Gingrich does collapse, and I agree with you and
this surge is stronger than the others, but if he does collapse, who is
left to take up the conservative mantle? I think the -- swings back to
Rick Perry. So, I would be spending my money trying to take Newt down, not
something that I think everyone knows that about Rick Perry, he is a man of
faith, everyone knows that. He`s against gays, everyone knows that. I
don`t think it`s going to convince many people. I think he`s got to make
sure that the voters of Iowa know exactly what Newt Gingrich has done over
the past 15, 20 years.
SHARPTON: Governor Ed Rendell and Dana Milbank, thanks to both of you
for your time tonight.
RENDELL: Thanks, Al. Have a great night.
MILBANK: Thanks, Reverend.
SHARPTON: Ahead, we`ve finally seen the end of the Blago reality
show, a pretty stunning sentence for him.
And our block the vote series goes to Florida. A state President
Obama took in 2008. Now, the voting law there is one of the toughest in
the country. I wonder why. Stay with us.
SHARPTON: President Obama took flight in 2008 with a surge in black
and Latino voters. But new voter laws are threatening that. The Florida
state representative who sponsored that law is next. This should be very
SHARPTON: As we`ve been telling you this week, there`s been a wave of
new voting laws across the country this year. Twenty five new laws in 14
states. Tonight, we focus on one of those states -- Florida. In 2008,
President Obama won the sunshine state, thanks in large part to surging
numbers of black and Latino voters. Two weeks of early voting helped that
turnout. Also many voted on the Sunday before Election Day, thanks to the
souls to the polls drives after church. All that and President Obama still
won by less than a quarter million votes. But now, a new voting law passed
by the Republican state legislature is putting a spot light on the Florida
vote. The law cuts early voting period from 14 to eight days. It
eliminates voting on Sunday before election, good-bye souls to the polls.
And it forces voters to cast a provisional ballot if they moved across
county lines. But some of the most severe new restrictions are on third-
party registration groups, which now have only 48 hours to submit
registration forms or face a thousand dollar fines if those forms are
submitted late. This new law is so severe, it prompted the league of women
voters to suspend all registration efforts in the state of Florida after 72
Joining me now is Deidre MacNab, president of the League of Women
voters in Florida, a non-partisan organization. Deidra, thanks for joining
DEIDRE MACNAB, FLORIDA LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: Pleasure. Thank you,
Reverend, for covering this important story.
Now, you recently said that because of this new law, quote, "newly
registered voters in Florida could become an endangered species." Those
are strong words. What makes you say that?
MACNAB: Well, what we have seen over the years in Florida is that
minority voters, young voters are twice as likely to use third-party voter
registration groups like the League of Women Voters and other
organizations. So, when you put into place new rules that are so broad, so
confusing, and so terrifying in some cases, I have a piece of paper with me
tonight that is the form that someone would fill out who wants to register
new voters. And right in the middle of the page is talking about five
years of imprisonment and possible fines of $5,000 third-degree felonies.
SHARPTON: Five years of imprisonment and $5,000 fine for what?
MACNAB: For what the form says is misrepresentation of voters. It is
very broad, it is very vague, it does not explain precisely what is
involved in terms of being charged with that, and those kinds of vague
charges are very frightening to people. This was a process that is as
American as apple pie. My two sons did it when they were in high school.
We have teachers across the state that do it. Our volunteers do it. It`s
our single most popular volunteer job. It`s what people do who want to
play a civic role in our government and help bring new eligible voters in.
These new laws frighten people from registering voters with these
kinds of language. When you start having to take an oath of office and you
have to read language twice on one form, that talks about a third-degree
felony and up to five years of imprisonment, I could not tell my two sons
to register their fellow students at high school. We`ve seen two teachers
already in the state of Florida that have been trapped in what is a very
vague and very burdensome confusing and frightening new set of regulations
with no clear explanation of what was wrong with the previous set of laws.
SHARPTON: Deidre, thank you for your time tonight.
Joining me now is republican Florida State Representative Dennis
Baxley. He sponsored this new voting law signed by Governor Rick Scott in
May. Representative Baxley, thank you for joining me tonight.
REP. DENNIS BAXLEY, FLORIDA: Thank you. It`s a pleasure to be with
SHARPTON: Now, Representative Baxley, has there been widespread voter
fraud in Florida?
BAXLEY: I don`t think we want to wait until voter fraud. I think
since the last election we review the process. We`re going to have very
close elections in Florida. We have people here from all over the world,
all over the country.
SHARPTON: But you`ve always had that.
BAXLEY: And I think the.
SHARPTON: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Representative. You`re not
just getting people from all over the world. Now, you always said it.
SHARPTON: What I`m trying to say is the reason that you have done
these new laws. Is there a reason that there`s been fraud? Are you saying
that you`re doing this because you may think there may be fraud?
BAXLEY: For credibility in the election. We have to have credible
results in close elections. And I think it`s imperative that we, only the
legislature can protect the credibility of this process. And that`s our
effort for everyone that participates.
SHARPTON: Mr. Baxley, I did a little research. You`ve only had 31
cases in three years. You didn`t have laws after hanging chads and other
means that disrupted this country in 2000. But with only 31 cases in three
years, you`re going to change Sunday voting, you`re going to bring down
early voting, you`re going to try to intimidate people from voter
Is it really because young people and minorities started voting and
registering big numbers, and this is the new way to try to restrict
people`s voting rights? Could that possibly be the reason? Since you
yourself admit there`s no widespread fraud, and I just gave you the
BAXLEY: Well, I don`t see why you have to impugn other people`s
motives. You may not like some of the content of this, but I think it
makes people more comfortable and secure. I`m sorry about their reaction
to third-party voting, but the fact is --
SHARPTON: But how does it make it more secure? If there`s no voter
fraud, what are you securing them from?
BAXLEY: Because people who submit voters information to others, they
have that manipulated. They don`t know what gets turned in and what
doesn`t. This is a much more secure process. There`s 80 sections of this
law, 76 have already been cleared by the Justice Department for total use.
It`s going to be a better system. We have a very accessible system.
We have a very -- we did not cut one hour from early voting. What we did
at the bipartisan request, we compressed that so they had full days instead
of running around with partial days different places.
SHARPTON: But people have to go --
BAXLEY: I had candidates from both sides of the aisle --
SHARPTON: You know that people do have different days.
BAXLEY: They asked me to make that change.
SHARPTON: Mr. Baxley, you know different days means different things
for working people. But again --
BAXLEY: Absolutely, which is -- which is --
SHARPTON: How do you see it as an improved way of voting when there
was nothing wrong? You`re securing what? There was no fraud.
BAXLEY: We have accountability. We`re not going to wait for fraud.
Governments all the time is accused of waiting until there`s a big problem.
We don`t need that. We need a clear, precise election process that`s
well protected that we can verify the information is correct. And
everybody gets to vote by provisional ballot. If they don`t have their
affairs in order, they still get to vote by provisional ballots so we can
clear them if they`re changing their address.
We have one of the most accessible and liberal early voting by
absentee ballot. People can register right now and be ready to receive
SHARPTON: Then why, if it wasn`t broke, why are you fixing it? Other
than this is some political game?
I mean, this is the state now with hanging chads that went through the
2000 Bush/Gore -- there was no legislative response to that, but now all of
a sudden --
BAXLEY: No, no, I would disagree with you.
SHARPTON: But now has to repair something that wasn`t broken. You
don`t think that`s a little suspicious?
BAXLEY: Sir, I was here. We did a lot of election reform and did a
lot of work on our system since that close election in 2000. But the
effort here is to have a secure election process that works, and we have
one of the most accessible, easy to register.
And as far as all these groups, this is irrational. We have many
groups that register. And the safest way is to give somebody a
registration form and envelope so they can mail it directly to the
supervisor. Then they know their information went directly to the
supervisor and it was not manipulated by any third party.
SHARPTON: Mr. Baxley, you just heard the head of the League of Women
Voters from Florida. They`ve been registering voters for 72 years in the
state. They pulled out. They say these laws are trying to intimidate
people and frighten people from register to vote.
The cornerstone of this country is voting. That doesn`t disturb you
that people -- nonpartisan, in your state that have for almost three
quarters of a century registered the vote, has said these laws are wrong?
That people in minority communities, that young people are saying this is
rolling back on my rights?
It doesn`t bother you? Or is in fact this the design of what you and
the Republicans in your statehouse are trying to do? Which is it?
BAXLEY: I think that`s absolutely an incorrect assessment of where we
are. I don`t apologize for the legislature protecting this process, and
it`s unfortunate that the League of Women Voters that is taken that
SHARPTON: But who are you protecting them from?
BAXLEY: From mishap and mischief. Things can go wrong if it`s not
SHARPTON: But there hasn`t been any mishap or mischief.
BAXLEY: Did you know Mickey Mouse registered to vote last time?
SHARPTON: No, I didn`t know if Mickey Mouse registered to vote. But
if he did, he was one of 31 people. And believe me, 31 people in three
years, come on, if you`ve got to get Mickey Mouse to make your case when
you have only 31 cases, then Mr. Baxley, you`re trying to take all of us to
Disney World on a ride rather than a democracy that we need to have in this
BAXLEY: We have a very open process. The rules are the same for
everyone, and the law is very clear that the only way you`re going to have
a problem if you`re intentionally trying to abort the election law process.
SHARPTON: Let me show you this. Ann McFall, a county supervisor,
says Florida voter registration database in place since 2006 catches anyone
who tries to register in two counties.
I mean, you`re fixing something that wasn`t broke. That`s why it does
BAXLEY: That`s another issue. That was about local elections that
get polluted by the fact that people can walk in my precinct and change
their address on Election Day.
We had people coming from one community to another and stealing a
local election. Was it fraud? No, because it was allowed under our
And I don`t think that`s right, though. I don`t think that should
happen. And so, it was not just about the national election. It`s not
just about the ballot. There`s a lot of local issues. There`s a lot of
broad issues --
SHARPTON: You just waited for the national election to do it.
BAXLEY: If they change --
SHARPTON: State Senator Michael Bennett justified the law with this
line. He says, "Voting is a hard-fought privilege. This is something
people died for. Why should you make it easier?" This is Michael Bennett,
president pro tempore.
I mean, why should we be making it easier? We`re supposed to live in
a democracy. Why should we be making it harder, Mr. Baxley?
BAXLEY: We want people to participate in the total process. Go ahead
a register so you get all of the election information, all the advocacy
issues that are going to be on the ballot, so that you know what you`re
doing when you go to the polls.
And then you vote where you`re registered and you`re fine. In this
database, all out in the rural districts, you don`t have computer access at
every polling location.
SHARPTON: How does cutting down early voting do that? How does
stopping people from leaving churches and going with souls to the polls led
by their congregations, how does that do that?
BAXLEY: We have not cut early voting by one hour.
SHARPTON: No, you changed the dates.
BAXLEY: I had requests from both sides of the aisle.
SHARPTON: Did you stop Sunday voting?
BAXLEY: -- that asked me to compact that so that they were full days.
SHARPTON: Did you stop Sunday voting after church?
BAXLEY: There needs to be a break so that we can account for election
day. We don`t have anytime to set up for election day. People want to be
off on Sundays. A lot of our people go to church. Why make all those poll
SHARPTON: And a lot of those churches were bringing souls to the
polls. All of a sudden, now, that is eliminated.
BAXLEY: Everyone can vote --
BAXLEY: The same number of hours for early voting.
SHARPTON: Same number of hours is not the same number of days. Those
BAXLEY: No, it`s better, because they`re full days. You don`t go
there at a partial time and think the poll`s going to be open and find that
By compacting this into a week with full days, they know they`re going
to be there when they go to vote. And so, early voting just vote by
absentee ballot. That`s an early voting process. You can start very early
and so, I -- we`re very accessible. It`s accessible to everyone in the
same way. I think we`ve safeguarded it in a way that I`m proud of.
SHARPTON: It`s just changing the days that people that have
successfully brought out a lot of new voters in 2008 are saying they cannot
do that now when you have -- you`re not just talking now about, those of us
in the civil rights community, you`re not talking about just -- you`re
talking about the League of Women Voters, and you`re sitting here talks as
if it doesn`t matter --
BAXLEY: I don`t know exactly how nonpartisan they are, but --
SHARPTON: Oh, really?
BAXLEY: Yes, that`s right.
SHARPTON: So the League of Women Voters are not nonpartisan.
BAXLEY: Well, that`s what their title is, but I don`t see them
functioning that way, most of the things they advocate are very much in
line with the Democratic Party.
SHARPTON: Are you accusing the League of Women Voters of being
BAXLEY: They are very partisan. Look at most of the issues they
hold. They`re right in line with the Democratic Party, which is fine. Is
that why you -- let`s call it what it is.
SHARPTON: -- they can`t register voters.
BAXLEY: They can register voters. They can register voters.
SHARPTON: They pulled out because of the new laws, and now you`re
telling me --
BAXLEY: They have to abide by the law. That`s all.
SHARPTON: Are they not registered as nonpartisan in the state of
BAXLEY: Unless you`re trying to unintentionally violate the election
law? You don`t have a problem with this --
SHARPTON: Mr. Baxley, is the League of Women Voters registered as
nonpartisan in your state?
BAXLEY: I`m sure they are.
SHARPTON: And you`ve never objected to that, you never tried to have
BAXLEY: Not at all.
SHARPTON: No, but you`re sitting here tonight castigating and
BAXLEY: I`m making an observation.
SHARPTON: You`re saying they may not be nonpartisan. You never made
one move against them just like you`re fighting against a crisis that
doesn`t exist, 31 cases. You`re trying to have an answer to a problem that
doesn`t exist, which makes -
BAXLEY: We`re not going to have a problem.
BAXLEY: We`re going to guarantee that everyone that participates in
this progress can have credibility in the results. That`s the job of the
legislature. Many people can help us with participation and they do.
And I hope the League of Women Voters would get over their angst about
this and go ahead and help people be involved in the toilet process.
SHARPTON: Representative Baxley, we`ll be dealing a lot with this. I
hope you and your legislators understand we`re not going backwards in time.
We`re not counting bubbles on a soap no more.
BAXLEY: No, we`re moving forward.
SHARPTON: You`ve got that right.
BAXLEY: We`re excited about the upcoming election.
SHARPTON: We are, too. That`s why you`re not going to let us
interfere with our vote.
Thank you for watching.
Thank you for watching. I`m Al Sharpton.
HARDBALL starts right now.
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