'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Read the transcript to the Wednesday show
Past transcripts by month
Guests: Judith Browne-Dianis, Bruce Braley
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: -- there was Ed, and here we are.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: That`s awesome, man.
SCHULTZ: We`re still here! We`re still here!
MADDOW: Still here and covering the most important story in the
country, that Michigan story that nobody else is touching.
SCHULTZ: Well, you were the first one that got on the Benton Harbor
story. And it has just snowballed, city after city, and there are a number
of cities right now that are on the docket, and these folks have done
everything they possibly can to get this vote going in November. But of
course it`s the technicality of the font size. That shows you how
determined that opposition really is.
MADDOW: Yes, man. That`s right. Exactly right. Thank you for
covering that, man. I`ll talk to you soon. Thank you, Ed.
SCHULTZ: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We`ve
got a big show this hour.
The top elections official in any state is usually called the
secretary of state. Now, that can be a little bit confusing, because at
the federal level, the person who has the title secretary of state is
Hillary Clinton. And she`s not at all in charge of elections. She`s in
charge of something totally different.
But at the state level, the person who has that same title, secretary
of state, is usually the person who in that state is in charge of voting,
in that charge of elections.
Well, in the great state of Indiana, the Republican secretary of state
this year, a man named Charlie White, Indiana`s top elections official, was
convicted of six felonies this year, including voter fraud. Ow!
Prosecutors said that Mr. White lied about his own address on his
voter registration forms. He used his ex-wife`s address instead of the
address of a condo he shared with his new fiancee because he wanted to hold
on to a thousand-dollar a month gig that he had on the town council in the
town where his ex-wife`s house was with even after he had moved out of that
The guy in charge of elections in the state of Indiana was found
himself to have committed voter fraud. That is very embarrassing if that
is your job, right? Also embarrassing, the fact that upon his conviction
for voter fraud, Indiana`s Republican governor, Mitch Daniels, refused to
appoint a permanent replacement for him as secretary of state, because,
hey, maybe Charlie White might be able to get those felonies busted down to
misdemeanors on appeal and then, Charlie White could still serve as state`s
top election official, despite himself being busted for voter fraud.
Governor Mitch Daniels` hopes were never realized. Secretary of State
Charlie White did get busted for felonies, he didn`t get them busted down
for misdemeanors, he was felony convicted. He was ultimately sentenced to
a year of house arrest. And with six felony convictions, Charlie White did
eventually get fired from his job running elections in the state of
Indiana. And, no, incidentally, Mitch Daniels is not now going to be vice
president, not with something like that dragging around behind him like a
tin can tied to his bumper.
But it was such a strange case, right? The top elections official in
the state being tried and convicted and sentenced and thrown out of office
for personally committing voter fraud. It`s rare that you hear about real
and not made up cases of voter fraud, but when it does happen, it tends to
look like this.
It tends to look like this pitiful Charlie White case in Indiana.
It`s weird, it`s doing no candidates real benefit. It`s a personal thing.
And frankly, it`s kind of pitiful.
Here`s another potential voter fraud case that fits that same
description. Republican Thaddeus McCotter, he`s been serving as a Michigan
congressman for almost a decade. He might be done doing that now because
this year, Congressman McCotter`s office failed to turn in enough valid
petition signatures to even get him listed on the primary ballot to run for
re-election to his own seat.
Even if you`re a longtime incumbent, you have to turn in between 1,000
and 2,000 signatures to get your name on the primary ballot in Michigan.
And this year, of the nearly 2,000 signatures that Thaddeus McCotter`s
office turned in to get him on the ballot, only 244 of those signatures
were found to be valid. The state`s election director saying that
officials found an unprecedented level of obvious fraud in Thaddeus
McCotter`s signatures. Officials found identical petitions that had been
photo copied, dates that were cut and pasted on to petition forms, badly
cut and pasted on the petition forms.
In some cases, the forms were just identical, except for the name of
the person who had supposedly circulated the petition. There were just
multiple sheets of the same signatures, as if each was a new one.
The state attorney general is now investigating this matter as a
potential case of criminal fraud. Now, for his indicate, Thaddeus McCotter
says he is totally on board with the whole criminal investigation thing,
because Mr. McCotter says that he is actually victim here. He says, quote,
"Somebody either panicked or it was sabotage." Thaddeus McCotter says, "My
gut tells me that we got lied to by someone that we trusted."
Thaddeus McCotter does not know how all those cut and pasted and
photocopied signatures got on to this petitions, he says. He says it looks
And if that`s true, you kind of feel for the guy, right? I mean, you
even kind of feel for the Republican Party here. This was not a race where
they thought they would have to spend a dime. This is supposed to be a
safe Republican district with a longtime Republican incumbent congressman
in it. They shouldn`t have to spend a dime to defending his seat.
But now, the Republican Party`s choice is either to dump millions of
dollars into that state race to try to save Thaddeus McCotter in what is
statistically likely to be an unsuccessful write-in campaign to hold on to
his own seat or they can try to rally Republicans around this slightly
eccentric reindeer herder who did actually manage to get himself on the
ballot as a Republican, but nobody had heard of before now.
It`s the wealthiest Republican district in Michigan. You guys ready
to pick the reindeer herder for your congressman?
We`re going to have to wait and see what Michigan`s attorney general
says in this case. But based on the look of the petitions, they`ve been
made public, based on the assessment of state officials so far, based on
what Thaddeus McCotter says himself, this looks like it was election fraud.
And as election fraud pretty much always is, like that bizarre Indiana
case, it`s rare, it`s ham-handed, it`s pitiful, and it`s no nobody`s real
advantage, except maybe in this case, to the reindeer guy who might get
Election fraud happens really rarely. But once in a blue moon, it
does happen. Nobody disputes that.
Except, of course, Republicans now say that voter fraud isn`t some
rare once in a blue moon thing, they say it is rampant, they say it is
everywhere. They say it is hugely consequential. It is determining the
outcome of elections regularly and it is basically always committed by
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. THADDEUS MCCOTTER (R), MICHIGAN: As you know, House Minority
Leader John Boehner has made the call that we should end funding to ACORN
and other groups that are engaged in what we believe to be voter fraud.
What we want to do is have a thorough investigation. We want to look at
stiffening penalties for this group.
Now, to say that ACORN is left-leaning is like saying that Terry
Bradshaw may be bald. The reality is that these people have a partisan
agenda and what it is doing is precluding the full operation and the
integrity of the balloting process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Congressman Thaddeus McCotter himself inveighing against the
evils of widespread voter fraud back in 2008. We need investigations into
all these left-leaning groups committing massive voter fraud to advance
their partisan agendas to help the Democrats. It`s rampant on the left.
This is what Republicans say about voter fraud now. This is how
Republicans talk about elections. Just today, Republican Party Chairman
Reince Priebus raised the very scary specter of voter fraud in Republican
Governor Scott Walker`s upcoming recall election in Wisconsin.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REINCE PRIEBUS, RNC CHAIRMAN: I`m always concerned about voter fraud.
I`m always concerned about it, which is why I think we need to do a point
or two better than where we think we need to be to overcome it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: A point or two better. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus saying
today that voter fraud is so bad on the Democratic side in Wisconsin, that
the Republican candidate needs to win there by a super extra big margin in
order to compensate for all those fraudulent votes that will inevitably be
cast for the Democrat.
One or two points, he says, in a Wisconsin election. That means he`s
talking about something like tens of thousands of votes. Extra votes that
the Republicans need to make up because of all the Democratic voter fraud
in an election like this. He is that sure that there`s that kind of
rampant, one-sided voter fraud that it`s going to decide the election if
Republicans don`t do something about it.
And, of course, Republicans are doing something about it, all over the
country. Where Republicans are in charge, they are working to make it
harder to vote and harder to register to vote.
According to the folks at the Brennan Center for Justice, Michael
Waldman was here from that group last night. They`re a nonpartisan
organization that studies and promotes voting rights. According to the
Brennan Center, at least 180 bills to restrict voting rights have been
introduced in state legislatures since the beginning of last year -- 180?
Fourteen states have passed new restrictive voting laws that could
have an impact on this year`s 2012 election. These 14 states account for
about 70 percent of the total electoral votes needed to win the presidency.
Texas, Kansas, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina,
and Pennsylvania have all passed new requirements to show new documentation
that you never had to show before in order to vote now -- documentation
that hundreds of thousands of state residents do not have.
There are new restrictions on early and absentee voting. In Ohio and
in West Virginia and in Tennessee, in Georgia, in Florida. What`s the
matter with early voting and absentee voting? Don`t know! Maybe it makes
voting too easy?
But these states are cracking down on it, they are rolling it back.
There are new restrictions on voter registration in Texas, in Ohio, in
Illinois, in ,Maine, in Florida.
In the iconic swing state of Florida, the new voter registration and
absentee voting restrictions aren`t the only new obstacles to voting there
this year. As we have been reporting on the show, Florida`s Republican
Governor Rick Scott has started a push to purge thousands of voters off
Florida`s voter registration rolls, in time for the election.
As in all of these cases, the stated goal of this mass effort to take
away thousands of Floridian`s voting rights is supposedly the prevention of
In recent weeks, the state of Florida has sent local elections
officials a list of more than 2,600 registered voter who is the state says
are not U.S. citizens and therefore are not eligible to vote and they have
to have their names taken off the rolls. Election supervisors, in turn,
have been looking at those lists and finding tons of inaccuracies.
Like, for example, Maureen Russo, U.S. citizen, born in Akron, Ohio.
The state of Florida wants her purged off the voting list.
Bill Internicola, he`s a 91-year-old World War II veteran. He`s a
U.S. citizen, born in Brooklyn, New York -- the state of Florida wants him
purged off the voter list.
Or there`s this guy, seen here posing with his American passport, as
well as his local election supervisor, who is a Republican, but who does
not want to purge this gentleman off the rolls, even though the state of
Florida is telling him to.
Even as local election supervisors from both parties have criticized
whatever was the flawed process of putting voters` names on the state purge
list this year, Florida state officials under Republican Governor Rick
Scott are going ahead. They`re vowing to ramp up the purge now. They are
vowing to continue, less than six months before the presidential election,
to take people`s names off the voting rolls.
A state elections official now telling "The Miami Herald," quote, "I
don`t have a timetable on hen the next list of names will be send to
supervisors, but there will be more names." "There will be more names."
The state of Florida will be targeting more of its voters for removal
from the voting rolls.
An analysis of the existing purge list already by "The Miami Herald"
found that it disproportionately targets Hispanics, Democrats, and
independents to be purged off the Florida voter rolls.
Do you think that pattern is going to continue as the state adds more
names to the voter registration purge list? Or has it just been a
coincidence that it has turned out that way so far?
Joining us now is Judith Browne-Dianis. She`s a civil rights attorney
and co-director of the Advancement Project. She represented the NAACP in a
2000 lawsuit to remedy voting rights violations in Florida, in that
Ms. Browne-Dianis, thank you very much for being here. Appreciate it.
JUDITH BROWNE-DIANIS, ADVANCEMENT PROJECT CO-DIRECTOR: Thanks for
having me, Rachel.
MADDOW: You are much more deeply involved in the vagaries of Florida
voting law than I am. Is there anything -- did I get anything wrong in the
way I explained what`s going on in Florida now in terms of how you
understand the facts?
BROWNE-DIANIS: You got it right.
It`s complicated and it`s quickly changing and a lot of this stuff
hasn`t been debated. It seems to being done at the initiative of the
administration, of the Florida governor.
Is the governor consulting with lawyers in order to -- is this the
kind of thing that other states are doing? Is this -- is this a standard
process that Florida`s going through, or is this something unusual?
BROWNE-DIANIS: Well, I mean, it`s Florida taking out their old bag of
tricks. And they have come up with a new list and the list is flawed. I
mean, a 91-year-old World War II veteran? I mean, come on. Really,
This is ridiculous. And we`re finding that the list, not only is it
flawed, but also the problem is that it should be done so close to an
election. I mean, when we`re changing the rules of how people participate
in our democracy right before the election, and doing it illegally and
wrongfully, you know, that`s got to be stopped.
MADDOW: When you say illegally, I know that the Advancement Project,
your organization, sent a letter to the Justice Department today,
essentially saying that Florida was committing voting rights violations
related to this purge here.
What specifically are they doing that is -- what is illegal about what
they are doing and what do you want the Justice Department to do?
BROWNE-DIANIS: Right. So we`ve called on the department of justice
because the list is about 60 percent Latino voters. And so, while we know
that the state of Florida has targeted black voters in the past, in 2000
and 2004, they also had a bad felon list that targeted black voters. This
time, they`ve come for Latino voters.
And so what we have said to the Department of Justice is, it`s time
for you to step up, because the department of justice can just, you know,
just stop this dead in its tracks. And they can do that because the Voting
Rights Act allows them to do that because Latino voters are targeted. And
so, we`ve called on them to do it, but we`ve also called upon the state to
stop the letters, to, you know, to cease and desist with the purges,
because we know that it`s unlawful because it`s too close to an election.
The federal law says you cannot do these purges so close to an
election. And why? Because we know that it`s often done for partisan
gain. And that`s what we believe is happening now.
MADDOW: Think about the potential harm here, and even if the state of
Florida sort of got nailed for doing that. If it was found to be illegal
and the state of Florida got in trouble for doing it, if that happens after
the election and a voter purge has a desired partisan effect on that
election, I`m sure partisan elements in state government in Florida would
be happy to pay that price, as long as they got what they wanted out of the
So if the Justice Department does not choose to intervene here, is
there any other remedy to pursue before too much harm is done?
BROWNE-DIANIS: Sure. So we have -- we`ve called on the state to stop
it, and we`ve given them notice basically saying, you`re violating the law
and if you don`t stop, the next step will be litigation.
So, if we have to litigate it, we will. And it`s important to put
this in the larger context, because basically what Florida is doing,
they`re taking one page out of the playbook of voter suppression that the
Republican Party has done this year. You know, it`s like -- for them, it`s
like the left/right and the upper cut, right? The upper cut is this purge,
but before this they made it harder to register and they made it harder to
vote by cutting back early voting.
And so, they`re moving forward with just a different page of the
playbook, where other states have done voter ID as their weapon of choice
of voter suppression.
MADDOW: You see this, though, as a coordinated effort across states?
BROWNE-DIANIS: You know, I don`t think it`s a coincidence, by any
stretch of the imagination. When you look at what has happened across the
country, it`s all happening in time for the November election. It`s all
happening in states where there are Republican-controlled legislatures, and
they`re moving very aggressively, and the targets of them are black Latino
young voters and elderly who turned out in record numbers in 2008.
MADDOW: Judith Browne-Dianis, civil rights attorney, co-director of
the Advancement Project. Will you keep us apprised of how this goes in
Florida? Thank you.
BROWNE-DIANIS: Thank you.
MADDOW: It`s nice to meet you. Thank you.
All right. Lots still to come tonight, we have a really big show
tonight, including the world`s most dubious bus tour.
Also, the best new thing in the world that has an adorable accent.
There`s lots to come. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: How much democracy can 1 billion angry conservative dollars
buy? We`re about to find out. It`s just ahead.
MADDOW: When U.S. senators pledged impartial justice in President
Clinton`s impeachment trial, the pens they used to sign that oath said,
"Untied State Senator" on them, instead of "United State Senator." Untied,
it was, in fact, a misprint by the company that manufactured the pens.
It did sort of seem like an omen for how the whole impeachment thing
was going to work out for those impeachers.
Last summer, when former Utah Jon Huntsman launched his run campaign
for the White House, his campaign got off to an inauspicious start when
among many other errors that day, the candidate`s own name was misspelled
on the press passes that his aides handed out to supporters, it was spelled
"John" instead of "Jon," without the H -- which who cares, right? Unless
it`s the launch of your presidential campaign and you`re a relatively
unknown candidate trying to build name recognition in an Internet-driven
world where spelling counts.
The good news for Jon Huntsman, is that his campaign went so badly
this year, with he still might be able to run as an outsider nobody`s heard
of the next time he runs in 2016. For 2012, though, the Republicans have
got themselves a nominee.
Last night, by taking the Texas primary, Mitt Romney surpassed the
delegate threshold needed to claim the nomination at the convention in
August. Mr. Romney is not just the de facto or likely Republican nominee,
he is the projected nominee. It is official as of last night.
Mr. Romney`s campaign marked the occasion by issuing a new iPhone app
that allows you to superimpose his new campaign slogan, "A Better America,"
over any photo that you take. Except the word "America" in the Romney
campaign`s fancy new slogan and fancy new iPhone app is spelled A-M-E-R-C-
I-A. Americia. Amer-CIA.
A simple mistake. Don`t take it as an omen. Or an amen. Or an Oman.
Spelling is as difficult as typos are common, both in politics and in
television. Trust me, on this show alone, we have made our mistake of
shares -- our share of mistakes. In typos, too. And getting words out of
Sometimes I just stay stuff wrong. Last night I said intiminate, when
I wanted to say intimidate. Sometimes stuff goes wrong.
But sometimes spelling plus television multiplied by a factor of a
thick yet adorable accent and then divided by a young age can be a thing of
beauty on TV. A thing of joy. It can be the best new things in the world,
tonight, on this show, coming up right at the end of the shower -- right at
the end of the shoe -- right at the end of the show! The show!
MADDOW: This is a typo. As I mentioned earlier, this is just a
really embarrassing, unfortunate, ill-timed typo on the campaign trail
today. Mitt Romney`s presidential campaign releasing an iPhone app late
yesterday that calls for "A Better America." At least they meant it to
call for that, as you can see here, a typo that no one caught in time, Mitt
Romney called for "A better Amercia," which made for I`m sure a not great
day at the graphics department at the Romney campaign.
It however it did make for a wonderful day on Tumblr, where Amercia
today stood with Mitt. Oops.
This also is a typo of sorts. It`s not a spelling thing, but it is
pure human error. The half of the Internet that was not looking at the new
"Amercia is with Mitt" Tumblr was instead giggling about this on Mr.
Romney`s campaign Web site, his defense of guns rights.
A defense that reads, quote, "As president, Mitt will work to expand
and enhance access and opportunities for Americans to hunt, shoot, and
protect their families." Americans` ability to hunt and shot their
families is something, but it is not the kind of thing that anybody usually
says needs enhancing.
Those are typos. Those are stumbles.
This is not a stumble -- Mr. Romney yesterday entertaining the idea of
making a background in business a constitutional requirement for becoming
president of the United States. This happened at an off-camera fund-raiser
last night. "The New York Times" reporting that Mr. Romney talked about a
question he`d got on the campaign trail. Quote, "I`d like to have a
proviso in the Constitution, he recalled the man saying, that in addition
to the age of the president and the citizenship of the president and the
birthplace of the president being set by the constitution, I`d like it also
to say that the president has to spend at least three years working in
business before he could become president of the United States."
Continuing from "The Times," quote, "Mr. Romney did not endorse the
idea, but he seemed to like it." Quoting, Mr. Romney, "You see, then he or
she would understand that the policies they`re putting in place have to
encourage small business, make it easier for business to grow."
However seriously or hypothetically or just for kicks, Mitt Romney is
publicly entertaining doubts about President Obama`s qualifications to
serve in the office that he now holds. He`s wandering out loud whether he
ought to change the Constitution to make it harder for people whose
backgrounds do not look like Mitt Romney`s to hold our nation`s office.
Mr. Romney brought that up on the night that he clinched the
Republican nomination for president. The same night he appeared at a
fundraiser in Las Vegas with Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump is, in fact, become central to the Romney campaign. He`s
recorded dozens of robocalls for Mr. Romney. He`s given radio interviews
for him in every state, with the primary in the last few months, while at
the same time, Mr. Trump has resurrected the rattling claptrap about
whether Mr. Obama was, in fact, born in the United States -- whether he is,
in fact, qualified to be president of the United States.
Before last night`s event in Las Vegas, the Romney campaign promised
their candidate would speak up if Donald Trump raised the birtherism issue
at that event right in front of Mitt Romney where he could see him do it.
Instead, it was Mitt Romney who brought up the issue of constitutional
requirements for being president in the form of a business resume,
suggesting that President Obama isn`t qualified with or ought to be
constitutionally precluded from holding the office.
Donald Trump, in fact, saved the birther part, not for the fund-
raiser, but for his interview on FOX later that night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS: What would it take to convince you
otherwise? I know that you`re -- are you convinced he wasn`t born here or
are you suspicious?
DONALD TRUMP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION: Well, I think that it`s more likely
that he wasn`t born here, but I would also say that if you look at his
college records, they may have some good information on his college record
that would say, place of birth, and it would be very interesting to see
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: So, Donald Trump and the Romney campaign want the president`s
college records? Donald Trump asked about those before last year,
supposedly because he wanted President Obama to prove that he belonged at
Columbia and at Harvard. Now he wants to look through the president`s
college records for clues that maybe the president wasn`t born in America
in the state of Hawaii, because even though the president last year
released a long form birth certificate showing his father was born in Kenya
and he was born in Hawaii, a birth certificate is no longer good enough for
the Romney campaign and their most high-profile surrogate.; A birth
certificate is not good enough for Donald Trump.
You want to see what else surfaced yesterday from the Mitt Romney for
president campaign? Mitt Romney`s birth certificate, showing his father
was born in another country, but Mitt Romney was born in this one, in the
USA, just like Barack Obama`s birth certificate shows.
"The Reuters" News Agency asked for the Romney birth certificate last
week, and here it is, released publicly on a day when Mitt Romney`s
surrogate in chief is out suggesting that a birth certificate for the
president is not enough.
Donald Trump is useful to Mitt Romney. And Donald Trump says the
birther argument is useful. And now, the world has Mitt Romney`s birth
certificate, which keeps that argument going -- thank you, Mitt Romney
By playing along, the Mitt Romney campaign is piping that argument
from the sea of kookery into the conservative mainstream, and thereby into
the mainstream media that does with the conservative mainstream tells it to
You can still find household name Republicans who rue the decision by
John McCain not to join the birther argument in 2008. They`re willing to
say that decision may have cost John McCain the `08 election. You can hear
Republicans weeping over this in obscure Tea Party meetings, like the one
where former Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, who`s running for
Senate, the one where he said the federal government needs a birtherism
office staffed by the CIA and the FBI. You can hear Donald Trump saying it
as he stumps for Mitt Romney, saying that John McCain and the Republicans
never should have let the issue go in 2008, saying they should bring it
back if they possibly can.
After President Obama released his birth certificate, the number of
people who doubt his citizenship fell a lot and in a hurry. After that, a
solid majority of Americans said that Barack Obama was born in America, no
matter what the kook end right wing said. Case closed. Question settled.
Go find another issue.
The issue was done. It was settled and done a year ago. Why is it
coming back now? And why is Mitt Romney helping?
MADDOW: In the summer of 2010, a Democratic congressman named Bruce
Braley was running for re-election in the great state of Iowa. Bruce
Braley was a two-term congressman. He`d won his previous race by a
whopping 29-point margin.
But then, then, Congressman Braley started seeing ads like this one
run in his home district in Iowa.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AD NARRATOR: For centuries, Muslims built mosques where they won
military victories. Now they want to build a mosque at Ground Zero, where
Islamic terrorists killed 3,000 Americans. It`s like the Japanese building
at Pearl Harbor. The Muslim cleric building the mosque believes America
was partly responsible for 9/11 and is raising millions overseas from
But incredibly, Bruce Braley supports building a mosque at Ground
Zero. Tell Braley what you think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Incredibly, incredibly.
Remember the Ground Zero mosque nonsense? Do you remember all that?
The Ground Zero mosque controversy was a media sensation in the summer of
2010, even though the building in question was neither a mosque nor was it
located at Ground Zero. But that summer Democratic Congressman Braley
campaigning for re-election all the way out in Iowa was being bombarded
with TV ads like that on that entirely made-up issue, as if it was a real
issue and as if he had anything to do with it, which he did not.
It is the kind of thing a candidate might want to fight back against
if he had any idea who it was who was fighting him that way. As you can
see at the bottom of the screen there, the ads were being paid for by
something called the American Future Fund. And this group, the American
Future Fund, didn`t just run the Ground Zero mosque ad against Bruce
Braley, they ran all sorts of ads against him -- TV ads, radio ads,
robocalls, good old-fashioned mailers, everything. Millions of dollars in
ads and attacks spent in his Iowa district against Bruce Braley by this
Even though he had won his previous race by 29 points, Congressman
Braley only narrowly survived this assault in 2010. He had won by 29
points before. In this same district, he barely squeaked by with 2 percent
this sometime around.
So who did that to Bruce Braley and why? Who was bankrolling that
huge effort against him? Who was putting up the money to run TV ads and
radio ads and robocalls against him? Where did that money come from?
Largely, it came from here. A P.O. box located in the lonely Boulder
Hills post office on the outer edge of Phoenix, Arizona? The America
Future Fund, it turns out, which paid for that spending blitz against
Congressman Bruce Braley got a majority of its funding that year from a
pretty much unknown pop-up organization called known the Center to Protect
Have you already forgotten the name that I just said it? Don`t worry,
you`re supposed to. And don`t bother trying to Google that name either,
they do not have a Web site. In fact, they don`t seem to have much of
When you try to find out what this Center to Protect Patient Rights
is, who they are, what their agenda is -- pretty much all you can come up
with is this, P.O. Box 72465, Phoenix, Arizona, 85050.
This grassrootsy-sounding group that`s funding millions of dollars of
campaign ads not just in Iowa but against Democrats around the country,
it`s actually just a tiny mailbox located in this post office outside the
desert in Phoenix, Arizona. That`s it. Where does a post office box get
tens of millions of dollars to spend?
"The L.A. Times" wrote about this P.O. box invisible group, the Center
to Protect Patients Rights. Today, they wrote that that lonely post office
box managed to shell out $55 million for conservative groups across the
country in 2010 -- $55 million -- funding ads like that one that aired
against Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley in Iowa.
Beyond that P.O. box, though, nothing much is known about the group.
They`re supposedly run by a Phoenix-based Republican consultant, who is a
key operative in the Koch brothers` political activities.
But in terms of where they got their $55 million to spend on that
election, who knows? According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the
donors to this P.O. box in Phoenix that`s supposedly an organization,
quote, "are almost entirely unknown." Such tax-exempt organizations must
detail the groups to whom they gave grants, but not the sources of their
funds. So, tada.
All voters get to know about whoever`s trying to proverbially kill
Congressman Bruce Braley with millions of dollars in false ads and mailers
in Iowa, is that they`re housed here in Arizona at a nice little post
Where`s the money from? Who`s going after him? Who do we blame for
the ads being false?
Talk to the P.O. box, America, that`s all you`re getting.
Thanks to the conservative majority and the United States Supreme
Court, this is the American political system now -- unlimited and
untraceable money. You are not a candidate running against some other
candidate. You`re a candidate running against a void that you cannot name,
that you cannot fight back against, because you can`t name it. That you
probably cannot keep up with dollar for dollar.
It`s not the age-old problem of running against somebody who`s got
deep pockets. That`s an old problem. Our new problem is where you don`t
know how deep those pockets are that you`re running against. You don`t
even know who`s pockets they are.
If you like the way that`s already been working in these first couple
of years after Citizens United, you`re going to love how it plays out for
the rest of this year. Today, Politico.com reports that groups on the
Republican side plan to spend a billion -- that`s billion with a "B" -- to
defeat President Obama this fall. And that is not including what the
Romney campaign will spend.
A billion is an impossibly large number to wrap your minds around in
politics. But here`s some perspective, Karl Rove`s group alone are
planning on spending as much money this year as the entire John McCain
campaign did last time around. The Koch brothers, the only link that we`ve
got to that P.O. Box in Phoenix, they are planning to spend even more that
what the John McCain campaign spent in its entirety.
Koch brothers are planning on spending $400 million, from them alone.
More than the whole John McCain spent in `08. How do outside groups on the
Democratic side plan to compete with that?
At least for now, they don`t. One labor leader telling Politico.com
for their story today, "We`re not making any attempt to match American
Crossroads or any of those groups with TV ads. Progressives can`t match
all the money going into the system right now."
So how do you possibly compete and win against all that dark money
piled up against you?
Let`s ask somebody who knows. Joining us now is Iowa congressman,
targeted by those Ground Zero mosque attack ads, Bruce Braley.
Congressman Braley, thanks for joining us tonight.
REP. BRUCE BRALEY (D), IOWA: Welcome home, Rachel. Great to have you
back in Washington, D.C.
MADDOW: Did I get the facts right in terms of what that race was like
in 2010? Is that what it was like?
BRALEY: You nailed it. It was one of the most unexpected outcomes of
any political race. Nobody was tracking me as a vulnerable candidate. And
then this mountain of secret cash came flowing down into my race and it was
-- I became the poster child of the bad aspects of Citizens United, which
is the worst thing to happen to democracy, I think, in my lifetime.
MADDOW: How was it different to run against dark money like that
rather than just running against an opponent who you can identify and you
know how much money they`ve got, because your fund-raising totals are
BRALEY: Well, in the past, campaign contributions have always been
subjected to sunlight. So, if you wanted to find out who was supporting me
or membership opponent, with you could go to the FEC Web site and find out
where every dollar came from.
After Citizens United, that money did not have to be reported. It was
secret. In fact, with all these groups you`ve been talking about used that
as a recruiting tool to get people to give money. The assurance of secrecy
allows them to make these donations without worrying about any negative
consequences to their businesses, which would happen in people knew that
they were funding attack ads against candidates like me.
MADDOW: So you think there`s a connection between what the ultimate
message of the ads are that this money funds, the accuracy, even, of these
ads. There`s a connection between that and the fact that the money comes
from an untraceable source?
BRALEY: Absolutely, because you can`t hold somebody accountable for
lies and misleading statements when you don`t know who they are. And you
showed the post office box in Phoenix, during the middle of all this. I
went to the only known address for the American Future Fund, which was a
P.O/UPS drop box across from the Des Moines airport.
And I walked in and I went up to the counter and I asked to be shown
to the offices, and the woman behind the counter laughed. And she said,
you`re not first one to ask.
MADDOW: Wow. In -- you had a big margin of victory in 2008. 2010,
you did win, but it was a much smaller margin of victory. Obviously, it
was headwinds for Democrats all over the country in 2010, so maybe some of
it was that, but some of it`s got to be this money too.
Is there a way to use this sort of dynamic that you face towards your
advantage? Is there a way to campaign against that dark money being run
against you? Or is, essentially, the damage done once these ads flood the
BRALEY: Well, they were very sophisticated in how they ran these
attack ads against me. They waited until late in the cycle when most
people had written me off as not having a tough race and then they
unleashed the avalanche. And by the time the word got out, it was almost
too late for me to get any assistance from people who could help me push
So the difference this time is, we see this tsunami coming at us. And
Democrats have always relied on a strong grassroots effort to try to
mobilize and get people to see what`s at stake in these elections. Now, we
can see that very powerful moneyed interests are trying to buy the
government they want and have no restrictions, literally, on what they can
spend. And that`s why Americans have to wake up and realize, they need to
be asking the tough questions.
When they see these ads on TV and they have innocuous names, paid for
by the American Future Fund, most people don`t realize that this is really
a very highly coordinated effort to try to get rid of people who speak
truth to power and aren`t going to be swayed by some of these powerful
MADDOW: Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley of Iowa -- I feel like
we`ve been covering this, not theoretically, but sort of from a poli-sci
perspective for a while, being able to talk to you about it face to face.
Helps me understand it better.
Thanks for helping us understand it.
BRALEY: You`re welcome.
MADDOW: Thanks a lot.
All right. Coming up, the most obviously untrue thing you`ve heard
all day about a bus. That`s next.
MADDOW: The best new thing in the world is coming up. Stay with us.
MADDOW: There are two big things, two big political things, going on
in the great state of Wisconsin right now, and they have nothing to do with
one another. They are two separate, independent, unrelated stories, two
circles that are not overlapping. There`s no Venn diagram here.
First of all, you`ve got the historic recall election of Republican
Governor Scott Walker. That`s him on the left. On his right, on the right
is his Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, the mayor of Milwaukee.
There`s only been three governors recalled in the history of the
country, and never in Wisconsin. Even with a governor as unpopular as
Scott Walker, whose short tenure in office in Wisconsin has turned the
state inside-out, has radicalized and polarized the state of Wisconsin like
nothing else in modern times.
This recall is still going to be tough going for the Wisconsinites who
want Walker out of office. A Democratic poll by Celinda Lake put Barrett
and Walker in a dead heat today.
A Marquette University poll that Democrats are contesting because of
its sampling put Scott Walker seven points ahead of Tom Barrett.
Honestly, the polls, no matter who they favor day-to-day, are sort of
hard to fall in love with in a case like this. I mean, recall elections
are hard to poll. Off-cycle elections are really hared to poll. Off-cycle
recall elections held in the summer. It`s really hard to poll. Both sides
know it is all going to depend on turnout. The recall election in
Wisconsin is on Tuesday, six days from today. That`s one story.
Now, as promised, on a totally unrelated note that has nothing at all,
nothing whatsoever to do with that first story, nothing to do with the
potential recall of the Wisconsin governor, totally different story, couple
of guys getting a lot of press today. Scott Walker`s biggest potential
allies, the Koch brothers, and their political group, Americans for
Prosperity, launched a super fun Wisconsin bus tour today.
The Americans for Prosperity buses are going to be hitting up 10
Wisconsin cities in four days, starting now -- six days before the Scott
Walker recall election. The bus tour is not at all related to the
election. And it`s not at all election related theme is a better
The group will also be bussing in people from Illinois for at least
one of their Wisconsin rallies. They say food will be provided at these
rallies. Of course, the buses free. These guys are not wanting for
funding. They never have been.
But again, the Koch brothers Americans for Prosperity 10-city bus tour
to rally conservatives in Wisconsin this week before the election has
nothing to do with the election. That`s what Americans for Prosperity
They say, quote, "We`re not dealing with any candidates, political
parties or ongoing races. We`re just educating folks on the importance of
Americans for Prosperity is not advocating for Scott Walker, OK? Yes,
yes, they`re last bus tour last year was called the "Stand with Walker"
tour. But that should not at all be confused with this current tour, which
has nothing whatsoever to do with standing with Scott Walker, who happens
to be up for recall on Tuesday. Wow, what a coincidence.
If this bus tour actually had anything to do with trying to rally the
conservative vote for Scott Walker with advocating for Scott Walker in that
election that is Tuesday, that, of course, would be illegal. The Koch
brothers group could lose their tax-exempt status if they did something
If there`s one thing the Koch brothers hate, there`s one thing the
Koch brothers might launch a bus tour to fight against, it`s the prospect
of the Koch brothers paying taxes.
So for now, we have to pretend like the timing of the bus tours and
these rallies right before the election, funded by Scott Walker`s
billionaire oil and chemical fortune benefactors programs is just a
coincidence, which it might be. I mean, Wisconsin is a lovely state to
drive around, especially this time of year when the flowers are blooming,
the naceam (ph) are out in force, and only the fourth governor in U.S.
history could be turf out on his ear before his first term is done.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today: kahuna. A noun meaning a
pre-imminent person or thing. It is of Hawaiian origin, or use it in a
sentence. The Scripps National Spelling Bee is the big kahuna of spelling
competitions. Kahuna. K-A-H-U-N-A.
Two hundred and seventy-eight spellers, all under the age of 16,
competed in the first rounds of the Scripps National Spelling Bee today in
Maryland. The finals are tomorrow.
You may have heard about the speller this year who is 6. A 6-year-old
girl named Lori Anne Madison. She`s the youngest participant ever.
Young Ms. Madison made it through round two today. She stumbled in
round three on the word ingluvies. Seriously, ingluvies. I-N-G-L-U-V-I-E-
S. I think probably wrong.
But even though it`s called the national spelling bee, interesting
note, it`s not only for American kids. Every year, there are a handful of
kids from other countries participating in the bee. And this year, that
handful includes this young man, 13-year-old Ryan McLellan. He hails from
To get what kind of challenge that fact poses at the national spelling
bee, consider for a moment the New Zealand accent, as demonstrated by the
geniuses on "Flight of the Concord."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (IANUDIBLE) weaving.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Weaving is a man`s game.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You put a woman in front of a weaving machine and
just watch her go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, honestly. My dad weaves. My grandfather was
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought your dad was a sheep lawyer (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: During the day. But at night he weaves a lot.
And I come from a family or weavers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve never seen a man weave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love weaving. I`m weaving at the moment, making
a pair of trousers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Now, if you are a 13-year-old kid at the U.S. national
spelling bee and you`re an accent like those guys on "Flight of the
Concords," what happens when you`re asked to spell taupe? Torpe? Taupe?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE: This word has a homonym. Taupe. Taupe is a light brownish-
RYAN MCLELLAN: Is it French?
JUDGE: It`s from French, which formed it from a Latin word.
JUDGER: No, no, taupe.
OTHER JUDGE: That`s his pronunciation.
MCLELLAN: T-A-U-P-E. Taupe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: That`s his pronunciation. The judge there is trying to save
this kid from a potentially fatal error. It`s not torp. It`s taupe.
He knows it`s taupe. He`s just from New Zealand. He knows what the
word is and he`s just champing at the bit to spell it. That`s C-H-A-M-P-I-
N-G, by the way. Look it up if you do not me believe me.
This 13-year-old kid`s P-E-R-S-E-V-E-R-A-N-C-E in the face of people
who would judge you, who don`t understand you, is obviously the best new
thing in the world today.
Now, it`s time for `THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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