updated 6/4/2012 4:13:20 PM ET 2012-06-04T20:13:20

Guests: Douglas Brinkley, Bob Herbert, Matea Gold, Kenji Yoshino, Jonathan
Cohn, Myrna Perez

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question -- is
anyone actually doing anything about the embarrassing state of child
poverty in America? Plus, the Supreme Court will soon announce its most
anticipated decision since Bush v. Gore -- one vote could change
everything. And speaking of one vote, will new voter suppression tactics
undermine one man, one vote? But first, the backroom billionaires and the
rich white guys buying the election.

Good Saturday morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Before we begin, I
want to bring you up to speed on a couple of stories that we have been
following on this show for a while. In Egypt this morning, former
President Hosni Mubarak has been sentenced to life in prison for his role
in the killing of protesters during last year`s Arab Spring uprising. His
sons and security aides were found innocent in their involvement. Now,
scuffles erupted in the courtroom after the verdicts were read, and medical
sources say that Mubarak suffered a health crisis when arriving at the
prison hospital where he will be kept. He is right now being treated
there.

In another story, George Zimmerman, the man who killed unarmed teen
Trayvon Martin in February, will be returning to jail this weekend. And a
Florida judge yesterday revoked Zimmerman`s bond after he misled the court
during his bail hearing about how much money he raised through his web
site. Zimmerman has until 3 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday to turn himself
in. OK.

Now, to our top political story. Finish this sentence. 2012 is an
epic match-up between President Barack Obama and -- did you say Mitt
Romney? Well, the thing is you`re only partly right. President Obama and
Mitt Romney`s names will be on the November ballot, but the election is not
really a head-to-head battle. President Obama will also be facing Frank
VanderSloot, John Paulson and David Koch. Who you ask -- these men are
actually part of the small army of millionaires and billionaires whose
names won`t be on the ticket, but whose money will be determining how you
think about the names that are there. Take a look at the guy shelling out
at least a million each on conservative super PACs this cycle. Do you
notice anything? Seriously? They look like they are straight out of central
casting for the role of "The Man." I mean, if you were inclined to believe
in conspiracy theories, and I`m not, it would not be hard to imagine that
these guys will be sitting around a conference table with a tumbler of fine
scotch and a good cigar while they plot the outcome of the election.

But the realities of how they do and will influence our political
outcomes are both stark and complicated. For the most part, they are not
giving directly to Republican candidates. They are using super PACs and
other outside groups. And Politico.com reported this week that through
them, they will likely spend $1 billion on November`s elections for the
White House and Congress. Koch-related organizations alone plans to spend
$400 million for the 2012 election season, which is $30 million more than
the $370 million that John McCain raised for his entire presidential
campaign in 2008. About one-third of that billion-dollar spending, some
$300 million, will be under the direction of Karl Rove through his American
Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, and Karl Rove might as well be the poster
child for the rich white man conspiracy theory.

I know, it is seductive and actually also a little disempowering to
see this small group of shall we say, diversity-challenged uber-rich men
and assume that they are buying our election, stripping the democracy of
meaningful choices and collectively acting as policy puppet masters. But
here is the thing, it is way more complicated than that. What motivates a
Sheldon Adelson or a Foster Friess, or on the left, a George Soros to throw
millions into the political arena? In a global economic world where money
crosses national boundaries with little more than a tap of the finger, why
do these guys care so much who the president is, or what laws govern rural
counties or who sits on local school boards? What are their motivations?
Most think (ph) that the super-rich are motivated purely by profit, that
they simply want to grown and maintain their wealth, but how much does that
explain about their political actions? Maybe these titans of industry
simply want power for power`s sake. Maybe they are ideologically driven
and want to create a world that mirrors their own world views.

But as we wring our hands in distress about how their money is buying
our elections, maybe we should push pause on the conspiracy theories and
really try to understand what is going on here. With me at the table to
try to help me understand is Matea Gold, political reporter for the "Los
Angeles Times" and the "Chicago Tribune," who has been covering big money
in politics. And MSNBC contributor and "Nerdland" friend and columnist for
"The Hill" Karen Finney who is the former DNC communications director.
Thanks, ladies, for being here.

So OK, in "Nerdland" this week, I was determined to say, I just don`t
believe in conspiracy theories, I`m not -- you know, I know there is a
zombie apocalypse apparently occurring in America right now, but talk to me
about what are the actual motivations of the uber-wealthy to engage in the
political sphere in this way?

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, "Rolling Stone" had
a great piece that showed literally down to the dollar what some of these
big donors are interested in. So, for example, they have given big money
not just to the campaigns directly, but to these super PACs, and they all
have different issues. So, let`s say, you have been sued many times
because of toxic cleanup. You`re going to say, you know, those regulations
are just crippling my business. And then guess what, Mitt Romney will say,
regulations are crippling our business. So point being, a lot of these
billionaires have very specific business interests that they want to see
taken care of, and essentially it seems like they are buying those
outcomes.

HARRIS-PERRY: It seems odd to me, though, just on the question of
money in that sense that we were talking about enormous amounts of money
...

FINNEY: Millions.

HARRIS-PERRY: personally, right?

FINNEY: Millions.

HARRIS-PERRY: That these individuals have. And yesterday we had the
kind of disappointing job numbers, right, ordinary American citizens are
having very tight budgets, and yet we are seeing these billions, literally
billion dollar election now coming up. How should we understand sort of
how important it is for our household extra $100, $200 or $1,000 that
government policy might impact us versus sort of these kind of regulations
that might impact the businesses?

MATEA GOLD, POLITICAL REPORTER, "L.A. TIMES": Well, I think there is
no question that there is probably an array of motivations behind a lot of
these folks. And some of them have specific business interests as Karen
mentioned, some of them are very ideologically driven, and I think what it
really does is put the impetus on voters this time to be even more informed
about who is putting money in the election and how they are trying to
influence them. And voters are really going to be bombarded -- and they
already have been -- with ads that are being paid for by groups, and many
times we don`t know who is actually financing them. And so, that is kind
of going to go a long ways to shaping the actual narrative of the election
and shaping what issues are being talked about. And so, I think it is
really changing the dynamic in a way we haven`t really seen any time in our
lifetime, in which individuals are really powering this election and
powering the debate, in a way that I think is altering the dynamic.

FINNEY: I think with Shelly Adelson, I mean essentially his money was
put before the will of the people. The will of the people said Newt
Gingrich should have been out, right?

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

FINNEY: ... by the voting.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

FINNEY: But what happened, Shelly said, all right, I will give you 5
million, or here is another five ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

FINNEY: ... to keep him in. That changed the dynamics not only of
the Republican primary for several weeks, but again, more importantly, he
was able to write a single check to overthrow the will of the voting
public.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, I have a dirty little secret. I have one
percenter porn on my iPad ...

FINNEY: Yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: And what I mean -- what I mean by that is I love the
"Forbes" app, the "Forbes List" app, and so I have this like the "400
Richest People in America" app, and so I go through it and I -- I am
fascinated by like who is John Paulson? And I can sort of click on him on
my -- on my "Forbes" app. Tied for fifth on the "Forbes 400," which I`ve
spent a lot of time just trying to figure out what their motivations might
be, tied for fifth are the Koch brothers, who are at $17.5 billion apiece.
Now, what we are looking at is kind of the percentages that occur if you
look at sort of the amount that they are going to spend. For them, right,
for their net worth, their $200 million, is what they are going to spend
out of $25 billion. For the net worth of an average household, in American
-- excuse me, median household in America is 96,000. So that would mean for
an ordinary family spending $768, right, the amount of their spending is
the same as what it would feel to us to spend $768. Who wouldn`t spend ...

FINNEY: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: .. $768 ...

FINNEY: Sure.

HARRIS-PERRY: ... to change the outcomes of American politics?

GOLD: Yes. And it really shows that while these are eye-popping
figures for many of us, that for folks like Sheldon Adelson or Harold
Simmons, the billionaire in Dallas, this is just pocket change, and for
them they are really taking advantage of what has been a change in the law
through several court decisions that has really amped up their influence in
a way that I don`t think we have ever seen before. And what I think is so
fascinating is the "Forbes 400" list has probably gotten more click views
than it has in the last five years combined.

(CROSSTALK)

GOLD: And we have now been introduced to this cast of characters that
I think the average Americans really didn`t know, the billionaires in
America, and now we are getting to know them on, you know, they are kind of
boldfaced names, right, in American politics. And people, I mean the Koch
brothers are being talked about constantly ...

FINNEY: Right.

GOLD: ... by Obama and his campaign, they are making them part of the
issue. And these are -- these are figures now in the election.

HARRIS-PERRY: But let me ask you this question, if I`m on the right,
and I believe the government is either sort of inept or evil, right, I want
to sort of drown it in the bathtub, then doesn`t the very desire to
influence politics, the willingness to spend, even if it is for them it`s
basically $768, isn`t that evidence that they don`t think the government is
so inept, so incapable, like that they actually do believe government has
an important role, because they are willing to invest in it?

FINNEY: Well, sure, but they believe that government has a role for
them. I mean, they have a specific belief about how government should
function or not. I mean, and that`s why I think you get a lot of this
government out of our business with the exception of our, you know, female
-

(CROSSTALK)

FINNEY: And our bedroom and some other things, because that really
becomes kind of a message frame for lower taxes, smaller government,
although I would argue if you look at state governments, which are a lot
smaller, they are certainly not doing much better these days with being so
much smaller. But sure, here is the other thing, and Matea talked about
this, it`s the fact that essentially we will never know who some of these
people are ...

GOLD: Yes.

FINNEY: ... because it is not just, you know, through these super
PACs, they are also able -- there is these shell companies or shells of
non-profit organizations that are passed through like money laundering, so,
you know, we won`t even know when we are looking at some of these ads -- at
least when we see the Koch brothers funded ads attacking Obama on some of
the energy issues ...

GOLD: Right.

FINNEY: ... all right, you know, well, they`ve got energy interests
and they don`t like what Obama is doing, at least you have a sense of where
the motivation is coming from. But, you know, for a lot of these groups
...

GOLD: Yes.

FINNEY: ... Americans for Prosperity, I don`t -- you know, that
sounds good ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

FINNEY: ... who is not for prosperity?

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, right, this has been my kind of constant
question, sort of what are the motivations, right? Because I feel like if
we think that they are all just rich white men sitting around a conference
table with their cigars plotting the end of democracy, then -- then we feel
so disempowered by that versus trying to understand how they are motivated
to use the apparatus of government. Because then that feels like we can
start making changes in how we make structures, right ...

FINNEY: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: ... so that it shuts off the valves.

FINNEY: And that is what Congressman van Hollen is trying to do with
legislation that would say, OK, we at least have to know who these people
are, you at least have to tell us who they are. What was interesting,
though, this week at the Christian Science Monitor breakfast, the U..
Chamber of Commerce said, well, we might just essentially change a few
things here and there in the ad and some or the wording of the ad or how we
fund the ad, so we can get around those kinds of regulations. So to your
point, we know there is a structural problem ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

FINNEY: ... but we also have to sort of see down the road to all the
way through how they may try to even get around the fixes that we may come
up with.

HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Up next, free speech, freedom of the
press, cheap elections, do you think it was better in the past? Why the
golden age of yesteryear wasn`t so golden. When we return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back to the dissection of all things money and
politics. So, want to know when it all changed? It was the election of
1896 when Republican strategist Mark Hanna was determined to make William
McKinley the next president of the United States. Hanna`s now legendary
quote set the tone still so crucial in politics today. "There are two
things that matter in politics. The first is money, and I can`t remember
what the second one is." Hanna and the Republicans outspent the Democrats
by margin of 23 to 1, and William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan.
So, with me at the table, Matea Gold from the "L.A. Times," MSNBC
contributor Karen Finney, and now joining us, Douglas Brinkley,
presidential historian and author of the new book "Cronkite," a nearly 700-
page tome on the legendary newsman and CBS anchor celebrated as the most
trusted man in America, Walter Cronkite. This book has given me shoulder
injury carrying it around.

But I wanted to talk with you in part around the Cronkite moment,
because, you know, as you point out, from the first opening salvo of the
text, he is this great trusted person, and yet some of the practices that
Cronkite engages in are things that we now would consider criminal at worst
and certainly maybe unethical at best. And Matea was saying before we went
to break, this is this money in politics is brand new, we`ve never seen
anything like this, but I keep wondering, is that quite true? I mean, I can
trace back to 1896 this idea that money is driving it. Are we in this
nostalgic remembrance of some good democracy in the past that actually
never existed?

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we always are. I
mean, I am a historian, and the first rule of history is to remind
ourselves that are own times are not uniquely oppressive. And ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

BRINKLEY: And that, you know, if you want to be alive when the Civil
War was going on, when we had 600,000 dead? You want to be alive in an era
in the 1950s, that some people called the golden age of TV, when there was
Jim Crow laws throughout the South? So, and you, just, you know, one word,
dentistry ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

BRINKLEY: ... and you just -- you know, go to the dentist, you have -
- we have modern medical miracles, so right now is probably the best time
ever to be alive. If I could just say one thing, being a historian, and
you`re talking about Mark Hanna, Hanna also said when McKinley was shot and
Theodore Roosevelt came in, oh, no, that damned cowboy is president.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

BRINKLEY: And T.R. came in from 1901 to `09, and really led a
progressive movement in this country.

HARRIS-PERRY: And this was -- you got to my question before I got
there, which is, you know, yes, there`s that story of money in politics
coming in right there at the dawn of the 20th century, but then the very
next thing that happens is an enormous progressive movement.

BRINKLEY: Yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: A kind of good-government movement, a kind of clean
this sort of thing up, let`s get a different, and somewhat more populist
movement. Is that possible, are we potentially like about to go over a
cliff where Americans are going to say, OK, enough, we live in a democracy?

BRINKLEY: It is possible, but remember T.R. got in, in a fluke way.
He was, you know, for starters back then, and then you have to organize
people. I mean the unions have to speak up. If there is a women`s
movement today and what is the women`s movement, they have got to speak up
right now. People have to rise up. In my "Cronkite" book, Walter Cronkite
in 1988, he tried to be Mr. Objective, Mr. Center, but in `88 when Dukakis
lost the presidency to George Herbert Walker Bush, Cronkite said liberals
are backing away from being liberals, and he spoke at Barbara Jordan`s big
party. And for Barbara Jordan, Cronkite said open up - it sounded like a
scene from "Network," open up the windows, scream it, I am pro choice, I am
pro environment, I`m against nuclear weapons, I am against war. So you
have to have a true fighting spirit in the Democratic Party, not one that
wants to constantly triangulate like it was during the Clinton years.

HARRIS-PERRY: It is interesting, we were looking on this question of
people having a voice, OK, we were looking at the donors, and at this
moment President Obama`s donors are still much more likely to be small
donors than Mitt Romney`s. So just when you look at the numbers and
there`s kind of a lovely pie chart of this, the small dollar donors -- in
other words, folks giving $200 or less -- for Romney it is only about ten
percent of folks. For Barack Obama, 45 percent of his donations are coming
from folks who are giving under $200. Now, that may change as things
change. We saw some of the big money liberal donors who might help to
change that, Bill Maher and others, but is that -- is that what we want to
do, like counteract the big money with small money, that increases our
sense of stake? Or that`s just silly, we can never get up to the Adelson
level?

GOLD: I would actually make the argument I think the Democrats would
be thrilled to have more seven-figure checks written right now ...

FINNEY: Yeah. Right, right.

GOLD: You know, I mean, and Obama really boxed himself in, because he
spoke very vehemently against outside money in 2008, was very critical of
the Citizens United decision, and then once this advent of huge dollars
really was facing his campaign, had to reverse himself, and I think we have
seen that has been very difficult to do. And a lot of Democratic donors
feel just on principle very uncomfortable with the idea of giving to super
PACs.

HARRIS-PERRY: Is that why -- is that why there is no Oprah here?
Like, you know, if I am looking through my Forbes, you know, my Forbes
list, you know, I`m like, OK, so then where is Oprah? And where -- yes, we
have got Bill Maher there, but what about Bill Gates, who has individually
maxed out his kind of, you know, $2,500, but hasn`t given to as far as we
can tell to the super PACs some kind of enormous amount?

FINNEY: You know, I think that`s part of it, but look, I think at the
fundamental level it`s this idea that money is speech that is the real
problem, because essentially, I mean I`ll go back to the Shelly Adelson
example, one guy writes a $5 million check -- I argue that`s a lot more
speech than the $250 donors -- and even if, you know, 1,000 of them vote,
still their will was overturned by one guy writing a big check. I think
that is the fundamental problem. Sure, we can have this war of I`ll get
big donors and you will get big donors, and we will spend lots of money,
but at the end of the day, I thought the idea -- you are the historian --
was supposed to be, one person, one vote, and that is how we like people,
right, that`s the will of the people, that`s the voice of the people. And
I think the problem right now is that not the way it is working, and I
think for most Americans, that is why people are so frustrated, is they
feel like my voice doesn`t count. I mean, consider that we had record
turnout last time ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

FINNEY: ... record engagement and involvement, and yet again at this
point somebody with millions of dollars can essentially drown out those
voices.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, and I think that was part of what was exciting to
me about 2008, sort of whether you were a supporter of President Obama or
not in that moment, he brought a lot of people in as financial donors to
the system who never thought of themselves as giving money before, right?
It became Pavlovian, that little red donate button on the bottom of the e-
mail, and it did feel somehow like, you know, you could make a difference
with $10 or with 100 bucks. And so folks were not only standing in those
long lines to vote, they were also doing that slightly higher level of
participation by giving money. But if it feels like I am giving $10, and,
you know, Foster Friess is giving $1 billion ...

FINNEY: You`re right.

HARRIS-PERRY: I worry like at the core about the health of the
democracy, not just about the re-election of Democrats who seem to be, you
know, sort of unable to get the seven figure donors.

BRINKLEY: Well, I think the 2000 election, when Al Gore barely lost
in the dangling chad, hanging chad of Florida, that proved once and for all
that votes matter. That registering -- right now, everybody has to
register. It`s not just about giving the ten (ph), it`s getting as many
friends as you can to register, and that has got to be a big drive,
particularly in the Democratic Party right now. But the one point, and
I`ll just pick one issue because I care about it, the big problem that the
Democrats sometimes have is that let`s take energy. Big oil has all of
this money. Who is opposing the Keystone Pipeline or drilling of ANWR --
environmental groups. They don`t have the big money -- they`re struggling,
the Sierra Club, or Audubon Society, Wilderness Society, to survive. So to
stand up to those billions of an oil industry, when you -- with that, so
some of the Democratic power groups that do vote, environmentalists do
vote, and they will vote probably for President Obama, they are not as good
at getting that big fat money checks sent you`re talking about. And it`s a
struggle for the Democratic Party.

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. We are "Star Wars" fans in "Nerdland" as you
might expect, and we were trying to figure out if the Democratic Party has
become a bunch of Ewoks battling the much more empowered Death Star here,
yes, OK. But we`ll go to break. We`ve been talking a lot about money and
how money affects the horse race, well, this is just for fun, there is
actually a real horse race going on this morning. And there`s a lot of
money behind it. You`re looking at the Epsom Derby, this is the horse race
that marks the start of Queen Elizabeth`s diamond jubilee. Her royal
highness attended this event with more than 100,000 people in the crowd
earlier this morning along with other members of the royal family.

This is one of the first events that is going to mark the 60 years of
the queen`s rein. It`s a huge milestone, obviously made possible by her
longevity, which I personally think might be a result of the universal
health care system in Great Britain. We are going to talk about our own
health care system later in the show, stay right there, we have a lot more
on the ruling class here at home.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: On Tuesday, retired Justice John Paul Stevens received
the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his long service on the Supreme
Court. Months before stepping down from the high court, Stevens issued the
dissenting opinion in the landmark Citizens United case, which ushered in
the current era of unrestricted political campaign contributions.

Now, this week Justice Stevens warned that the Citizens United case
would inevitably have to be revisited, saying, "It will be necessary to
explain why the First Amendment provides greater protection for the
campaign speech of some nonvoters than to that of other nonvoters." The
Citizens United revenge is still raging through this election season. So,
here with me to discuss its implications are Matea Gold, Karen Finney, Doug
Brinkley and "Nerdland" buddy and constitutional law scholar Kenji Yoshino
of NYU. Kenji, just remind us what is it that Citizens United did? What is
it? What was the decision about?

KENJI YOSHINO, NYU: So, the decision was a First Amendment case, and
so essentially struck down provisions of campaign finance law, the McCain
Feingold Act, that stated that corporations are restricted in their
capacity to spend. And so, as you said, it opened the door to say, A, sort
of corporations are people, you know, so they are protected under the First
Amendment, and second, you know, that there are people who are guaranteed a
certain amount of speech, and therefore could spend unlimited amounts of
money in these elections.

HARRIS-PERRY: But, you know, what I have found -- what I have found
interesting is sort of in the post Citizens United moment, Frank Rich in
his April 22nd column drew our attention to this saying, OK, at first, we
thought we needed to worry about corporations as the result of the sort of
now Romney-esque idea that corporations are people, my friend. But he says
no, it is not the corporations, because they are actually risk-averse as
corporations. Our big worry should be the sugar daddies, and so the sugar
daddies are sort of these, you know, these "Forbes 400" guys. And is that
right? That we should be less worried about the corporations and more
worried about the sugar daddies?

GOLD: Well, we definitely have seen, especially publicly traded
corporations shy away from this participation, and I also want to just
debunk one myth about Citizens United that keeps getting repeated. Since
we are in "Nerdland" we can go into some -

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, we`re certainly allowed to.

GOLD: Citizens United did not create Super PACs, and Citizens United
doesn`t allow for, you know, secret money. Citizens United actually
endorsed the concept of disclosure -- excuse me -- it was a second federal
court decision on speech now that then created basically what we have now,
Super PACs, and it built on the Citizens United decision. And so I think
it is important to separate these two. And one of the things we`ve seen
that is an outgrowth kind of unintended kind of Citizens United is this
explosion of third party advocates in groups that are not Super PACs that
might get corporate money -- we don`t know because they don`t disclose
their donors.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

GOLD: But they -- they already existed before this decision, but I
think because of the freedoms allowed by Citizens United, we have seen a
real explosion in their participation in the campaign.

FINNEY: But I think part of the problem that most people don`t
understand, because I think corporations, if they believe that they can
remain anonymous, I think that deals with their risk a little bit ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

FINNEY: And again, well, I think we`ve seen a few of them have kind
of gotten burned by that. But part of the problem is, and the
constitutional scholar will correct me on this, you`ve got, you know,
electioneering communications, you`ve got issue advocacy, which is really
thinning out to be where you are not supposed to say for a candidate or
not, but you can come very close up to the line, so it`s pretty clear
you`re talking the current occupant of the White House or the challenger.
And then you`ve got these, you know, these third party groups that
essentially are now operating as pass-throughs for a lot of the larger
corporations, or even some of the big sugar daddies who don`t want to be
known, and the argument is, which I find ironic, well, if we disclose who
they are, we are afraid of retribution, right ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

FINNEY: As if people know that we`re giving this money, it`s going to
be -- well, but isn`t that our free speech, isn`t it my right to know that
if I don`t want to patronize a company that gives its money to something I
don`t agree with, my -- if money is speech, can I use my money to make my
voice known?

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And I think part of what`s been shocking to me
is the level of penetration. So, it`s one thing to say they are, you know,
they are on the side of, you know, some group of people on the side of
Barack Obama being re-elected, there are some group of people who are on
the side of Mitt Romney being elected, they are both rich. They are going
to try to influence it. But, you know, I went to college and grad school
in North Carolina, and for me it was the Koch brothers relationship, if you
tracked it back far enough, to a school board election and to school board
policy in Wake County schools. And I just kept saying to myself, why do
the Koch brothers care what is going on in the Wake County schools? Why
would this matter? And I think -- because I don`t believe in conspiracy
theories, I keep thinking, well, they don`t care. They don`t actually
care. There is not a Koch brother sitting, I shall re-segregate the
schools -- and by the way, we actually did ask the Koch brothers, and they
-- they did not respond, we did reach out to them to ask them why they
cared about it. But I think it feels more like the money is so diffuse,
like it is just everywhere, right? So it`s in ALEC, and ALEC is helping to
write policy in state legislatures, and it`s impacting these, you know,
school board elections. And that it`s almost scarier, because it isn`t
sort of one person`s motivations. That there`s this diffusion of how this
money is operating in all of these very local places, impacting us in ways
that we don`t even know about.

FINNEY: With the set of laws that are very precarious, with lots of
loopholes that essentially many of these corporations and many of these big
large donors have lots of fancy lawyers to figure out how we skirt around
them. I mentioned, you know, earlier that in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
was basically very open in a press briefing about how they are going to try
to figure out how to skirt the law so they can do a little bit more direct
advocacy in this election ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

FINNEY: ... and they are spending millions.

HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to come back and we`ll talk about third
party presidential candidates. And Buddy Roemer, who himself this week
dropped out, talking about the issue of money and the inability of his
campaign to get traction because of it, and we`ll try to think about how
this money issue influences the very structure of our democracy when we
return.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: This week independent candidate and former governor of
Louisiana, Buddy Roemer, dropped out of the presidential race citing
moneyed interest as the impediment to third party success, but he said,
"The two major parties are addicted to special interests and corporate
money. They are joined at the billfold. The two parties have been
graveyards of reform too often in the past. They don`t want reform, they
only want victory and reelection." Now, I for one am sad to see Buddy go,
and not just because I`m a big support of third parties, because in fact
I`m actually not such a big supporter of third parties, but Buddy is a
consistent voice pointing to our attention to the influence of money and
politics, and for that reason Buddy Roemer can`t actually win an election.
So, with me here at the table talking money and politics is Matea Gold,
Karen Finney, Doug Brinkley and Kenji Yoshino. So, Buddy is out. He
suggests that money is the main reason that third parties cannot find a
voice.

BRINKLEY: Buddy is absolutely right. You know, in 1912, Theodore
Roosevelt, when he created the Bull Moose Party 100 years ago, it was the
most successful third party in U.S. history, but he`d already been
president, had name recognition, and he came out with this great
progressive agenda and got shot in Milwaukee and then lost, but came in
second. So you say, well, he did not win on a third party movement, but
the platform -- Barack Obama in Kansas was talking about T.R.`s Bull Moose
platform for universal health care Roosevelt wanted in 1912.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

BRINKLEY: What it proved was that the ideas the third party created
FDR adopted for the New Deal, so it started putting ideals in American
culture even though he lost. But look what`s happened in recent third
party -- Ross Perot in 1992, he got 19 percent of the vote, but he was a
billionaire.

HARRIS-PERRY: And he was not really a third party, he was just an
outside candidate. I mean, it was not the creation of another party
organization ...

BRINKLEY: Exactly.

HARRIS-PERRY: ... that was challenging.

BRINKLEY: Right. But look who we talked about this year, it`s only
Bloomberg people have been saying could run a third party, because he is a
billionaire. So it seems that the part of the third party was supposed to
be a kind of a grassroots movement, instead it`s become only people with
the billions of dollars can do a third party run, and that is sad.

FINNEY: At the practical level, the whole conversation sort of
ignores the fact, you do need an infrastructure. You need people on the
ground, in the states, getting you on the ballots, doing that sort of
grassroots work, which is why if we`re ever going to have a third party,
they would have to start now for the next election. It`s not something --
unless you are a billionaire you can`t just waltz in and, you know, say,
OK, I`m a third party candidate, vote for me.

GOLD: And I would actually question whether there is this actual
yearning hunger among Americans for a third party. I mean Buddy Roemer
actually had a great platform. There was this group called Americans Elect
that built -- they poured millions of dollars into building this online
innovative platform, and nobody participated, or very few people
participated. He would have had to raise an incredible amount of money if
he had actually been able to get a nomination through that process, but he
had a chance, and I think that there is a little bit of hyperbole about
this, you know, desire that we have for some alternate system, and a lot of
people still -- are on one end of the spectrum or the other. They have
very strong ideological beliefs, and I think the center is actually very
small.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, oh, well, I mean -- you know, so -- we`ll have to
go here in a second, but I also don`t think that third parties in our
particular system are stable. They can bring in new ideas, they can
replace a party, but we can`t actually have three parties when you have a
50 percent plus one person. You have to -- you have to get 50 percent plus
one.

BRINKLEY: But if you have got that third party person into a debate
in the fall and had a three-person debate, I think more ideas would break
loose ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

BRINKLEY: ... because the third party person would be more of a rogue
...

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure.

BRINKLEY: ... not so scripted ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Sure.

BRINKLEY: ... and we make it for a little more interesting dialogue.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah.

YOSHINO: I think for the sake of argument, that money is driving out
the third party candidates, it does go on the list of unintended
consequences of Citizens United. One of the things that we know from a
1992 Supreme Court opinion is that one of the standards under which the
Supreme Court can revisit one of its older precedents is whether or not
facts have changed or come to be seen so differently. Earlier this year,
Justice Ginsburg issued a very snippet (inaudible) opinion with Justice
Breyer saying, you know, there may have been so many unintended
consequences here that we may need to revise or modify Citizens United. So
it goes on the list along with Super PACs, along with, you know, shadowy
billionaires ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Right..

YOSHINO: As room (ph) for actually modifying the contours of the
campaign finance reform.

HARRIS-PERRY: I love it, sugar daddies and Buddy Roemer might get us
a revisiting of the Citizens United decision. Thank you, Matea Gold, I
appreciate you being here. (inaudible) sticking around. Coming, up, how
one opinion piece managed to get us all talking about something that`s
actually very important this week. Not zombies. I`m going to have the
author of that topic when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: A newly released UNICEF report shows that among 35
developed countries, the United States has the second highest rate of
children living in poverty, at 23.1 percent. Falling short only to Romania
at 25.5 percent. Does that surprise you? Well, one former "New York Times"
journalist isn`t stunned, and in fact, he recently accused both parties of
being silent on this issue and predicted that Americans wouldn`t hear about
it at all in the presidential race, but guess what? That call to action
received a response from the White House. At the table is Bob Herbert,
distinguished senior fellow at Demos and author of the article that got the
administration`s attention. Bob, thanks for being here.

BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: Good to see you.

HARRIS-PERRY: So we`ve been talking about rich white men sort of for
the whole hour, and I thought let`s talk about poor children instead.
Clearly, you really care about impoverished children, but felt in this
piece not only like you wanted to draw attention to the issue, but that you
wanted to level a critique against both parties. Tell me about why that
decision?

HERBERT: Well, very quickly, I had met with a group of school kids
from the Bronx, 13 and 14 years old, and talked to them for about an hour,
an hour and a half, and by the end they are telling me their stories ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

HERBERT: ... four or five of these kids are weeping, they are just
crying, because they are such sad tales. And so I was writing about them,
but I also said, you know, we don`t hear about this in the presidential
campaign. Neither -- neither Obama, nor Romney have made poverty or what`s
happening to kids in the inner city or for that matter in rural areas, they
haven`t put that front and center in the campaigns. And ...

HARRIS-PERRY: But then -- Valerie Jarrett said, sure we have, right?
And I mean, I thought this was really stunning, actually. So you write
this piece, and then Jarrett from the White House comes out and says, Bob,
you are just wrong, we do, right. And in fact, you know, you are -- it is
understandable that you`d be frustrated, but the notion that the American
dream is closed off to far too many citizens, and here are the things we`ve
done, and she talks about ...

HERBERT: Right.

HARRIS-PERRY: SNAP, which is basically food stamps, so what did you
think about that response?

HERBERT: I think it had a sense of boilerplate about it, you know.
It`s ticked off all of the accomplishments, and Obama has had a number of
accomplishments, but this was not an attack on Obama. What I had said in
the piece is essentially that, you know, we`ve become a plutocracy. Our
policies are geared towards the wealthy individuals in this society, and
then in that atmosphere, without leadership from our high ranking public
officials, these poor kids don`t really stand a chance. So their upward
mobility is cut off. And, you know, if you don`t have upward mobility, and
if you don`t have shared income, and shared wealth in this country, shared
in an equitable way, it means that the American dream is essentially gone.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, let me ask you a little bit about the kids`
piece, because, you know, obviously one of the shocking aspects of our
poverty rate here is the percentage of children that are in poverty ...

HERBERT: Yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: ... but I also worry when we kind of break off the poor
kids from poor adults, because kids are deserving and so we somehow want to
contribute to them, but the fact that you have got to raise the whole
family, right, you can`t do just one part.

HERBERT: Not only that. That`s exactly right. But also people don`t
understand how widespread this is. There is 50 million officially poor
people in this country, but if you then add in the people who are just a
notch or two above the poverty level, you get to 105 million people, and
that`s nearly one-third of the entire American population. These are folks
that very little attention is paid to.

HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, if you were to say, for example, if you said,
you know, that these folks -- our candidates are not even saying the word
poor. It seems to be part of the reason that candidates don`t use the
language of poverty on both sides, is because Americans rarely will self-
identify as poor even when they are, right? The folks believe themselves to
be middle-class even when they are many tens of thousands of dollars
outside of the middle class. Do you think that sometimes, those kind of
the policy work is going on, but you don`t get the discourse, because we
don`t hear it in that way as Americans?

HERBERT: I think that is true. That is very true, and what is also
true is the politicians will tell you, well, poor people for the most part
don`t vote. I think more poor people vote than a lot of people think, but
that is not the point. The president, the people in Congress and the
people on the Supreme Court, they represent all Americans, you know. So I
do think it is true, people sort of shy away from the poor. I think they
are in denial about the extent of poverty, and they fear that they are
going to be linked up with this in some kind of way. But when you have
poverty to this extent, and it is expanding in this country, it hurts the
entire society. It hurts the middle class, and ultimately, because you
don`t have the buying power in the society as a whole ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

HERBERT: ... ultimately it hurts the very wealthy as well.

HARRIS-PERRY: So the one thing that gave me a lot of anxiety as I was
reading the piece is that some of -- some of what you were talking about
here, as you were talking about the stories of the young people were
telling, are things that, yes, impact poor kids, but you also talked about
for example about sexual assault and about other sorts of things that don`t
exclusively happen in poor communities. I am thinking of, you know, all
the young women on college campuses ...

HERBERT: Yes.

HARRIS-PERRY: ... who have endured sexual assault. I just want to be
sure that if we are going to -- and I hope that we do and think we should,
refocus our attention and energy on thinking about addressing the American
dream through addressing poverty, that we don`t also go to a place when we
assume that poverty equals all these social ills.

HERBERT: No, absolutely not. And also in the piece I did not suggest
that. And it is also wrong to convey the impression that because people
are poor, that everyone who is poor is putting up with all of the terrible
things ...

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

HERBERT: ... that these young people that I was talking to are
putting up with, and that is not the case at all. The poverty in and of
itself is a problem. The fact that you don`t have enough money to build a
future, to put together the kind of family, you know, to realize the
American dream. That in and of itself is a problem.

HARRIS-PERRY: Bob, I so appreciate you, first of all that you wrote
it, that you actually got a response, and look, now we can actually talk
about poverty. So I`m greatly appreciative to you for setting the agenda
for it.

HERBERT: Thanks so much, Melissa.

HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks. Coming up, history is about to be made this
month by the Supreme Court, and we want to arm you with a few facts before
the court announces its decision on health care reform. Our cliff notes on
so-called Obamacare, affordable care, and death panels up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: The Supreme Court is very close to a decision in the
most anticipated case since they answered the question, who is the
president in Bush v. Gore.

Actually, the justices have already decided, they just haven`t told us
yet. And by the end of this month, the court will hand down this decision
about whether or not the Affordable Care Act -- labeled by its opponents as
Obamacare -- is unconstitutional, uphold it or overturn it. That is the big
question whose answer we are all waiting to hear.

But it is not the only question raised by the challenge to President
Obama`s signature piece of legislation. If the justices overturn the law,
will they outlaw all of it or just part of it? If some, but not all parts
get overturned, will it be a defeat or a victory for President Obama? What
will this decision mean for his re-election chances? Could a ruling against
the act be seen as a political referendum against the president from the
court, which is after all supposed to be apolitical? And if so, what does
that mean for the relationship between the president and the court?

If the court upholds the law, it still must survive attempts by Mitt
Romney and Republicans in Congress to repeal it. If it gets overturned,
will Republicans, recognizing the popularity of some of the law`s
provisions, vote to reinstate those parts that are wildly popular with
voters? And while the Affordable Care Act is not slated to go fully into
effect until 2014, some parts, like coverage for those 26 and under on
their parents` insurance, have already been put into place. If the court
overturns the legislation, what happens to the 2.5 million young adults who
now have access to coverage? What about the 45 million women who have
enjoyed the recommended preventative care? Or the 50,000 Americans with
pre-existing medical conditions who now have health insurance?

And many of us still don`t know what the law says or have yet to take
advantage of its benefits, but if it gets struck down, will we even know
what we are missing? The Supreme Court won`t give us any of those answers.
But coming up, we will. First up, we will ask what does Mitt and Ann
Romney`s personal story have to do with the court`s decision. Stay right
there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANN ROMNEY, MITT ROMNEY`S WIFE: My life was in jeopardy, and I was
like, as vulnerable as a person could be.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: That was an excerpt from a new video
released just this week from the Mitt Romney campaign and it tells of story
of Ann Romney`s struggle with multiple sclerosis and Mitt Romney`s support
of the woman who in the video he calls his soul mate. There`s a story of
what partnership looks like when in sickness part of marriage vows was put
to the test.

But in an article published this week on "The New Republic`s" Web
site, TNR.com, Jonathan Cohn argues that the vulnerability of facing M.S.
diagnosis, a reality for 400,000 Americans, is compounded when you have no
way to cover the medical cost of battling this chronic disease, which is
exactly the situation that many of those struggling with M.S. could face if
Mitt Romney becomes president, and makes good of another vow that he made
to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Jonathan Cohn is author of that article. He`s also a senior editor
at "The New Republic," and the author of "Sick: The Untold Story of the
America`s Health Care Crisis and the People Who Pay the Price."

Back with me is Kenji Yoshino, a constitutional law from New York
University; Karen Finney, former DNC communications director; and historian
Doug Brinkley.

OK. So that is supposed to make us feel like Mitt Romney is like us,
and it is a very sweet, very touching video. But the point is that their
ability to deal with her M.S. is not at all like what most folks have to
cope with.

JONATHAN COHN, THE NEW REPUBLIC: That`s right. You know, if Mitt
Romney were running for husband or for a father, I think this would be a
great ad. It`s a very moving video, and everything I have always heard
about Mitt Romney, he`s a genuinely devoted family man. I think that`s
fantastic, but most people need more than a supportive spouse if they have
a M.S. or chronic disease or cancer or even something less debilitating
like diabetes. They need to pay the medical bills.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

COHN: People with ms are exactly the kind of people who -- even if
the they have health insurance, they`re the kind of people, the bills
they`re going to get, they`re going to blow through their benefits.
They`re going to hit an annual limit, and lifetime limits, and if they have
to buy insurance on their own, they probably can`t get it. And these
people of the Affordable Care Act and the health reform will change the
reality for these people. It`s already starting to change it.

And this is a law that Mitt Romney has said, you know, day one, he
wants to take it off of the books.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, my sister has M.S. and diagnosed in her 30s with
it. And the way that it manifested itself initially for her was that she
lost her sight. My sister was an accountant, and so that meant that her
work was gone and when we tie the health insurance to employment, then
something like a chronic disease like M.S., your ability to pay for it goes
right away.

So, Kenji, I`m interested because there are people who sort of hear
these sorts of stories they think, OK, there are aspects of the Affordable
Care Act that I like to keep. Let`s just get rid of this individual
mandate.

But correct me if I`m wrong, individual mandate goes, basically, the
Affordable Care Act goes, right? Because of the insurance moral hazard,
you can`t cover pre-existing conditions unless everybody is in the pot, is
that right?

KENJI YOSHINO, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I think the answer to that,
Melissa, depends on whether you are approaching it from the economic or the
legal angle. So, the answer may be yes economically, we may not be able to
pay for the Affordable Care Act if the individual mandate goes down. I
think that`s the administration`s position.

But from the legal perspective, the answer is not necessarily.

HARRIS-PERRY: OK.

YOSHINO: And the legal analysis would depend on the issue of
severability which is something that was argued in the Supreme Court. And
severability has to do with whether or not that`s exactly this issue of one
part of a congressional piece of legislation that is struck down and the
entire thing goes down with it, or is it severable from the part of it
that`s unconstitutional. Can you surgically remove the part that is
unconstitutional and let the rest of it stand?

What usually governs this analysis is the intent of Congress
sometimes manifested in the severability clause, there is no severability
clause on the Affordable Care Act, I think in some ways that tips the hand
of the administration`s desire say, and Congress` desire to say, if you
notice we`re all in on this, like this whole thing has to stand. So, if
you strike it down, you have to strike down the whole thing.

But the absence of the severability clause is not dispositive. So,
even if there isn`t a severability clause, the court could still excise the
part that`s unconstitutional, let`s say only the individual mandate is, and
let all these other provisions stand.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, we`ve got a court then that could make
this decision to say, OK, individual mandate is down, but we`re going to
leave for example being able to cover your kids on your insurance and we
are going to leave the pre-existing conditions, but economically right, and
politically, you know, is this -- in trying to sort of save the popular
parts of the law, is this actually making the law, itself, unworkable?

KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Potentially. I mean, that`s
part of what the justices are grappling with -- this whole issue of
severability. The political implications are dramatic, because if you are
able to keep one piece and then the other pieces go away, well, you still
have a couple of problems. Number one, what do you do then about the
people who were starting to be covered as the law has started to be
implemented, because now they are without? So, what do you do about those
folks? What do you about the people who under the plan would have been
covered when we get to the full implementation?

And I think the political question also is, Americans really don`t
want to go through this again. As much as people don`t like the law, every
single poll I have seen, people are like -- you know, they certainly don`t
want to have to renegotiate this.

So, politically, what I find most interesting is regardless of what
the decision, I mean, if it goes down, well, then team Romney has got to
have an answer to, OK, what are you going to do? And for them the
liability is that means that we are going to talk about Romneycare, and
that`s the last thing they want to talk about.

HARRIS-PERRY: So on this question, though, on the sort of we have to
do something. I am fascinated by the idea that the court here is somehow
in a political fight. Like, there was a time it feels like when the court
had a higher level of sort of trust of the American public and we can see
the kind of public opinion polls around the court have declined pretty
dramatically and pretty recently, right, so that the unfavorable ratings
are about the same, but the favorable have gone down over these recent
years, and it feels like it`s because we think the court is in a political
fight here, and they are getting us into the thing that we find exhausting
rather than making a decision based on the sort of legal questions that
Kenji raising.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, HISTORIAN: It used to be that the Supreme Court
being an iconoclast was a good thing. They may have a leaning one way or
another, but we never know what they were going to do because they were
this power -- you know, I`m thinking of people like William O. Douglas or,
you know, Felix Frankfurter or Louis Brandeis, Thurgood Marshall.

Today, it`s become that divide. I think it`s become a political
court, and I think we`re going to see that in this decision coming up here.
And I think President Obama, if the big decision as you are calling it,
loses the Affordable Care Act or it gets gutted, he`s going to have to
fight it all over again and he`s going to fight it now, this summer, in the
fall, and say this is not an entitlement, that this is a human right.

And that`s one of the things conservatives have done, is put
Medicaid, Medicare, affordable health care laws as an entitlement instead
of a human right. And, remember, Lyndon Johnson was able to do all that in
the `60s because he had so many senators. He had like rubber stamp 67
senators on his side, and President Obama has been operating at best with
59, 60 senators or 50. You know, it`s not been easy on this one.

HARRIS-PERRY: In both cases, both this idea of sort of not having
the super majority of the Democrats in the House and the Senate that LBJ
had, but also your point about the 5-4. I mean, is there any chance that
this is going to be something other than a 5-4 decision? Is there any
chance that the court would come back and say, seven of us are very clear
about what this act is?

YOSHINO: I think it could be a 6-3 on exactly this legitimacy point,
6-3 to validate and uphold the law on the ground that if Kennedy goes, you
know, with the liberal bloc then Justice Roberts may join in order to
prevent another 5-4 decision.

I want to pick up on something that you said that is really important
that I don`t think that we should let go of, because you mentioned Bush
versus Gore earlier, and that was obviously a major 5-4 decision. Citizens
United was a 5-4 decision. We talked about that earlier in the program.

We have too many of these partisan 5-4s, it really calls the
legitimacy of the institution into question. And one of the things that
really struck me in the wake of Bush versus Gore was suddenly the mantle of
the court as this monolithic, corporate institution sort of slipped off of
it, in the bad way.

And suddenly, the justices became really visible as individuals.
Suddenly, we started hearing stories about Justice O`Connor said this in a
Christmas party, whether Florida went for Gore, and suddenly there were
individual figures rather than this monolithic.

HARRIS-PERRY: Notion of the court.

I want to talk more about the court but also really want to talk
about health care and go back to the point of can we ever get to the point
where we as Americans think of health care not as an entitlement but
potentially as a fundamental right that we would have as a country want to
protect and provide.

So, up next, millions of Americans` health care will be dramatically
impacted by the high court decision, so will the health of the court itself
whichever they choose.

So, stay with us. We`ve got a lot more on the court and our health,
next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: We are talking about the Supreme Court`s upcoming
ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

Back with me are Jonathan Cohn, Kenji Yoshino, Karen Finney and Doug
Brinkley.

OK. You raised I think a really important question about how we
think about what health care is which even -- you know, whatever decision
the court makes, if we have to go back to this fight in the fall or in the
spring, is there any possibility of Americans thinking of health care as a
fundamental right, something that we just have to do?

COHN: Well, you know, it`s a funny thing. I mean, you look at the
polls, the Affordable Care Act. It gets very mixed opinions. People -- a
lot of people don`t know what`s in it. A lot of people don`t like it.

But when you break it down and say, if you like the parts of health
care reform, do you like this idea that everybody should have health care,
that you should be able to get insurance even if you have a pre-existing
condition and if you cannot afford it the government will give you help in
getting insurance. People like that.

I mean, I actually think, to the extent that they think about it,
people like the idea of universal health care. I mean, look, we have
Medicare. We`ve had it for universal health care for over 65 for a long
time and people love it.

HARRIS-PERRY: That was the funniest part of the town hall meetings,
right, were the sort of Tea Party folks waving signs, "Government, hands
off of my Medicare," and you were like, what do you think is going on here?
What do you think Medicare comes from, my friends?

COHN: Right. You know, it`s slap your hand on the head moment. I
think people are there, just the law is complicated. I think in
retrospect, delaying the implementation as long as we did, which was done
to keep the cost down strategically was a mistake, because people don`t
feel that the law is helping. Some people have been helped, but a lot of
people don`t realize it and a lot of people don`t realize what`s in store.

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting. That brings up the really brilliant
text of submerged state, right? The idea that we experience the government
benefits all of the time, but because they are submerge, because they
invisible to us, we don`t realize that we`re actually benefiting from the
government. And so, we start talking about the wanting small government
because we don`t have a clear assessment.

Now, Medicare is one thing, but, Kenji, talk to me about the
Medicaid, and how this Affordable Care Act impacts the Medicaid question?

YOSHINO: Right. I think that`s just like the big sleeper issue in
this case, because everyone is so focused on the individual mandate, but
the Medicaid issue is also very important, and that`s the spending clause
issue.

So, basically in plain English articulation of this is, can the
federal government condition very large sums of money on the states doing
certain things like expanding eligibility for Medicaid? And the states are
saying this is coercion, this is a federalism problem, and the federal
government is responding it`s our money.

All of this goes back to 1987 Supreme Court opinion that basically
gives the federal government much more power to sort of incentivize with a
carrot of funds rather than, you know, the mandate saying that "thou shalt
do this."

HARRIS-PERRY: Right.

YOSHINO: So there is a much broader spending power than there is
under, say, the commerce clause.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, on this --

YOSHINO: But if we revisit this, it is a huge deal, and the Supreme
Court goes back on South Dakota versus Dole, 1987 opinion, which tips over
to coercion, that is a major, major deal.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So the conservatives are not wrong in the
assessment that it is on the one hand about health care, but this is also
in a fundamental way about the role of government?

FINNEY: Well, you know, it`s interesting. Having survived the
Clinton version of trying to get this done, I can tell you, you know, at
that time what was interesting was the message that worked the best were
the sort of interpersonal talking about the people, talking about, you
know, that child that has x-disease that we can cure, and everybody should
have health care -- that sort of feeling good, cut to the Obama experience,
most of the polls particularly because of the economy, those arguments
didn`t work.

Yes, of course, because we don`t want kids to be sick and all that,
but the economics were really what people were more concerned about. And I
think part of the problem is that the conversation in the framing of this
conversation has not found a way to talk both about the human side as well
as the economics, because the truth is that like we forget with all of the
rhetoric, companies were moving out of the country because of health care
costs. So, reforming health care is an economic issue, but it`s sort of a
muddled conversation over who controls the dollars and instead of what are
we trying to accomplish here on the human side and the economic side?

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, a lot of things that happens here on the table
when I have conservative commentators who are contributing to the
conversation and frequently I`ll hear this language they`re saying
businesses are telling me that the Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act is
going to cost me so much money and put them out of business.

And honestly, I find it difficult to figure out what it is about the
Affordable Care Act itself that would somehow make it harder on the
businesses, it feels to me like over and over again it would actually make
things much simpler and certainly universal health care would.

FINNEY: But also millions and millions of dollars were spent to get
that message out, right? This is another example of money in politics
really influencing the conversation.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yes.

YOSHINO: Can I just take you back to the fundamental right issue,
like I usually like to come on the show, like really cheerful --

(CROSSTALK)

YOSHINO: But I actually have to be deflationary on this one, because
usually I think when we think of the fundamental rights, we think of the
constitutional rights of this country. But unfortunately, our Constitution
is really a Constitution of negative liberties, much more than it is
positive liberties. So we are actually kind of an a outlier among many
other, you know, cognitive constitutions.

HARRIS-PERRY: Free from interference.

YOSHINO: Exactly. Rather than affirmative entitlement to human
flourishing or what well-being, or what-have-you, right? So even though we
believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that`s not a
constitutional guarantee, right?

HARRIS-PERRY: It`s too bad that in the Declaration of Independence,
Jefferson wasn`t allowed to write life, liberty and property, right? That
they sort of had that visionary moment where property became pursuit of
happiness.

YOSHINO: Regardless, when we move from the Declaration of
Independence to the Constitution, you really have to really pore over that
document to find sort of anything that even resembles, right, an
affirmative entitlement to something things.

So, if we`re going to deal with this as a fundamental right, I don`t
want us to be confused that this is going to happen any time soon in a
constitutional landscape. It may happen as a matter of legislation, i.e.,
that`s what Affordable Care Act.

HARRIS-PERRY: And essentially political leadership, right?

BRINKLEY: Yes. I mean, look at Franklin Roosevelt with Social
Security. You are not going to hear Mitt Romney trying to cut Social
Security in the campaign, because people think of it as a right to have
Social Security. So, some day in this country, there will be health care
view (ph) as that, but when, we don`t know.

But you made an interesting point, I think. I`m going to bleak and
let`s say that the Supreme Court says good-bye to Obamacare, nixes it.
This is Barack Obama losing a signature achievement and a guy like me in
history we thought that was a big domestic bit.

What does Obama do in the campaign trail? He then has to fight that
issue over again. And because of Romneycare up in Massachusetts and
because of all of the right people criticize Mitt Romney, it could be an
opportunity for President Obama to really have this fight once and for all,
and it would get away from the jobs, jobs, jobs. And if the economy is not
doing so well, maybe reenergizing people as a right, health care might
work. I think he is going to have to have that fight.

HARRIS-PERRY: You went from being grim to most optimistic thing I
have heard is that if the Supreme Court strikes down the Affordable Care
Act, we might end up with the once and for all universal health care
argument.

Jonathan, thanks for being with us.

And up next, my one man/one vote is not just an idea or reality, but
something that you have to fight for everyday.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: It was nearly 50 years ago that Supreme Court Chief
Justice Earl Warren declared one man, one vote. He was speaking in 1963
when the court was grappling with the issue of equality and voting
representation. But the idea he was expressing that inside of the ballot
box all voices are created equal is at the very heart of American
democracy.

Only in a presidential election, one man, one vote is just that, an
idea, because the truth in practice is this. Individual voters, the one
man or one woman, do not actually choose the leader of the nation. That
decision falls squarely on the hands of another American institution, the
Electoral College.

A presidential candidate does not dream of 51 percent. He dreams of
the number of 270 -- 270 electoral votes to secure the White House and this
means many Americans are effectively disenfranchised in presidential
elections.

Are you a Democratic voter living in the deep red West? Well, your
vote for the school board or Congress might matter a lot, but the vote for
president, not so much. Your blue vote in a solidly red state is
obliterated by the winner-take-all Electoral College. Same is true for you
Republican voters living in the blue beacons along the American coast, kind
of one man-no vote scenario.

But if you are a voter in one of the nine states highlighted on this
map representing a total of 110 electoral votes, your vote matters a lot.
These battleground states, those who could reasonably go to President Obama
or to Mitt Romney, carry the weight of choosing the president for the
entire country. It`s almost like battleground voters are one man, two
votes.

And of these critical states, those voices that are usually relegated
to the margins, people of color, the poor, the elderly, ex-felons, they
just don`t just matter, but they matter in ways that can decide the outcome
of the election -- which is why this next map is equally if not more
important than the electoral map in understanding what is at stake in 2012,
because this is how those voices in the margins could be silenced on
Election Day.

Look here. All of the states highlighted in green as impressive
number introduced legislation in 2011 that will restrict the access to
voting in this year`s presidential election, that`s 34 states introduced
photo ID laws, at least 12 states with the new legislation that would
require proof of citizenship to register or to vote, and at least 13 states
with the laws that would end Election Day and same-day voter registration,
and limit other registration efforts, nine states to introduced bills to
reduce the early voting periods and two states, Florida and Iowa, have
disenfranchised the majority of their citizens with past felony convictions
after previous legislation that attempted to restore those voting rights.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, those laws will
disproportionately impact low income and minority citizens and students,
all eligible voters who already face the biggest hurdles to voting.

And interestingly, all people who tend to vote Democratic, because
you see, this is a question of strategy, and what this isn`t is the new Jim
Crow, because the old Jim Crow, and the only Jim Crow, was about the
subrogation of black people under the system of white supremacy, black and
white -- voter suppression in 2012, whether it`s about purging thousands of
eligible voters from voting rolls or restricting voting rights -- is not so
much about black and white, it`s about two different colors: red and blue.
Rigging the system to take the meaning away from the majority.

Coming up, I`m going the tell you how voter suppression efforts have
gotten so ugly in one state that the Justice Department had to step in this
week -- the strategy of keeping you from voting is ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: In an effort to separate eligible from ineligible
voters, Florida`s division of elections identified more than 2,600 to purge
from the voting rolls. But according to an analysis by "The Miami Herald,"
the result is more likely to separate Latino and Democratic voters from
their voting rights.

"The Herald" reported that all of the names on Florida`s list --
Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are most likely to be
targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida`s
voting rolls. The list is filled with so many errors that already,
hundreds of U.S. citizens in Florida have received letters like the one of
one veteran.

According to "Think Progress," the 91-year-old World War II veteran
fought in the Battle of the Bulge and received a Bronze Star for bravery.
He`s voted for 14 years in Florida, but three weeks ago received a letter
from the Broward County saying, quote, "you are not a U.S. citizen."

So problematic were the tactic initiated by Florida`s Governor Rick
Scott that the Department of Justice on Thursday ordered his state`s
election division to stop its purge. State officials said they are
reviewing the letter.

Let`s bring in Myrna Perez, senior counsel for the Brennan Center for
Justice. And still with me at the table, Kenji Yoshino, Karen Finney and
Doug Brinkley.

Tell me! Like, I don`t believe in conspiracy theories. I said it at
the top of the show. But if I were, this one feels like it, this purging
and the voter ID laws in all of the states that we just saw.

MYRNA PEREZ, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: Well, we need to remember
this purge process, is being the context that it is in. First, we had
Florida enact a restrictive law trying to impose the restrictions on the
voter registration drives, making it hard for people to get on the rolls.

Then they reduced the early voting people making it hard for people
to actually vote. Then they rolled back the clock with respect to really
restoring the rights of people with criminal convictions. And now, they
are making it harder for people to stay on the rolls.

Fortunately, people are fighting back and succeeding. There was a
preliminary injunction late last week which enjoined much of the most
restrictive and most onerous parts of the Florida law restricting voter
registration drives and the Department of justice on that same day said
that we`re going to be watching the purge process. We expect you follow
the federal law.

So I think it`s important to remember while there are suppressive
tactics, we are seeing people push back against them. When the people push
back, they are having success. The people in Maine said we want our
Election Day registration put back; federal court and state court in
Wisconsin said, you know, we are not going to tolerate this voter ID law,
the Department of Justice has stepped in, in a number of states.

HARRIS-PERRY: But it does feel like it`s sort of like -- you can run
on the flat treadmill, right, and you know, maybe you can get up to what,
8:00 mile, right, and you can still do that if you push the incline up one,
two, three, but it gets harder and harder to maintain your speed the
farther up that incline goes. And it feel like each one of these little
restrictions and fewer than 600,000 votes in 2000, right, Florida. It
would not take much of an incline to get rid of the 600 votes at the
margin?

PEREZ: That`s certainly important, you now, these barriers at the
voting box compound on each other and they start becoming cumulative and
the you have one barrier that cuts out this segment and another barrier
that cuts out this segment, which is why it`s really important that voters
stand up for their right to vote and demand that institutions like the
Department of Justice, like supervisors of elections, you know, like
Congress, step in, and decide to make sure that our federal and voting
rights are protected, our federal state voting rights.

HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Karen, this isn`t new. I mean, I was in Ohio in
2004 and saw those lines, those sort of lines that many of us felt like
we`re imparted by decisions of people like Secretary of State Ken Blackwell
and others. I mean, just makes you recognize that voting, you know,
there`s voting restrictions, but there`s also voter technology. There`s
also, you know, how many machines there are to vote in each precinct.

How do we get to a place where we have uniformed voting technology
and uniformed voting conditioning for all Americans?

FINNEY: Well, supposedly, first in 1993, we had motor voter, which
is supposed to make it easier, and then we had halo, which is supposed to
address, you know, some of these problems. The problem becomes that at
each of these turns, traditionally it`s the GOP-led states where you see
it`s about where the machines go. It is restricting voter registration.
It is voter ID.

But these things are not new as you say. I mean, going back to the
`80s if not before, we have seen this. I mean, remember that back in the
Bush administration, Tim Griffin, a protege of Karl Rove was implicated in
a vote purging scandal -- you know, scheme from the 2004 election. Karl
Rove happens to be one of the biggest, you know, funders to the super PACs.

So, why are we surprised here again it is the same thing? Why we
don`t -- I think your point is well taken, but we really need an ongoing
national strategy. How did some of these voter ID laws even get passed in
the first place? Why weren`t we fighting them back harder when they were
proposed?

Why weren`t we fighting harder in Florida and in a lot of groups
doing a lot of great work, but it feels like the piecemeal, and then we
sort of get to the point where it`s May or June, and we realize now that we
are worried, oh, my God, people can`t vote and same-day registration, or my
gosh where with are the machines going to be. We start to deal with it as
it happen rather than having the forethought to get ahead of it.

HARRIS-PERRY: I worry about -- I mean, I both like the idea of, OK,
there are still people power, and so we can push back against this, and I
also think that the whole reason that these sorts of laws work is because
it`s the folks with the fewest resources in a variety of different kinds of
human and financial resources who are the most easily discouraged. And so,
now, we are saying not only do you have to do the work of voting, you now
also have do to all the work of having a social movement, right, to
maintain the voting rights.

It seems like we are asking some sorts of citizens to do much more
work to be citizens, and it always feels to me like this happens in part
because of the fundamental inequities in the system, including the
Electoral College, which means that some states just count more. Some
voters are just more important than other votes.

YOSHINO: And what is funny, and not funny, ha-ha funny, but funny
peculiar is that we did have the social movement, right? It was called the
social movement that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes, I remember that.

YOSHINO: I think what`s so frightening about all of this is that
like the last eyes to have looked on that movement and there is a Voorhees
line that says that the last eyes looked on Jesus Christ`s eyes closed
forever, right? And I think that we are looking at the last generation who
experienced that movement of equality in voting.

John Lewis I was recently speaking to, and he was leading the charge
on this -- the civil rights activist bloodied, you know, beaten to a pulp
on the Pettus Bridge, and that his activism led to the Voting Rights Act in
1965.

And one of the things that`s so striking to me is, from his point of
view -- I know that he`s been on this network to talk about this, is that
this is kind of deja vu all over again, that and his age, this is tragic
for him to be witnessing, and very soon fewer witnesses who have actively
participated in the first social movement.

HARRIS-PERRY: You know, Lewis and the Pettus Bridge is such a key
example and I want to ask you a little bit about this, because obviously,
it is his work, but my colleague writes that what happens is that we see
the Bloody Sunday happen as Americans and they write letters to LBJ and
they say we are not this kind of country. Whatever else we are, we are not
this, and that provides the president to make sort of moral capacity to go
out and make that stance in front of the joint sessions of Congress.

Part of what I`m shocked at is that this idea is just happening to
these people over here -- I want Republican voters outraged by this, sort
of no matter how you feel about who may or may not win as a result of this
-- I mean, the Republican voters and the Republican members of the House of
Representatives, and I want us to feel as a country like we are not the
kind of people who take, who purge veterans from voting rolls.

BRINKLEY: The media can play a role in this. When I worked on
"Cronkite," the big deal when the 1960s for Selma and Lewis was CBS went
from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, and they started covering Selma, Birmingham,
Montgomery. Dr. King was getting on the news broadcast into people`s
homes.

So, our conservation is great and cable needs to talk about this
issue, and we are doing more. There is a museum in Selma for Voting Rights
Act, and everybody should visit if you can, but people have forgotten about
that.

So, I think it`s -- this is bipartisan. Mayor Daley used to do some
cemetery votes. Jack Kennedy may not have been president if there wasn`t
for chicanery. Let`s just get one thing straight. Everybody has got to
register, fight right now to register. And then the Democratic Party in
places like Ohio cannot let 2004 happen again.

Bobby Kennedy, Jr., the best environmental lawyer for the last decade
wrote a piece in the "Rolling Stone" and people might want to pull it up of
what happened in Ohio in `04.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want to hold for a moment, I want to come right back
to you, as soon as we come back from the break, because I think there are
sort of real on the ground things we can do, and maybe we`re not John
Lewis. But there are real on the ground things we can do.

FINNEY: Ad there are things that John Lewis is doing.

HARRIS-PERRY: And there are things that John Lewis is doing to make
sure that we are protecting voting rights.

More on that when we come up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS-PERRY: We were talking about voting and the dream of one man,
one vote.

Still with me at the table: Myrna Perez, Kenji Yoshino , Karen Finney
and Doug Brinkley.

All right. Myrna, what are the real possibilities for how to impact
and fix these issues.

PEREZ: Well, I`m glad that people are invoking John Lewis, because
one of the things that John Lewis said was introduced a voter empowerment
act. And there`s a number of components of it. There is anti-suppression
component of it.

There`s anti-caging component of it. There`s a component that makes
it all, such that all people who are out of prison but have criminal
convictions are able to vote in the federal elections.

HARRIS-PERRY: I want the pause, because sometimes the voters -- I
was reading the Walter Cronkite trained himself to speak in 124 words per
minute, instead of his natural like 200 where people can hear it.

So, I just want to slow down a little bit here because -- tell people
what caging is. They don`t literally put voters in cages and tell them
what the (INAUDIBLE) piece is. Just a bit on that.

PEREZ: Sure. So, caging is the idea of taking a list and using that
list to either remove the people from the rolls or challenge the people to
vote on Election Day. We think that the origin comes from the old days
when they used to use mailboxes and they would literally look like cages
when some piece of mail would come back and it would be put in a particular
thing that looked like a cage.

But one of the really, really important aspects of the Voter
Empowerment Act is voter registration modernization. What it does is it
takes the responsibility of registering all eligible Americans and puts it
on the government and it includes lots of very commonsensical and
reasonable ways of making it easy for people to register to vote.

We use technology as opposed to this ramshackle paper system. I
think people would be really surprised.

HARRIS-PERRY: And puts it on the federal government, right, because,
you know, on the one hand like I want to say, oh, it is the mean and the
evil, bad Republicans which it is in certain ways. But it also the fact
that if states have to do the work of voting, of voter day, it`s expensive.

States are going broke -- states can`t get the, you know, the cities
can`t get the garbage picked up and the states are having trouble covering
the Medicaid rolls, they`re not going to make major investments in voter
technology, right? It`s going to have to come from the federal government?

FINNEY: Supposedly. But I mean, you know, where all that`s
happening, still, the state of Tennessee passed a voter ID law which is
expensive for the state. I mean, that`s the irony of the voter ID laws,
they are not -- I mean, they say that the IDs themselves are free to the
people, but we know that is not how it is working out and the states
themselves do incur a cost just to implement the laws.

So you would think again at the state level, they`d say, we`d love
the federal government to do it. There are even efforts, you know,
teachers -- why not let teachers who have high school seniors help their
kids to register to vote, can`t do that in Florida, can`t do that in a lot
of states.

HARRIS-PERRY: So, states actually are willing to pay a bit of a
self-tax in other words in order to suppress the vote?

FINNEY: Right. But the flip side then -- it`s oh, it is too
expensive and we can`t do it, and it`s the logistic. But it`s plenty easy
to suppress the vote it seems like.

PEREZ: Well, the best thing about the voter identification
modernization is that it actually uses technology that is available to try
and make things more efficient. So, like imagine that we were talking
about the explaining to the voters -- what happens on a normal scenario.

A person at the DMV needs to fill out a piece of paper. They need to
give that piece of paper to the person that works there. And then needs to
get sent to the election office -- someone needs to do the day entry. You
have so many pieces talking to each other.

If the computer systems just talk to each other such that it was
electronically transmitted, you know, you`d save so much money, it`s common
sense and makes the rolls cleaner, it puts people on the rolls, it makes --
there`d be less errors on the rolls and those are the things that we have
to be looking at that those kinds of investments are easy and we can use
the existing mechanisms and service delivery systems that we have at public
service agencies, at DMVs, with the selective service, to make it easier
for all eligible Americans to be on the rolls.

HARRRIS-PERRY: So, Kenji, I have a sort of incentive question here,
though, which is every person who currently holds office from dog catcher
to president, won that office under whatever the current rules are. So
does that mean there is a fundamental disincentive for elected officials at
whatever level to make changes that would, you know, broaden for example
the electorate, because after all, if they have made it to the office, they
have made it to the office under what these rules are?

YOSHINO: I guess so, although we could think about the changing
demographics of the electorate itself. The electorate actually isn`t the
stable entity that remains constant over time. I think one of the things
that happening with these voter suppression laws is the real fear that
America is becoming more and more diverse and people of racial minorities
or the national origin minorities tend to vote Democratic, and I think
that`s one of the reasons why we`re seeing this suppression.

And I guess I would also add to that just so that we don`t lose the
direct line between the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and today, you know,
that DOJ letter that Myrna was referencing earlier is a letter from the DOJ
saying that look, Florida has five counties covered under the voting rights
act and before those counties make any change in their voting practices,
they have to get preclearance from the federal government and that
preclearance was not obtain and therefore this voting purge is illegal.

(CROSSTALK)

HARRIS-PERRY: Looking at the Florida map of which counties are doing
sort of the most work in purging where we are expecting the largest voter
purges to occur, they are undoubtedly correlated as you said, with these
demographic changes. But this idea of preclearance of the federal
government does actually have a say over these former Confederate states
because of the behavior in the context of the Jim Crow system.

YOSHINO: Exactly, and so, going -- looping back to the original
question, what I would want to say is that one of the fascinating things
about don`t incumbents want to enforce the laws that would favor them, and
I actually feel like it has taken an incredibly long time for the
Democratic DOJ to actually enforce this law that has been on the books.
And one thing that is shocking about Florida, too, is that speaks to our
collective memory about the voting rights is that Florida I don`t think
even thought, I mean, I defer to Myrna on this, but I don`t think Florida
even thought that it needed to do this, you know?

PEREZ: I mean, what`s really important to remember is that the
voting rights act serves as an important bulwark against discrimination of
all kinds, in a bunch of different states. And Voting Rights Act is being
challenged. Its very constitutionality and particular provisions of it are
being challenged. And I think the wave of the suppressive laws that we
have seen across the country and the purging incident that happened were
evidence of the fact that the Voting Rights Act is still necessary and
critical.

HARRIS-PERRY: Doug, I`m going to give you the last word on this
topic. If we look at our historical sense of ourselves as Americans in
voting, is there a message that you think is useful that might even be
bipartisan that we can use?

BRINKLEY: We all have to be hawks on our voting rights. There are
always people willing to chip away at them. I have learned that everybody
should write a letter to Myrna, because she is on it and I`m very proud of
her.

But, you know, there`s something also very simple. Not just all this
technology and the laws and people get confused. We need to have easy
access to places to vote.

I live in Austin. I am surrounded by five options to where I can
vote, but in big cities sometimes and poor neighborhoods, people have the
go miles and it`s raining, it`s difficult. So we have to restore and focus
where people are going to vote in Ohio and have as many voting areas and
booths as possible.

HARRIS-PERRY: Doug, I am so sorry that you live in Austin, but, of
course, you used to live in New Orleans, which is a real place -- no I love
all my Austin bureau --

(LAUGHTER)

HARRIS-PERRY: In just a moment, we`ll take you to a community in
Brooklyn where women and girls are coming together to build themselves and
their community.

But first, it`s actually time for a preview with "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX
WITT."

ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: Yes, those are a nice save.

HARRIS-PERRY: We like Texas.

WITT: You did it.

Anyway, boy, one strange week in politics, everyone. In fact some
comments we heard may change the course of the election for the president
or Mitt Romney. We`re going to look at that in strategy talk.

And Massachusetts Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren fights back. She
defends her heritage. It`s a new interview you may not have heard.

A huge celebration in London for the queen. What connection does
Camelot have to do with today`s festivities? We`re going to explain all
that.

In office politics, the "Today" show`s Matt Lauer tells me how he
presses politicians for street answers even when they don`t want to give
any.

And this one is my favorite story of the day, new details on the
disappearance of Amelia Earhart, just remarkable information coming in.
Super cool if you like those kinds of mysteries. It`s a good one.

HARRIS-PERRY: Alex, did you find Amelia Earhart?

WITT: What?

HARRIS-PERRY: Did you find Amelia Earhart?

WITT: Oh, no. I wish. I`ve always been fascinated by that story.

HARRIS-PERRY: It would be pretty great. Thanks.

WITT: See you.

HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, how being a mentor to one teen is the first
step in changing a whole community.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Sometimes one person with a passion can impact an entire
community. Uraidah Hassani, the founder and director of the Women
Worldwide Initiative spends her Wednesdays at a high school in east New
York for one specific reason, to provide a safe space for teenage girls to
learn to vent and grow.

Her new Young Women Rock mentorship program cultivate sisterhood
bonds between mentors and young women in a neighborhood where more than 30
percent of the population lives below the poverty line and approximately
one in ten teens becomes pregnant. Because of her dedication and vision,
Uraidah is this week`s foot soldier, and we sent a camera out to Brooklyn
to see her in action. Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

URAIDAH HASSANI, WOMEN WORLDWIDE INITIATIVE: So everyone stand up
and get in a circle. We`re going to do a trust circle exercise.

My name is Uraidah Hassani, and I`m the founder and executive
director of the Women Worldwide Initiative. The Young Women Rock
mentorship program is dedicated to really strengthening the lives and
communities of young women in underserved neighborhoods.

Today, we are at watch high school in east New York. It`s actually
the neighborhood that has the highest percentage of its population living
below the poverty line out of Brooklyn and New York City as a whole. So,
Young Women Rock really provides a safe and stable and positive
relationship for them with people that they can open up to.

CHRISTINA GREEN, PARTICIPANT: The program keeps me sane. It`s good
to open up and talk. My mentor is Bianca. I love her, she`s the best.
She`s like a big sister.

HASSANI: Today`s session is on drugs and alcohol.

ROSHELL BURNETTE, MENTOR: I think that they`re benefitting from it
because we`re showing them that it`s positive examples, especially me who
comes out of the community and we can relate to them. A lot of the things
that we talk to them about, I actually went through it and didn`t have
anyone to go to, to talk to about it.

HASSANI: My close friends do drink alcohol.

We`re talking to these teenage girls about self-esteem and self-
confidence building. This idea of your personal identity and your self-
worth, the consequences of being sexually active and also the undeniable
pressure they will face at some point to engage in sexual activity.

ADRIENNE LYRIC, MENTOR: We`ve done a lot of different sessions on a
lot of different things. One was on food. We talked about better eating
habits and a lot of the girls have changed their eating habits and
incorporate vegetables and fruits in today`s diet. Some of them said they
never drank water. Now they`re starting to drink water.

HASSANI: The girls are slowly starting to understand their own
importance. It`s those moments where the girls feel self love that I feel
extraordinary and it`s actually a feeling that I can`t really describe.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS-PERRY: Uraidah has seen the power of mentors in creating the
light of self-love. And for that, she is this week`s "Foot Soldier".

That`s our show for today. Thank you to Myrna Perez, and Kenji
Yoshino, Karen Finney and Doug Brinkley for sticking around.

Thanks to you at home, in Texas, for watching. And I`ll see you
tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. eastern. Former Virginia Governor Doug
wilder is joining me.

Coming up next, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
END

Copyright 2012 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>


WATCH 'THE MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY SHOW' SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AT 10:00 A.M. ET ON MSNBC.