updated 7/11/2012 10:15:53 AM ET 2012-07-11T14:15:53

July 10, 2012

Guests: Sen. Sherrod Brown, Chrystia Freeland, John Blake, Chris Doherty,
Chris Doherty, John Blake, Andrew Kaczynski

MICHAEL SMERCONISH, HOST: Defining Romney before he defines himself.

Let`s play HARDBALL.

Good evening. I`m Michael Smerconish, in for Chris Matthews.

Leading off tonight: Richie Rich for president? If there`s one big
takeaway from President Obama`s big tax announcement it`s that he`s trying
to frame Mitt Romney as Richie Rich. The tax cut proposal itself is likely
to go nowhere, but throw in Romney`s tax cuts for the wealthy, his homes,
his Cadillacs, his "corporations are people" comment, and you can see the
strategy. Romney is for the rich, Obama defends the middle class. Whether
it works may determine who wins in November.

Also, "Dirty, Angry Money." Lost in the news about Republican fund-
raising is how much it might affect House and Senate races. Karl Rove`s
Crossroads GPS has just dumped a million dollars, and maybe much more, to
unseat Ohio`s Sherrod Brown, which would likely give the Republicans the
Senate. Sherrod Brown joins us tonight.

Plus, we`ve got some new poll numbers out from key swing states that
Mitt Romney has got to take if he`s going to win in November.

And what happened when the mayor of one city wanted to raise taxes and
the city council said no? The mayor busted city workers -- cops,
firefighters and other public employees -- to minimum wage. We`ll ask the
mayor how he defends that one.

Finally, did you ever want to rewrite history? Well, dozens of
members of Congress are doing just that, editing out embarrassing moments
from their Wikipedia pages. But Wikipedia is pushing back.

We begin with the Obama campaign`s attempt to paint Mitt Romney as
being for the rich. Howard Fineman is the editorial director of the
Huffington Post Media Group, Michael Steele was chairman of the Republican
Party. Both are MSNBC political analysts.

Gentlemen, I want to show you something that Vice President Biden --
he spoke to one of the largest Latino political organizations earlier today
-- what he had to say, a strong attack on Mitt Romney. Take a look.


was a candidate for president in 1968, his father released 12 years of tax
returns because he said, and I quote, "One year could be a fluke, perhaps
done for show," end of quote. That was his father.

His son has released only one year of his tax returns, making a lie of
the old adage, Like father, like son. He wants you to show your papers,
but he won`t show us his!


SMERCONISH: And of course, yesterday, the president also hit Romney.
He told a local New Hampshire station that Romney should be more open about
his finances.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it your belief that it`s unpatriotic for
someone to have a Swiss bank account?

what`s important if you are running for president is that the American
people know who you are, what you`ve done, and that you`re an open book.
And you know, that`s been true of every presidential candidate dating back
to Mr. Romney`s father.


SMERCONISH: And finally today, at a town hall in Colorado, Mitt
Romney was asked about the attacks coming from the Democrats.


to apologize for success at home and I`m not going to apologize for America


ROMNEY: I went out and began a business, and the business turned out
to be far more successful than I ever would imagine. We were able to
create jobs in our own little business, and some of the places that we
invested were able to create jobs, as well.


SMERCONISH: So Michael Steele, how does this all play? It occurs to
me that Americans do not resent wealth at the ballot box. If they did, JFK
would not have been elected. FDR would not have been elected. Michael
Bloomberg would not have been elected.

What`s the net-net?

net-net is the narrative, and the narrative is one that you see the Obama
team trying carve very carefully about Mitt Romney, and that is that he`s
out of touch. He`s disconnected from real people, everyday folks.

The pushback by the Romney people has got to be one where Romney
himself gets in there and clearly defines his wealth in the context of the
American dream, aspirations, You can do better tomorrow than you`re doing

And that`s the central battle that you`re seeing being drawn -- the
battle lines between drawn right now between these two campaigns, one --
both around definitions of Romney.

Interestingly enough, the Obama team are trying to define Obama, as
well, but with less success so far because the president`s record, while
mixed on the economy and other thing -- he`s got more places to pivot to,
whereas Romney`s central argument has been, I`ve created the jobs, I`ve
done the business of business, give me the chance to show you what I can
do. And that`s a tougher sell when you`re trying to battle the idea that
you`re just for the rich guy.

SMERCONISH: Howard, are there some perils here because it could get
depicted as class warfare?

Well, I think there are. I think if the president and his allies end up
looking like they resent wealthy people and they`re going after them just
for the fact that they`re rich, I think that could hurt the president with
some independent voters in swing states.

But I can assure you from talking to some people advising the
president`s campaign and Democrats on the Hill, they`re perfectly will be
to take that risk right now because they think they`ve got Mitt Romney if
not on the run, at least at a slow trot.

They don`t think that Mitt Romney`s going to be able to get from today
until November 6th without showing more of his tax returns. They think
that there`s got to be some things in those tax returns that candidate
Romney doesn`t want revealed. And if they can keep the press interested in
the story -- and that`s a big part of this -- then they think the pressure
will build.

SMERCONISH: Well, Democrats...

FINEMAN: And I think that`s a big challenge for them.

SMERCONISH: Let me show you both what Democratic strategist Joe
Trippi had to say. He said it`s the cumulative effect of these attacks
against Romney. He told Politico, quote, "On a 0 to 10 scale, you get a
bunch of 2s and 3s, but when people look at them and you combine the Swiss
bank account and a guy who wants to extend tax breaks on the wealthy, and
you start to get a 7. That`s the danger for the Romney people. It`s not
this issue by itself, it`s the combination."

Michael Steele, I think that`s the direction in which you were headed,
that the cumulative...

STEELE: Absolutely.

SMERCONISH: ... effect of this...

STEELE: Absolutely, Michael. It`s death by a thousand cuts. You
know, I could -- I could take you out with one blow, but then I create
sympathy in the electorate about how I come after you. We saw that in the
Republican primary, where the Romney team was so heavy-handed against Newt
Gingrich that there was a backlash to such heavy-handedness.

But this effort, death by a thousand cuts -- you`ve got a prick here,
a cut there, a slice there. It`s the slow bleed. And that creates the
overall impression, where people, instead of feeling sorry for you, then
ask, well, if you`re not responding, there must be something true about it.

And that`s why you`re seeing the pushback by a lot of conservatives
especially, but establishment types, as well, for the Romney team to push
back against this narrative about Bain, his tax returns and so forth, to
avoid -- to stem the flow of blood, if you will, from all those cuts that
are being accumulated.

SMERCONISH: Well, let me ask you this question. If you were still
running the RNC, would you be calling somebody and saying, Hey, bring forth
the tax returns? Is that one of the ways that you think the bleeding gets

STEELE: I think it`s one of the ways where you say, Look, if there`s
nothing there, there`s no there there, don`t create a there.


STEELE: In other words, put out as much information as you can. Even
if you don`t release 12 years` worth of tax returns, at least three, four,
five. You begin that drip back the other way. And it helps to offset some
of the noise and the bleeding, if you will, from the cuts that you`re

SMERCONISH: Howard Fineman, on the issue of the tax returns,
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz continued the Democratic attack
today on Mitt Romney, calling on him to release more years of the returns.
Here`s what she had to say.


We don`t know, I mean, because Mitt Romney has only released one year of
tax returns and an estimate of another year. Mitt Romney needs to come
clean and release, you know, multiple years of his tax returns so we can
see why he invested in a Bermuda corporation and transferred to it to his
wife`s name the day before he became governor of Massachusetts, so we can
see why he`s invested in Swiss bank accounts and accounts in the Cayman

Most folks that I know, they make their investments in a bank in
America. They keep that -- most American businessmen invest here. And if
you`re running for president, that certainly should be your commitment.


SMERCONISH: And yesterday, former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour
was asked about Romney`s tax returns. Here`s what he had to say.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes or no, tax returns -- should he return
-- release the tax returns?

BARBOUR: I would. But should it be an issue in the campaign? I
don`t think it amounts to diddly.


SMERCONISH: And finally, there was a very different take from Romney
surrogate Congressman Jason Chaffetz today. He was asked on CNN whether
Governor Romney should release more years of his returns, and he said this.


REP. JASON CHAFFETZ (R), UTAH: I think he has released the tax

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More of them. More of them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should he release them or not?

CHAFFETZ: No. No, I don`t. I think he -- he`s a very successful...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not, though? Why shouldn`t the American
people see those?

CHAFFETZ: He`s been very successful. He`s released everything that
he`s required to release, including paying more than 16 percent of his
income to charitable giving. So I think it`s a diversionary tactic. Most
people -- they don`t care about this! Governor Romney`s been very
successful. Get over it! It`s the reality.


SMERCONISH: All right, Howard Fineman, do most people care about this

FINEMAN: Well, I don`t think they care about this specific issue
obsessively. But as you`ve said and as Michael said, if you put the
secrecy of most of his financial transactions next to concerns about
outsourcing and offshoring that the Democrats have been poking around at,
next to their efforts to try to paint Mitt Romney into a corner on
defending tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, and if you sort of put the
aura of secrecy around the whole thing, then I do think you raise questions
about exactly what Mitt Romney`s up to, exactly what his agenda is, and
what his agenda would be for the presidency if he got it.

And that can put the -- and has put Mitt Romney on the defensive. The
president would much rather raise questions about what Mitt Romney`s real
intentions are should he be president...

SMERCONISH: You know...

FINEMAN: ... than to discuss the current economic condition. And by
the way, aside from the thousand cuts, we have not spent any time in this
segment, for example, talking about the rather bleak state of the American
economy. That`s what the Obama campaign wants, and in the last few days,
have succeeded.

SMERCONISH: Quick final comment from Michael. People watching might
say, Well, if this is such an effective narrative, why are we deadlocked at

STEELE: Well, that`s a very interesting question. The reality of it
is, people are right now at a point where they`re looking at both these
guys and they`re trying to assess whether or not they can continue with
what they know with Obama or do they take the chance with the businessman
who has a proven track record.

And that`s the real crux of the matter. I think Howard, though, makes
the final and most important point. It boils down to this economy...


STEELE: ... and how people equate, you know, the solutions on the
economy really will be determinative in terms of the outcome.

SMERCONISH: Thank you, both, Howard Fineman, Michael Steele, as

Coming up: "Dirty, Angry Money." Karl Rove just dumped a million
dollars into Ohio to unseat Sherrod Brown and give Republicans control of
the Senate. Senator Brown joins us next.

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


SMERCONISH: With four months to go before election day, we`ve got new
poll numbers in the presidential race. Let`s check the HARDBALL

According to a new "Washington Post"/ABC News poll, the race between
President Obama and Mitt Romney is tied 47 all. And a new Reuters/Ipsos
poll has Obama up 6, 49-43. We`ll have new poll numbers from some key
battleground states later in the program.

We`ll be right back.


SMERCONISH: Welcome back to HARDBALL. When it comes to "Dirty, Angry
Money," there are few senators who have had it thrown at them as
consistently as Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown. According to the
HuffingtonPost, outside conservative groups have given more money to defeat
Senator Brown than any other senator in the country this year.

Conservative groups have spent $10.5 million to date. That`s more
than four times the amount spent by outside liberal groups. The money is
mainly coming from so-called "social welfare" groups, which do not have to
disclose their donors. One major player is Crossroads GPS, which was
founded by Karl Rove. The group has spent $2.5 million on ads targeting
Brown, and they have a new million-dollar campaign launching today.

Why has Sherrod Brown become such a target? We`ll ask him. Senator
Brown joins us now in a HARDBALL "Dirty, Angry Money" segment.

Senator, why you?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Well, I think why me is because I`ve
been a strong progressive voice. I assume it`s oil companies spending
money in Ohio because of my opposition to tax breaks for the oil industry.
I assume it`s Wall Street banks because I want to end -- my legislation to
end "too big to fail," to really end "too big to fail." I assume it`s the
companies that want to outsource American jobs and benefit from that
outsourcing because of my Chinese currency jobs bill. I don`t know for
sure, but I think that`s what makes you a target in this business and...

SMERCONISH: Well, let`s underscore that point.

BROWN: You know, that`s the way it is.

SMERCONISH: Let`s underscore the point that you have to qualify this
by saying, "I assume, I assume, I assume" because there`s no disclosure
that`s required, at least at this stage.

BROWN: Yes, this is what`s -- it`s bad enough that billionaires and
huge corporations that have already too much power in our government, in
Congress, in the executive branch far too often, -- that they already have
that power, and then they can spend money without disclosure.

And that`s the importance of this whole citizens` movement. If you go
to SherrodBrown.com, you sign our petition -- we have more than 150,000
people already have signed up. This is going to take a citizens` movement
to take our democracy back because this money -- partly the Supreme Court
decision, partly the loopholes that were already there, when Exxon and the
big drug companies and Wall Street banks can have this kind of influence
with the electorate, not just with Congress. That`s why the citizens`
movement is so important.

So as I said earlier, SherrodBrown.com, sign our petition. It`ll help
us fight back. It`s one we`ve got to win.

SMERCONISH: Here`s what they`re doing with the money. This is an ad
that Crossroads is using against you. Let`s watch.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time to play who`s the biggest supporter of
the Obama agenda in Ohio? It`s Sherrod Brown! Brown backed Obama`s agenda
a whopping 95 percent of the time. He voted for budget-busting "Obama
care" that adds $700,000 to the deficit, for Obama`s $453 billion tax
increase and even supported cap-and-trade, which could have cost Ohio over
100,000 jobs.

Tell Sherrod Brown, for real job growth, stop spending and cut the


SMERCONISH: Senator, why are liberal groups being outflanked in this
regard, not keeping pace thus far with these sort of expenditures?

BROWN: Well, I think groups that are more progressive don`t have the
resources. I mean, keep in mind that when the oil industry spends that
kind of money, when their side wins, they get tax breaks, they get weaker
environmental laws, they get anti-labor legislation. So there`s real
incentive for the individual billionaires to get their taxes cut, so they

It really is an investment to them. They invest tens of millions and
get billions in tax breaks and in benefits from weaker environmental laws
and anti-labor legislation.

SMERCONISH: Might labor offset this? I ask the question because "The
Wall Street Journal" reported today that organized labor groups spend a lot
more money on politics than previous estimates would have you believe,
about four times more.

According to "The Journal," quote, "Previous estimates have focused on
labor unions` filings with the federal election officials, which chronicle
contributions made directly to federal candidates and union spending in
support of candidates for Congress and the White House. But unions spend
far more money on a wider range of political activities, including
supporting state and local candidates and deploying what has long been seen
the unions` most potent political weapon, persuading members to vote as
unions want them to. The result is that labor could be a stronger
counterweight than commonly realized to super-PACs that today raise
millions from wealthy donors in many cases to support Republican candidates
and causes."

Truth to that? Could labor be your saving grace, the saving grace of
Democrats being outspent?

BROWN: Well, labor matters. I`m a subscriber to "The Wall Street
Journal." I picked it up in my driveway in Ohio today. That article
caught my attention, of course.

Keep in mind, they said more money from labor than they thought there
was from labor. It`s not more money from labor than all the billionaires
combined, by a long shot. Labor plays a role, but labor can only compete a
dollar for every five or for every ten when you have the Koch brothers and
you have Adelson and you have Exxon and you have these big companies that
outsource them. And they`re -- they`re worth tens and tens and tens and
tens of billions. Labor can`t do anything like that.

Labor`s very good at talking to their members. And when you talk
about voting the way labor wants, it`s elected labor union leaders who are
setting the agenda for labor, just like people who vote for political

So labor can`t compete in this -- at this level. Labor is going to
help try to fight back against some of this, but, you know, you`re looking
at a bunch of people that are paying union dues of maybe $100 or $150 a
month or a couple hundred dollars, in most unions, not that much.

SMERCONISH: Understood.

BROWN: It`s not even a comparison.

"The Wall Street Journal," which is -- is a pretty conservative
newspaper, factually, they`re generally good, but a pretty conservative
newspaper, of course puts that on the front page. It was well-written. It
was well-researched. But there was some bias in that direction making it
look like they could compete on an evening playing field with the Koch
brothers, but they can`t.


SMERCONISH: Understood.

BROWN: Exactly.

SMERCONISH: Senator Brown, thank you very much for you time. We
appreciate it.

BROWN: My pleasure. Thanks very much.

SMERCONISH: We`re now joined by Chrystia Freeland, editor of Thomson
Reuters Digital.

Chrystia, a lot of attention recently, including here on HARDBALL in
the last couple of nights, talking about the fund-raising of the
presidential campaigns and how the Obama campaign is being out-fund-raised
in the last couple of months by those forces for Governor Romney.

I think the untold story until now is how this might impact
congressional, senatorial and House races like we just went through with
Senator Brown. Your thoughts?

you`re absolutely right.

Look, I think the story that we`re seeing is that the right, the
Republicans have more money. I think Senator Brown put it very well. If
you look at the economic map of America today, it`s the billionaires, it`s
the people at the top who are winning and who have the resources. And the
99 percent and their organized representatives like labor unions are not
doing so well in the economy today.

So the people with the resources, thanks to the Supreme Court
decision, have realized they have an unlimited ability to pour that money
into politics. We focus on the presidential race because it`s a single
very important race, but I think what we`re seeing is, in a way, a million
dollars, $5 million, you get more bang for your buck if you spend it in a
single senator race, and that`s what they`re doing.

SMERCONISH: Well, it`s conceivable -- it`s conceivable that
supporters of the president could wake up Wednesday morning having achieved
their goal of garnering his reelection and be shocked that the Senate has
changed hands because of that which we`re describing.

Let me show you something. The latest Quinnipiac poll from late June
has Sherrod Brown ahead of his opponent, Josh Mandel, by 16 points. And
Politico recently wrote -- quote -- "There isn`t a Senate candidate in the
country who has earned a more consistent string of lousy headlines than
Ohio`s Josh Mandel. Yet the 34-year-old Republican state treasurer
continues to defy political gravity, inching increasingly closer to
Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in polls despite repeated stumbles, the
cloud of a campaign finance investigation and a prickly relationship with
his home state press corps? So what gives? Behold the post-Citizens
United era of unlimited outside spending where even a blunder-prone
candidate can stay in the game if there is sustained firepower trained
against his opponents."

And to which I would add and the constituents, the voters wouldn`t
know where has this money even come from at the time they go out and they
cast their ballots.

FREELAND: Yes. I think that`s exactly right.

And what you`re seeing is sort of the imbalance of raising money
nationally, but being able to really focus it in a laser-like way on a
local race. And if you want to look at it from an investing perspective,
as some of those billionaire Republican donors like to do, in a way, your
political investment, you get more leverage for it if you focus on a local

I think we`re going to see a lot of that.

SMERCONISH: Chrystia Freeland, thanks for your commentary.

Up next, ever wonder what Mitt Romney talks about when he is forced to
make small talk? Well, stick around for the "Sideshow."

And remember, you can follow me on Twitter if you can spell

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


SMERCONISH: Back to HARDBALL. Time for the "Sideshow."

First off: time to mingle. Ever wonder what Mitt Romney is saying to
the other folks on stage before he gives a speech? How about when he`s
casually chatting with others from the political scene?

Well, Jimmy Fallon did some guessing.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hi. Welcome. Good to see you. Happy you`re


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: That`s quite a handshake. OK, you can let go of
my hand now. Please. OK. Let go of my hand. OK. And this is my friend,
Chris. Yes, good to see you.

OK, seriously, what`s with the handshakes? Sorry about that, Chris.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Hey, you guys want to play mini-golf after this?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, I`m down that, sure. Is there a putt-putt

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, there`s one downstairs.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Yes, yes, right next to Applebee`s.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Last time, I got three holes in ones, so I`m
pretty good. Is that how you say that, holes in ones? Anyway.

Hi, guys. How are you?


SMERCONISH: The real moments to watch will be when the general
election debates get under way. What will Obama and Romney say during that
initial handshake on stage?

Although in one pre-debate greeting from four years ago, we didn`t
have to do much guessing.



Hey, can I call you Joe?



SMERCONISH: The "Can I call you Joe?" moment. It`s tough to forget.

Next, when President Obama sat down with a local Las Vegas reporter
yesterday, the topic turned to baseball. That`s potentially dangerous
territory for Obama. Just weeks ago, he was booed by a crowd of Red Sox
fans after he mocked the Sox for trading a Boston hero, Kevin Youkilis, to
his favorite team, the hometown Chicago White Sox.

Let`s see how he fared this time around.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I were to loan you this to display here at the
White House, would you come to the right side on this whole...


will never go up in the White House.



OBAMA: But I am going to give you a chance to go ahead and promote
your team right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Well, we will take that.

OBAMA: Congratulations. We were talking about -- one of the biggest
stars right now in Washington Bryce Harper...


OBAMA: ... who comes out of -- comes out of Nevada and...


OBAMA: I know folks are really proud of him.


OBAMA: He`s doing great. And it`s my second favorite team now, after
the Chicago White Sox.



SMERCONISH: Playing it safe. Bryce Harper is now an outfielder with
the Washington Nationals and is on tonight`s National League All-Star team.

Next, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank got married to his
partner, Jim Ready, this past weekend. He met him at a political fund-
raiser back in 2005. It turns out that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made
her mark on the dance floor. And "The Baltimore Sun" got ahold of some
video. Cue the music.

"The New York Times" reported that she was dancing late into the
evening. The occasion makes Barney Frank the first member of Congress to
be in a same-sex marriage.

Finally, can whether or not you`re a smartphone user help predict who
you will vote for in the upcoming election? Not quite. But a new survey
points to a divide. Let`s go to the numbers. Of the iPhone and Android
and users polled, 49 percent say they planned to support President Obama,
only 31 percent for Mitt Romney.

With political ads potentially coming to a smartphone near you, the
campaigns might take note.

Up next, when the mayor wanted to raise taxes and the city council
said no, the mayor played hardball. And now city workers, including police
and firefighters, are all working for minimum wage.

That`s ahead. You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


"Market Wrap."

The Dow off 83 points, the S&P down 11 and the Nasdaq fell by 29.
Profit warnings hit equities today, including one from the engine maker
Cummins. It cuts its full-year forecast. Meanwhile, the chip maker -- and
we`re talking not potato chips -- Applied Materials said third-quarter
profits would be on the lower side of estimates. J.C. Penney cutting
another 350 jobs as it struggles to reorganize. It announced 600 job cuts
in April.

And Fitch is affirming the U.S.` AAA credit rating. What a difference
a summer makes.

That`s it from CNBC, first in business worldwide -- now back to


Outrage in a Pennsylvania city tonight, as Scranton Mayor Chris
Doherty slashed his own salary and that of other 400 or so city employees
to minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, because the city lacked the funds to pay
them full wages. Though he`s pledged to pay back what`s due to them, last
Friday`s paychecks went out to police, firefighters and other city
employees at slashed rates while the mayor and city council batting over
how to fund a nearly $17 million deficit.

Mayor Doherty wants to raise property taxes, while the council
refuses. Today, an attorney for three unions vowed to fight the mayor on
behalf of Scranton public employees.

Mayor Doherty is with me live tonight, along with state Senator John
Blake, who represents Scranton and the surrounding area.

Mayor, I read that Scranton had just $5,000 in its coffers last week.
How did this happen?

the budget shortfall set by our council, we have a $16 million shortfall.
And as anything else, as the mayor, I not only have to provide for
salaries, but I have to provide for health care, for the gas and diesel for
our trucks and for our landfills.

I have to do and take care of the whole city. Our employees are great
employees and they do an outstanding job. And I have to make sure that we
take care of the whole city. And we will get through this. But right now,
there is a shortfall. We have to keep working towards it and working
together as a community and we will get through this.

SMERCONISH: And folks outs of Scranton and outside of Pennsylvania
should know this is a battle among members of the same party. This is a
not a partisan battle. These are Democrats, right? The council is
Democratic and you`re a Democratic mayor?

DOHERTY: Absolutely.

And it`s really just -- I had sent a budget down that had raised taxes
about $130 a household, and that would have solved our problem. The
council looked at it in a different way. They wanted to borrow. But the
banks have said, if you want to borrow, you need to have a plan. And they
have been unwilling to come up with that plan. But we have to work
together to get through it, because our job as leaders is to solve this
problem and to provide for the citizens of our city and protect their

SMERCONISH: And let me just make clear, as I said, at the outset,
your intention is to pay the money back, meaning these folks took home
$7.25 an hour last Friday, and your desire long term is that they will be
compensated fully.

DOHERTY: Absolutely.

And we have -- and the unions have gone to court to make sure that
they will be paid in full. And we will honor the court`s position.
Michael, I don`t want to be in this position. I love my city. And we have
made great strides over the last 11 years. We`re doing extremely well in
every other facet.

And in this area, we have to keep working hard to get through this.
And I know if we work hard with the city council, we will get through this.
That`s our job as leaders.

Let me ask of Senator Blake what the impact is on the morale of those
city workers and what toll might this take in terms of the way in which
Scranton is perceived by outsiders?

SENATOR JOHN BLAKE, D- PENNSYLVANIA: Well, Michael, this is obviously
an affront to great people. Nobody wants to be in this position to make
this decision.

I don`t envy the mayor or council with the decisions they`re making.
But the fact of the matter is that the crisis that we`re dealing with is a
short-term fiscal crisis. And the ability to solve that short-term crisis
is certainly within the local governing body.

We at the sate level obviously are deeply concerned about how
outsiders see our state and how outsiders see my district and my most
important city. And we have a very proud legacy. And as I said, this is
just a short-term crisis. Nobody wants to be in this position. Nobody
wants to raise taxes unless absolutely necessary for public safety.

Nobody wants to be facing the fiscal constraint, but many of our
cities are facing this problem. Michael, you know, even in your City of
Brotherly Love years ago, it wasn`t too -- not too long ago when it was
facing some fiscal distress. It takes a while to work your way out of

We have 27 cities that have been designated fiscally distressed. And
there seems to be no exit from it because of the underlying structural
problems with that fiscal distress. And states should be a better partner
to make sure that we don`t face this kind of crisis as we`re facing here in
Scranton now.

SMERCONISH: Mayor Doherty, some would say that you`re committing
political suicide when you`re paying the city workers and yourself $7.25 an
hour. How does this play for you moving forward?

DOHERTY: Michael, I`m a private businessman. And I have grown up in
the city. And I love my city. And I have been elected three times as
mayor, but I have always told the people the truth up front.

And we have to be able to pay for our bills. And that`s what we have
to do here. We have to step up. And whether we have to raise taxes, this
isn`t the first time I have raised taxes in my career. I have done it
before and been reelected. But you have to tell people, here`s what our
costs are and here`s how we get through it, because we need the confidence
of the banking community.

And we have to be in it together. If you want services, you have to
pay for them. And I have been one who has fought for fiscal conservancy.
When I became mayor, there were 500 employees. Today, there are 400. We
have reduced our costs.

But, sometimes, you have to increase your revenues. And that`s what
we have to do now. And I want to bring people together to make that
happen. But, you know, sometimes, you have to make tough decisions. And
I`m not afraid to do it.

But, in this case, we have the stand together. This isn`t about
politics. This is about the city I love, the city where my children were
raised and where I grew up.

SMERCONISH: Senator...

DOHERTY: And our city is doing extremely well.

SMERCONISH: Senator Blake, what`s the vibe? If I were there on the
street with the two of you right now, if we were to walk down the street,
what are folks who live in Scranton and not directly tied to this, what are
they saying?

BLAKE: Well, listen, there`s a sense of frustration. It`s no different
than when they look at Washington and they see political gridlock. They`ll
look at the city and they say, why can`t you just get in a room and work it
out. These are complex issue. And they`re going to take a commitment of

And, again, you know, we in Pennsylvania, we pride ourselves on local
control. Local control means local responsibility. So in reality I think
what the people of the city of Scranton want is a solution that serves the
public interest and that solution is certainly something that`s achievable
in the short-term, then we can get to work on the longer term structural
problems, you know, that prevail upon our city, like the city of Scranton.
But people are, I think, they are a little frustrated. They want to see
some action.

SMERCONISH: We hope you get it fixed.

Thank you, Mayor Chris Doherty of Scranton --

DOHERTY: Thank you, Michael.

SMERCONISH: -- and Pennsylvania State Senator John Blake.

Up next, dozens of members of Congress are rewriting history by
editing out embarrassing chapters from their Wikipedia pages. That`s

This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.


SMERCONISH: We promised you new poll numbers from some key
battleground states. Let`s go back to the HARDBALL scoreboard, starting in
Virginia, where a new PPP poll shows President Obama with an eight-point
lead over Mitt Romney, 50 to 42. There are few ways for Romney to win if
he doesn`t win Virginia.

Next, North Carolina in a closer race. The new PPP poll shows Obama
with just a one-point lead.

Remember now, PPP is an automated poll that tends to lean Democratic.

We`ll be right back.


SMERCONISH: We`re back.

Remember when Florida Congressman Allen West said this?


REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLORIDA: I believe there`s about 78 to 81
members of the Democrat Party that are members of the communist party.


SMERCONISH: It looks like some in his office would rather you
forgot. A new report in "BuzzFeed" shows that members of the House of
Representatives and their offices, Allen West included, have been scrubbing
unflattering quotes from their members of Wikipedia pages, although
Wikipedia has since added the "communist" line back in.

Andrew Kaczynski is the reporter from "BuzzFeed" who broke the story.
He joins me now with MSNBC contributor and author of "My Father at 100,"
Ron Reagan.

Andrew, how do we know that the members of Congress or their staffs
are the ones who are making alterations to Wikipedia?

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, BUZZFEED: Well, basically, all members of Congress
share the same IP address, which for people that don`t know is a kind of
number that shows where your computer is located. And all the members of
the House of Representatives share the same number.

So, what I did was I searched this IP address in Wikipedia, and we
found that maybe there were 6,000 edits over the past few years and maybe
30, 40, 50 of them had been removing or adding flattering information about
members of Congress.

SMERCONISH: So, in the example we just offered, that somebody in
Allen West`s office would have been the one to remove the communist line
because you know the IP address that was utilized was in that building.


SMERCONISH: And who else would care but Allen West or his staff?

KACZYNSKI: Exactly. And some members of Congress, like Rep. Candice
Miller, for instance, she removed that she had been admonished by the House
Ethics Committee.

And we looked and we saw that, oh, there have been seven or eight
edits to Wikipedia, all about Candice Miller, adding information, deleting
information. And we came to the conclusion really that who else would be
adding this. I mean, why would Allen West`s office be editing --

SMERCONISH: Well, let me give you an example, Colorado Republican
Mike Coffman came under fire in May when he revived an old (AUDIO GAP).


REP. MIKE COFFMAN (R), COLORADO: I don`t know whether Barack Obama
was born in the United States or not. I don`t know that. But I do know
this, that in his heart, he`s not an American. He`s just not an American.


SMERCONISH: And let`s watch what happened when a local reporter
caught up with him.


REPORTER: After your comments about the president, do you feel
voters are owed a better explanation than just "I misspoke"?

COFFMAN: I think -- I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I

REPORTER: OK. And who were you apologizing to?

COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I

REPORTER: I apologize. You talk to you all the time, you`re a very
forthcoming guy. Who`s telling you not to talk and to handle it like this?

COFFMAN: I stand by my statement that I wrote, that you have, and I
misspoke and I apologize.

REPORTER: Is there anything I can ask you that you`ll answer

COFFMAN: You know, I stand by my statement that I misspoke and I


SMERCONISH: OK, Andrew, if I go to his Wikipedia page, what do I

KACZYNSKI: Well, you would have found that incident had been deleted
I think maybe a couple of days after it happened. Now, some other
Wikipedia editors might have gone and put it back in, but it`s pretty
apparent that a lot of these offices are very self-aware of what their
candidate`s gaffes are and they`re trying to take them out.

SMERCONISH: Hey, Ron (AUDIO GAP) understand why my sons truly are
not permitted to quote or cite Wikipedia in their school papers.

RON REAGAN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, indeed. I mean, anybody who is
looking to Wikipedia for history needs to know that might not be a real
history after all.

Now, we`re all shocked -- just shocked -- to hear that politicians
are behaving this way, burnishing their images on the one hand and deleting
embarrassing episodes from their carriers on the other. But I think we
could make a distinction here between congressmen -- if I read the
"BuzzFeed" piece correctly, that some of these congressmen appear to be
adding biographical details, sometimes at great length. And no doubt all
the good stuff, about how they scored touchdowns in high school and passed
this and that legislation.


REAGAN: The difference between that, it seems to me, and deleting
facts, you know, the reality of your career, Allen West and you know, some
of these other people, they`re really -- the irony for Allen West, too, is
he`s accusing people of being communist, somebody needs to acquaint him
with the term Stalinesque. Stalin was the one that used to airbrush people
out of -- out of photographs and things.


REAGAN: But this is all part of the mendacity, the culture of
mendacity in Washington. Listen, messing around with your Wikipedia page
is nothing compared to pretending that global warming is a massive, you
know, conspiratorial hoax so that Obama`s mandate to buy health insurance
is the largest tax increase ever in America. If you can say those sorts of
things, editing your Wikipedia page is small beer.

SMERCONISH: Andrew, here`s another example. This one is like the
Wikipedia version of de-friending.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid`s page had the entire section
titled "Relationship with Jack Abramoff and his firm" removed.

KACZYNSKI: Yes. That was actually a very lengthy section that had
been deleted. It could have probably been paraphrased a little better.
But, yes, that section had been deleted.

But I`m going to have to disagree with the point that adding
information isn`t as bad because the way I look at it is that if you are
reading what is supposed to be a nonpartisan or nonbiased article, Pepsi,
Coca-Cola, FOX News, NBC, you wouldn`t want something that to have been
written by the PR people or that organization.

Now maybe some of these people just adding what committees they were
on or how they voted on certain issue and -- I really don`t see an issue
with that. But I feel like when they add large sets of biographical
information, these are things that should be monitored a little more

SMERCONISH: Well, shouldn`t the standard be, is it true? If it is
true then, it should be there.

KACZYNSKI: I think that -- yes. I think that`s a good standard but
you also think that -- yes, it should be looked at a little bit more

SMERCONISH: Ron, let me show you one more if I might. As part of
"Politico`s" "Get to Know a Congressman" series, Greg Harper, Republican
from Mississippi, was asked about a group that advocates for hunters and
fishermen in Congress. "Politico" asked, what in the world does the
Congressional Sportsmen`s Caucus do? And Harper answered, quote, "We hunt
liberal, tree-hugging Democrats, although it does seem like a waste of good

Actually, Andrew, let me just confirm with you -- scrub from
Wikipedia, right?

KACZYNSKI: That was scrubbed from Wikipedia.

SMERCONISH: OK. Ron Reagan, another example of what we are talking

REAGAN: Yes. Another example of a congressman saying something
that`s really stupid. You just don`t want that out there in public,
because who says things like that, particularly if you are running for
office? So, of course, you scrub it out of your Wikipedia page. Again,
this is -- I would be interested if Andrew knew if, you know, if -- you
know, in terms of party, things broke down one way or the other, in terms
of adding biographical detail versus removing facts from your resume.

SMERCONISH: Andrew, what`s the short answer to that? What
differences, if any, did you discern between R`s and D`s who are involved
in this?

KACZYNSKI: Actually, it was kind of interesting. We found -- we
didn`t publish the Senate list. We only did the House of Representatives
list first. It was really odd. The House list, we found that it was
mostly Republicans who were doing it. There were maybe 10 or so Democrats.

With the Senate, I was finding it was actually Democrats, not
Republicans who were editing. It was kind of Senate Democrats were
editing. The House Republicans were editing.

SMERCONISH: Interesting. So, I take it there`s more to come in this

KACZYNSKI: Yes. Definitely.

SMERCONISH: Gentlemen, thank you for an interesting segment. Can`t
wait to talk to my kids` teachers and tell them now I understand.

Andrew Kaczynski and Ron Reagan, we appreciate it.

When we return, allow me to finish with a new assault on the right on
privacy. If you got a cell phone, you need to hear this.

You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.


SMERCONISH: Let me finish tonight with this. Yesterday, "The New
York Times" reported that the use of cell phone tracking data by law
enforcement is skyrocketing. The situation raises interesting privacy

In response to a request from Congressman Edward Markey, cell phone
carriers just revealed having responded to 1.3 million demands for
subscriber information last year from law enforcement agencies they were
seeking text messages, caller locations and other information in the course
of investigations.

The requests came from law enforcement on a local, state and federal
level. The law is still struggling to catch up with this area of cell
phone surveillance. The issue is how to balance law enforcement needs with
privacy concerns.

As "The Times" pointed out, under federal law, the carriers said they
generally required a search warrant, a court order, or formal subpoena to
release information about a subscriber. But in cases that law enforcement
officials deem an emergency, a less formal request is often enough.
Moreover, rapid technological changes in cell phones have blurred the lines
on what`s legally required to get data, particularly the use of GPS systems
to identify the location of phones.

In a world where virtually everyone walks around with a cell phone,
the ability to track users has become an invaluable tool for police. The
question is whether privacy rights of mobile customers are being

The carriers report that sometimes what was described as a true
emergency was not the case.

And what about the cell phone`s GPS technology? Recall that six
months ago, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court ruled that police
violated the Constitution when they attached a GPS tracker to a suspected
drug dealer`s car without a valid search warrant. That would seem to
underscore the need for warrants to always be obtained before phones are

We want law enforcement to con to solve kidnappings, prevent
suicides, respond to shootings, in cases of missing people, as well as
other emergencies. But Congress needs to ensure that there are legal
protections in place for customers` privacy and that the mobile industry is
in compliance before surrendering such information.

One final thought. It comes from Steve from the Midwest who posted
this comment to "The Times" coverage of the cell phone privacy matter. He
wrote, "The only private communications that exists is the U.S. Postal
Service. Nobody will read your letters and you can say anything you like
without in computer program picking out key words to flag in a database of
suspicious wording. When Congress kills USPS, our last personal and
private means of communication is gone."

To which I would: everything old is new again.

That`s HARDBALL for now. Thanks for being with us.

"POLITICS NATION" with Al Sharpton starts right now.



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