'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Monday, July 16, 2012
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Guests: Steve Engelberg, Jon Tester
ED SCHULTZ, "THE ED SHOW" HOST: Thank you for joining us on "THE ED
That`s "THE ED SHOW," I`m Ed Schultz.
THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW starts right now.
Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Good evening, Ed. Thank you, my friend.
SCHULTZ: You bet.
MADDOW: And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next
Tonight, President Obama is watching the U.S. Olympic basketball
teams. Both the men`s team and the women`s team play exhibition games
against the basketball teams from Brazil. Sort of a warm-up for the
The president obviously is a big basketball fan. He`s got a big night
out with the vice president there.
You know, it`s kind of nice. A campaign is firing on all cylinders at
this point. The president was campaigning today in Ohio. Mitt Romney is
raising money at a country club in Jackson, Mississippi, tonight.
These guys are campaigning full speed. The campaign is actually sort
of happening at a pace it`s never really happened at before. Now, the
toughest pace it`s ever been.
But these guys are also taking time to relax. Mr. Romney took the
weekend off with his family at their big lake house in New Hampshire again.
He drove around very fast on his large speed boat.
And President Obama tonight watching hoops.
Now, this is not a qualifying match for the Olympics or anything.
Those have already happened. This is just an exhibition game. They play
these exhibition games before the Olympics.
But you know, it`s interesting, before the last Summer Olympics in
Beijing in 2008, the U.S. men`s basketball team before those games, they
prepositioned themselves before Beijing. They prepositioned themselves
close to Beijing but not in Beijing. In order to acclimate themselves to
what it was going to be like to play in the Olympics, the U.S. men`s team
before the games moved themselves to Macau, which is this tiny little
peninsula island thingy off the coast of China, about three hours from
Specifically they moved there for the bad weather. Quoting from news
reports at the time, Macau is mostly hot and humid and often blanketed by
thick smog. Exactly what competitors are expecting in Beijing.
So, the U.S. men`s basketball team was there before the Beijing Games,
almost the whole British Olympic team was there. Brazil was there.
Mozambique was there. Argentina was there. All these countries sent their
athletes, their Olympic athletes to Macau in advance to get used to how
disgusting it would feel to play in Beijing.
China is of course the largest country on earth by population. That`s
our population and theirs. China has 1.34 billion people. You could
subtract our entire population from their population and they would still
be over a billion people. China is just massive.
And inside the enormous nation of China, there were until really
recently two European colonies. Hong Kong, obviously, the highest profile
one. Hong Kong was a British colony in China until 1997. In 1997, Hong
Kong was handed over from British control to Chinese control with great
When Hong Kong got handed over, though, there still was one other
European colony left in China. One owned by Portugal of all places. Two
years after the British handed Hong Kong over to the Chinese, Portugal
handed over control of its colony in China, which is this little place
And while Macau`s weather and its air quality and to be frank, its
scenery are really nothing to write home about, Macau does have one
absolutely untouchable greatest in the world mega asset. Gambling.
Gambling is legal in Macau, and gambling is illegal in mainland China. And
there are so many people in China that if you can funnel all of them who
want to gamble into one nearby place, well, then that place is -- well,
it`s the gambling capital of the world.
Even though it seems like Macau is sort of out in the middle of
nowhere, it is within a 90-minute journey for 200 million Chinese people
who can gamble there and nowhere else. And if you think that people will
travel even more than 90 minutes to get to the only place they can gamble,
well, then the numbers are even more staggering.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within a five-hour flight of Las Vegas, there are
approximately half a billion people. Take that same flight circle, move it
to Macau and there are 3.1 billion people. That`s the enormity of the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: You can tell it from his use of the word opportunity there
that that is obviously one of the guys who`s making money off of the
gambling capital of the world. But he has an American accent, right? So,
how was that possible?
Well, in 1999, when China got control of Macau, after had it been run
by Portugal since the 1500s, when China took it over, they did not try to
ban gambling, but instead of all of the gambling concerns on Macau being
run by this random guy who essentially had a monopoly on the casinos and
businesses there, the Chinese decided instead they were going to open their
gambling capital of the world to foreign developers, namely to Vegas
developers, to two developers from Las Vegas. That was in 1999.
Within five years of that decision, Macau`s first Vegas casino had its
grand opening. This one right here called The Sands in Macau. Here`s what
it looked like when it opened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: When Sands of Las Vegas opened its doors last year in
Macau, they were deluged with customers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Somebody was describing that tape to me before I saw it, and
they`re like, it`s a really big crowd. And I was like, let me -- let me
see to make sure it looks really big, I`m not sure -- oh, my gosh.
The casino isn`t even that spectacular of a casino, but as you can
tell you from the crowds on opening day, it did the trick. Within two
years, that same Vegas developer, just two years later, naturally, opened
up another casino in Macau.
Here`s what it looked like back in 2005, right? Just a couple cranes
in the middle of an empty lot. Here`s what that same spot looks like right
now. Aha, the Venetian Macau.
When that casino opened, it was the second largest building in the
entire world by floor space. That opened in August 2007. August 2007.
One year later, world financial collapse. That Vegas developer had
taken on a huge amount of debt to be able to open up those two casinos one
right after the other, including the second largest building in the entire
world. They`d taken on this huge amount of debt for Macau and for other
things going on in the company.
And when the economy and the financial system collapsed in 2008, a lot
of their revenue which came substantially from Las Vegas dried up. They
had dipped in their revenue. But they had taken on all these long term
debt. They`re faced with not being able to pay the bills on all of their
long term that they`d taken.
They were in a rather desperate state as a company -- so desperate
that the owner of the company wrote a pair of personal checks to his
company for a billion dollars -- billion with a B -- because he had been a
casino mogul long enough that he had a billion dollars laying around and he
could do that. But he had to loan his own company a billion dollars out of
his personal funds and even that wasn`t enough.
The company decided it was maybe going to have to break apart some of
its properties in Macau, sell some of them off to make cash. They started
looking into that. They started looking into maybe doing an IPO, an
initial public offering in China, taking the company public in China to
raise billions of dollars in cash on the Hong Kong stock exchange.
But if they wanted to do these things which they desperately needed to
do in order to raise some cash, if they wanted to do those things with the
assets in China/Portugal/the place where the basketball players go to get
used to the smog, if they wanted to do this stuff in Macau, they were going
to need some help in the policy department. They were going to need help
in terms of dealing with local government in Macau and the government in
China and permissions and regulations and, and, and.
Part of this Las Vegas company`s solution was to hire this guy. He`s
a legislator in Macau, public official. He`s on a kind of government
executive board that runs Macau`s affairs and he`s on another government
body that advises mainland China on how to deal with Macau.
So, he`s a public official three times over. He`s got three very
important government positions.
And this American company needs a whole bunch of very important
government decisions to go its way in order to save its bacon. So they
hire this guy, they hire this local public official to do some legal work.
To do some very, very, very expensive legal work. They hire this guy`s law
firm, and they pay the law firm $700,000 over four months for lawyering,
for doing legal stuff.
Just for context, this same Las Vegas company had a big, very
expensive, super fancy New York City law firm on retainer as well. They
paid this guy in Macau, three times what they were paying their whole New
York law firm.
If you`re an American company, there`s something called the Foreign
Corrupt Practices Act. Thank you, Jimmy Carter. That law says in short,
you can`t bribe people in foreign countries to get your way. You cannot
bribe local officials in foreign countries if you are an American business.
If you`re an American company, you can`t do it.
That doesn`t mean you can`t work with local elected officials in some
kosher way, but it`s got to be kosher. And I`m not a lawyer, but I`m going
to go out on a limb and say some local official you want to help you out
with policy matters can`t just bill your -- look at this -- can`t just bill
your firm $200,000 for a line item that is just labeled expenses in
But that`s the kind of relationship this Las Vegas company apparently
had with this local official who proved very helpful to them in getting
done what they needed done in some very desperate times for that company.
The only problem was that it looked super illegal. At least that was the
assessment of this Las Vegas company`s lawyers when they looked into it.
Quote, "I understand that what they are seeking is approximately
$700,000. If correct, that would require a lot of explaining given what
our other firms are charging and given the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act."
The same company lawyer said in another e-mail, quote, "I continue to
believe this proposal to be inappropriate, unrealistic, extraordinarily
expensive, and way above market." That was the top lawyer, the general
counsel of this company, this Las Vegas company. And at that point, he`s
writing to the CEO of the company, the CEO of the company agreed with his
reasoning seemingly and said that he would get rid of the local lawyer guy
in Macau, to whom they were paying these huge, seemingly dodgy, possible
Ultimately, after repeatedly expressing his opposition to those
payments to this guy and stressing that they were going to have problems
with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act if they did pay this guy, that
general counsel, the top lawyer resigned. The CEO of the company got
fired. The head lawyer of the firm working in Macau also raised objections
to this arrangement and also got himself fired.
But it worked. The company dot got to do their public offering on the
Hong Kong stock market. They raised a bunch of money. They survived the
downturn in the economy. Vegas is back, their properties in Singapore
happen to be doing very well, and Macau, their see it from space temple of
one armed banditry in the gambling capital of the world, the smog-choked
Chinese armpit that is Macau not only survived but is separating lux
starved saps from their money faster than the speed of math.
It was a very big bet, but it looks like it paid off. It worked.
Maybe. Unless they get nailed for it.
"ProPublica" and PBS "Frontline" are out with a blockbuster report
about how the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of
Justice are now investigating this American company for what this raft of
internal e-mails seems to show them fighting about internally and then
doing it anyway. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act be damned.
The guy who runs and owns the company in this mess is the guy who is
essentially bankrolling the entire U.S. election this year, the single
largest Republican donor in this election, the single largest American
political donor of all time. A man who said he would give $100 million
this year to defeat President Obama, to elect Mitt Romney, who now says
that actually the amount he could give this year should be seen as
That is Sheldon Adelson, the guy at the heart of the mess in Macau.
It`s his company, and the federal investigation into it. That`s the guy
named in the e-mails as directing the payments despite what his own
executives were being told about the payments possibly breaking the law.
If you were that guy and that was your multibillion dollar casino in
the gambling capital of the world, 90 minutes away from 200 million Chinese
people who can`t gamble anywhere else, how much would it be worth to you to
get a brand new Justice Department installed in Washington? How much would
you spend on that?
Joining us now is Steve Engelberg, managing editor of the independent
investigative newsroom at "ProPublica."
Mr. Engelberg, thank you for being here tonight.
STEVE ENGELBERG, PROPUBLICA MANAGING EDITOR: Good evening.
MADDOW: Your investigation very thoroughly details the transactions
in Macau that ultimately benefited Sheldon Adelson. In me recounting them
and describing them, did I get anything wrong?
ENGELBERG: It`s pretty close. Pretty close.
MADDOW: OK. What did I mess up?
ENGELBERG: I think just to be clear -- you know, what actually
happened here is there were several aspects of things that connect other
things. For example, in this IPO, the key issue was they wanted to have
retained a ferry concession. You know, the ferry boat delivers the
gamblers, as you point out, 90 minutes, right to the doorstep of the
Somebody else wanted it and it went to court in Macau and they were
losing time and time again. They lost at the first level, the second
level, the third level. They were clearly going to lose again when the
gentleman who was in charge of Macau, the chief executive, a man who worked
closely with Leonel Alves, issued a degree saying, no, Macau, that`s not
going to happen. Las Vegas Sand is going to keep their concession.
So, that was very, very crucial because the people who were going to
invest in the company wanted to make sure the gamblers were brought to the
And, you know, I think ultimately, the Justice Department
investigators are going to have to figure out what all that adds up to.
MADDOW: When Foreign Corrupt Practices Act potential violations are
investigated, does the -- do the U.S. investigators look at what`s
happening in that foreign country to say it looks like that decision is a
product of a bribe, or it looks like that shouldn`t be trusted. Maybe it
could be explained by misbehavior from an American company?
ENGELBERG: Sure. I mean, they`re going to look at a couple of
different things. I mean, they`re going to look at, first of all -- was a
public official paid money? Clearly, this gentleman is a public official.
Did he potentially effect the decision? I mean, what you can`t do is pay
money to gain something in business. You can`t, you know, get a contract
or get something special out of a government.
And so the question they`re going to have to look at I think pretty
closely is what happened? And you know, through the work of two very fine
reporters I work with, Lowell Bergman (ph) and Matt Isaacs (ph) who worked
at the University of California`s investigative reporting program, they
obtained a number of e-mails which are on our Web site, ProPublica.org,
And I think people should look and see what the e-mails say, because
they give us a piece of the picture. And you can clearly see they were
leaning on this gentleman, Alves, to try to get them some help, and he got
MADDOW: Now, you don`t in the piece disclose from whom you got these
internal e-mails, but you do say they were received from people who are
authorized to get them in the first place. Obviously, in the course of
telling the story, you talk about a number of very high level executives at
the company who resigned or were fired under circumstances that seemed
connected to some of these deals that are now being investigated.
Is it possible that they are just trying to make Sheldon Adelson look
bad because they`re disgruntled or they`re going to be suing him for
wrongful termination or some other beef they have with him?
ENGELBERG: Well, of course, I couldn`t discuss our sources. I would
have to shoot you and me.
But you know, I think the e-mails speak for themselves. They`re
pretty clear. I mean, they tell a story. And we have on the record the
former president of the company, a man who also had a very little dispute
with Mr. Adelson, who said, we knew you couldn`t really do business in
Macau without getting in with pretty dodgy characters. Macau is a place
where Chinese organized crime has existed for decades and decades. The
casinos are linked to China`s organized crime. You can`t get into Macau
and have this kind of success without edging close to people who are pretty
On top of that, it`s a very insular political system. As we document
in the piece, and this again comes from a memo written by a member of the
board of directors of this company, Mr. Adelson had a rather sort of
unusual personal style. He went to China and so the memo says, slammed his
fist on the table, demanded things, and the Chinese were very unhappy with
this. And so, he didn`t have a lot of friends. When they were in deep
trouble in 2008, they didn`t have a front, who more perfect than Mr. Alves
who is a Portuguese speaker, who also speaks Chinese, a man the Chinese
trusted to help with the hand over, a bicultural, bilingual, you know, man
with three different jobs.
He filled a crucial role for the company at an absolutely critical
moment. And you can`t underestimate how seriously in trouble these guys
were. I mean, the stock, and this is kind of ironic, others have pointed
this out, the stock of the Sands was so far down, you know, it has come up
something like 3,000 percent since they saved the day. No man has become
more wealthy under the Obama administration than Sheldon Adelson which he
says is a socialist administration. So, it`s kind of interesting. But
he`s doing OK.
MADDOW: And he has presumably a huge amount to lose if this, these
investigations of him went as strongly against him as they might.
ENGELBERG: Right. And there`s something interesting here. These
investigations come up from time to time, and in general, corporations
insulate themselves. They have all kinds of people who protect the CEO
from being anywhere near this.
Sheldon Adelson, this is a Fortune 500 company, but it`s his company.
He owns a majority of the stock, he runs it. What these e-mails show is he
has his hands on many, many aspects of it.
So, he`s right in the middle of all this. That`s unusual. You don`t
see that very often.
So, he obviously faces potentially, you know, the investigators are
going to have to look at his actions in the context of everything we`re
MADDOW: Steve Engelberg, managing editor of |ProPublica" -- this is a
fascinating piece. I`m sure it took a lot of -- it took a lot of
investment to get the resources necessary to do this. Thanks for helping
us understand it. Appreciate it.
ENGELBERG: Thank you.
MADDOW: All right, a number tonight, a data point about American
politics that will amaze you. It is about you and what you`re not doing in
Plus, we`ve got a best new thing in the world today, now with more
heartwarming cheating than ever before. Please stay with us.
MADDOW: Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican presidential primary is
over, just ended. The very last state wide nominating event happened this
weekend in Nebraska. It was a Nebraska state Republican Party convention
by which they chose their delegates to the National Republican Convention
next month in Tampa.
See, back when everybody was paying attention, back when people were
voting in caucuses or primaries, back when most Tuesday nights around were
punctuated with this.
MADDOW: Back when people were voting and what we think of as the
primary season, a candidate named Ron Paul never won any of those contests.
He didn`t win any of them, but his campaign had another strategy,
specifically designed for the time that came later. The time when people
would not be paying as much attention and there would be no fancy election
The Ron Paul strategy was even though he might not be able to win on
what everyone thought of as election night in all of these states, his
supporters would plan to later on pack the boring day long county and state
level party conventions in order to get themselves elected as delegates to
the big national convention in Tampa. That was how he won Iowa this year.
He didn`t win on caucus night, but he won the delegates from Iowa,
months later while nobody notices. Same goes for Maine and for Minnesota
and for Louisiana. A total of four states where Ron Paul didn`t seem like
he won the state, but he did get a plurality of the delegates.
According to the Republican Party rules, it`s the delegates that
matter. You only need a plurality of delegates in five states to be
submitted as a candidate for the nomination at the national convention.
Getting nominated for president at the national convention, that may not be
the whole enchilada, but it`s a tasty flauta.
I mean, it would mean that Mitt Romney`s nomination would be
contested. There would have to be dueling speeches by the two candidates,
by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. And all of those many Ron Paul delegates who
have fought their way to Tampa by hook or by crook would have a big high
profile Ron Paul for president thing to do at that convention, inside what
was supposed to be the rah-rah Mitt Romney national convention/coronation.
And as we have been reporting for a couple of weeks now, that dream
has been energizing Ron Paul supporters, right down to their last chance.
The last state to award those golden tickets to Tampa, the last chance to
get their fifth state, to fulfill the fever dream of a chance to take over
at the national convention.
Here we have a little video, I think, of some of the supporters
getting psyched up the night before the Nebraska convention, getting
psyched up by the voice of Congressman Paul via conference call in a way
that appears to be emanating from speakers in an open car trunk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RON PAUL (R), TEXAS: If you look at what we believe in and what
the Republicans profess to believe in, we`re more Republican than the rest
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: And they all cheer at the car trunk. I like Ron Paul
supporters and the way they`re so excited.
The Ron Paul campaign was really excited going into the weekend in
Nebraska. And frankly, that also got the Mitt Romney campaign excited --
got them excited enough to send their own big guns to the Nebraska state
convention this weekend. To Nebraska this weekend, the Romney campaign
dispatched the campaign`s chief counsel, top lawyer Ben Ginsberg, best
known as one of the lawyers representing George W. Bush in the Florida
recount in 2000.
Now, this is not the first time Ben Ginsberg has been dispatched to a
party convention by the Romney folks, but we have noticed whenever his name
comes up in the news reports about those otherwise little noticed state
conventions, it`s invariably in connection with efforts to wrangle Ron Paul
supporters -- wrangle Ron Paul supporters who are trying to take over the
state and delegates for themselves.
For whatever reason, this weekend, the Romney campaign sent its top
lawyer to the Nebraska Republican convention. When the two sides squared
off in Nebraska this weekend, what happened?
The Ron Paul folks -- very excited for their last chance to be the
camel`s libertarian nose wiggling its way the to the mainstream Republican
tent, and the Romney campaign dispatching their top staff to hold the tent
firmly in place, to keep the camel out. What happened this weekend in
The camel got "smoked", and that`s a quote from the "Omaha World
Herald" who described the Ron Paul revolution as failing to materialize
this weekend in Nebraska. Quote, "In the end, the Paul revolution in
Nebraska got smoked. Ron Paul won two of the state Republican Party`s 35
national convention delegates. Mr. Romney, the party`s presumptive
nominee, won the rest."
Two delegates and that was Ron Paul`s last chance to win a plurality
in a fifth state. His last chance to be put up for nominee for president
But the dream will never die? I`m sure many other Ron Paul related
dreams will never die. But this one is dead. Let`s call it dead.
MADDOW: If you don`t already, you should like Maurice Cheeks.
Maurice Cheeks was a really good basketball player in the 1980s, and then
he was a head coach in the NBA and now he`s an assistant coach.
The reason to like Maurice cheeks has really nothing to do with
basketball. It has to do with the national anthem.
In 2003, a girl named Natalie Gilbert won a contest and got the chance
to sing the national anthem before an NBA playoff game that Maurice Cheeks
was about to coach for the Portland Trailblazers. And poor Natalie Gilbert
started off OK, but then completely forgot the words.
Out there in front of thousands of people in front of millions on
television, she just forgot. Everybody`s horrible anxiety dream, happening
to a kid not old enough to drive a car.
So what did coach Maurice Cheeks do? He helped. He walked right over
and sang the song with Natalie Gilbert -- a move that inspired everybody in
the arena to sing their guts out right along with her, too.
By the end, what began as a personal nightmare turned into a rousing
rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner". Hooray! And hooray for Maurice
Cheeks forever for that one.
And tonight`s best new thing in the world is in the spirit of Maurice
Cheeks sort of, but it involved cheating, but you don`t have to feel bad
about the cheating. It`s great and it`s coming up at the end of the show.
MADDOW: If there are any liberals watching this program, I don`t mean
to presume, but if there are any liberals out there, hello, I have good
news for you. Generally speaking, of course, liberals do not like the
super PAC, post-Citizens United political rules of the road, billionaires
and corporations spending unlimited amounts on elections and us not even
knowing who they are.
However, those are the rules by which this year`s road race will be
run and the short term good news for liberals in today`s news is that
liberal zillionaires, liberal fat cats are finally starting to give money
where it counts. Lefty cats who are fat are finally giving money to super
PACs this year.
Over the past three months, so April, May, and June, over that time
period, the Democratic leaning American bridge 21st century PAC, brought in
a whopping $4.1 million. These numbers reported by "Politico" and "Mother
More? House Majority PAC spends its money getting Democrats into
Congress, into the House of Representatives, they got 4.3 million bucks in
the last three months. And House Majority PAC is dwarfed by plain old
Majority PAC, which tries to put Democrats into the Senate majority -- in
the Senate, Majority PAC brought in $5.4 million over the last three
But Democratic minded voters, if you want to see your fat cats pulling
the wagon, probably not an image that is fit for TV, but bear with me, a
new metaphor, if you want to see the big money rolling in on big waves like
the ocean in the storm, crashing into the beach, maybe that`s better, check
out Priorities USA. They hauled in $11.7 million, all in over the last
three months. They raised just over half of that in June alone.
Add together all four of those Democratic aligned super PACs over the
last three months and you get $25.5 million for Democratic causes like
electing a Democratic president and a Democratic Congress -- $25.5 million.
Want to see who else has that money? Just the super PAC for Mitt
Romney. The main super PAC for Mitt Romney raised $20 million, not in
three months but in one month, in June alone. Thirty days, one super PAC,
20 million bucks. We will not know for a few more days where that money
came from, but the early consensus is probably half of it came from the
casino mega-mogul Sheldon Adelson who we talked about at the top of the
Sheldon Adelson is on his way to spending $100 million or more, up to
what he calls no limit and more, trying to elect Mitt Romney.
And we learned over the weekend that he will also be spending yet more
unlimited millions on electing Republicans for Congress.
If you`re doing the math at home, that is one voter topping his
personal $25 billion fortune in order to elect the president and Congress
of his choosing. The president and Congress he believes will most benefit
him and the $24 billion and so fortune he`ll have left after buying that
And why wouldn`t he? I mean, let`s say your family has been very
lucky. Let`s say household income of your family is well above the
national median income. Let`s say your family income is $100,000 a year.
When Sheldon Adelson donates $10 million, he`s so rich that that is
the financial equivalent of somebody who makes 100,000 grand donating $40.
Forty dollars to you is $10 million to Sheldon Adelson.
And this gives rise to two really important and interesting questions.
Number one, what does Sheldon Adelson want? Why is Sheldon Adelson giving
all that money?
And two, why on earth would you ever give money at all into that
system? If there are people throwing $10 million checks around frequently
like this guy, why would you drop your measly 40 bucks or 200 bucks or
whatever you can afford into that sea of somebody else`s cash? Why would
you spit into that wind?
Harvard law professor Lawrence :Lessig has been putting an exclamation
point on this for a long time.
You want to know the portion of people who give more than 200 bucks to
a congressional campaign -- 0.26 percent. Ninety-nine-point-seven-four
percent of Americans don`t give that much. Why would you?
And not even half of that teeny tiny group that are giving give the
maximum in a congressional campaign. The teeniest tiniest one-tenth of 1
percent give more than $10,000 to any combination of candidates in any one
election cycle. And this time around, so far, this unpronounceable, look
at that -- .000063 percent -- that unpronounceable fraction of the American
public accounts for 80 percent of all the money given to the super PACs.
If elections are going to be decided by chunks of money that arrive
now in multimillion dollar increments, why would we expect anybody, why
would we expect than anyone who can`t give at that level would give at all?
I mean, it would be hard to devise a system to better alienate people from
our government than to have one where money usually determines who wins and
what the choices that you get to choose from, and your human scale money
can`t make a difference, so don`t bother.
And if you`re curious to know where the non-human scale, huge chunks
of money are coming from -- well, sorry, that`s secret. If you wanted to
create something more alienating, what exactly would you add to that? It`s
Since the Supreme Court ruling in 2010, since the ruling in the
Citizens United case, most of the new unlimited, unprecedented money spent
in our political system has been spent for the benefit of Republican
candidates, by an almost two to one. And a two to one last time, and again
by a big margin this year. Look.
The system now favors conservatives, decidedly and decisively. Today
in the Senate, Republicans filibustered an attempt by Democrats to pass new
rules for the unlimited giving. The DISCLOSE Act would have required
corporations and labor unions to disclose publicly any political spending
of more than $10,000 right away. Republicans filibustered it and a block.
It was a party line vote.
And even though Republicans used to support disclosure rules like
this, Republicans now say they like the new way that we do things.
Since they cannot pass their bill, Democrats are making a big deal out
of trying tonight. Even after today`s filibuster, the Democrats are
reportedly planning to hold a sort of midnight vigil with hours of further
debate followed by another vote around 1:00 a.m. They`re not expected to
win that vote either against the Republican filibuster, but they`re hoping
to succeed in making their point.
A live report from what the Democrats are trying to pull off tonight
in the Senate when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV), MAJORITY LEADER: If this flood of outside
money continues, the day after the election, 17 angry old white men will
wake up and realize they just bought the country. That`s a sad commentary.
About 60 percent or more of these outside dollars are coming from these 17
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Our nation is being sold to a few billionaires. Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid arguing for new rules about the unlimited
campaign giving now swamping the 2012 election. Republicans filibustered
those proposed new rules today. They voted to block the bill and let the
unlimited millions keep pouring in, no strings attached, with no
requirement to say where they`re coming from.
Perhaps, coincidentally, Republicans have doubled up Democrats when it
comes to benefiting from the new unlimited donations. After having the
Republicans successfully filibuster those proposed new rules tonight,
tonight, Democrats in the Senate plan to debate the bill all over again
with another vote scheduled for 1:00 a.m.
Joining us now for the interview, fresh from the Capitol, is
Democratic Senator Jon Tester of Montana.
Senator Tester, thank you for being with us.
SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Great to be with you, Rachel. Thank
MADDOW: Since -- I`m going to go out on a limb and say you Democrats
can`t get this bill passed given the way the vote went this afternoon, what
is the goal here? Are you hoping people are just going to hear more about
the issue, are you hoping Republicans will feel embarrassed? What are you
TESTER: Well, I think the goal here ultimately is try to get some
transparency into all this giving that`s going on, all of the secret money
going into elections. I don`t think it`s healthy for our democracy. And
quite honestly, I think we`re looking for some folks to change their mind.
You know, in Montana, everybody says they`re for transparency, yet
when it comes to voting for it, sometimes they don`t. And hopefully,
common sense will prevail here and the next time we have a vote, whether
it`s early this morning or tomorrow, we`ll get enough votes to be able to
move on to the bill and get it passed.
It`s the right thing to do for this country. It`s the right thing to
do for Montana, and I think it`s the right thing to do for our democracy in
MADDOW: In earlier debates about money and politics, the Republican
line for a while was that they weren`t against limiting donations. They
wanted people to make unlimited donations. And any concerns about the
outsized impact that anybody might have, outside influence anybody might
have, because of unlimited money could be remedied by disclosures. They
were in favor of no limits but disclosure.
Now we`ve got Republicans against disclosure, too. Something like a
dozen Republican senators who voted for a proposed law like this in the
past are now against it.
Do you have any theory to explain the evolution there?
TESTER: Well, I think that your previous chart probably showed it. I
think some of the folks on the other side of the aisle see a political
advantage at this point in time with having no disclosure.
I can tell you that I don`t -- I don`t think Democrats or Republicans
win with this Supreme Court decision on Citizens United over the long haul.
I think the democracy loses. And hopefully people back in Washington, D.C.
will understand that.
I mean, this really amounts to Rachel is who are you accountable? Are
you accountable to the people who elect you, who vote for you, or are you
accountable to the corporations that donate boat loads of money into the
third party folks, all anonymously, for the most part all have an agenda of
some sort or another? As you pointed out earlier on this show.
MADDOW: You were up for re-election this year in a race that has
featured lots of outside money. Much of it being used to attack you. Do
you feel like when you`re meeting people in Montana, when you`re
campaigning, when you are running for re-election, you`re talking about
some of the stuff thrown for you in these ads, is it registering with folks
who is running these ads?: Does it matter to them who the author of that
ad is, either who`s got their name on the end of it or who is paying for
TESTER: Well, I think it does. Montana has got a little different
history than most states, that back in 1899, William Clark literally tried
to buy an election with some $431,000 back, $11 million in today`s money.
And so, I think Montanans look at it differently, and I think it cuts part
y lines, whether you`re Democrat, Republican, or independent, all of
Montana has a little bit of libertarian tilt and they don`t like people
buying their government.
And so I do think it makes a difference. And I think it`s going to
have -- there`s going to be a law of diminishing returns.
But there`s no doubt about this, Rachel. We are on a different
landscape now than we`ve ever been before, as far as the amount of money
coming into these campaigns and the amount of secret money that`s coming
into these campaigns.
MADDOW: You are a centrist senator on a lot of issues. I know you`ve
had good relations with gun owners and sportsman groups. And you`ve had a
solid rating from the NRA in the past. The NRA has decided to score this
vote as if it is a gun rights vote.
I`m wondering what your reaction to that is, as somebody who`s been
pretty down the middle on that issue?
TESTER: Well, you know, I support the Second Amendment, always have,
always will. This is about transparency, and I also support transparency.
You know, Montana`s a very transparent state when it comes to their
government. We allow press in just about every meeting that`s out there,
if you have more than a couple of people that are meeting. And I think
that`s a good thing. And I think we ought to be doing that more in
Washington, D.C., and the whole transparency argument about money coming
into these campaigns and where the money comes from is absolutely critical
So while I support the Second Amendment and I support it firmly and
will continue to, I also support transparency. And I think transparency is
MADDOW: Senator Jon Tester of Montana -- thank you for joining us
tonight. It`s going to be a late night for a lot of Democrats tonight. I
appreciate it, sir.
TESTER: Thank you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Thank you.
All right, we`ve got the best new thing in the world coming up right
at the end of the show. The most cuddly yay for cheating story you`ve
heard about all day, unless you had a different day than I think you had.
MADDOW: Best new thing in the world today.
All right, the best new thing in the world today is about openly and
honestly reminding yourself to do something, doing it, and being rewarded
for it. The key here is openly and honestly. This is technically about
cheating, but it`s about cheating you don`t have feel bad about.
A couple years ago, this was Sarah Palin, speaking at what was then a
very important and prestigious event that everyone in the Beltway was
paying attention to. It was a Tea Party convention of some stripe.
Governor Palin at that convention delivered a speech that was well-
received, people seemed to like it, she seemed pleased with her
performance, but it is not what got remembered from that event.
What got remembered from that event is what happened during the Q&A
that followed her speech. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: We`ve got to rein in
spending, obviously, and not raising these extremely high budgets in the
state. OK, we`re going to freeze a couple programs here. That doesn`t do
us any good, really. We`ve got to start reining in the spending.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Did you see that? Sarah Palin very clearly looked at her
hand there. She looked at her hand while answering a question about
spending. At least, I think that`s what she was trying to answer.
But she got caught. I mean, she really, really, really got caught.
Look at her left hand. Without us enhancing this picture in any way, you
can clearly see there`s lots of stuff scribbled on her left hand. Here is
a close-up of her hand.
See, you can see she`s got written there the words "energy," drill,
baby, drill? No, just "energy," I think budget cuts, maybe, although it
looks like "budget" was crossed out, then the word, "tax," and then "lift
One way Mrs. Palin chose to lift America`s spirit that day was for
mocking Mr. Obama for using a teleprompter at speaking event, meanwhile,
she had a very elementary cheat sheet literally in the palm of her hand.
The cheat sheet itself is of no particular moral insignificance there,
right? That was the way she decided to help herself get through the day.
Being a hypocrite about it being a bad thing to use notes when you
talk about politics while you were using notes to talk about politics, yes,
there is a moral issue there. But mostly, it`s the amazing photo. Mostly,
we just remember that indelible of that presumably indelible ink on her
palm there. It`s just amazing. Parody come to life.
And now, we`re going to fast forward a couple of years to those people
playing baseball there that you just saw. This year`s all-star game at
Kauffman Stadium, home of the Kansas City Royals. The national anthem was
performed by a country music singer named Luke Bryan. He has a very nice
voice. He was doing a very beautiful job until this happened.
Mr. Bryan was caught looking at the inside of his left hand. The very
next day, he said on Twitter that he really wanted to explain his
performance. He had a few words, words, as in words to the National
Anthem, written on his hand, so he would not mess up. He said he just
wanted to do his best. He promises it was from his heart.
There`s nothing terrible, horrible, or inherently evil about using
your skin as an index card when you`re afraid you might forget things, when
you really don`t want to be forgetting things. There`s nothing wrong with
that, per se. That is not an indictable offense.
I write stuff on myself all the time. But here`s how you do it
awesomely. The Summer Olympics are coming up at the end of the month, they
will be in London.
And there`s a man named Jack Green who`s a sprinter on the British
track and field team. He`s going to be running in the 400 meter hurdles
and the 4x400 meter relay.
This weekend, Mr. Green ran in the national 400 meter at the very last
big deal race before the Olympic Games, big deal race in London.
Jack Green really wanted to win. He wanted to win really bad. He
wanted to win so badly that he was willing to put on display for all the
world to see what he thought of that day as the keys to his racing success.
Did you see the photo of this today?
Jack Green, 20 years old, runs for track and field for |Britain, and,
look! See that? On his arm? It says -- his name is green, and written in
green on his arm, it says, chin down, flat back. This is not PhotoShopped.
This really was, look, what was written on the inside of his arm, in
what is that, like green crayon, maybe? A tiny paintbrush? I don`t know -
- chin down, flat back. It`s like we`ve got subtitles for what was going
through this athlete`s mind just before racing. Then the race began. At
first he was behind, because he was in one of the outside lanes, but chin
down, flat back, and then he won!
Jack green won this race, and the time was his personal best time.
Chin down, flat back, can`t lose!
There is nothing evil or bad or even weak about writing yourself
reminders on your body, like you are a giant post-it that breathes. But
doing it boldly and bravely and out in the open, and yes, y`all can cheat
using this too, I don`t care, I need to remind myself, and then being
rewarded for it because it worked!
For those of us who have been writing stuff on our bodies for years to
remind ourselves of these things, this is a heartwarming thing and it is
the best new thing in the world today.
That does it for us tonight. We`ll see you again tomorrow night.
Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD" with Lawrence O`Donnell. Have a
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