ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
January 10, 2014
Guests: Michael Powell, Bob Herbert, Raymond Lesniak, Valerie Huttle, Booth Goodwin, Darryl Isherwood, Alan Grayson, Tracie Washington
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, from New York. I`m Chris
More than 2,000 pages of documents related to the widening George
Washington Bridge scandal were released today, as the story threatens to
spiral further out of the control of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
We`ve been sifting through the documents today and here`s what we`ve
already learned. First, the absolute rage and frustration of Fort Lee
residents about the lane closures that hit the world`s busiest bridge on
the first day of school in Fort Lee and lasted for four days, including the
anniversary of September 11th.
One that struck me was from a man 40 minutes late for his first day of
the job after being out of work for a year. His wife, writing in to
There are new questions raised about the involvement of David Samson,
a Christie appointee at the Port Authority who Christie has defended and
did not fire. We will talk more about that momentarily.
It`s also clear from the documents there was a full-on charade about a
traffic study that basically had no conclusions other than to show that
when you shut down two of the three lanes of traffic to Fort Lee -- well,
really mucks things up.
As we get our hands on more documents in the circle of those
implicated in the scandal widens, it`s getting harder to keep the cast of
So, before we go any further, a refresher on the main players in this
house of cars.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, there are some delays out there at the
George Washington Bridge. I think construction. First, we`ll take a live
look at the span where you an see no cars are really coming our way.
That`s in the --
HAYES (voice-over): With each day, the number of people involved in
New Jersey`s house of cars gets bigger.
To fully understand the drama, you better know who the characters are.
First, the main actor, David Wildstein. He`s been pretty quiet lately.
DAVID WILDSTEIN, FORMER PORT AUTHORITY OFFICIAL: I respectfully
assert my right to remain silent.
HAYES: Wildstein is the Christie appointee who responded, got it,
when asked to start a Fort Lee traffic jam. Yes, Wildstein and Christie
are old high school chums. But now, the governor wants a little distance.
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: I was the class president and
athlete. I don`t know what David was doing during that period of time.
HAYES: Wildstein was elected to his local school board at 16 and
served a term as mayor of Livingston, New Jersey, before he was 30.
Then, Wildstein went underground, founding an anonymous political blog
called "Noliticker NJ," the super secret byline was Wally Edge.
He once said the worst part of politics is the policies. In 2010,
Christie gave Wildstein a job at the Port Authority. Job paid $150,000 but
had no job description.
Wildstein was Christie`s eyes and ears in the Port Authority. He`s
the author of the two most infamous e-mails, "they are the children of
Buono voters" and "it will be a tough November for this little Serbian."
MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH, MAYOR, FORT LEE, NJ: David Wildstein deserves an
ass kicking. OK? Sorry. There, I said it.
HAYES: David Wildstein resigned on December 6th.
Next up, Bill Baroni. Baroni spent seven years in the New Jersey
Senate and assembly and then he met the governor. During Christie`s first
campaign, Baroni served as a stand-in for incumbent Jon Corzine during
debate preparation. He was appointed to the Port Authority for a job that
paid $289,667 a year. Seventeen days before he resigned, Bill Baroni
testified the lane closures were part of a traffic study.
CHRISTIE: Senator Baroni testified there was a traffic study.
There`s still may have been a traffic study.
HAYES: Good news for Baroni, he was not under oath. He resigned on
Next, Bill Stepien, Christie`s campaign manager in 2009 and 2013. One
of his inner circle, known as the governor`s enforcer. Before this week,
Stepien was the nominee to be chairman of New Jersey`s Republican Party and
adviser at the Republican Governors association. He was caught e-mailing
back and forth with Wildstein about the traffic jam, calling the mayor of
Fort Lee an idiot.
CHRISTIE: I lost confidence in his judgment.
HAYES: Christie parted ways with Stepien on Wednesday.
Next up, Bridget Kelly. Kelly, Christie`s deputy chief of staff,
wrote the e-mail that started it all to Wildstein, "Time for some traffic
problems in Fort Lee."
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: I cannot reconcile the Bridget Kelly I
knew from those days with the Bridget Kelly --
HAYES (on camera): Of time for traffic in Fort Lee.
(voice-over): She was fired as well. Unlike David Wildstein, Bill
Baroni, Bill Stepien and Bridget Kelly, who lost their jobs over this,
David Samson, whose name appears in the e-mails is standing. He previously
served as attorney general of New Jersey and counsel on Christie`s first
gubernatorial campaign. Christie appointed him to the Port Authority board
in 2010. He is the man who Wildstein wrote, is helping us retaliate
against New York state Port Authority officials during the fight over the
closures. So far, he has not been fired.
If Chris Christie wants to survive this scandal, he needs David Samson
not to be involved in any of this in any way. And the documents we got
today don`t make that look like it.
HAYES: Joining me now, Bob Herbert, former "New York Times"
columnist, now a distinctive senior fellow at the progressive think tank
Demos, born an raised in New Jersey.
Michael Powell; Gotham columnist for "The New York Times." You`ve
been covering this as well.
All right. A lot of players, we learned some stuff today.
What are big things we learned as we sift through these e-mails,
Michael? I`ll start with you.
MICHAEL POWELL, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, that traffic study the
governor talks about wasn`t really much of a study, as you say. I mean, if
you close lanes, you get a lot of traffic, especially on the busiest bridge
in the country. And it was four pages long.
HAYES: It`s four pages long. It`s also provided, if I`m not
mistaken, on the third day of this whole brouhaha after you have Andrew
Cuomo`s appointee on the New York side losing his mind about what`s going
POWELL: Well, they gave it some time.
HAYES: Right. Right. So, yes, the traffic study, there are
documents there, punitively. It`s a small PowerPoint that made up a
traffic study, but it`s not anything.
POWELL: No. It is nothing. I mean, and it really -- for the
governor to say, you know, there may have been a traffic study, you know, I
mean, he would be raging at paying anything for this traffic study.
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS: I think the -- today`s documents just make it
clearer how extensive, even more clear how extensive the involvement of
Christie associates is -- was in this fiasco. So Samson, as you mentioned,
but all the others. And also Michael Juniak`s name came up, governor`s
press secretary, longtime aide.
And it`s just strange credulity that all these folks who are very
close to Chris Christie were involved in some way with this thing, knew
about it. It`s a big news story. And he just was unaware? It`s
HAYES: Yes, that`s one of the things you get from this. There`s two
things. David Samson, it could be perfectly the case that David Samson had
absolutely nothing to do with this, he is completely un-implicated. I do
not know. Again, we do not know a lot about this.
But the idea that Wildstein writes an e-mail, this thing is blowing
up, we`re going to war with the New York side, we are going to screw them
back -- they`re trying to stop us from screwing the Fort Lee mayor or some
other politician as we`ll talk about in a second. And we`re going to go to
war and Samson is helping us out that he made that up, right?
Well, here we have an email today. Bill Baroni to David Samson, he
was forwarding this e-mail from the Cuomo appointee who`s enraged about
this whole thing, apoplectic, forwarding it to David Samson, saying,
"General," as in former attorney general, "can I call you on this now?"
So, I mean -- right there, I have a question. What was that phone
POWELL: They`re on a war footing. They always are in team Christie.
So the notion you would have one man, particularly Samson at the top,
who`s, you know, sort of stroking his chin and wondering, again, it`s
HAYES: That war footing thing I think is key, because one of the
things you get from this, because a huge bulk of this has to do with what a
freak-out, a flip-out was happening in Fort Lee and how much it was blowing
up through Fort Lee politics and through New Jersey politics and into the
governor`s office and into the press and through the Port Authority where
people are writing in saying, it takes me half an hour usually, took me 2
1/2 hours to get to work yesterday, 2 hours yesterday.
What is going on? I want some accountability.
HERBERT: And you`ve got Christie operatives saying, you know, don`t
talk to the press about this and didn`t even alert the Fort Lee police? I
mean, it`s utter madness.
HAYES: Another Christie associate, this is key, brought to our
attention by our own great Steve Kornacki who knows New Jersey politics
very well. David Wildstein also forwards the outraged memo from Randy Foye
who learns of this whole thing and says, this is crazy -- basically this is
crazy, we`re lucky someone hasn`t been killed, more or less in those words
Regina Egea, who has been selected to be the chief of staff of Chris
Christie, right, she`s forwarded that memo as well. So how many people are
brought into this without the governor knowing or anyone, you know, anyone
other than this little crew?
POWELL: And if you were the governor, he didn`t even really have his
"come to Jesus moment" where he talks to his staff and says, what up?
Until December. It just -- none of this stuff seems to pull together.
HERBERT: And I think it`s really important to understand that
everyone who knows Chris Christie well, Democrats, Republicans, press, they
all say, to a person, that he runs an incredibly tight ship. That he has a
grip on everything that`s going on in the operation.
HAYES: Not just -- forget Christie, your just average competent
politician, take an average competent politician. Some huge thing is
blowing up. The press is sniffing around it. You, fellows, what`s going
on here? What kind of operation are you running over there?
POWELL: Right. Hundreds of thousands of your voters go across that
bridge every week, every day probably. Right. So, right, why wouldn`t you
ask, what`s going on?
HAYES: So the other person is Charles, the general counsel. There is
a point at which Charlie is referenced. Charlie says, you did great. We
don`t know if that Charlie is Charlie McKenna, goes by Charlie as far as I
understand. General counsel is significant.
He is one of the people, Charlie McKenna, general counsel, that
Christie says is one of the people that directly reports to him. Christie
says he only has two people directly reporting to him. McKenna is one of
them. So, he`s another person in this.
The final thing to think about, what`s the next play for David
Wildstein, right? I mean, what do you think David Wildstein`s next move
POWELL: Well, David Wildstein has to hope there`s not a grand jury,
POWELL: I mean, you really don`t want to be in a place -- it does
seem to me so far, right, he doesn`t -- he`s taking the Fifth. I mean,
he`s doing all this kind of stuff. Grand jury, if there`s that, there`s a
real problem for him, right?
I mean, Christie`s people have been quite loyal to him so far, right?
No one is as they say flipped on him. It would be interesting to see what
happens, again, if you have a point where you have to put your hand --
HERBERT: I agree. The grand jury is crucial if it ever gets to that
point. We don`t know whether it will or not. But a point that we`re
already at is that there`s political blood in the water and the press who
are sharks are now on a feeding frenzy.
And that is really dangerous for Chris Christie.
HAYES: I have no idea what you`re talking about.
Bob Herbert from Demos, Michael Powell from "The New York Times" --
thank you, gentlemen, both.
OK, coming up, what has been dubbed "The Rachel Maddow theory" is now
an Internet sensation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: Maybe it wasn`t about the endorsement.
Maybe it was something else special about Fort Lee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We`ll get into that, next.
HAYES: What was the motive for the whole shut the whole George
Washington Bridge down thing? Was it to punish the mayor of Fort Lee or
Our own Rachel Maddow has a theory. It`s pretty intriguing. We`re
going to talk about it, next.
HAYES: As the mystery intensified over the growing bridge scandal,
last night our own Columbo, one Rachel Maddow stepped forward with a novel
and intriguing theory as to what the motivation for the whole thing was.
Rachel pointed out that both Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich and Governor
Christie don`t seem to think the lane closings were done as retaliation
against the mayor for his failure to endorse Christie. So maybe the target
was someone else.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Maybe it was something else special about Fort Lee. "Time
for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Why then? Why then?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Rachel then recounted a long and nasty standoff between Senate
Democrats in New Jersey and the governor over what used to be routine
renominations to the state Supreme Court. Notably that in 2010, New Jersey
Supreme Court Justice Johnny Wallace Jr. became the first justice to seek
reappointment and be refused by a New Jersey governor since the current
state Constitution was adopted 63 years before. Wallace was the court`s
only African-American justice.
So, Democrats responded by rejecting two consecutive Christie
nominees. When associate justice, Helen Hoens, Republican, one of
Christie`s own, married to one of his staffers, was approaching her own
reappointment, senate Democrats made clear they would give her a very tough
And so, on August 12th, 2013, Christie announced he was pulling her
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Tuesday, August 12th, 2013, late in the day, the governor
blows up at senate Democrats. Yanks the judgeship of a Supreme Court
justice and calls the senate Democrats animals.
And it is the next morning at 7:34 in the morning on August 13th that
his deputy chief of staff gives the go-ahead to the Port Authority, "Time
for some traffic problems in Fort Lee." Leader of the Senate Democrats
represents Fort Lee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Leader of Senate Democrats, New Jersey Senate Majority Leader
Loretta Weinberg represents Fort Lee.
After Rachel`s A-block last night, social media exploded about debates
with the Maddow theory and there`s one aspect of it that makes sense to me.
One of the biggest questions here is why was it when that e-mail went out,
time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee, the response wasn`t what the
heck are you talking about? The response was simply, "Got it".
Why was there a pre-existing plan to use traffic lane closures to
screw Fort Lee? Why was that sitting on a shelf somewhere? And the idea
that the target was Mayor Sokolich is a little unsatisfying in that regard
because he was not, as far as we know now, some big-time longstanding
Loretta Weinberg, on the other hand, is a big time longstanding
Christie enemy, at least in the eyes of Chris Christie who famously once
said the press should, and I`m quoting here, "take the bat on her."
You can imagine some Christie operatives at a bar brainstorming ways
to get back at Loretta Weinberg concocting a plan they put on the shelf to
use the Port Authority appointee to jam up traffic. I don`t know.
Joining me now, Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, a Democrat. New
Jersey State Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, a Democrat whose
district includes Fort Lee.
In the whole showdown over the court, you were one of the key players,
along with Senator Weinberg. He was actually in the same press conference
yelling at you specifically.
STATE SEN. RAYMOND LESNIAK (D), NEW JERSEY: He was.
HAYES: Does this scam to you?
LESNIAK: Well, who knew when I said I wasn`t going to support Helen
Hoens for re-election, that would ultimately result in the end of Chris
Christie`s presidential ambitions? That`s what it`s coming down to.
HAYES: But do you think -- it`s plausible to you that this is what
LESNIAK: Anything is plausible with this governor. He`s made his
reputation on beating people up and beating them down. So, he would take
retribution for any reason.
HAYES: You represent Fort Lee. I think one of the important pieces
of context here is there is basically, as far as I can tell, one political
issue in Fort Lee. It`s traffic.
STATE ASSEMBLYWOMAN VALERIE HUTTLE (D), NEW JERSEY: Traffic.
HAYES: You represent a place the single most notable thing about it
from the perspective of your interactions with the state, with everything
else, is the fact that it is home to the busiest bridge in the world. So,
traffic in Fort Lee, it`s like that`s when you run -- when you run for re-
election, when you run campaigns, when you go to town halls, that`s what
you`re talking about.
HUTTLE: Absolutely. It`s not only Fort Lee. It trickles into
surrounding towns which makes up the entire district 37.
But when you have these unanswered questions, it raises the suspicions
even more. We don`t have any more answers than we did four months ago. So
I think we need more answers. I think in light of the new close to 1,000
more, you know, texts and e-mails, it`s implicating certainly, if it`s not
the governor, certainly his administration.
HAYES: Why would -- here`s one question. Has this ever been done
before? Like, there was one thought we had as we were watching all this,
time for traffic problems in Fort Lee, maybe this is an old New Jersey
Is this a thing that`s been going on -- I`m asking. I don`t know. Is
this a thing that`s been going on, like, oh, they screwed us over in Fort
Lee, like shut it down like some sort of water faucet you turn off?
LESNIAK: There`s been petty normal political stuff. You`re not going
to get this grant, this judge isn`t going to be reappointed, never
retaliation against the public, in such a way that recklessly endangered
people`s lives. It never happened.
HUTTLE: True. And this governor has been known if you disagree with
him, to be very intimidating. Very abusive. Call people names. Call you
out on it.
HAYES: Yes, people say that. What does that mean in your
HUTTLE: He runs a very tight ship. If you disagree with him, there`s
You know, look, we had a bill out there, the Port Authority bill, and
we worked by state, bipartisan, he vetoed it to protect the culture of the
Port Authority, not protecting commuters of New Jersey.
LESNIAK: It means he closes down the division of Motor Vehicles
Office in Elizabeth, the fourth largest city in the state of New Jersey
because he doesn`t like my politics. That`s bad.
HAYES: That happened?
LESNIAK: Oh, that happened early on.
HAYES: Has the governor copped to that being the motivation or that -
LESNIAK: Well, no, of course, it was a cost-saving thing, but it`s
the fourth largest city, mostly Hispanic and African-American. Why would
you do that?
HAYES: So, what did you do to deserve it?
LESNIAK: I`ve done a lot of things, but I don`t know -- but people of
Elizabeth didn`t deserve it. That`s for sure.
HAYES: Right. So, that is an example of something that seems to have
redounded on to the public.
LESNIAK: Without a doubt.
HUTTLE: It`s interest to see that Mayor Fulop`s name was the top name
on the so-called list. There`s certainly a code for that. What does that
mean? I think that`s what we`re trying to find out. You know, got it?
There`s got to be a code, there`s message, that more than two people,
I think, that got it.
HAYES: Do you think this is about Mayor Sokolich? I mean, does that
stand to you? I mean, one thing persuasive to me in watching this whole
thing, I feel what we`re going to learn is whatever it was, I`m convinced
it wasn`t about Mayor Sokolich not endorsing him.
I don`t know what went on. I don`t know why they had it out for Mayor
Sokolich, if it was him, who they were trying to get, whether it`s you who
represents Fort Lee, or State Senator Weinberg, I don`t know. I`m
convinced, the one thing I found convincing is both Christie and the mayor
don`t seem to think it`s about this endorsement.
HUTTLE: Let`s find out.
HAYES: Be honest. What do you think?
HUTTLE: Let`s find out. I think we need -- I think there`s so many
questions we need answers to and we`re in that process right now.
LESNIAK: It could be any reason. The fact of the matter is it
happened. And it was clear and people`s lives were endangered and then
they tried to cover up . That`s the big thing here.
Christie was right in the middle of his staff, this phony traffic
study story. I think that`s the biggest --
HUTTLE: Took him four months to sit down with his staff and ask
HAYES: So do you think that he said anything yesterday in that two
hour press conference that was untrue?
LESNIAK: What he said was that I just found out about it Tuesday --
yesterday. What he just found out about was that we just found out.
That`s what he`d just found out.
HAYES: Right. You mean, he found out that this stuff had been
written down and that the public knew about it.
HAYES: And you don`t think -- but do you think -- do you think that
story, which is basically this was concocted by some members of his staff
who never read anyone closer than those people into him, do you think that
is going to hold up?
LESNIAK: No. First of all, he was right in the middle, his whole
staff, his counsel, in the cover-up story. This flimsy -- they thought
they were going get away with it.
HAYES: Someone on the Democratic side, I`m telling you this right,
someone on your side, and partisan-wise, knows why they came out. I don`t
know if it`s Mayor Sokolich. Someone knows what this is really about.
That`s what, I want that person to come and call -- I`m serious,
because it was not about this endorsement.
New Jersey State Senator Raymond Lesniak, New Jersey State
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, thank you both.
HAYES: We`re not finished with our coverage of the bridge scandal.
Coming up, the premier of the ALL IN tournament of corruption, which we try
to figure out where the Chris Christie scandal ranks among political
And a competition, who has the most corrupt state in the nation? Our
guests will make the case for their home states. Don`t want to miss that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the second day in a row, as many as 300,000
families in West Virginia are being warned to stay away from the water.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do not drink it. Do not cook with it. Do not
wash clothes in it. Do not take a bath in it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That is a warning you don`t hear often in this country. Don`t
drink the water. Not only don`t drink it, don`t even touch it. Don`t do
anything but flush it down your toilet.
But that is precisely the warning that`s in effect right now for a
nine-county swath of West Virginia currently under a state of emergency,
this after a chemical leak from the coal treatment plant into a river near
the state capital. The chemical, 4 methylcyclohexane ethanol is used in
coal and was leaking from 40,000 plus gallons storage tank on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDE OCLIP)
MIKE DORSEY, DEP. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION: You can see the stuff
as it comes into the river and rapidly disappears, dissolves into the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One indicator of the contaminated water is the
odor of the water.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Symptom of people exposed to the bat water include trouble
breathing, eye irritation, skin blistering and nonstop vomiting. The
company responsible for the spill, I am not making this up, a company
called Freedom Industries, does not know exactly how much of the chemical
leaked into the river.
As for how long it will take to clean up, I put that question to West
Virginia Senator Joe Manchin in an interview earlier today. Here`s what he
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: What we`ve been told is that,
you know, it could be as many as several more days before they believe it`s
safe. They`re doing everything they can right now, but you can imagine the
amount of 1,500 to 3,000 miles of lines to be purged. I don`t know if
that`s ever been done at one time to purge that much water of a line and
how to do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: In the meantime, people in the effected counties are lining up
at water distribution centers which have been set up around the region to
help them access clean water. Federal investigations have been launched by
the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. attorneys
office. More on that in a moment.
But West Virginia`s Governor Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin went out of his
way today at a press conference to not blame the incident on the coal
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. DEMOCRAT EARL RAY TOMBLIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Let me just make
it very clear that this was not a coal company incident. This was a
chemical company. It`s used in processing coal, as I understand it. But
obviously it is not a coal company. It was a chemical company that let the
breach and the tanks that`s holding this particular chemical.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: But clearly it would not be there if not for the
coal industry which uses carbon processing.
TOMBLIN: -- but the point is the incident happened at a chemical
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Happened at a chemical plant. Don`t blame the coal industry.
Senator Manchin was trying to get that same message out when I spoke with
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: The citizens of West Virginia understand the centrality of
coal to the economy. They know there`s coal extraction. They know there
are risks that come with that. Do you think the citizens of West Virginia
knew about this chemical, about this risk to their drinking water? Did you
know about this risk?
SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Well, no, but let me just say
that this part of our state, Chris, where all this happened is basically we
make chemicals for you and every American that you use every day, and
they`re quite, you know, some can be quite dangerous. And any of this can
happen from that standpoint. So just to blame it on coal, this is an agent
that I understand that was used for the coal processing, coal processing
plants. It`s not toxic. It`s not lethal, I`m told. It`s hazardous and be
very careful and very dangerous, but it -- so we`re concerned about that,
but I know those who want to blame it on the coal industry, if it wasn`t
for the coal industry, you wouldn`t have it. That`s not a fair assessment
HAYES: Why is that --
MANCHIN: You wouldn`t have the country you had today if it wasn`t for
the coal industry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Joining me now, Booth Goodwin, U.S. attorney for the Southern
District of West Virginia. And Mr. Goodwin, you put out a very strong
statement this morning saying your office will be opening an investigation.
Why did you decide to do that?
BOOTH GOODWIN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF WEST VIRGINIA:
Well, I think it`s important for people to know that what we want to do is
find out what actually occurred here. Who, if any, entity is responsible.
And really move on down the road so something like this doesn`t happen
HAYES: I am struck by the fact that we are looking at a large portion
of the state without portable drinking water for an unknown period of time
and the source of the leak is not some behemoth in your state. This is not
a large company, freedom industries. This is rather small operation that
was able to contaminate the water for this many people.
GOODWIN: No, that`s right. You know, this is a rather important
treatment plant that we`re talking about, and if you look at it on Google
maps, you can see the proximity of the chemical tanks to the water
treatment facility where the intake is.
HAYES: Is this investigation a criminal investigation at this point?
GOODWIN: It`s too early to say whether it will result in criminal
charges. Obviously. What we`re doing is we`re gathering the evidence. We
want to talk to the individuals involved. Any employees or anyone that
might have information. Review records. And see where we go from there.
The very real possibility is that even a negligent release of a chemical of
this source into a water supply could bring my office into the mix.
HAYES: You`re a U.S. attorney in West Virginia. It`s a state that`s
been dominated by the extractive industries, particularly coal for a long
time. Do you ever experience political pressure when you start sniffing
around the coal industry?
GOODWIN: You know, I really don`t. This is a unique role. And, in
fact, my office is engaged in an ongoing investigation regarding the upper
big branch mine disaster that I`m sure you`re aware of.
GOODWIN: And, so, I really don`t get any pressure concerning that.
All I`m trying to do is keep people safe. And everybody can get behind
HAYES: U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, thank you so much for your time.
GOODWIN: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, a special ALL IN Friday night tournament of
corruption. What state in the U.S. is the most corrupt? And will the
Chris Christie bridge scandal put New Jersey on top? Find out ahead.
HAYES: There are documents out there, documents everywhere and Chris
Christie isn`t the only politician who maybe wishes there weren`t so many.
Remember Congressman Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, he`s running for
Senate in the state and he`s actually probably the least ideological
extreme of all the candidates in the Republican primary which is saying
something. Because he really stepped in it recently when he was caught
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Why don`t you, you know, have the kids pay a dime,
pay a nickel to instill in them that there is, in fact, no such thing as a
free lunch or maybe sweep the floor in the cafeteria?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Sure, make the kid sweep the floor. There`s no such thing as
a free lunch. Now, if you think Kingston took heat for that nationally,
check out what is running right now on his hometown TV station.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Thousands of pages of disclosures, expense reports
and federal disbursements to try to estimate just how many so-called free
lunches a congressman like Jack Kingston and his staff might receive. We
took the past three years, first in official business, Kingston and his
staff expensed nearly $4,200 in meals for business purposes to his
Congressional office. Paid for by the American taxpayer. The numbers and
sources of the meals get cloudy from there.
Since 2011, Kingston has taken official trips to four continents as a
member of the House Appropriations Committee. The trips entitle him to a
generous per diem allowance. Depending on the locals sometimes hundreds of
dollars a day. The total in per diems in the past three years on all this
trips, more than $24,000. Free lunches, perhaps not. But, again, paid for
by the American taxpayer.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I`ve always worked 60 or 70 hour workweek.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: It`s a hardworking guy.
All right. When we come back, we`ll look at the all-time biggest
scandals and ask, how does Chris Christie`s bridge-gate stack up in the
tournament of corruption? Straight ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR MARK SOKOLICH, FORT LEE: I`m embarrassed. I`m embarrassed for
the entire state of New Jersey because it just sets us back and we`re
guaranteed to be the brunt of the next 50 years of political jokes. And
quite frankly, after this behavior, we deserve it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich talking about what the
bridge-gate scandal engulfing Chris Christie is doing for New Jersey`s
image. New Jerseyans tend to look at the garden state`s rich history of
corruption with a mix of shame and perverse kind of pride.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I`m disappointed, I`m ashamed in the state I grew
up in. Political payback through traffic congestion? To see New Jersey
sink to a piss poor third way quality of corruption, this is New Jersey. A
state renowned for its piss rich first rate quality of corruption.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: Watching the scandal unfold, and seeing all the accompanying
references to the Sopranos and other portrayals in New Jersey corruptions
got us to thinking about where bridge-gate ranks and -- political scandals
and where New Jersey ranks when it comes to the most corrupt states in the
union. Chris Christie actually made his name in New Jersey politics as a
hard charging U.S. attorney with his office getting convictions and guilty
pleas from 130 public officials. He was the guy who was cleaning up New
Jersey or at least that was the image that was sold to the public.
Now, it wasn`t easy to narrow down which states have a legitimate
claim to being the most corrupt. You can make the case for home state New
York, where corruption is common place in the state capitol, or Rhode
Island, where I spent some time where Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci was
forced out of office due to a felony conviction only to win re-election
five years later and then get convicted again this time for racketeering.
But after some tough choices, we managed to narrow it down to the final
four of corruption.
There is, of course, New Jersey which saw a senator convicted after an
FBI sting involving a fake Middle Eastern sheikh, a story now told on
screen in "American Hustle." Illinois, where four of the last seven
governors before the current ones have gone to prison including Rod
Blagojevich who tried to sell President Obama`s former Senate seat. And
there`s Florida where legislators and mayors can legally also serve as
lobbyists and where the FBI actually decided to take out a newspaper ad
asking citizens to report corruption by public officials.
And last, but certainly not least, there`s Louisiana, a state where
they particularly rich history of corruption dating back to Huey Long, and
which was dubbed most corrupt in the terms of the rate of corruption
convictions of government officials over the last decade. It is one hell
of a group.
All right. Joining me now to make their cases for the respective
states. We`ll start with the state of New Jersey. Darryl Isherwood,
senior political reporter for NJ.com. We have Congressman Alan Grayson,
Democrat from Florida. Here making the case for that state, Tracie
Washington, president and CEO of the Louisiana Justice Institute.
Who will attempt to make the case for a state that has a long, rich
history of corruption. And since I came up as a reporter covering Chicago
machine politics, I will have the honor of making the case for Illinois
All right. Darryl, I want to start with you. Put the Christie
scandal in the context of New Jersey politics and the culture of corruption
there`s been in that state.
DARRYL ISHERWOOD, NJ.COM SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: You know, the
bridge-gate, as it stands now, I don`t think breaks our top five or top
ten. The thing about bridge-gate and I hate calling it that, but the thing
about bridge-gate is, there are thousands of unanswered questions. We`re
sort of in the middle of this thing. You know, this thing hasn`t played
itself out. But you`re talking about a state where we`ve had, as you
mentioned, ad scam. You know, two of our guys went down out of six. There
were two from Jersey. We`ve got a state where --
HAYES: One of them was a U.S. senator.
ISHERWOOD: One was a U.S. senator, one was a congressman.
HAYES: Yes. Any time you get up to -- when you get to the upper
house, you`re talking fairly serious corruption.
ISHERWOOD: Yes. Exactly. And there were six of them that went down.
And we had two.
ISHERWOOD: You`re talking about a state where Jim McGreevy, governor
of the state of New Jersey resigned in disgrace having an extramarital
affair and putting his lover in a cabinet position for which she was not
qualified. So we`ve had some fairly serious -- that`s not even getting to
the things you talked about with Chris Christie`s --
HAYES: Yes, there was recently a big mass arrest of public officials,
you know, with a bunch of rabbis and some organ dealing. That happened
ISHERWOOD: That`s the thing we were just talking about, you know, in
the greenroom. So, when New Jersey has corruption, right, you`ve got your
run of the mill corruption, guys taking envelopes full of cash and there`s,
you know, there`s bribery. We always have a good story with it. You know,
40 guys get arrested for selling approvals, you know, construction
approvals for money. Well, we also get a kidney dealer in that mix. You
know, so the headline is, you know, political corruption and black market
HAYES: Congressman Grayson, the state of Florida, Florida -- I have
to tell you, Florida barely made it in. It was duking it out with Rhode
Island. I had a little more experience personally with Rhode Island.
What`s your case for Florida?
REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: Oh, Chris, you got to be kidding me.
I mean, the past 35 years we`ve averaged one conviction for political
corruption every week. We`ve led the nation --
HAYES: That`s pretty good.
GRAYSON: -- five out of the last 12 years, Chris. I mean, we had a
mayor in Miami Beach who wasn`t convicted not for one instance of bribery
but 41 instances of bribery. In Tampa, the county commission was so
corrupt that there wasn`t one who was convicted of bribery, there were
three at the same time.
HAYES: You also had -- the story of the Florida Senate president, I
really like this one, the Florida Senate president --
GRAYSON: Yes, sure.
HAYES: So he got -- tell me his story.
GRAYSON: Well, his story is that he wrote a book report about the
Florida state legislature. Never published in any form, anywhere at all.
And the state paid him $152,000 which he never was punished for. I mean, a
lot of the worst corruption in Florida goes completely unpunished.
HAYES: He was not punished for his $152,000 book report?
GRAYSON: No, no, he wasn`t punished for that. And look what the
governor has done, he owns the largest chain of health clinics in the
state. So what did he do? He shuts down all of the state public health
clinics. No competition. He turns Medicaid over to privatization. And
then to top it all off, he requires state employees to get drug tested.
Tell me, where are they going to go to get drug tests? His company.
HAYES: I see why you`re such an effective attorney, Congressman. You
make a persuasive case. All right. Tracie, I think a lot of people have
read about Louisiana, read all the king`s men, have a sense of the place.
What`s your case for Louisiana? And particularly Louisiana, now. I think,
you know, obviously there`s a period of time in which Louisiana I think you
would count as unquestionably the most corrupt state in the nation. Why
TRACIE WASHINGTON, LOUISIANA JUSTICE INSTITUTE: Well, why now, and
then our history, Chris. And with all due respect, Alan, our Louisiana
politicians are the OB (ph) ones, we have the OB ones, we teach you well
how to be corrupt. When Huey Long started the share our wealth program, he
meant, no, no, you don`t understand, this is our wealth, we`re going to
share it with you people, but this money from the oil is mine. You know?
So we talk corruption in Louisiana with money and with sex and with all due
respect to Mr. Christie, our mayor can even top him on the bullying stance.
You know, Mitch Landrieu`s got bullying down. So when we talk in
terms of corruption, the Department of Justice has said Louisiana,
particularly our area of Louisiana, we have nine convictions per 100,000
people. We don`t have as many people as you all have in Illinois and in
Florida, but the people we have, we like to throw in jail.
HAYES: I would also say, you did have, I mean, just part of what
makes a great corruption story from a narrative perspective are details.
Congressman William Jefferson with the money in the freezer is one of the
more -- one of the more high-definition examples of that. I want to talk
about Illinois. I want to make my case for Illinois right after this
break. Stick around for that.
HAYES: We`re back and we are in the first ever ALL IN tournament of
corruption. I`m here with Darryl Isherwood, representing the great state
of New Jersey. Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida. And Tracie
Washington, she`s representing Louisiana. I lived in Illinois, in Chicago
for a number of years and I was a reporter there. And first of all, I
think the headline of before this governor, you`ve got four of the last
seven who end up in jail is pretty, pretty good number. I think people
know, they know this particular sound bite from a governor by the name of
Rod Blagojevich on a taped phone call attempting to sell the Senate seat of
the man who had just been elected president. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP0
ROD BLAGOJEVICH, THE GUARDIAN: I`ve got this thing, and it`s (bleep)
golden. And I`m just not giving it up for (bleep) nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That`s a little window. I think one thing people don`t know
is when I was a reporter in Chicago, when I first got there, there was the
license for bribe scandal which is what took down the previous governor.
License for bribe scandal was a setup in which the governor`s fund-raisers
would, people would give cash for bribes to get commercial licenses they
should not have had. One of those drivers who obtained the commercial
license via bribe ends up in an accident that kills six children on a
highway. That is what ends up opening this investigation and leads to 80
people going away, including the governor?
You`ve got operation gray ward in the 1980s that takes out a bunch of
judges. You`ve got mobsters in "Operation Greylord" who are fixing murder
cases by paying 1,000 bucks to a judge inside the Chicago machine. So I
think -- I think Illinois can stand with any of them, particularly I think
the four out of seven governors. The bigger question and the question I
had about Illinois when I was there is, why does a place stay corrupt? Why
does a place tells a reporter -- why does it stay resistant to reform?
ISHERWOOD: You know, in New Jersey, it`s all about the boss system.
We`ve got a system of political bosses around the state who essentially
control political goings on. They control patronage jobs, they control
fund-raising and so --
HAYES: Same in Illinois.
ISHERWOOD: They control lawmakers. And as long as you`ve got that
system, and a different boss can move into that place as the old boss goes
to jail or turns in his boss hat, you`re going to have resistance to anti-
corruption measures because the system is built on those bosses and the
fact that they are able to provide jobs and they able to provide fund-
raising. You can`t get around it unless you get around the boss.
HAYES: Tracie, are there things you can do to reform the laws that
change it? Because what`s so fascinating to me about places that are
corrupt and the spectrum of corruption in this country, which you have
places that aren`t very corrupt and places that are very corrupt, it`s
unclear whether it`s something about the laws or something about the
institutional culture of the place.
WASHINGTON: It is really the culture of long said, you know, some
almost 100 years ago now. Louisianans don`t want good government, they
want good entertainment. I grew up in a state where, you know, everyone
knew Edwin Edwards was corrupt. I grew up as a kid knowing Edwin Edwards
was corrupt. He was our governor but he gave us some money. We had books.
We liked it, you know? And until you shift the paradigm of people, until
we`re out of a parade mentality here, you know, I`m a civil rights
attorney. I find the humor in all of this because I have to. Otherwise I
wouldn`t be able to survive. But I understand just as the six kids died in
Illinois, we have problems when we have this kind of corruption. So it`s
shifting the paradigm, and the mindset of people with their tolerance for
HAYES: Yes, and there are, I mean, that`s the other thing is
corruption, you know, there are corruption scandals that are humorous
because they don`t have, you know, they do not take a toll of a human life
or something like that.
WASHINGTON: And, Chris.
HAYES: Yes, Tracie.
WASHINGTON: We`ll throw you a parade. You know, the more corrupt you
are in Louisiana, the bigger your float. So think about that.
HAYES: Congressman Grayson, part of the reason I think I was
skeptical of Florida, although you made a really good case there is I have
never -- I think about Rhode Island, I think about Louisiana, I think about
New Jersey, and I think about Illinois, as places that have a tradition of
boss politics. In which they have patronage machines. Those patriots --
tend to control both fund-raising and jobs and party machines who get
slated. And that`s this kind of almost futile system in which lords
control their turf. I don`t think of Florida that way. Is that -- am I
wrong not to think of Florida that way?
GRAYSON: Well, the state level it`s clearly a one-party system and
the Republican Party in Florida is hopelessly corrupt. They handed out
credit cards to all their top officials. Corporation contributions to the
Republican Party of Florida ended up paying for personal expenses
including, for instance, a back waxing for Senator Rubio. And I can give
you countless other examples and none of this ever gets punished. The
reason why you don`t think of Florida, so much never gets punished. Why is
It`s because the ethics committee is appointed by the governor. So,
they`re not going to do anything to the governor. The ethics committee is
not allowed to bring any charges, not even allowed to perform independent
investigations. And if a citizen brings a charge of corruption against a
public official in the State of Florida and can`t prove by clear or
convincing evidence, the citizen, the informants has to pay the attorneys
fees for the official.
HAYES: OK. Well, that`s pretty good. Everyone, very quickly, ten
seconds. One-line pitch for your state.
ISHERWOOD: We have a boardwalk empire. An HBO series devoted to New
Jersey corruption and Nucky Thompson.
HAYES: You definitely went pop-culture representations, Tracie
WASHINGTON: I can`t top back waxing. I just can`t.
HAYES: Congressman Grayson, anything other than back waxing?
GRAYSON: Yes. We have more corrupt public officials in Florida than
alligators. That`s saying a lot.
HAYES: All right. My headline for Illinois is four of seven of the
governors previous to this one in the slammer. I`m going to declare
tonight`s tournament too close to call. Darryl Isherwood from
NewJersey.com. Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida. Tracie Washington
from Louisiana Justice Institute. Thank you very much.
WASHINGTON: Thank you.
HAYES: I actually learned a tremendous amount in that segment. Thank
you so much. That is ALL IN for this evening. "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW"
starts now and you`re going to watch it. Good evening, Rachel.
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Thank you very much,
Chris. I`m going to say you -- out a little bit on the whole too close to
call thing. But the litany of scandals in all those states was
tremendously enlightening in the worst possible act.
HAYES: I was waiting for someone to offer me a bribe to take the win.
MADDOW: Yes. Exactly. You made it obvious. All right. Thanks,
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