All In With Chris Hayes, Tuesday, February 18th, 2014
Read the transcript from the Tuesday show
ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
February 18, 2014
Guests: Matt Angle, Mike Lofgren, Bob Jordan, Gina McCarthy, Kevin Roose, Nicholas Confessore, Zephyr Teachout
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC HOST: Good evening from New York. I`m Chris
Today, the man who wants to be the next governor of Texas, who would
govern more people than any Republican in the country, who would be the
closest thing there is to the president of red America -- that man, Greg
Abbott, kicked off the first day of early voting with a Texas gubernatorial
primaries by doing two events with this guy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TED NUGENT, MUSICIAN: I was in Chicago last week and said, "Hey,
Obama! You might want to suck on one of these, you punk!"
Obama, he`s a piece of (EXPLETIVE DELETED), and I told him to suck on
my machine gun. Let`s hear it for him!
And then I was in New York. I said, "Hey, Hillary! You might want to
ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was one-time rock star present day professional troll Ted
Nugent at a concert in 2007.
Nugent has managed to keep his name in the headlines by offering up a
steady stream of disgusting, outrageous, often racist invective, like this
description of the president last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUGENT: A Chicago communist-raised, communist-educated, communist-
nurtured subhuman mongrel, like the ACORN community organizer gangster
Barack Hussein Obama.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: OK. We could spend the next hour playing you clips like that.
That is not the story. It`s not about what Ted Nugent says.
This is a story about how and why Ted Nugent is being deployed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NUGENT: We don`t have to question Greg Abbott`s courage because he
invited me here today. I am so proud to be here today in Denton, Texas, to
introduce the next governor that will make sure America knows what freedom
looks like and it looks like Greg Abbott. My friend, Greg Abbott.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: My friend. Ted Nugent may be proud two sharing the stage with
his friend, Greg Abbott. Abbott`s campaign isn`t so sure. With local news
leading with Abbott`s decision to campaign with Nugent, Abbott told
reporters he was unaware of Nugent`s past comments and the Abbott campaign
said in a statement that "While Nugent may sometimes say things or use
language that Greg Abbott would not endorse or agree with, we appreciate
the support of everyone who supports protecting our Constitution." That`s
the official statement distancing Abbott from Nugent.
The unofficial story comes from this CNN report where a senior Abbott
aide admits that their campaign is only on bringing Nugent to help spur
voter turnout among the base. Turns out while only 100 people initially
committed to attend the event this morning, when it announced Nugent was
coming, the number of expected attendees tripled.
Think about what`s happening here. Greg Abbott, man with a good shot
of being the next governor of Texas, is treating Ted Nugent as mainstream
political discourse. Because doing so riles up the Obama-hating far right
base, he needs to come out in droves in order to defeat Democrat Wendy
And this is not just a Texas phenomenon. Take a look at what is
happening in the capital, Washington, D.C., where the "Washington Post"
reports the Republicans are shelving any big ticket legislation for the
rest of the year. Why? Because in the words of GOP Representative Devin
Nunes, we don`t have 218 votes in the House for the big vote, so what are
we going to do?
And the reason there aren`t 218 votes to do big things, that is 218
Republican votes, is because there`s a cohort of Republicans in the House
who are effectively the Nugent caucus. People like Tea Party Texas
Congressman Steve Stockman who brought Ted Nugent, a man who the secret
service investigated after saying he would be dead or in jail if President
Obama won re-election, he brought that guy to the State of the Union
address this year.
Right now, waiting for a vote in the House is a Senate-passed
immigration bill, would start to fix America`s broken immigration policy
and finally unshackle 11 million people in this country from the terror of
But the Nugent caucus says no. And there is a direct line between the
events that Greg Abbott held with Ted Nugent today and the fact that
millions are still waiting for their Congress to finally do something on
immigration. Nugent was there because the most passionate, committed,
turned up part of the Republican base views him as a hero and it is that
same base that promises all hell will break loose if John Boehner and House
GOP leadership does the right thing and brings up the Senate immigration
bill for a vote.
I suppose we can at least be thankful no one in the house is as of yet
proposing Ted Nugent`s actual immigration policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you just shoot anybody coming over the
border who you suspect of being illegal?
NUGENT: In an unauthorized entry, armed like they are right now,
invading our country, I`d like to shoot them dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just shoot them dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: We reached out to Ted Nugent about appearing on the program
tonight. A representative said he was unavailable.
But joining me now, Matt Angle, executive director of the Lone Star
Project, a PAC, and senior adviser to the Wendy Davis for Texas campaign.
OK. I want to -- I want to give you the Greg Abbott aide`s comments
on this. "The controversy is what he said in the past. We are not
endorsing Ted Nugent. He is supporting us."
That good enough for you?
MATT ANGLE, EXEC. DIR., LONE STAR PROJECT: Well, it`s a cowardly
response. The truth of the matter is that they endorsed and campaigned
with one of the most divisive and mean-spirited people in our culture
because that`s what they`re building their nomination with. Some of the
most narrow-minded, mean-spirited divisive people in their culture, in
For goodness sake, Ted Nugent is somebody who has admitted having sex
with underage girls. He`s admitted manipulated and coercing their parents
into allowing him access to their children. I mean, in Texas, we put
predators in jail. We don`t bring them on up to stage with them.
And so, I think that what you see is Greg Abbott appealing to the most
divisive and, again, mean-spirited people that make up the Texas Republican
HAYES: OK. Here`s what I -- this is what I don`t get. Greg Abbott
is going to win this primary. He doesn`t really have any kind of real
credible challenge in the primary, in the GOP primary.
He is also, I think, it`s fair to say, favored to win the general
election. Wendy Davis has raised a lot of money, but he`s raised a ton.
He`s held statewide office. He`s the current attorney general of the
state. It is a Republican state.
I don`t even understand the play here. Why does Greg Abbott care if
100 people or 300 people show up to the event on the first day of early
ANGLE: Well, there`s a couple reasons, Chris. First of all,
Republican leaders in Texas like Greg Abbott. When they look to the
future, it scares them to death. They see the diversity in Texas. They
see the changing face in Texas. It`s possible for a fair-minded Democrat
like a Wendy Davis to build a coalition and have a majority.
The way that they see themselves holding power is to stop that
coalition from being built. And they do that by, again, trying to motivate
the most narrow-minded and mean-spirited people within their party. They
see that as how they hold power going forward.
The second thing is that I believe that Greg Abbott actually enjoys
going on stage with somebody like Greg Abbott. I think for whatever
reason, he gets some type of visceral thrill out of hanging out with
somebody who is as a divisive and hateful as Ted Nugent.
HAYES: Nugent, of course, is also friends with Rick Perry, the
current governor. That hasn`t stood in the way of Rick Perry becoming
either a national figure or winning numerous elections in the state of
Finally, Matt, you know, there`s been reporting about the Wendy Davis
campaign, Wendy Davis gave an interview in which she said she would appear
to back a kind of hypothetical bill that would have a 20-week abortion ban
like the one she filibustered, although different in crucial respects.
There`s been a lot of criticism for the way the campaign has handled the
Do you guys have it together down there in Texas? Is this campaign on
the right path?
ANGLE: Oh, it`s definitely on the right path. Wendy`s position on
that issue and others hasn`t changed. The truth of the matter is that
Wendy is going toe to toe with a very aggressive, divisive candidate in
Greg Abbott. He has made a number of mistakes and I think she`s in a
position to overtake him and win in November. Then, we`ve got a chance for
a real change in Texas.
HAYES: Well, I would say getting on stage with Ted Nugent is an
absolute mistake, unforced error.
Matt Angle from the Lone Star Project -- thank you.
Joining me now, MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, politics editor at
"Business Insider". Mike Lofgren, former staff of the House and Senate
Budget Committee in that position for 28 years, and author of "The Party is
Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle
Class Got Shafted."
So, Mike, as we turn our attention to Capitol Hill, the Nugent caucus
effect, right -- there`s a story I think people are telling themselves in
political circles which is basically the shutdown kind of broke the fever
of the Tea Party in Washington. And they`ve been domesticated a bit. That
they`re no longer as powerful and this clean debt ceiling raise means
basically their power has ebbed and that`s where things stand now.
Do you buy that story?
MIKE LOFGREN, AUTHOR, "THE PARTY IS OVER": I`ve gone back and forth
on it, myself. I`m not sure. It would have seemed to have peaked at the
time. However, we`ve seen Boehner go back on immigration reform after he
endorsed it for about a week.
So, I think the jury is out on that one. It may be a long time until
the fever breaks.
HAYES: Yes, the internal dynamics on immigration reform, Josh, I
mean, that -- this to me, is the test of this Congress. It`s the test of
John Boehner. And basically what you`re getting out of reporting out of
Capitol Hill now, is basically they say we don`t want to inflict any more
wounds but we`re washing our hands of any real agenda until the midterms.
JOSH BARRO, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Well, I think the difference
between immigration reform and some of these other issues is that there`s
real political peril to Republicans, the policy substance of passing
immigration reform. I think there`s a story that business Republicans in
the Northeast like to tell themselves about how, you know, this will endure
the party to Hispanic voters and broaden the party`s base. There`s a
fairly reasonable fear among Republican officeholders that this will do not
very much to overcome the 2-1 advantage that Democrats have with Hispanic
voters because that`s principally about Republican positions on economic
policy and will irritate various aspects of their base.
So, I think -- you know, I think what`s happened on Capitol Hill over
the last few months is Republicans have gotten more rational about what is
and is not a political threat.
BARRO: I think they realized that shutting down the government was a
political threat. It made them look reckless and incompetent and they
won`t do that anymore. I think on immigration, they understand that any
path they take is politically fraught, but I don`t think the lesson they
learned is they ought to pass it.
HAYES: Yes. I think that`s exactly right. Basically what has
happened is, rather than the Tea Party now driving the agenda, the Nugent
caucus driving the agenda, they`re reduced to a veto but they`re still a
And, Mike, you worked in a Republican congressional office. You know
how that switchboard lights up when immigration reform is floated.
LOFGREN: Absolutely. That is the case, and I would say it`s now a
kind of shock theater what we`ve seen, and it was probably the beginning of
it in the 2008 presidential campaign with Sarah Palin. It`s shock theater
all the time, trying to outrage the base and motivate them.
The problem is, it`s kind of like drug addiction. You need a larger
and larger dose in order to get the same effect. So, that`s the reason we
have nuts like Ted Nugent.
HAYES: That is exactly right. Ted Nugent is basically the free-base
version of Sarah Palin. No, I think Mike`s right, essentially you create a
ratcheting up effect in which to truly rile up, you have to get more and
more outrageous. And no matter how outrageous you get, ala, Ted Nugent,
you can`t place yourself so far to not be invited on the stage with a
genuine, like current elected initial who has a shot at being the next
BARRO: Well, I think, relatedly, Republicans have learned that it`s
very difficult to get punished for something one of your surrogates said.
We saw this in the 2012 campaign, where Mitt Romney went to Las Vegas to
appear on stage with Donald Trump to accept Trump`s endorsement, even
though Trump from is a ridiculous carnival barker saying president`s birth
certificate isn`t real, and such and such.
I don`t think that that got through to the general election
electorate, as a sign that Mitt Romney was unsuited to the presidency. And
similarly, the things Ted Nugent is saying, if Greg Abbott was saying them,
that would undermine the campaign. But the sort of statement that they
issue is going to work for them, well, they say -- well, you know, we don`t
think it`s necessarily a good thing to say the president is a subhuman
HAYES: Right. OK, but, Mike, this is the point. Someone at some
point in the Republican Party has to draw some line. I hate playing the
sort of like, you know, the theater you were talking about, you need to
condemn and disown. You know, you don`t have to condemn and disown Ted
Nugent when he`s saying random stuff. You can`t have an event with him.
Someone at some point has to say, this is not OK. We need to stop doing
LOFGREN: That would involve dissing people like Rush Limbaugh, that
would involve dissing the entire culture that`s built up since 2008 in the
creation of the Tea Party. These people are consciously going for a
certain demographic. They`re going for your crazy uncle at thanksgiving
dinner. That`s the person they`re going for -- the guy who`s ranting about
the builder burgers.
HAYES: Right. And talking about subhuman mongrels as Josh Barro
MSNBC contributor Josh Barro, former congressional staffer, Mike
Lofgren -- thank you.
LOFGREN: Thank you.
HAYES: Coming up, it just keeps getting worse for Chris Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Fifteen months later, the
governor of a state of 8.9 million people still spends about 40 percent of
my working time every month on Sandy-related issues. This is -- well, it
used to be 100 percent. Thankfully for me, it`s going down a bit because
there are other things I`m dealing with inside the state as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: While he`s dealing with those, a poll of actual Hurricane
Sandy victims shows that three-quarters of those who applied for aid from
the state feel they`ve been forgotten about. We`ll talk about that and
those other things, ahead.
HAYES: Tomorrow night, for the first time since he was elected the
new mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio will join me here for a live in-
studio interview. We`ll be talking about all sorts of issues from his
decision to reform New York`s controversial stop and frisk program, to his
fight to fund universal preschool by taxing the rich.
Now, I want to get audience participation on this. Tell us, what
questions do you have for the mayor? Tweet your answers @allinwithChris,
or post at Facebook.com/allinwithchris.
Thanks. Be sure to tune in tomorrow night, 8:00 Eastern, to catch my
interview with Mayor de Blasio, live.
HAYES: Today, for the first time in more than six months, Governor
Chris Christie was supposed to hold a town hall where he would answer
questions directly from his constituents. Because of winter weather, that
gathering has now been delayed twice and is currently rescheduled for
Thursday in the Port Monmouth section of Middletown, New Jersey -- an area
devastated by hurricane Sandy. Governor Christie saw firsthand when he
visited a week after the storm.
As we`ve been covering extensively on the show, since before Chris
Christie was re-elected, this is the central paradox of Chris Christie.
Hurricane Sandy was the event that transformed the governor into a
superstar. Just look at his favorability ratings over the past four years.
Steady, steady, steady -- until the storm. And his ratings shot up only
returning to normal after the George Washington Bridge scandal broke.
Chris Christie defined himself as the guy who ran to the rescue after
the hurricane, who crossed party lines and crisscrossed the state to aid
his constituent. He even said that finishing the job of fixing his state
post-Sandy is the biggest reason he ran for re-election. And yet, as we
have documented week in and week out, the actual record of the state
response to helping the victims of hurricane Sandy has been at best
mediocre and at worst, a total disaster.
Today, there was a breaking point. As the "Asbury Park Press", a
paper from a Republican-leaning area, which endorsed Christie in November,
issued an editorial entitled, "Christie`s answers overdue on bungled Sandy
The paper going on to note the governor needs to provide substantive,
honest answers to the questions New Jerseyans continue to ask about the
snails-pace progress in getting federal Sandy aid into the hands of people
who need it. Christie must be reminded that telling people to just be
patient is unacceptable.
And it`s not just the editorial board of a local paper. It`s actual
Sandy victims. Monmouth University spent months surveying 854 New Jersey
residents who were directly affected by hurricane Sandy, 64 percent of them
are dissatisfied with New Jersey`s Sandy recovery efforts so far, 55
percent says it`s been difficult to even get information out of the state,
and 74 percent don`t think the recovery effort is focused on helping people
like them, that they have largely been forgotten.
Joining me now is Bob Jordan, who is a statehouse reporter for the
"Asbury Park Press."
And, Bob, the editorial in your paper kind of surprised me today, it`s
fair to say. Is there growing discontent among the folks that read your
paper with way the Sandy aid has been distributed?
BOB JORDAN, ASBURY PARK PRESS: Well, Chris, that Monmouth University
poll certainly was alarming to us. Almost by 2-1 margin of people who
applied for aid are dissatisfied. And it`s not a scientifically accurate
poll because it was taken over a number of weeks and months, part of a
larger project by Monmouth University, but that certainly got attention.
And the -- there`s a black cloud, it seems, that`s following the
governor because, you know, he has made some efforts to schedule town
halls, now he`s been canceled two or three times. He did have an event in
Keansburg two, three weeks ago, and he didn`t really -- he told people
basically who were upset about the lack of aid to be patient. And being
patient isn`t really cutting it at this point.
HAYES: Yes, I mean, what we have seen is that we`ve been getting
anecdotal reports. We`ve gotten some data to back this up of the fact that
aid has been going to places -- places that weren`t particularly hard hit
by the storm. That people`s individual experiences with the bureaucracy,
particularly through the contractors, have been very difficult.
And there still are no answered questions about how the state has
fired two of its biggest contractors to oversee.
I mean, do you want to get answers on just those basic questions?
JORDAN: Yes. I mean, I`ve asked several times, several different
attempts to find out exactly what went wrong with the HGI contract. HGI
ended up being paid out, $37 million over about half a year of work. That
included a termination fee.
So, the administration has not really released the information of why
HGI was let go. And it`s troubling because it probably was the right
decision if the contractor was not performing, why not get on top of a
chair and say, look what we did, we`re fixing it, we`re getting rid of a
bad contractor? But that hasn`t happened. It`s still a mystery of what
happened with that contractor.
HAYES: We`ll be looking on Thursday night to see if the governor gets
any questions directly from constituents about those contractors, the
problems with the contractors.
Bob Jordan from the "Asbury Park Press" -- thank you.
Coming up, meet Tom Steyer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM STEYER, BILLIONAIRE: I think Mitt Romney and I share an income
bracket, but the reason I`m here tonight is that Mitt Romney and I don`t
share the same vision for the future, especially when it comes to energy.
You see, this election is a choice -- a choice about whether to go backward
or forward. And that choice is especially stark when it comes to energy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: That was Tom Steyer, at the Democratic National Convention in
2012. Today, he said he plans to spend $100 million to make combating
climate change a priority in 2014. Forward momentum in the climate battle,
I`ll be talking about it with the head of the EPA. Just stick around.
HAYES: Something pretty remarkable is happening in American politics
right now. We are seeing right now and for the first time in a long time
some real forward momentum on climate change.
Take, for instance, this big headline out of "The New York Times"
today. One man, Tom Steyer, plans to spend as much as $100 million during
just the 2014 election cycle to push state and federal officials to enact
climate change measures.
Steyer is a Democrat, a billionaire, who already dropped $11 million
in the governor`s race in Virginia to help Democrat Terry McAuliffe defeat
Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli, a man with a solid record of
questioning the science on climate change.
And in the fall, Steyer plans to go after Florida Governor Rick Scott,
who says that science does not create climate change. From "The Tampa Bay
Time", asked if he believe in climate change he said, "No, I have not been
Meanwhile, the administration itself seems to be getting more
aggressive on the issue. The president, today, rolled out a plan that
would cut fuel consumption and carbon emissions from large trucks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Improving gas mileage
for these trucks are going to drive down our oil imports even further.
That reduces carbon pollution even more, cuts down on businesses` fuel
costs, which should pay off in lower prices for consumers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: President`s announcement follows provocative comments from
Secretary of State John Kerry made to some students in Indonesia over the
weekend. What Kerry said, which is 1,000 percent absolutely true, is
climate change is its own weapon of mass destruction.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: Think about this -- terrorism,
epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, all
challenges that know no borders. The reality is that climate change ranks
right up there with every single one of them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HAYES: And all of this, all of this activity on the heels, comes on
the heels of an EPA proposal that could effectively cut power emissions
from hundreds of power plants. In the last few months, what you`re seeing
is a movement for climate justice and other people, donors, politicians,
the administration picking fights, being aggressive.
It started with activists organizing to block the Keystone XL
Pipeline. It`s reverberated out now through the entire political world.
And there`s an old saying in organizing, you can`t win fights unless
you start them.
Well, the good guys are no longer in defensive crouch.
Joining me now, Gina McCarthy, administrator of the U.S. Environmental
It`s great to have you on the program.
So, here`s the question. If a 10, on a scale of one to 10, 10 is what
this president, what our government would need to do by the end of this
president`s term to be on the right track in terms of carbon emissions,
where on a scale from one to 10 can you get to without any congressional
GINA MCCARTHY, ADMINISTRATOR, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY: Well,
Chris, it`s great to be here.
And I think the president`s been very clear that he`s eager to work
with Congress, but he`s not waiting. We`re going to take action, and
there`s a lot of ability for the administration, when we work together,
when we work with businesses and the industries in the states to actually
make a significant dent in carbon emissions, to help our communities stay
safe through resiliency and to become a bigger player in the international
HAYES: But what does significant mean, right? We have got this math
that`s bearing down on us and the numbers really matter.
HAYES: Like, how far can we get with just what the EPA is doing right
now on things like fuel-efficiency that did it for cars, announced today
for trucks? New power plants. Old power plants. How far can you get?
MCCARTHY: Oh, we can get a significant step forward. This is a
We`re going to take actions that actually present opportunities to
keep people safer, to save money, and the announcement today was one of
those opportunities. But we`re not stopping there. Every agency is
engaged in this. But we`re not starting from scratch, Chris.
It`s not as if the U.S. has done nothing. Our local communities and
states have been very active. It`s the federal government that has been
slow to the table, but no more. We are moving forward and we`re going to
get the reductions we need. We`re going to get international action moving
forward. And we`re going to be working to make this a significant benefit
to the economy of the U.S. moving forward.
After all, climate change isn`t just an environmental challenge. It`s
a serious economic challenge. This president is treating it with the
seriousness it deserves.
HAYES: Yes. Right now, the biggest issue that seems to be cued up in
terms of the politics is, of course, the Keystone XL pipeline, the report
coming from the State Department basically concluding it would not expand
demand for that oil which burns -- which takes more carbon emission, dirty
oil. What is the EPA`s position on this? And what is your agency going to
do in the next 90 days to have input into this process?
MCCARTHY: Well, Chris, as you know, the final environmental impact
statement has gone out.
EPA and other agencies are going to be commenting on that. I think
people are aware that EPA has been free to comment, as it should, on the
science and the analysis. We will continue to do that. And I`m confident
that the right decisions will be made and EPA will be able to impact those
with our comments moving forward.
HAYES: The White House has been a big booster of natural gas.
HAYES: The president has talked about it in variety of speeches. He
talked about it in his big climate speech. He talked about it in the State
of the Union.
There`s a new study out and it looks at the greenhouse gas effect of
fracking particularly. Fracking, of course, there`s the carbon part of it.
But there`s also methane. And methane is a much more powerful greenhouse
gas than even carbon. This study, researchers estimate the country`s
methane emissions are probably about 50 percent higher than the EPA, your
own agency, currently believes.
That`s important because methane is a potent greenhouse gas with 30
times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Are you going to
take another look at what contribution fracking is having to global warming
in the wake of this study?
MCCARTHY: Well, we do. We continually look at this and we update our
data as it becomes available.
The important thing to remember, Chris, is that methane is an
important pollutant that we get our arms around. It`s part of the
president`s climate action plan. We will be releasing a comprehensive
strategy to do that.
But it`s also important to remember that when you`re looking at
natural gas, the president has said that it is necessary in this transition
period because we can`t change overnight to address climate in its
entirety. But we`re moving forward by doubling the amount of energy we
actually generate through renewables, which have been successful and we
continue to be.
In the meantime, we need to make sure that natural gas is safe and
responsible. The technologies are available to reduce methane emissions
from natural gas fracking operations. In fact, EPA has already issued
regulations that are coming into effect that will recapture that methane,
put it in the pipeline, offer it for sale.
So this technology is available to us. These are not unsolvable
problems. But it is important that we have the fuels in the interim.
HAYES: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, thank you so much.
HAYES: Coming up, breaking news out of Ukraine tonight, where violent
clashes between anti-government protesters and police are getting worse.
These are live pictures you`re looking at right now. We will have a report
HAYES: Breaking news tonight.
This is what`s happening in the capital of Ukraine right now, clashes
between police and anti-government protesters camped out in Independence
Square in Kiev. Protesters started gathering there in November after
Ukraine`s president decided against a trade deal with the European Union.
And while there have been clashes between the protesters and the
police before, tonight is the bloodiest clash yet. Started just after 8:00
p.m. local time, when police started to break down protesters` barriers
using armored personnel carriers, tear gas, water cannons, and according to
protesters, live ammunition, though that`s not been confirmed yet by NBC
At least 18 people have been killed, including seven police officers,
according to the BBC. Vice President Joe Biden called Ukrainian President
Yanukovych this evening to ask him to pull back his forces, stating the
United States condemns violence by any side. A government bears special
responsibility to de-escalate the situation.
Rachel Maddow will have much more on what`s happening right now in
Ukraine, what led up to it, and what it means geopolitically, in just over
half-an-hour right here on MSNBC.
HAYES: When we think of the politics of the old gilded age, we think
about the smoke-filled rooms and tightly closed doors where those in power
plotted the country`s future. And, today, in this new gilded age, we`re
seeing a 21st century revival of the backrooms of old.
WILBUR ROSS, INVESTOR: The 1 percent is being picked on for political
reasons. I think the right focus would be, how do you help the lower
classes elevate themselves?
HAYES (voice-over): It`s tough out there for the 1 percent.
Everywhere they turn, people are questioning their methods and motives.
Thankfully, there are a few places left where they can just be themselves.
Sometimes, they let the cameras in.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some people
call you the elite. I call you my base.
HAYES: Sometimes, they wish they didn`t.
MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There are 47 percent
of the people who will vote for the president no matter what.
HAYES: You see, the non-elite just don`t get it. It`s no wonder that
when captains of industry get together, they have their own special
ROSS: Good evening, Exalted High Council, former Grand Swipes, Grand
Swipes-in-waiting, fellow Wall Street Kappas, Kappas from the Spring Street
and Montgomery Street chapters, and worthless neophytes!
HAYES: That was the voice of Wilbur Ross, billionaire investor and
the guy you met earlier. He was welcoming other titans of Wall Street
gathered at New York`s St. Regis Hotel for the annual meeting of Kappa Beta
Phi, a secret Wall Street fraternity only rumored to be in existence, until
Today, "New York" magazine published an amazing account of how
reporter Kevin Roose was able to sneak into the event in January of 2012.
Kappa Beta Phi, a group with a membership roster that reads like a who`s-
who of finance. It lists former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former
Lehman CEO Dick Fuld, and Jon Corzine, the former New Jersey governor, as
The purpose of that evening at St. Regis was simple, to speak among
friends without the glare of the media and to welcome 21 new members known
as neophytes, all of whom were required to dress in leotards, gold-sequined
skirts, with costume wigs.
Highlights from the group`s past year came from Warren Stephens, an
investment banker worth an estimated $2.5 billion, who took the stage in a
Confederate flag hat and then sang a little ditty to the tune of "Dixie."
HAYES: Jokes came from Paul Queally, the private equity executive.
PAUL QUEALLY, PRIVATE EQUITY EXECUTIVE: What`s the biggest difference
between Hillary Clinton and a catfish? One has whiskers and stinks, and
the other is a fish.
HAYES: Now, this was just one event in one backroom in one hotel.
But thanks to Citizens United, there are other events in backrooms across
America, where the occupants aren`t just trading tasteless jokes, but
trying to determine the outcome of the next election.
Today, news that Paul Singer, a New York billionaire, is bringing
together some of the richest pro-business donors in the country, trying to
shape the direction of the Republican Party. The exclusive club called the
American Opportunity Alliance will gather in a closed-door event at a
swanky Colorado resort to strategize.
House Speaker John Boehner and New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte are
expected to attend. Citizens United has helped create government by and
for the 1 percent. And to those of you not invited into those backrooms,
remember the old saying, if you`re not at the table, you`re on the menu.
HAYES: Joining me now is Kevin Roose, the reporter from "New York"
magazine who crashed that party. He`s author of "Young Money: Inside the
Hidden World of Wall Street`s Post-Crash Recruits," which is out today.
Congratulations on pub day.
KEVIN ROOSE, "NEW YORK": Thank you very much.
HAYES: All right. Set the scene for me. How does -- what is -- can
this -- did you make this up? It`s really beyond character.
ROOSE: I promise you I did not make this up, although someone said to
me today, you know, if Martin Scorsese had gotten this for "The Wolf of
Wall Street," he would have thrown it for being over the top, too
ROOSE: So, I heard about this dinner. It has been going on for over
80 years, this group called Kappa Beta Phi.
And I thought, well, I have to go. I was reporting this book about
young Wall Street bankers. And one of my questions always, what happens to
these guys as they get older and more powerful? How does the psychology of
wealth change them, you know, as they mature?
And so I thought, you know, I have got to at least try to get into
this thing. So, I went to a tux rental place in Midtown. I got myself a
cheap tux. I put it on and I went to the St. Regis Hotel and I waltzed
right in. It was unbelievable.
HAYES: And then you just watched it. And did you take your iPhone
out to record?
ROOSE: I did. I had my phone out to record. The only time -- so I
was there for probably an hour-and-a-half, two hours. I saw basically the
entire dinner, people doing these skits and sketches, the neophytes, the
rack of lamb dinner.
And then, at the very end, I took out my phone to record a picture and
a guy at my table sort of grabbed me and said, what are you doing here?
HAYES: And then they very, very, very quickly hustled you out of
there, kicked you out of there.
ROOSE: Well, they tried to first convince me not to write my story.
HAYES: Yes, tell me about that interaction, because basically they`re
essentially trying to bribe you into silence.
ROOSE: Right. They would say things like, well, these people could
be very helpful to you if you would just keep that privacy in mind.
So it was a real, like, favor-trading, sort of wink, wink thing. And
obviously I was going to write this story. Who in their right mind
HAYES: Well, as a reporter, that`s pretty golden stuff.
ROOSE: Right. Right.
HAYES: I don`t think you could help me as much as how awesome this
material is. So...
ROOSE: Right. Exactly. So, I wasn`t going to be persuaded out of
it. But they did -- after that, they did hustle me out there, although
there was a little bit of like a physical near altercation there with one
of the members.
HAYES: What do you mean by that?
ROOSE: Well, he grabbed my lapels and he tried to take my phone.
HAYES: An old-school move.
ROOSE: An old-school move.
And this guy is a husky guy. He wrestled, I think, at Princeton or
something like that. So, he`s a big guy. And luckily another member came
and took me out of there before he could do anything.
HAYES: Was your jaw on the floor during this?
Were you like I can`t believe that they would -- I mean, because,
look, people say things in private all the time. And we have some sort of
caricature of the 1 percent. It seems to me almost like they were kind of
performing what they thought other people thought of them. It was like a
kind of -- was it tongue-in-cheek?
ROOSE: So this was -- it wasn`t tongue-in-cheek, but you have to
remember this was in 2012. This was in January. It was like a couple
months after the Occupy Wall Street movement had happened.
So these guys had been in the crosshairs. Most of them were keeping a
very low profile. And this was sort of their outlet, where they could, you
know, in what they thought was a safe environment, unleash what they
thought about, you know, the bailouts, about the Occupy movement, about
Hillary Clinton. They could sort of get it all out there.
HAYES: About Barney Frank. A homophobic joke is told.
ROOSE: A homophobic joke about Barney Frank who helped write the
So, this was really them with their guards down completely. And so
when I outed myself, it was like a bomb had gone off.
HAYES: Yes, there`s panic that spreads through the room as soon as
someone realizes a reporter has just seen all of this.
ROOSE: Oh, they`re watching their careers go up in smoke.
HAYES: The other thing I thought interesting, they go after Occupy
Wall Street. They sort of lampoon it as dirty hippies.
There`s a skit called Bailout King sung to the tune of ABBA, "Dancing
HAYES: Which I thought was like -- it`s just like they`re reveling in
the fact they got away with it. That`s what it felt like.
ROOSE: So, for part of my book, I followed eight young bankers for
And one of them said to me, after I described the scene, he says, it
sounds like something Occupy Wall Street would invent if they wanted people
to hate bankers even more.
HAYES: As Occupy Wall Street propaganda.
HAYES: Kevin Roose from "New York" magazine.
The book is called "Young Money." It`s out today. Check it out.
More on this ahead.
HAYES: Joining me now, Nicholas Confessore, political reporter for
"The New York Times" on the billionaires in politics beat, and Zephyr
Teachout, an associate professor of law at Fordham University School of
All right. Here`s my first question to you, Nicholas Confessore, who
does I think some of the most stellar reporting on money in politics
anywhere. I want to show this graphic. We said -- we were going back and
forth. We were like, how do you talk about big money and dark money? And
there`s this "Washington Post" graphic of the $400 million political
network backed by the Koch brothers.
NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Right.
HAYES: This is what it looks like, just this constellation you can
make zero sense of. OK?
HAYES: How do you -- do we know how much money there is floating
around out there? Can you even get your arms around it?
CONFESSORE: No. The answer is no.
You could in theory go into the tax returns that the IRS has and add
up all these groups, all these 501(c)(4) groups. But the disclosure laws
are pretty weak. There`s so much we don`t know. We just really have no
idea how much is sloshing around the system.
HAYES: What is -- if I were to say to you, like, you`re -- I`m a
fashion editor and you need to write a style piece about like what`s hot in
dark money, like, what would you say is the new, like, the new 2014
CONFESSORE: Are you ready for it?
HAYES: I am, yes.
CONFESSORE: LLCs, my friend, LLCs.
HAYES: OK, meaning?
CONFESSORE: What we`re going to see is donors are going to use
corporations they have or set up for the purpose of making their
contribution to super PACs.
That way, you can have all the advantages and flexibility of a super
PAC without the disclosure.
HAYES: OK. This is a really key point. I want to hammer this home.
Super PACs, there`s no cap on how much you can give, but there is
disclosure. So, we know that Sheldon Adelson gave $20 million or whatever
to the super PAC; 501(c)(4)s, also a vehicle, right, can keep their donors
HAYES: But you`re saying the new, the new hotness in this world is
basically just starting a private corporation, which is what it looks like
Paul Singer is doing, right, and basically saying, private corporations,
Citizens United says my private corporation can spend unlimited amounts and
getting a bunch of people to give it money and using that vehicle.
I mean, look, what Paul Singer is doing is he`s creating a club. You
know, there are now -- what we are now seeing, right, is tribes of donors
that are basically displacing the parties. And the link is going from the
donor who runs the organization now and spends the money to advance the
policy. The parties aren`t in the picture anymore.
HAYES: It is classic devolution in certain senses. Right? It`s like
the empire coming apart and devolving into feudalism, is what we`re seeing.
Zephyr, you have written a lot about big money. What -- how should we
feel? So, we did -- I just did this whole package, backroom deals,
billionaires, they`re out to get you. And of course it`s on the same day
that Tom Steyer, this big liberal billionaire who made his money in hedge
funds, is saying, I`m spending $100 million. And I`m up in my room, like,
that a boy, buddy, go get them.
Like, how should liberals feel when you read a headline like that?
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW. Well, I think
there`s two things.
One is how we should see these headlines and the second is how we
should respond. So, first of all, we have to see them as sort of joining
Nicholas` club and Kevin`s club, that this is about power, this is about
incredible consolidation of power, and the use of that consolidation in the
economic realm -- we have seen incredible consolidation in banking -- to
then exercise power in the political realm.
So, first is just a habit of seeing all the monopolies there and
seeing the way that the monopolies are then using their power politically.
And the second is, we should respond like the great Republican Teddy
Roosevelt, with two different political responses. One is public funding
of campaigns. And the second is breaking up all this consolidated power.
HAYES: But how do you -- the problem is, what is the terrain right
now, as the Supreme Court bequeathed it? And this is one of those cases
where there was this reaction to Citizens United then a whole bunch of
people saying, oh, you`re overinterpreting what a big difference Citizens
United is going to be make.
There was all this -- I remember being scolded by all these pedants on
the right, being like, oh, you`re making -- your demagoguing Citizens
United. It has 100 percent transformed, right, Nick?
HAYES: This is not like some fictional, you know...
CONFESSORE: Well, look, it has transformed it, but not always in the
ways that were expected at the time.
HAYES: Yes, that is true.
CONFESSORE: We`re not seeing a huge amount of, you know, AT&T, you
know, big corporate money in these super PACs. They have other vehicles
where they`re probably putting the money.
What it has done, it`s just simplified the architecture for the
participation of moneyed interests in politics. You can create this thing
called a super PAC. It`s a pot into which you can pour some union money,
corporation money, and rich person money and spend it however you want.
It just makes things much easier. It`s clear, it`s legal, it`s
acceptable. And the signaling behavior as well I think is very important.
It says, this is right, this is reasonable, it is a normal part of the
process. And that`s why you see a lot more growth in super PACs.
HAYES: Right. And that gets back to this, OK, well, what do you do
about it? Public campaigns is one option. I fully support that. There`s
legislation in the House. It`s got a whole bunch of co-sponsors. They`re
almost entirely Democrats, if not exclusively Democrats.
But, given the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, right now, this is
-- this universe, this terrain is what we`re stuck with. If you`re Tom
Steyer, you`re looking around and saying, yes, sure, I would love to wave a
magic wand and not have it be the way it is, but I`m going to spend the
TEACHOUT: Well, I think that -- I`m -- I understand his engaging in
this way, but if he really wants to engage, he should engage on money in
politics itself or on breaking up monopolies itself, that unless he engages
on the sort of root -- on helping us reform the root problems of
HAYES: Zephyr, I think that`s crazy. I seriously -- I`m glad you
said that, because I really disagree with that view, because, at the end of
the day, I totally agree with you in your analysis, but the issue here is,
these are the cards that have been dealt out. There are real political
fights right now.
TEACHOUT: So one of the real political fights is New York State.
You can get public financing passed in New York State if you put that
$100 million there. So, again, not blaming him for where he`s putting it,
but I think there`s actually more efficient ways in the long term to do
things about climate change.
HAYES: There`s been a lot of pressure on Andrew Cuomo here in New
York to get a public financing bill. He has danced around. He`s resisted
as of yet. That will be a very interesting battle to continue to watch.
Nick Confessore from "The New York Times," Zephyr Teachout from
Fordham University School of Law, thank you so much.
That`s ALL IN for this evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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