All In With Chris Hayes, Wednesday, April 1st, 2015
Read the transcript from the Wednesday show
Show: ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
Date: April 1, 2015
Guest: Charles Pierce, Jay Chesshir, Lew Prince, Paul Butler, Hilary Mann
Leverett, Richard Fowler, Nick Confessore, Sam Seder, Max Wolff
ARI MELBER, MSNBC GUEST HOST (voice-over): Tonight on ALL IN --
GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: My son, Seth, signed the petition
asking me, dad, the governor, to veto this bill.
MELBER: A Republican governor tries a new tact in the religious
freedom fight. He may have learned something from Republican failures in
Then, California`s water crisis.
UIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re standing on dry grass. And we should be
standing in five feet of snow.
MELBER: For the first time in history, the Golden State gets
mandatory water restrictions.
And today, federal prosecutors indict a sitting U.S. senator, the
secret sources of cash for 2016 campaigns, and the next gadget from Amazon
that could revolutionize shopping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`ll get new products delivered to your door
before you run out. And never miss a beat.
MELBER: ALL IN starts right now.
MELBER: Good evening. I`m Ari Melber, in for Chris Hayes.
We have a lot of breaking news tonight, including a new federal
indictment that could actually help President Obama`s Iran diplomacy.
But we begin in Arkansas, where a Republican governor gave a very
unusual address today. Asa Hutchinson got caught between Republicans
pushing one of those controversial religious bills, and big corporations
like Walmart which opposed those bills as anti-gay.
Hutchinson didn`t emphasize Walmart`s opposition much today. Instead,
he invoked some disapproval closer to home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUTCHINSON: There is clearly a generational gap on this issue. My
son, Seth, signed the petition asking me, dad, the governor, to veto this
How do we as a state communicate to the world that we are respectful
of diverse workplace, and we want to be known as a state that does not
discriminate, but understands tolerance. Making this law like the federal
law will aid us in that effort in communication, but also it was my
original objective from the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: That`s actually a big statement, because dad, the governor,
had previously implied he would sign this very bill. All the major news
channels carried that speech live today, which is unusual, of course, for
Arkansas legislative press conferences. And it may mean something more
important is going on here.
This may be a turning point in Republicans` ability to use the so-
called religious freedom bills to authorize what amounts in many people`s
eyes to discrimination.
Hutchinson`s son responded with interesting political analysis about
all this today. He said it was bipartisan pressure, not family
conversation, that was moving his father. Quote, "I didn`t sway my dad,"
he told "The New York Times" today. "I think my dad is rethinking this
because of the pressure that`s coming at him from all sides."
As for Walmart, a big part of that pressure, the company also
responded today saying, "We commend Governor Hutchison for reconsidering
the bill. We support the importance of religious freedom and encourage the
legislature to make certain any legislation does not encourage
Now, all this, of course, comes just weeks after the governors of
Arkansas and Indiana had been fully behind these religious liberty bills.
It goes to show that, yes, that politics moves pretty slowly until it moves
very, very quickly.
Joining me now is Charles Pierce, a writer at large for "Esquire"
And two businesspeople on the forefront of this issue, Jay Chesshir,
president of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, and Lew Prince,
co-owner of Vintage Vinyl.
Charles, let me start with you. And the politics, you could get
whiplash watching some of these Republican governors backtrack.
CHARLES P. PIERCE, WRITER AT LARGE, ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: Yes. I think
that Asa Hutchinson did a very smart thing, and I think here in
Indianapolis, Mike Pence can`t seem to find the thing with both hands. I
mean, when you have ceded the moral high ground to the NCAA, and when
you`re on the wrong side of a human rights issue from Walmart and NASCAR,
you really have to wonder how far from the pack you`ve strayed.
MELBER: Jay, what do you think of that, and the idea that whether
it`s Walmart, the biggest company around, which has plenty of practices
that are controversial in their own right, to small businesses, this stuff
doesn`t fly anymore? This is seen as a baseline -- don`t discriminate and
don`t tell us around the country that it`s just for free religion that
people can`t follow what`s really going on.
JAY CHESSHIR, LITTLE ROCK REGIONAL CHAMBER OF COMMERCE: Well, and
while this bill protected religious freedoms for all Arkansans, it also was
interpreted as being a bill that an Arkansan could use religious freedom to
discriminate. And, obviously, the business community is for a fair and
open workplace and an equitable business environment for all.
MELBER: So, do you think, though, that companies who have been
watching this debate, unfold small or large, want it to end, want this
over? Or do they think this is a chance to plan a flag and establish
themselves in a positive light?
CHESSHIR: You know, I think this is a chance for Arkansas businesses
to plant that flag and establish themselves in a popular light, simply
because businesses are made up of individuals. Individuals want to live,
work, play and learn in a comfortable environment, an environment that they
can thrive in. We want Arkansas to be that environment.
MELBER: And, Lou, what do you think? Because even as all the
progress happens, it`s partly a function of the politics, and frankly the
attention this has gotten, as we`ve been reporting and pointing out a few
weeks ago, this was not the state of play. A lot of these companies
weren`t out on board. A lot of these states, particularly Southern states,
don`t have otherwise any protection for people who, for example, get fired
because of their identity.
LEW PRINCE, OWNER, VINTAGE VINYL: Which is true in Missouri. We have
-- in fact, we have three bills in our legislature right now that are
promoting this kind of pandering, this anti-gay, LGBT pandering.
In my business, a small business is really close to the community. I
live blocks from my business. My 24 employees really reflect the
community, so that you`re discriminating against your neighbor when -- it`s
easier to do it from a large corporate headquarters. It`s very difficult
to do it when you`re standing in a store that hundreds and hundreds of
people of every walk of life, every ethnicity, every gender come into every
MELBER: Yes, it`s difficult. And we`ve been talking about this, Lew,
it`s also weird, right?
MELBER: It`s not something a lot of people relate to say, oh, I`m
thinking about my religious values, which are important to many Americans.
Now, let me think about drawing lines who I work with in business or public
life and say, wait, you know, as I was saying the other night on ALL IN,
did you have premarital sex, what`s your life like, what kind of marriage
do you have? Even though some people hold a belief that God has a
different view of marriage, and they could talk about that in their church.
Let me read to you something that "The Atlantic" was pointing out on
the shift about Indiana and Arkansas, saying, "Look, both of these states
are solidly conservative. The travails of each state`s RFRA, these bills,
show that public opinion has moved so fast on gay rights, even the
suggestion of discrimination is anathema in right-leaning states and
suggests that same-sex marriage opponents who have viewed religious freedom
laws as their best protection against gay marriage will have to look for a
I wonder what you think of that, Lew, because at a certain point, I
think a lot of companies, small and large, are waking up to the fact that
they were getting pulled along on this, because some of the right-wing
groups wanted to make this the issue when they couldn`t win on marriage
PRINCE: Exactly. These legislators are pandering to sort of the
lowest and most backward denominator on the political spectrum. And
they`re already being left behind in the dust. It`s pretty obvious that
the polity -- the average citizen doesn`t really care about this stuff,
doesn`t want to discriminate against their neighbor.
And certainly, in my business, as a business person, it makes
absolutely no sense for me to chase away good customers for any reason.
This is a particularly odious one, because it is an attack on their freedom
to live their lives. In that sense, it`s completely un-American.
MELBER: Charles, your response and where does this go next?
PIERCE: Well, I mean, a couple of things. Number one, I agree with
Lew entirely. You know, this is an economy that still isn`t robust. And
this is a hassle nobody who runs a business needs to have.
I mean, this is just -- I mean, people running businesses in this
country have enough problems without having to worry about this. In
Indiana right now, they`re trying to find a way to fix this law without
declaring LGBT people a, quote/unquote, "protected class".
Now, Ari, you`re the lawyer. I only play one on my blog. But my
understanding is, they can`t protect local anti-discrimination laws in
cities and towns in Indiana unless the state law makes LGBT people a
protected class. Pence says he won`t do that. So that`s where the state
of play is right now here.
MELBER: Yes, I feel like you`re throwing a question back at me. But
I would agree and say that would be the main way to do it.
You know, Jay, there are other ways you could do it, but that would be
the main legal way, because we have nondiscrimination laws that go by class
and say, look, you can`t fire someone because of their gender, or because
they left work for a while to have a child. Those are protections we have,
but not on the identity issue.
What do you think of that, and where the chamber of -- locally and
nationally -- can help?
CHESSHIR: I think the business community recognizes that, especially
in Arkansas and all across the country, you know, we want to be known as a
state and country of opportunity, not intolerance. And the business
community gets that. And we`re very appreciative of what the governor did
today. And what the legislative leaders have now been asked to do tonight
and tomorrow, to plant that stake in the ground and show, we are for a fair
and open and equitable work environment and business environment.
MELBER: All right.
Go ahead, quickly.
PRINCE: I think there`s a further question which is, why would part
of our political class, why would any of our elected officials want to be
associated with this kind of intolerance of a large section of the
population. And why would any public official want to be associated with
denying any citizen the right to access to something as simple as a
MELBER: I --
PIERCE: Building on that, Ari, you will note that no prospective
Republican presidential candidate has expressed ambivalence, let alone
support for anything except Mike Pence`s position. And I think if the
business community really wants to get behind this and create this
inclusive environment in which we`ll all prosper, and we`ll all have
opportunity in these phony impediments not in the way, they can stop
financing the campaign of people like Mike Pence.
MELBER: Yes, I think that is a big question. And, Jeb Bush, of
course, got out in front of this, he`s moved so fast. Who knows where
he`ll be next week? But that`s something if the chamber is serious about,
they should talk to him about it.
Charles Pierce, Jay Chesshir, and Lew Prince, thank you all for your
We`ve got another big story coming up. Federal prosecutors indicting
Senator Robert Menendez today. And less than an hour ago, he came out
swinging saying he is angry, ready to fight. We`re going to explain the
charges, how it relates to Obama`s Iran deal. That`s straight ahead.
MELBER: One of President Obama`s largest second term goals this
diplomatic breakthrough with Iran is still hanging in the balance. We can
tell you that tonight. Now, if you follow the news, you probably know
negotiators have gone into overtime. We just don`t know whether that means
things are coming together or falling apart.
John Kerry now saying he will stay in Switzerland until Thursday.
Russia`s foreign minister region the talks yesterday and then left again
today. Now, experts are simply divided on whether all this means that
diplomats are close to a deal, or just trying out their last Hail Mary
A "Washington Post" report says current negotiations appear to have
taken a sour turn, and are on shaky ground. Accusatory statements flew
back and forth they say through the early evening, even as the diplomats
acknowledged they were still exploring proposals to find out a way out of
And if you`re wondering whether all that additional tension made
today`s negotiations look any different -- well, it`s probably safe to say,
no, it didn`t.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
MELBER: Now, that is what`s going on over there. But back here in
the States today, one of the president`s biggest foreign policy critics is
exiting the foreign relations committee we`re told, potentially a surprise
ending to a very long-standing battle over the president`s foreign affairs
agenda. It could make any Iran deal easier to sell here. Although this
senator said federal prosecutors targeted him because of his opposition to
the president`s Iran policies, and he`s a Democrat.
That fascinating story is up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: For nearly three years, I`ve
lived under a Justice Department cloud. And today, I`m outraged that this
cloud has not been lifted.
I`m outraged that prosecutors at the Justice Department were tricked
into starting this investigation three years ago, with false allegations by
those who have a political motive to silence me.
But I will not be silenced. I`m confident at the end of the day, I
will be vindicated. And they will be exposed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Today, federal prosecutors indicted a sitting U.S. senator on
bribery charges, the first federal bribery prosecution of a senator in a
Prosecutors say New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez took hundreds of
thousands of dollars in bribes and gifts from a friend and donor. The
indictment paints a picture of extreme luxury and terrible judgment,
alleging Menendez took international flights on private jets, first-class
plane trips, use of a Caribbean villa, access to an exclusive Dominican
resort, a stay at a luxury hotel in Paris, expensive meals, golf outings
and tens of thousands of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund.
Now, those were the gifts prosecutors allege Menendez paid his friends
back by abusing his office to benefit him. The friend, Salomon Melgen,
including pushing policies to enrich him, and prosecutors saying
influencing the visa proceedings of Melgen`s foreign girlfriends.
If convicted, Menendez could spend decades in prison. Again, he
denies all charges and said nothing about resigning his Senate seat at that
press conference we showed you today.
But, other big news here tonight: the senator says he has notified
leadership he will -- he will temporarily step down from his crucial post
as a top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. And that has major
implications on the entire Iran debate.
In this post, Menendez was the most powerful Democrat on foreign
policy in the Senate and huge thorn in the side of President Obama`s Iran
controversy. He worked with Republicans to post sanctions against Iran
that the White House said could undermine these late-stage negotiations.
And he crossed the president on many other issues.
Now, here`s another interesting piece tonight. Allies to Menendez are
now suggesting that that long-running feud is why he was targeted by
prosecutors in Obama`s Justice Department. That`s an explosive charge,
though the investigation predates this whole Iran battle.
Now, this news broke tonight, so no one knows who will become the top
Democrat on the committee. California`s Barbara Boxer is technically next
in line. But she`s believed to have no interest in leaving her post on the
Environmental Committee in order to fill this opening. After her, it would
be Maryland Democrat Ben Cardin.
And the bottom line is: whichever Democrat ends up as the new ranking
member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, it`s likely a big boost
to this White House`s foreign policy agenda.
Joining me now on all of this, Paul Butler, a former federal
prosecutor who specialized in these kind of public corruption cases; and
Hilary Mann Leverett, who served as a Middle East specialist with the
National Security Council and State Department under both Clinton and Bush
administrations, and co-author of a very relevant book, "Going to Tehran."
Good evening to you both.
PAUL BUTLER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Great to be here.
HILARY MANN LEVERETT, CO-AUTHOR, "GOING TO TEHRAN": Good evening.
MELBER: Paul, how serious are these charges?
BUTLER: These are very serious charges. This is a 65-page
indictment, 14 counts, including bribery. Ari, the government almost never
charges bribery, because it`s so hard to prove. You have to show an
explicit agreement that the senator used his official duties in exchange
for gifts like lavish gifts, like campaign contributions, hotel stays,
private flights -- a private jet.
So, usually the government goes for something that`s easier to prove.
Again, this is a confident prosecutor. They wouldn`t do this unless they
felt sure they could get a jury of Senator Menendez`s peers to convict him.
MELBER: And the senator for his part tonight said, look, they`ve got
this all wrong. You`re allowed to be friends with people. You`re allowed
to have friends that give you stuff. That was the essence of what he
previewed as his defense.
Take a listen, Paul.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: I`m angry because prosecutors at the Justice Department
don`t know the difference between friendship and corruption, and have
chosen to twist my duties as a senator, and my friendship, into something
that is improper. They are dead wrong. And I am confident that they will
be proven so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: You prosecuted these kind of federal corruption cases. How
common is that? How does it work?
BUTLER: Well, you know, things are changing. It used to be a
successful defense. Then we saw it didn`t work for Governor McDonnell in
Virginia. You know, he`s on his way to prison.
I think what jurors are starting to get is, maybe this is how politics
used to work back in the day. You scratch my back, I scratch yours.
It`s a new day now. So, there`s a line that`s crossed when it`s not
just that it`s regular politics to do favors. If you`re doing favors not
because you want to help someone, but because they`re giving you money,
expensive gifts, Rolex watches for McDonnell, again private flights on
jets, $5,000 a night hotel rooms for this senator -- jurors are saying,
that`s not -- that`s a crime.
MELBER: Not just back scratching, I mean, the allegations, and that`s
what they are at this point, but the allegations of this indictment are
very explicit. If you scratch my back, I will help your former girlfriend
get a visa. I will help you abuse the Medicare policy of this nation to
enrich yourself. Very, very specific details.
Hilary, I turn to you on the whole other piece of this, which is,
whatever happens in the case, he`s innocent until proven guilty, tonight
the breaking news as well is he`s stepping off the Foreign Relations
Committee where he has been going completely against this president`s
What do you think the implications are there, especially if someone
like Senator Cardin fills his place?
LEVERETT: I think it could be very significant. You know, the pro-
sanctions topple the Islamic Republic of Iran government, that whole group
here in Washington has been in real disarray since President Obama has
charged forward trying to make a deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The one area they thought they could take the administration and
constrain the administration in going forward with Iran, was a bipartisan
support for new sanctions. That bipartisan support was very much dependent
on Senator Menendez, who has always supported the most hawkish of the
Republican policies on whether it`s Iran or Cuba, authorization of military
force, a range of issues.
And with him gone, or at least out of commission for a while, it still
will be a tough sell for President Obama, but at least this is a thorn out
of their side.
MELBER: And what do you make in your knowledge of Washington
diplomacy of this other charge, which is what we`ve said clearly has not
been substantiated in any way, but is now part of this debate and certainly
conservatives online have welcomed it, which is the Democratic leader
senator saying he`s improperly targeted by the Obama administration.
LEVERETT: I mean, I think he`s likely to throw the whole kitchen sink
out there so he doesn`t go to jail. But the facts are really against him.
Not only did this investigation start long before that, but there`s been a
whisper campaign about these allegations of corruption on a range of
issues, including with a very controversial group that has listed as a
terrorist organization, that had fought against the Iranian government,
until a group that supported Senator Menendez, was essentially able to buy
themselves out of that designation.
So, I think he`s probably looking at a whole can of worms that are
going to open against him, and he`ll throw anything he has back at them.
The administration, though, I think handled him with kid gloves. You
can look at that not so much on Iran, but on Cuba. They waited until after
the midterm defeat in November to announce a new policy on Cuba, so as not
to embarrass him, to let him continue to serve with dignity.
So, I think the facts will show they treated him with respect, but
that it`s his policies, both in terms of corruption and in terms of his
hawkish foreign policies that have gotten him in so much trouble.
MELBER: Right, and the timing of the policy announcement may fit some
of that. I don`t think anyone tonight is thinking that the prosecutors in
the Justice Department are treating him with kid gloves.
Hilary Mann Leverett and Paul Butler, thanks for joining us on this
Today, the governor of California made history by ordering a first
ever statewide mandatory water rules. That is up next.
MELBER: Another story we`re following tonight, California is now
officially in uncharted territory. In unprecedented move today, Governor
Jerry Brown ordered mandatory water restrictions across the state. That is
a big deal.
And NBC`s national correspondent Miguel Almaguer has this report.
MIGUEL ALMAGUER, NBC NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a
snow-starved Sierra mountains where the snowpack measuring station should
be buried under five feet of snow. Today, Governor Jerry Brown made
GOV. JERRY BROWN (D), CALIFORNIA: We`re in a historic drought. That
demands unprecedented action. For that reason, I`m issuing an executive
order mandating substantial water reduction across our state.
ALMAGUER: The governor says Californians need to change the way they
live. But in a state with 1.5 million swimming pools and sprawling growth,
that won`t be easy.
Cities like Long Beach have fined businesses like this Mcdonald`s for
wasting water. Now they`re installing new water meters, so-called
electronic ankle bracelets to monitor consumption.
KEVIN WATTIER, GENERAL MANAGER LONG BEACH WATER DEPARTMENT: In most
cases, absolutely, it changes their behavior very quickly. They know that
we`re watching and you can`t hide.
ALMAGUER: The fallout from this crippling crisis will soon tarnish
some of California`s most spectacular sites.
The ribbons of white at Yosemite National Park will turn to a trickle
by June. Some state rivers will soon become creeks. Even trees are dying.
UKNOWN MALE: This is the new normal, and we`ll learn how to cope with
ALMAGUER: While the governor is tonight optimistically hoping that
Californians will reduce their water use by 25%, nothing is going to help
reservoirs except for rainfall and snowfall.
That simply isn`t going to happen.
Tonight many are also wishing the governor did more ordering mandatory
water rationing. That also isn`t going to happen. The governor saying he`s
doing all he can for right now.
MELBER: Thanks to Miguel for that report.
Later this month, All In America is heading West to cover the historic
shortage there in California. So stay tuned for details on that.
Now, are these politicians who haven`t actually said they`re running
for President but are raising money like they are and actually doing
something potentially illegal in that process? We have a report on that
MELBER: Jeb Bush is in Silicon Valley for a big fund-raising push.
Though, some sources already telling Politico California donors aren`t sold
on him as the front-runner.
Yesterday, Bush was in Bel Air for an event, charging a whooping
100,000 dollars for attendance. Now, once Bush officially enters the race,
he can`t raise those kind of sums under federal law.
But, for now he`s a noncandidate, and he can raise money directly for
his Right to Rise Super PAC. When he declares, he`ll face a ban on
coordination. It still exists between super PACs and candidates.
Jeb Bush`s big money approach isn`t really unusual, but it is drawing
scrutiny from watchdog groups. They filed a FEC complaint against him and
three other potential candidates just yesterday, including Republican,
Scott Walker and Rick Santorum, plus Democrat, Martin O`Malley, alleging
they`re all using these super PACs to skirt the federal law that requires
candidates who are just, you know, testing the waters they call it, to
follow a stricter limit on contributions.
But even if they FEC curtails the super PACs, Jeb Bush may have found
another way to keep all the money coming in with very little oversight.
Washington Post reporting a Bush-allied established a nonprofit called
to Rise Policy Solutions, which, because of its tax-exempt status, can
accept unlimited funds from completely anonymous donors.
A Bush spokesperson declined to comment on the group, telling the
post, hey, these questions are premature and speculative as, wait for it,
Governor Bush not a candidate for office at this time.
Joining me now, Nick Confessore who covers national politics for The
New York Times, and nationally syndicated radio host Richard Fowler.
Good evening, gentlemen.
RICHARD FOWLER, RADIO HOST: Good evening.
NICK CONFESSORE, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Good evening, Ari.
MELBER: Nick, lets start with this. There`s a lot of emphasis on the
idea that you`re not quite officially, technically a candidate. Why is that
so important under these rules?
CONFESSORE: Because all these candidates are thinking ahead to when
they actually do declare.
But once you actually get in the race, the FEC looks back at what you
doing just before you got the race, and if you were testing the waters, you
have to have abided by the same rules as if you were already a candidate.
MELBER: As if you really were a candidate.
CONFESSORE: Right. So if you are seen to be testing the waters,
before you actually declare, and as part of that, you were doing things
that would be illegal for a candidate, like asking for 100,000 grand from a
donor, that`s against the law.
So they have to pretend that this whole spectacle, all these
candidates have to pretend that when they go to Iowa and New Hampshire and
go to these fund-raisers
and talk to donors and speak at events, they`re aren`t actually thinking
about anything resembling a campaign for Presidency.
MELBER: Right. It`s so weird and Richard, it`s sort of like so many
parts of politics are just, you know, B.S., and so it`s not surprising that
some of the political regulations would appeal to people like B.S., because
if you say, okay, if you have a learner`s permit and you`re supposed to
follow the rules of the road here, why is it so important to pretend you`re
not a candidate and get around them?
What do you make of it in the larger consequences here for democracy?
FOWLER: I think all Americans should be disgusted by these type of
policies that are put forth in the past couple of years.
Once again, it creates this idea where there`s a two-class system,
there`s the haves, who continue to have because they can influence
politicians to change laws, and the have nots, that can`t influence
politicians, they can vote because of voter suppression or voter I.D. laws,
and now they really don`t have a say in the
game. And they really don`t know these candidates are running because the
is happening before the primary. Because now it`s a money grab at best.
I mean, Nick, speak to that, and, some people would say, oh, I thought
there were no rules in super PACs. This is one of the only real rules about
the coordination thing. And yet, I think if you were watching this at home
you would say, okay, great, they found another way around it.
CONFESSORE: The whole point of the super PACs is that you`re not
supposed to be able to ask for huge checks if you`re a candidate for
office. That`s supposed to be one thing you can`t do.
By using this and pretending you`re not actually a candidate, even
when you are, you can do a variety of things like asking for that money
that would normally be against the law.
MELBER: And do you think, I mean, we`ve been covering tonight Robert
Menendez`s indictment, which is over gifts worth hundreds of thousands of
dollars that he directly received so that`s bribery.
CONFESSORE: That`s plain old bribery.
MELBER: That`s traditional bribery.
CONFESSORE: There`s also a new kind of bribery, right?
What we`re seeing in the Menendez case, if you are a donor and you
want to curry favor with a politician, in part by giving him campaign
contributions, well there`s a limit to how much you can give him, or his
defense fund, or his state party.
But there`s no limit to what you can give to a super PAC, and then
pledge that that money has to go help him in his race.
That`s legal. That`s what happened here. This guy gave 600,000
dollars, 600,000 dollars to a super PAC, said, this money is to help the
senator in his race. And that`s legal.
And that was part of the favors he was doing for Menendez allegedly in
exchange for policy actions, billing dispute, on some contracting for the
government, and on more.
MELBER: Richard, what do you think of the politics of this? Because
there have been candidates like John McCain to be fair and give him credit
for some of his campaign finance reforms, Russ Feingold, definitely Paul
Wellstone if you go back a ways.
People who actually ran on this and said, you know what, let`s be
we`re not changing these rules overnight, but we can try to create a
political cause for this runaway fund-raising and spending.
I`m not seeing that really on either side so far, though.
What do you think about the politics of trying to create a cost for
FOWLER: Well, I think nothing gets done in that dome behind me on
Because, here`s the thing, the cloud, this cloud of money exists over
that capitol building, and they all understand the more money they raise,
the better off
they are in the next election.
The only candidate in this race you could actually give props to is
who`s actually announced, so he can no longer accept money.
But all the other candidates are taking money in, hand over fist. They
are basically being influenced by rich folks to make decisions that only
are going to benefit rich folks and not poor folks.
And I think all Americans at home should be downright alarmed.
MELBER: And Nick, you know, Richard makes a point about Ted Cruz.
A lot of times we tend to personalize these things. So, people say,
oh, well Ted Cruz was in a rush. Right? He really wanted to run. We sort of
make it about his personality.
When in fact, if you want to be cynical and look at Ted Cruz, you`d
say, well, this is someone who doesn`t have that kind of Jeb Bush bundler
money coming in, so he can get in early, focus on whatever he might get
from Grassroots, talk radio, those kind of donations, sort of the Howard
Dean model. He`s not giving anything up on the other side.
Do you think that`s a fair way to read the calculus?
CONFESSORE: I think that has to be part of it.
He certainly has his big money donors who love him. But, he`s not
going to be in the Jeb Bush league for raising these huge donations.
So, what do you do? You go first and you try to stake out a position
as the alternative to Jeb Bush, raise Grassroots money, which you can do.
Because again, as you said, you aren`t really giving up time with donors
for your super PAC, because those donors are not backing you in the first
MELBER: Right. Go ahead, Richard.
FOWLER: I`ve got to agree with Nick on this one.
I think at the end of the day, what Ted Cruz is doing is saying this
election is about ideals. Let`s talk about real ideals, let me convince
donors about the
ideals that I`m trying to push and get all of them to give me, you know, a
little under 3,000 dollars, and let`s build a Grassroots campaign.
All the other candidates are saying, let`s get as much money as
possible, let`s hear out these donor policies, let`s copy and paste them
into whatever my
agenda looks like when I run for President, and that`s really bad for the
Because, this election is not going to be about how much money you can
This election is going to be about how ends meet at the kitchen table. And
only candidates that can talk about that win this election, unless we see
folks suppress more votes and stop more people from voting.
MELBER: Richard Fowler and Nick Confessore, thank you both.
In other news of a different sort, there was a big new product
yesterday for something so cool, that some people actually thought at first
it was an April Fool`s joke.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Josh Pharaoh, use your technology from The New York Times, a
pants newspaper. What are you going to choose here?
JOSH PHARAOH, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I think people have been over
thinking this. I want the number one candidate, right? Yes. I will take
MELBER: It`s genius. Josh Pharaoh, genius. Number one is -- ooh!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Scott Walker, they call him Mr. Unrecallable,
winner of three
elections in four years. Never mind how many staffers went to jail. He`s
Wisconsin governor, Scott Walker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Big pick there by Josh Pharaoh.
The old saying goes, if you`re looking for a friend in Washington, get
But, if Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker makes it to the White House, it
turns out he will have to look elsewhere for companionship.
A big report in The New York Times today, revealing Walker`s very
allergic to dogs. His aide even confirmed to the paper that the culprit is
specifically pet dander.
Fortunately, that kind of canine headline is much better than the ones
garnered by, of course, the former Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, who had
to deal with revelations that he had strapped the family dog to the car
roof during a road trip.
As for where Scott Walker`s chances stand right now, and where the
rest of the 2016 field is, well, you`ll have to tune in this Friday for a
very special, updated presentation of, yes, the All In 2016 Fantasy
It`s as fun to say as it is to watch and you won`t want to miss it.
MELBER: It is April Fool`s Day and we don`t have any practical jokes
for you tonight. This is a news broadcast, after all.
But the internet has been full of pranks today.
Comedian John Oliver, not a fan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN OLIVER, COMEDIAN: Anyone who claims to be excited for April
Fool`s Day is probably a sociopath.
Because what they`re really saying is, I cannot wait to hurt the
people close to me. I can`t wait.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And there were some hurtful, terrible pranks this year,
Scott Walker promising some kind of big announcement, presumably a
campaign, and then tweeting he`s supporting his yep, his home state
basketball team in the final
four with the hashtag, April Fool`s.
There were also jokes about animals and those so-called selfie sticks,
where you can sort of take a picture of yourself with your phone. Petco
combined the two in its April Fool`s joke with a selfie stick for dogs.
While the clothing company, MIZ Mooz claimed that it had invented
selfie shoes for humans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No matter where you go, you`ll always be camera
Just insert your phone into the port, raise it to the perfect angle,
and click the internal button with the tap of your toe to take the photo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: It does look like something some kids would do.
Meanwhile, the do it yourself crafting site Darby Smart launched what
it called prafting, or crafting for pets. Now, we mentioned this one just
so we can
show you this picture of a cat sewing. Look at that. Who needs the
internet, you have MSNBC. There`s a cat and its sewing.
All right. Groupon introduced the world to a car service with cat
drivers called Gruber.
While the clothing company Bonobos sent past customers, this is true,
an e-mail confirming their order of 3,500 dollars of miniature horse
product. They named it Lil` Dusty, and it included a link in the email to a
live feed of this supposed horse with the words April Fool`s stamped on it.
Who doesn`t love having their work day interrupted with something they
And the dating app Hinge unleashed an April Fool`s version for
toddlers who want to meet mature looking play dates.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I see you all I.D.`s, please?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m 5 years old.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And I`m 4 years old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: And I`m done with that video.
Now, there were a ton of these today. Google allowed you to turn
Google maps into a PACman game. The Onion, where it`s always April Fools,
told viewers about a new app that lets you work even while you sleep. And
the car rental company Alamo claimed it was now renting out monster trucks.
Well, we are all caught up on that but when we return, we`re going to
talk to you about a new product that was just announced that is real, that
actually a lot of people thought was an April Fool`s prank, but which might
actually be the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JANE JETSON: What would you like for breakfast?
ELROY JETSON: The usual.
JANE JETSON: The usual coming up. Milk. Cereal. Crunchy or silent?
Better make it silent.
ELROY JETSON: And bacon.
JANE JETSON: Bacon.
ELROY JETSON: And one soft-boiled egg.
JANE JETSON: And one soft-boiled egg.
ELROY JETSON: Thanks, mom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: There you have a vision of the future from the Jetsons. Press
buttons and what you want, appears.
Well, the future might be here, thanks to Amazon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Introducing the Amazon dash button for Prime
Members. A simple way to reorder the important things you always run low
on. So you`ll never run out.
Simply set it up to order what you want, then press it when you`re
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Amazon sending some of its customers free branded, clickable
buttons that help automate refills for food or detergent or, I guess,
potentially anything, all without the hassle of ever logging on to a
computer or even grabbing your credit card.
And this could have huge business and cultural imPACts, and it is a
concrete example of what many futurists call the internet of fix.
Joining me now to explain, Sam Seder, host of The Majority Report and
Max Wolff, a part owner and chief economist at Manhattan Venture Partners.
Sam, what do you make of this?
SAM SEDER, THE MAJORITY REPORT: You know, I showed my daughter that
video, and she said, oh, that`s cool. And I said, look around the kitchen.
Think about how many buttons we would have to have around here. And she
goes, that doesn`t seem to
make any sense.
And so, my sense is that this is a -- there`s probably an agenda here.
But, I don`t think there`s any sense that this is going to be widely
adopted in anyway.
MELBER: You`re saying, too many buttons, if it`s each one is its own
SEDER: Yeah, I mean, I like the -- I guess I like the idea of the
convenience. But I remember back when they were rolling out cable for the
first time and they were talking about inventing products, and being able
to sit there on your wired cable remote, and buying the product.
I mean, I just -- I don`t think that this is something we`re going to
see widely adopted in the long run. But it`s fun to talk about.
MELBER: Max, is this a huge trend?
MAX WOLFF, MANHATTAN VENTURE PARTNERS: I think it`s pretty exciting
and interesting in terms of pushing the technology.
It`s certainly a solution in search of a problem. It something you
didn`t know you needed because you absolutely don`t need it, and you won`t
need it. And that in no way shape or form means you won`t use it.
And, part of the promise and excitement of Silicon Valley is producing
all kinds of life changing things, and part of the reality is, what often
makes money is things that solve problems that don`t exist for people who
want a little extra time to maybe buy more stuff, or do a little more
stretching before yoga.
MELBER: Yeah, well the examples of stuff that you`re just going to
need forever, like detergent, not stuff you have to choose all the time.
I will tell you, Sam, I buy my razors online, in bulk, because they`re
just cheaper than buying them in New York City. And, one time I got an
automated thing from one of the companies saying, you can just give us your
credit card and we`ll can see every two months you need this, we`ll just
send you out another round. Which I did.
And then I was telling my wife later, afterwards, I was thinking about
the fact that, okay, so, what, these razors just keep coming to the house
forever, automated until I die?
And, it was just sort of a depressing thought in a way. And I actually
canceled that order, automation just felt like too much.
SEDER: Look, I think it works for some people.
But, I mean, you know, I think to a certain extent, what this one-
touch button thing is going to be is about data, and, on some level we
talked about, and some ways it seems like it`s sort of a neilsen ratings.
We`re going to get data from a certain group of people who will be for
early adapters to this technology. And we`re going to either be able to
sell it or roll it back into what we`re doing.
I mean, Amazon, you know, and I should say that I am an Amazon
affiliate. I raise money with my podcast via that way, but that said,
Amazon business practices are a little big footy, and, not to mention their
But, I`m not convinced that a lot of this has to do with just
squeezing other people out of business, trapping sort of the consumer, and,
in some ways, the suppliers and the brands.
MELBER: Max, that`s the other piece of this, right? When the internet
started out, it was like, oh, my god, you can get everything everywhere.
And then there`s this concept they called the wall of garden, people
used to make fun of the old AOL. Oh, you have a couple of little buttons so
it shrinks it down to a manageable experience. And it seems like when you
look at the popularity of curation, of social networks, of sites like
Buzzfeed so successfully do, which is say, you don`t need to look around
the internet, we got it all right here for you, or we got a list that gives
it to you, this is a commercial version of that that could be very
profitable, but ultimately means that a couple platforms are going to
decide what you really need to keep reupping.
WOLFF: Absolutely. Once Apple became the 800 billion dollar proof
that wall of gardens work, especially if they`re exclusive, that you can
charge a lot inside
that wall of garden, the gated community if you will, and everybody wanted
There`s a few big companies, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Amazon, trying
to control the consumer experience, soup to nuts, cradle to grave.
And, part of what Amazons doing is saying, hey, you never have to go
to the store.
But, if they get this right, actually, your entire house is the store,
you pay for the lighting, you pay for the heat, you pay for the electricity
and you never leave the store. Whose store? My store.
And, if I get it right, it`s a genius move. And, either way, I think
we`re just proving right now that they get a couple hundred million dollars
worth of free publicity already, and it hasn`t really launched outside of
some test marketing in San Francisco and Seattle.
MELBER: Well, their argument would be, if you want to litigate that
out, it would be hey, yeah, okay, you go to the store less, so you go on
and live the rest of your life more. Go spend time with your family. Go to
other places that might
have more personal or cultural significance for you than a big box store.
SEDER: You know, I think most of the people who would use this anyway
is they`re going online to buy their stuff in the first place.
It`s about getting that immediate data. Exactly when do people run out
of a product. Exactly at what point do they look at how much they have and
decide to buy it. Because you get that, the sort of immediate response.
I mean, this is like sort of the -- you`re at the checkout counter,
right, and you`re looking at the trashy magazines or a piece of gum. It
gives some very precise data about the, I guess the reordering habits for
some common goods.
So I don`t know. I`m not so -- I don`t feel bad about not going to a
box store or anywhere else to buy my detergent. But still, seems a little
WOLFF: Yeah, and look, I think everything as a service is the model
in Wall Street. It takes the chunkiness out of commerce and it makes it
possible to plan
and maximize profit.
So everyone wants everything to be a subscription service. They want
to gather data on all of your behavior, they want to sell that while they
sell something to you, and they want it to be mindless and self-repeating.
Your story about the razors, and by the way, they wouldn`t stop when
you die, they`d stop when your credit card fails.
MELBER: When the money runs out, not when the customer runs out.
WOLFF: They just judge your earthly container anytime you want.
MELBER: So you feel there`s something there, something deeply sad.
Sam Seder and Max Wolff, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.
That`s our show for tonight. The Rachel Maddow`s show starts right
Good evening, Rachel.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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