October 21, 2009
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
Guests: Tamara Lowe, Rep. Barney Frank, Adam Green, Jamie Leigh Jones, Todd Kelly, Kent Jones
RACHEL MADDOW, HOST: Thank you at home for staying with us for the next hour as well. We will run for the gamut on what has been a jammed news day.
As Keith said, the organizer of the motivational seminar at which George W. Bush is going to be speaking will be joining us this hour live.
Also, there was dramatic news in health reform today and actually more news on health reform happening as we speak on Capitol Hill. We will have that for you.
The Obama administration came down hard today on bailed out companies
as Republicans, on the other hand, proposed total deregulation of the banking business. Congressman Barney Frank will be joining us this hour.
And a woman named Jamie Lee Jones will be joining us this hour. She says she was sexually assaulted by her fellow KBR contractors in Iraq. She was not allowed to take legal action against the company. That has led to some legislation and to a lot of very interesting politics. We've got her joining us this hour.
It is a night of amazing stories.
But we again tonight with an exclusive guest who is head of what's really become an American phenomenon and an American empire. Tamara Lowe and her husband Peter have been producing the Get Motivated Business Seminars for more than 25 years. These are huge events.
The Lowes travel the country with a rotating roster of A-list star speakers, including athletes and entertainers and politicians. They typically take out full page ads, like this one, in local newspapers ahead of their events. The events are typically so large, they take place in arenas attended by anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people for a single event. In fact so many people attend these seminars that some local news outlets warn of-and later report on-massive traffic jams caused simply by the seminar being in a city for a specific day.
Get Motivated is a major organization. Millions of Americans have taken part in their seminars.
Here's a little of how they bill themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NARRATOR: For over two decades, Peter and Tamara Lowe had produced the most popular business seminars in the world. Peter and Tamara Lowe had a vision to do something that had never been done before.
When the circumstances of life conspired to discourage you, when the challenges seem overwhelming and the obstacles insurmountable, when your critics write you off as "finished," your personal motivation is the burning fire that will transform your circumstances and change your life. Today, you have the power to discover a new future and the opportunity to determine your destiny.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Peter and Tamara Lowe's internationally-acclaimed Get Motivated Business Seminar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The Get Motivated Business Seminar now features George W. Bush. He will be speaking at their event on Monday in Fort Worth, Texas, along with among others-as you can see here-the motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, former NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw.
And our next guest, Tamara Lowe, executive vice president of the Get Motivated Seminars Incorporated.
Ms. Lowe, you are a busy and in-demand person. I really appreciate your taking time to join us tonight.
TAMARA LOWE, CO-FOUNDER, GET MOTIVATED SEMINARS: Thank you, Rachel.
Great to be with you.
MADDOW: What do you expect that President Bush will be speaking about? Do you expect that it will be a political speech?
LOWE: Usually, the former presidents who speak for us-and President Bush will be the sixth former U.S. president to speak at the Get Motivated Seminar-typically, they will share their experiences of their time in office and the things that they learned, the challenges that they faced.
MADDOW: I know that-your Web site lists the other speakers who are going to be featured at this event, along with Mr. Bush on Monday. And it's pretty star-studded group. You're going to be speaking there, obviously. Also, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Zig Ziglar, Terry Bradshaw, as I mentioned.
Are there other people who will be addressing the seminar who aren't on that masthead-who aren't listed elsewhere on the Web page? Do you put out a full list of everybody who's going to address the group?
LOWE: We generally feature in our advertising the people that folks would know by name, the name recognized speakers-those are the ones that we generally advertise. But we do also have a few business trainers that will be speaking on communication and leadership, time management, organization, that kind of thing.
MADDOW: The reason I ask you that is because something sort of unexpected happened, when we talked about Get Motivated on the show last night and we talked about it because of the George W. Bush booking. And to my surprise, after we talked about Get Motivated, we got a raft of unsolicited e-mails from viewers of this show, people who said they had attended Get Motivated seminars and we didn't-again, we didn't ask for this at all, but there was a striking consistency in what people told us, what these viewers told us they had experienced at your events. And they told us that they had experienced Get Motivated as a-essentially, as a money making event.
And so, I don't-it's not billed that way and they're very cheap to
attend. But I wanted to ask you to address that perception, that this is a
that this is an event at which people will be expected to sign up for other things that will cost them a lot of money?
LOWE: No, that's not the case at all. I mean, we do have seminars that we offer for people who want to continue their education, if they want to learn about various things like how to start a business, or how to invest their own money or things like that. But it's certainly not required. It's simply offered as a service for people who would like that.
MADDOW: That perception, because it is widespread, and I take your point that it's not-that's not meant to be the overall purpose of Get Motivated. That is what makes it surprising, I think, that you have had so many former presidents.
I'll just tell you, like somebody who went to your Hershey, Pennsylvania event just yesterday, wrote to us and said that the event seemed to have sales pitches disguised as motivational speeches, interspersed with other motivational talks. A person who went to your Moline, Illinois event on July 16th said one speaker told people how they can make a fortune in the stock market in only 15 minutes a week if they buy his materials and take his training. Somebody else at a Denver-at a recent Denver event said that the event was stop while people were encouraged to go to the rear of the arena and sign up for seminars on getting rich.
So, I understand that it's motivational, but it does seem like you must have to raise a lot of money at these events in order to pay the big speaking fees for people, like Colin Powell and President Bush.
LOWE: No. Typically, at a Get Motivated Seminar, we'll feature anywhere from 10 to 15 different speakers, and of all of them, there will be two or three who might talk about something else that our participants can do if they want to continue their education.
MADDOW: Do you collect personal information from people who attend your events, like e-mail addresses and phone numbers? Do you-do you organize among the people who you get to come out to these events?
LOWE: We do get the information from our attendees in order to send them tickets, sure, yes.
MADDOW: I ask again because somebody who attended a Portland, Oregon event says that for months after he filled out a registration form to get his ticket to the event, he got lots and lots and lots of phone calls from what he called the Get Motivated operation trying to convince him to buy various products.
Do you guys share your.
MADDOW: . the information that you got from your ticket holders with vendors? You don't at all?
LOWE: No, we don't.
MADDOW: Are the Get Motivated seminars religious in nature?
LOWE: No, they're not. They're business seminars and we talk about a lot of different skills for success. We talk about leadership, time management, organization, relationships. We talk about health and fitness.
Now, we don't censor our speakers. We don't say, "Hey, if you think spiritually is an important part of your life, we're not going to ask you don't say anything about that." So, we just really present the skills that you need for balanced success. And spiritually, for a lot of people, is part of that.
MADDOW: Are the members of the military, one of the groups that you reach out to, to get to attend this event?
LOWE: We have a lot of military people who attend the event. But our audiences are really a broad demographic of society, basically, every political view, every religious background, people from every occupation, from business to sales to education, medical careers-really housewives, student, everybody.
MADDOW: I ask about the military specifically because of, again, an unsolicited letter of concern that we received. A member of the military wrote to us and said that especially-specifically talking about your motivational speech at an event she went to in California, and I'm just going to quote from the letter we received.
"It was heavy into religion. She informed us that we can't be happy or healthy without Jesus. I was trapped there for roughly half an hour of preaching. I was mortified that I had been tricked into attending essentially a religious service and appalled that the military had unwittingly sanctioned the event for me and hundreds of others.
I secured the Web page-I scoured the Web page that evening, wondering of my surprise was from lack of research, I found no mention of religion at all, which seems as subversive as promoting this to the military as a leadership forum by not mentioning faith-based or some other code word on the site. I assume their purpose is to grab an unsuspecting audience for religious indoctrination."
I-because of that-this is a member of the military who's Jewish, who was upset about having been felt like they're part of an evangelical event. Is there-is there a diversity of faith-based views that are portrayed? Is it-or-I know that you're saying that it's not a religious event. But is there diversity among speakers in faith?
LOWE: Oh, absolutely, absolutely. We have featured all kinds of people on our program. Everybody from Rabbi Harold Kushner to-really, people from every kind of religious persuasion, Suze Orman, who is Jewish, but also has Eastern beliefs. And Mormons and Hindus, and you name it, have appeared at our events.
We don't just feature people from one persuasion, that's the great thing about the Get Motivated seminaries, is it really features people who are at the apex of success from every-from every field, from every viewpoint, from every world view.
MADDOW: Tamara Lowe, co-founder and executive vice president of Get Motivated Seminars-I'm sure this is an uncomfortable interview for you, an uncomfortable setting. I know that it was a big deal for you to join us tonight. I really, I'm thankful for your time.
LOWE: No, not at all. I'm very comfortable. I'm very happy to be on your show, big fan.
MADDOW: Very good. Thanks very much. It's nice to meet you.
LOWE: Thank you.
MADDOW: OK. Goodbye private jet, hello coach class, or at least economy plus. The government cracks down hard on ginormous bonuses for executives in industries that we bailed out. Congressman Barney Frank joins us to talk about today's big news-coming up next.
MADDOW: Showing gratuitous video of people hula hopping, I think it's something that MSNBC would not allow me to do. But video of the first lady of the United States hula hopping-that's news. First lady Michelle Obama today moved in such a way as to cause a hula hoop device to circle her midsection without assistance from the arms of the first lady of the United States 142 times without stopping. About 100 elementary school students and parents at the White House Healthy Kids Fair today were eyewitnesses to this newest event.
We report, you decide.
MADDOW: "The New York Times" is now reporting that the U.S. government is taking dramatic action to curtail big executive payouts at bailed out companies. The U.S. Treasury will order the seven companies that received the most federal bailout money to cut the salaries of their 25 highest paid executives by an average of 90 percent from last year. The seven companies are Bank of America, AIG, Citigroup, General Motors, Chrysler and the financing arms of those two automakers, Chrysler Financial and GMAC.
At AIG's financial products division, which is the AIG division that got more than $180 billion of taxpayer money, no executive at that division will be paid more than $200,000 in total compensation. It sounds like a ton of money. For these people, that's like going on food stamps.
Executives at any of the seven companies who want to indulge in more than $25,000 in perks from now on, perks like using a private plane or limos or country club memberships, they will now have to ask permission of the government if they want to do those things, because the government bailed them out. You want high-interest loans, that's some high interest.
This move comes a day after President Obama's speech at a fundraiser in New York last night at which he spoke to an audience that paid more than $30,000 a couple for the privilege of being there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So, if there are members of the financial industry in the audience today, I would ask that you join with us in passing what are necessary reforms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: After months of criticism left, right and center, that the bailout amounted to a huge free lunch to the reckless rich on Wall Street who are allowed to operate without rules and whose resultant orgy of greed and irresponsibility nearly broke the financial back of this country, the president last night and today signaled that the bailout lunch is going to be significantly less free-at least for the top paid executives of these seven companies, and they will be expected to go along with the setting of the new rules to keep something like this from happening again. That's the Democratic approach. That's president Obama's approach as defined last night and today.
Then there's the Republican approach, which is different. Today, it became clear that it's dramatically different. As you know, the House Financial Services Committee is trying to create a consumer financial protection agency to do what its name promises-protects consumers, financially, using an agency.
Well, today after four days of trying to weaken or prevent the creation of any such agency, Republicans on the panel pushed all their chips into the middle of the table. Republican Congressman Don Manzullo of Illinois, Patrick McHenry of North Carolina and Spencer Bachus of Alabama proposed an amendment to solve the woes of America's out-of-control, off-the-rails, wild west, broken, and now, bailed out financial sector by eliminating all regulation of banks. They proposed a bill to eliminate all agencies that regulate banking.
Spencer Bachus proposed that every regulatory agency that watches over the financial sector should just die off after five years. Total deregulation of an industry that nearly sucked the whole world down the drain with it after its big experiment in deregulation-that's their proposals. They're bundling it with their new plan to ban blankets and jackets in winter, and to replace all the water in fire hydrants with kerosene.
Joining us now is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Congressman Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts-Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for joining us.
REP. BARNEY FRANK (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Thank you, Rachel. But I have to say, I'm a little distracted because listening to the show, I am trying to figure out exactly how many-how you count Republicans, how they got to 142. I'm getting dizzy thinking about it.
MADDOW: It's just-it's a matter of intense focus.
FRANK: Thank you.
MADDOW: Well, let me ask you if I have the story right about Mr.
Bachus and this proposal to eliminate agencies that regulate banking.
Republicans on your panel proposed that?
BARNEY: Well, here's what happened. Sometimes, you try to use (INAUDIBLE), you try to take people's arguments and push it to the absurd. But with some of my Republican colleagues, that doesn't work because they're perfectly comfortable being absurd. They are offering an amendment they are desperately trying to kill the consumer protection agency.
And I'm glad to tell you that we have had to push and pull. But the Democrats have pulled together and tomorrow, we will be voting, for the first time in American history, a very strong agency that will be focused entirely on consumer financial protection. Now, they proposed, among other things, to end the agency. First of all, the amendment said, don't fund it very much. Give it $5 million for six months-and, you know, far less than the bonuses of those people who are now crying poor because they only get a couple of hundred thousand.
And then it said, have it sunset after five years. So, we answered back and said, well, you're sunsetting the consumer regulatory agency protection, what about the others? So, they said, "OK, will sunset them, too." As they said, they kind of embrace the absurd.
But what we had all day is them trying to weaken it and we are, I think, successful. And tomorrow, you're going to see a very strong consumer protection agency. We worked closely with Ms. Warren, who's the leader of this, and the consumer groups, and the administration, and it's not everything we wanted but it's about 90 percent.
MADDOW: In terms of the-that proposal heading into the Senate and it's likelihood of ultimately passing, has there been any lessons learned in terms of the way the industry has opposed this proposal from the start, in terms of its likelihood of passing in a long run?
FRANK: I think, to some extent we've benefited. The big banks-the big financial institutions, it is good that they lost their clout. People finally understood that they did some harm and shouldn't be listened to.
There is a legitimate concern on the part of the local banks and community banks and local credit unions, who, on the whole, they weren't into these big things and some of them wanted to be totally exempt. I thought that would be unreasonable. We have tried to make it more flexible for them. By the way, every bank and every credit union will remain to be fully subject to the moonlighting and the individual enforcement action.
Senator Dodd will have a tough time. By the way, can I say a word briefly, Rachel, about Senator Dodd?
FRANK: The authority that can find (INAUDIBLE) is using to reduce those salaries and bonuses which we, on the Democratic side, tried to get from the Bush administration and finally the Obama administration. We can't find (INAUDIBLE) using, legislative authority that Senator Dodd authored and put into the economic stimulus bill. So, this is the result of the authority which granted by the initiative taken by Senator Dodd.
MADDOW: Do you think that the limitation on those executives-top 25 executives at those top seven-at those top seven bailed out firms will set a new standard for the entire industry, for everybody who's received any bailout money? Do you think there will be loopholes to let them get around this?
FRANK: No, and there'd be two things. First of all, what it may do, and I would welcome this, is drive them to give us the money back. We've already gotten much of that 7$700 billion back, and this will make it more likely we'll get it back.
Secondly, they will not-if we are successful-escape any regulation by giving it back. Obviously, you'll have tough and specific rules on people who took specific aid. But the House passed a bill in August, you and I have discussed, which would require any public company to let shareholders more of the pay. And I don't think the shareholders are going to be happy with what the board and directors and CEOs have been doing to each other.
Beyond that, we mandate in the bill that I think it's going to pass the Senate as well and it's passed in the House, we mandate all the bank regulators and the SEC to put up rules.
And here's the problem with that pay, it's not just that it's too big; it's a one way street. If they take a risk with the company's money and it pays off, they get a bonus, and they take a risk with the company's money, and it fails, they don't lose anything. Heads, they win; tails, they break even. And that's one of the reasons we're in this trouble. They have an incentive structure that paid them to take more and more risk, not with their own money, but everybody else's.
So, even after they have paid back TARP, and I'll draw a specific restrictions, go by the boards, they will be faced, I hope, with the kind of restrictions I just talked about-shareholder vote and an incentive system that works for the economy, not against it.
MADDOW: Congressman Barney Frank, thanks very much for being here.
Take care of that voice, you sound a little under the weather.
FRANK: Well, thank you. For the older people, I sound like Old Good Ray. Some of the younger people will know that.
MADDOW: Thanks, Congressman. Nice to see you.
FRANK: You're welcome.
MADDOW: OK. Big news tonight on the health care front. As the pressure continues to build for the public option and it appears to start to pay off, one of the people who was applying that pressure specifically to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will join us here live-next.
MADDOW: At the beginning of the day today, the health insurance industry and Major League Baseball had one thing in common. They both enjoyed a privileged status, courtesy of the federal government. Unlike other industries, health insurance and baseball are allowed to be monopolies in this country.
Major League Baseball gets to operate without competition from other baseball leagues, and health insurance companies are exempt from the federal laws that block every other industry, just about from doing things like price fixing, or tactics that aren't fair to the competition.
Health insurance and baseball-two industries in this country that, as of today, have special permission to not have to compete. It's a nice work if you can get it, right? Well, as of today, one of them might not be getting it anymore. It looks like baseball might be the only industry of those two that gets to keep that special position.
Today, Democrats in Congress move to end the 64-year-old exemption that allows the health insurance industry to basically act as a monopoly, by a vote of 20-to-nine, the House Judiciary Committee voted to strip the health insurance industry of its privileged status.
In the Senate, Democrats announced today that they intend to do the same thing in coming weeks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D-NY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The truth is the health insurance industry's antitrust exemption is an accident of American history. It never should have been put in to begin with.
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIR: There's no place for those practices. They will be illegal if done by any other industry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: The health insurance industry released a report last week, you'll recall, that said if reform passed, they'd hike everyone's insurance rates sky high.
That report was greeted with derision. It was widely denounced as an embarrassing, bullying misstep by the insurance industry. And now, Congress is not only refusing to hand over their lunch money to the bully, but they're punching back.
Another dramatic playtime is definitely over in health reform news today. Tonight was put up or shut up time for House Democrats on the public option. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave Democrats a deadline of tonight to inform party leadership about whether they are for the public option or against it.
Mrs. Pelosi's personal support of the public option was bullied even further in the last 24 hours by new projections from the Congressional Budget Office that the robust public option at the House has proposed would be cost-effective.
It would cut the deficit in the short-term and it would cost almost $30 billion less than the president's target for how much to spend on reform. Over on the other side of the capital, on the Senate side, the urgent action on health reform continues right now as we speak.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is meeting with Senate and White House negotiators inside the Capitol. The topic of discussion is, conveniently, whether or not to include a public option. And if Sen. Reid feels he needs any advice on the subject from outside groups, he getting an earful.
Mr. Reid is being both pushed and pulled toward the public option by a pair of ads now being run in his home state of Nevada. Here's the pulling side, I guess, the group Americans United for Change, calling on reform supporters to cheer Harry Reid on, on the public option.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Now that the marathon is beginning its last lap, the insurance companies are desperate to prevent us from getting to the finish line. Luckily, the guy who has been the baton to run that last lap is Nevada's Sen. Harry Reid. Luckily, because Harry Reid isn't afraid to fight the insurance companies. He's already gone after their antitrust exemption, and he'll keep fighting until we get health care for all Americans, including a public option this year. Cheer him on. Call Sen. Reid.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
MADDOW: Cheer him on. That would be the pulling - thank god, Harry Reid's there. But Harry Reid isn't just being pulled. He is also being pushed. Here's a really different type of ad that's being run in Mr. Reid's home state of Nevada by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm watching to see if Harry Reid is strong and effective enough as a leader to pass a public health insurance option into law. Here in Nevada, the majority wants it. Sen. Reid, these insurance companies cannot be trusted with our lives. Nevadans want the choice of a public option.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Harry Reid experiencing the public option "push me pull you" in the media markets in his home state as he runs for re-election. This is politics firing on all cylinders. Reformer supporters think they are in the last lap of this race. They also think they're winning. Are they?
Joining us now is Adam Green. He's co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. That's the group airing that TV ad pushing Sen. Reid on the public option in Nevada. Mr. Green, thanks for your time tonight.
ADAM GREEN, CO-FOUNDER, PROGRESSIVE CHANGE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE: Good
to be here.
MADDOW: So tell me about this ad. The message is that Sen. Reid is weak if he doesn't get strong reform with the public option. Why did you choose that as your message for these Nevada ads?
GREEN: Well, we launched this ad at our Web site "BoldProgressives.org" because it's time to pressure Harry Reid to be bold. This is the time for leadership. Honestly, it shouldn't even be in question as to whether Democrats will be there on the basic procedural question of allowing an up-or-down vote.
But unfortunately, if that's the case, it's Harry Reid's responsibility to solve that issue. If he gets all Democrats to commit to allowing up-or-down vote, that will dramatically change the final contours of the bill.
And we want him to come face to face with some of his constituents and make it clear that they will be looking at him for strength and they will cast their vote based on whether he's strong on this issue.
MADDOW: Well, you boiled it down to the nut here, really, in a way. If you have to boil it down to one vote, one thing, whether or not we get strong health reform, may depend on whether or not Republicans get to say that health reform needs 60 votes to pass.
If it only needs 50 votes, it passes its public option. It's everything. If it needs 60 votes because of a filibuster, all that is in jeopardy. And the only way, of course, they can make it to 60 votes is if a Democrat sides with the Republicans on that.
Are you worried that Sen. Ben Nelson or any of these other specific conservative Democratic senators will do that? They'll help the Republicans make it a 60-vote threshold.
GREEN: Well, they're threatening that. Bill Nelson in particular has taken millions of dollars from the insurance interests and is a former insurance guy himself. And he's probably going to be the last person to agree to not side with the Republicans on a filibuster.
But again, it's Harry Reid's responsibility as a leader. He campaigned for years now, telling voters, give us your money, give us your time, give us your votes. And if Democrats have 60 Senate seats, we can bring out sweeping change on core Democratic issues like health care.
His legacy - Harry Reid's legacy will really be judged in this moment, not just nationally, but also back home. The PCCC just announced a new poll today which actually showed, shockingly, that 52 percent of folks in Nevada think that Harry Reid is a weak leader and he would lose the election right now.
So we're, if anything, being kind of motivational speakers for him, saying if you want to solve that problem, you really need to be strong at this moment, get the Ben Nelsons on board and pass a strong public option into law.
MADDOW: Adam, your group has done ads really focusing on the Senate.
You're obviously targeting Reid now, pulling on that subject as well. You're targeting Sen. Ben Nelson in Nebraska and Sen. Max Baucus in Montana.
Do you think that Nancy Pelosi and Democrats in the House are doing better on this issue than Democrats are doing in the Senate?
GREEN: Yes. If Harry Reid wants to see an example of leadership, he can look to Nancy Pelosi. I mean her essentially not just saying, "I support the public option as one person, but it's time for Democrats to get in line, tell me where you stand."
I assume there's kind of a stick there where, you know, if they're at 215 in terms of votes when they need 218, she's probably going to lay down the law with some people. You know, that's the way to do things.
And hopefully, Harry Reid will take a lesson from that. You know, the bill in the House right now is very strong. It's kind of the example of what a public option should be in many people's eyes.
And if Harry Reid can get a public option into the Senate bill, the compromise in the conference committee will be fantastic. But again, it's up to him to be bold, to show strength and hopefully we can give him a push to make him go there.
MADDOW: I was going to say - hence, all the pressure on Harry Reid. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, thanks for your time tonight, Adam. It's good to see you.
GREEN: Yes. Thank you.
MADDOW: So should workers at companies who are getting Defense Department contracts - hello Halliburton. Shouldn't those workers be allowed to sue those companies if they are raped by their co-workers while on the job?
Seems like an easy question, but 30 Republican senators said the answer to that question should be no. This is a vote that will live in infamy and it's already starting to. Stay tuned.
MADDOW: Thirty Republican senators - 30 of the 40 total Republican senators we have now cast a vote recently that has even the conservative op-ed pages of the senator's local hometown papers burning bright with outrage.
It may be the sleeper political issue of the year, the vote that will launch 1,000 campaign ads, if nothing else. And it seems to have already caused a lot of regret. That is next, a very dramatic story.
But first, if you saw the show on Monday night, you knew that two Republican county officials in South Carolina came to a rather offensive defense of Republican Senator Jim DeMint over the weekend.
A South Carolina Democrat had criticized Sen. DeMint for not bringing enough federal cash to his home state. Two county Republican chairman defended the senator by writing an op-ed that said this, quote, "There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way, not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves."
By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina, Sen. DeMint is watching our nation's pennies, just like a Jew would, which is good. Because Jews - you know, they watch the pennies.
Yes. Unless this is a Mel Brooks movie about South Carolina politics and not real South Carolina politics, this is obviously a problem. The day after the yay Jews op-ed was published, I'm happy to report that the two county chairmen issued apologies and said that they had been misunderstood.
It's been a heck of a year for South Carolina Republicans and controversy from South Carolina Republican Governor Mark Sanford hiking the Appalachian Trail to South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson screaming, "You lie!" at the president.
Now, these two South Carolina Republican county chairmen with the "Jews are cheap and we mean that in a good way" thing. It's been a rather tough year. Today brought South Carolina Republicans some good news on that front.
And that's because the latest political figure to have to apologize for a completely bizarre "I love Jews, they're so cheap" comment was not from South Carolina. He was in Arizona.
Lake Havasu City Councilman Lee Barnes argued against spending city funds on an interim city manager at a city council meeting on Tuesday by saying, quote, "Excuse my action, but I'm just a little Jewish to be able to do this."
Just a little Jewish. Councilman Barnes had made matters worse by trying to explain himself saying, quote, "What I meant there is, Jewish people are pretty good with their money."
Not an apology, making things worse. We contacted the councilman's office today to let him take one more crack at it. And here, I'm happy to say, is what he said, quote, "At the council meeting on Tuesday, October 20th, I used poor judgment and a poor choice of words when I attempted to express my concerns regarding sending taxpayer dollars unnecessarily. I sincerely regret my actions and apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement."
Now that is an apology. Anyone else want to give this one a try this week? We do have shows tomorrow and Friday.
And finally, if you think that malls are too crowded or shopping online isn't your thing or boutiques are just too expensive, might we suggest the FBI Recreation Association stores. They're located at FBI field offices and they sell FBI official merchandise like hats, t-shirts, the occasional Christmas ornament.
And according to "TickleTheWire.com," they also sell an official FBI cologne which is called "Integrity." For every man who's ever wanted to smell like J. Edgar Hoover, there's Integrity. It's $36.99 a bottle.
Apparently, there's a lady's version coming out next year which will also presumably smell like J. Edgar Hoover.
MADDOW: One specific vote on one specific part of the giant legislation that funds the Defense Department is turning into a real political problem for 30 Republican senators.
In Idaho, the "Lewiston Morning Tribune" called out its two senators in an editorial titled, "Senators Crapo and Risch Cast an Inexplicable Vote."
In Mississippi, "The Clarion Ledger" editorialized, quote, "Senators Cochran and Wicker voted to protect corporations, not victims, and they should own up to that."
An opinion piece in the "Osawatomie Graphic" was titled simply, "Kansas Senators are Disappointing." In Tennessee, a "Crossville Chronicle" writers asked, "Whose Side are Our Senators On?"
The "Athens Banner Herald" in Georgia headlined a letter quote, "Georgia Senators Embarrass State." And in Louisiana, a "Shreveport Times" writer asks, quote, "What exactly is Sen. David Vitter problem with women."
When Republicans are getting called out in Mississippi, Kansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Georgia, something big is going on politically. This all began when 30 Senate Republicans voted against an amendment by Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota.
The amendment said that the government shouldn't give defense contracts to companies if those companies prevent their employees who have been raped or discriminated against from suing in court.
Franken's amendment passed, but 30 male Republican senators voted no on it. Now, much of the outraged response to that vote across the country is due to the fact that this legislation was prompted by a horrible real-life case, the case of Jamie Leigh Jones.
She was a 20-year-old female contractor at Halliburton subsidiary, KBR when she says she was drugged and gang raped by her co-workers and locked in a shipping container. Because of her employment contract, Ms. Jones was not allowed to sue. She still hasn't had her day in court.
I want you to know that we called every single one of the 30 Republican senators who voted no on this. Not one of them agreed to come on the show to talk about why they voted the way they did. Senators, I want you to know, the invitation remains open.
Joining us now is Jamie Leigh Jones and her attorney Todd Kelly. Thanks very much to both of you for coming on the show tonight. I really appreciate it.
JAMIE LEIGH JONES, FORMER KBR HALLIBURTON EMPLOYEE: Thanks for inviting us.
TODD KELLY, JAMIE LEIGH JONES' ATTORNEY: We appreciate that.
MADDOW: Jamie Leigh, four years ago, you were drugged and raped for working as a contractor in Iraq that led to, not only this legislation, but to the outrage over the people who voted against this legislation. Can you tell us briefly what happened?
J. JONES: OK. Well, I went to Iraq to serve my country during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Four days upon my arrival there, I was brutally and sexually assaulted and drugged.
And when I reported my assault to Halliburton KBR, they essentially imprisoned me in a container. And I was held captive by armed guard, by guards that were called gurkhas. And they are guards that have machine guns and everything else and they're hired by KBR.
And after pleading with one of the guards, he did let me contact my father, who contacted Congressman Ted Poe. And Congressman Poe dispatched a rescue mission to get me out of there.
MADDOW: Now, I understand you were not allowed to sue, to see that anybody was held responsible for what happened to you.
J. JONES: Right.
MADDOW: Is that because of the contract that you signed when you signed up with Halliburton?
J. JONES: Yes, exactly.
MADDOW: How would you describe Halliburton's role overall in responding to what happened to you? We know how you just described what happened immediately after the incident happened. But what's happened since?
J. JONES: Do you want to comment on that?
KELLY: Well, if you're asking what happened from a legal standpoint, Halliburton has made every effort to force Jamie into secret binding arbitration. If you're asking from a sense of how they have helped Jamie, obviously, she'd be in a better situation to answer that question than I would, but I would say not very much.
J. JONES: Yes. They have tried to completely keep this under arbitration because then, it would be quiet and secret and binding. Then I would not be able to be sitting here in front of you today to tell my story, which I think is very crucial for other wives, mothers and daughters that want to go and serve their country by working for a contractor.
So, you know, essentially, I think that corporations should never be above going in front of a trial by jury. And so this Franken amendment would prevent that from happening.
MADDOW: The amendment, obviously, passed and I think that we're all watching to see what happens whether it ultimately becomes law.
J. JONES: Right.
MADDOW: The Defense Department has expressed concerns about whether or not it would be enforceable, although they say that they agree with the overall intent of it. We don't know what's going to happen next.
J. JONES: Right.
MADDOW: But I have to ask your reaction to those 30 no votes. Three out of four Republican senators voted against this amendment. How did you feel about that?
J. JONES: Well, I think that is really unfortunate. I wouldn't - I cannot even understand the reasoning as to why anyone would vote against it. I am very happy about the votes that we did get for it.
I'm thrilled it's gotten as far as it has gotten. Hopefully, the
30 senators will have a change of heart during a conference because maybe
if they tried to understand how they would feel if their daughter or wife
or somebody was in my position, how they would feel if it was to go in
front of an arbitrator. Hopefully, they'll change their position on it, so
MADDOW: Jamie Leigh, either you or Todd - I was struck by the argument from Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama. He's one of the people who voted against it and he argued against it.
J. JONES: Yes.
MADDOW: And he said this is just a political shot at Halliburton.
This is just Democrats taking a shot at a politically unpopular company.
Can I ask you to respond to that?
KELLY: Absolutely. It's not that. In fact, if this amendment had been in place when Jamie went to Iraq, her rape most likely never would have happened. What needed to happen is that companies like Halliburton need to have rules in place that forced their employees to obey those rules that needed to have oversight.
And they're only going to implement such things if their actions are exposed to the light of day. And what happened in the case of Jamie is, for years prior to her arrival there, the environment was allowed to grow and to fester.
And these people, because of the arbitration provision, were never punished. Their actions were disposed of secretly in binding arbitration that couldn't be appealed, even when the arbitrators blatantly disregarded the law.
So they created this environment that they then threw Jamie into. And the rape occurred as a natural and foreseeable consequence of that action. This has nothing to do with politics. This has to do with doing the right thing by our young American women and girls that are trying to support this country like Jamie.
MADDOW: Jamie Leigh Jones and her attorney Todd Kelly, thank for telling this story publicly and fighting for this.
J. JONES: Thank you.
MADDOW: And thank you for coming on the show tonight. I really appreciate it.
KELLY: Thank you for having us.
J. JONES: Thank you.
MADDOW: Good luck to you both.
KELLY: Thank you.
J. JONES: Thanks.
MADDOW: OK. Coming up on "COUNTDOWN," House Majority Whip James Clyburn will join Keith to tell Keith what he is doing to get the votes for the public option. We will be right back.
MADDOW: We turn now to our news-based games correspondent, Mr. Kent Jones. Hi, Kent.
KENT JONES, POP CULTURIST: Hi, Rachel.
MADDOW: Sounds very serious.
K. JONES: It is very serious. The pop culture blast radio around the
Balloon Boy story just continues to spread. Video games, you're next.
(voice-over): OK. I was ready for the Balloon Boy songs.
And the Halloween costumes - Saw that coming. The t-shirts, the trucker hats, the neck ties, the Balloon Boy doggy sweaters, the Balloon Boy video games less than a week after it happened? Don't these things take a long time to develop?
Apparently not. In this game, little Falcon and his magic balloon soar through the skies, blasting seagulls. Seagulls in Colorado? I know, just go with it. This is a first-class productivity killer right here.
Remember this? Another online game captures that immortal moment. In this one, you score by removing birds this way. So to recap, we've reached a point where you score by puking on everything in your path. Enjoy your metaphor.
MADDOW: Wait, it makes even like a barfing noise?
K. Jones: Yes, yes. Little green - yes.
MADDOW: Wow. I love America. Yes! Thank you, Kent.
K. JONES: Sure.
MADDOW: Thank you, America. Thank you, Balloon Boy. And thank you for watching tonight. We'll see you again tomorrow night. "COUNTDOWN" with Keith Olbermann starts right now.
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