Guests: Rachel Maddow, Dave Weigel, Howard Fineman, Gene Cranick
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
The Republican Party‘s war on the middle class. It‘s Alaska candidate joins its Connecticut one attacking the minimum wage. He says it‘s unconstitutional.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE MILLER ®, ALASKA SENATE CANDIDATE: That‘s not within the scope of the powers that are given to the federal government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But you won‘t have to just work for less, you‘ll have to work forever. It‘s the Kentucky candidate‘s plan to gut Social Security.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAND PAUL ®, KENTUCKY SENATE CANDIDATE: For the younger generation, there will be—have to—changes in eligibility. And they‘ve already started talking about this.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: And you would raise the retirement age?
PAUL: There may have to be for younger people, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: My special guest, Rachel Maddow.
Obtuse Angle: Now, mainstream Republicans railing in Nevada after she says this about them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHARRON ANGLE ®, NEVADA SENATE CANDIDATE: Republicans have lost their—lost their standard. They‘ve lost their principle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: She says it while trying to make a back room deal to get a splinter Tea Party candidate to the Senate to drop out. “I have juice with DeMint,” she explains to him.
Wait, isn‘t that the recipe for an Aussie Mozzie? My special guest on that, Rachel Maddow.
Glenn Beck‘s latest historical whopper: Slavery in America started with, quote, “Seemingly innocent ideas.” But then—
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS HOST: A little more regulation here and there—and before we knew it, America had slavery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Yes, big government ruined slavery‘s good name.
And a preview of the Tea Party‘s America, government ala carte. Gene Cranick didn‘t pay the $75 surcharge to the South Fulton, Tennessee Fire Department. So, when his house caught fire, the firemen came out and watched.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENE CRANICK, HOUSE OWNER: I thought they would come out and put it out, even if you hadn‘t paid your $75, but I was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Our special guest, Gene Cranick.
All the news and commentary—now on COUNTDOWN.
OLBERMANN: Good evening from New York.
Democrats are reportedly at work right now on a campaign strategy to push back against a growing element of the Republican Tea Party agenda, an agenda even Republicans know is so unpopular they do not want you to know about it.
It is, in our fifth story tonight: class warfare—a war against the middle class and the working poor. Namely, the Republican position that Americans are not working enough and they‘re not poor enough.
Alaska Senate Republican Tea Party candidate Joe Miller is only the most noteworthy attacker today—in a Web interview with ABC News and “Politico,” reading the Constitution literally to declare the federal minimum wage unconstitutionally, because it‘s not in there. And the 10th Amendment which he does not read literally prohibits, in his mind, any federal program or power not identified by name in the Constitution.
But even if it were constitutional to require that Americans make at least $7.25 an hour, the current minimum wage, Miller says it‘s still a bad idea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MILLER: That should be the state‘s decision.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, there should not be a federal minimum wage.
MILLER: There should not be. That is not within the scope of the powers that are given in the federal government. And, again, let me make it clear. This is not just a simple checklist.
This is—let‘s think of this pragmatically as well. Even if you disagree with the constitutional approach, which I think is the number thing we ought to be following, it still makes far more sense to have those kinds of decisions made at the level closest to the people, where there‘s more accountability, less inefficiency, where there‘s more understanding of where the people ought to be and what the state rule of government is.
We‘ve said this many times, if you like big government, you know, move to Massachusetts.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: In fact, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the minimum wage‘s constitutionality in 1941, in a battle that also involved the constitutionality of child labor laws, which also do not appear in the Constitution.
Miller‘s law school, Yale, not responding today to our question whether anyone there teaches that the minimum wage is unconstitutional.
The “National Journal” today reports that the Democrats are planning to use the minimum wage issue not only against Miller but against the surprisingly large number of Republicans who are also challenging it.
Just last week, Connecticut Senate candidate Linda McMahon called far a review of the minimum wage and did not know what her own state‘s minimum wage was.
West Virginia Senate candidate John Raese has called, like Miller, for simply eliminating the minimum wage.
Washington Senate candidate Dino Rossi has supported lower wages for teenagers and called for freezing the minimum wage for grownups.
Illinois gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady wants to lower his state‘s minimum wage.
Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer argued this summer that waiters made too much money, $100,000 a year, he said, thanks to the tips they get. So, he wants to cut the minimum wage for anyone who makes tips. The median wage for waiters there is, in fact, $9.36 an hour, $19,000 a year.
Chris Dudley also has a problem with waitresses. The Oregon gubernatorial candidate made headlines last month when he said, “It doesn‘t make sense that our waitresses are getting tips plus the highest minimum wage in the country.”
How high is the Oregon minimum wage Dudley has a problem with? Eight-fifty an hour. The Web site Blue Oregon reporting, this means an average salary of $35,000 to $50,000 well below the $450,000 that is the minimum wage for Dudley‘s old job in the NBA.
Why haven‘t you heard about this from Republicans? Ask Dudley.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS DUDLEY ®, OREGON GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I‘m not going to make a forefront issue on it because it‘s something—it‘s a hot button people don‘t really understand. But at some point, I‘m well aware of the issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That‘s a rich, former pro-athlete explaining how he‘s going to keep everybody else poor.
But working for a lower wages is not all that working Americans must do in Tea Party America. Minimum wage workers must work longer, until they are older, and retire on less. That Kentucky Senate candidate Rand Paul explains is how they‘ll pay for extending tax cuts for those making more than a quarter million a year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: Well, I think you don‘t do anything to people who are currently receiving Medicare or Social Security. But we do have to admit that with the baby boom generation getting ready to retire, we‘re going double the amount of retirees. And to put our head in the sand and just we‘re going to keep borrowing more money is not going to work. There will have to be changes for the younger generation.
WALLACE: So, be specific.
PAUL: For the younger generation, there will be—have to—changes in eligibility. And they‘ve already started about this.
WALLACE: And you would raise the retirement age?
PAUL: There may have to be for younger people, yes. For younger people, longevity is out there. I mean, the average life expectancy in the ‘30s was 65.
WALLACE: You talked about higher deductibles or higher premiums.
PAUL: Not for those who are currently on Medicare and Social Security.
WALLACE: No, I‘m talking about people 55 or younger.
PAUL: Yes, you‘re going to have eligibility changes for the younger people. I think all younger people, if they‘re honest and will admit and have an adult discussion and not demagogue the issue, they‘ll admit that younger people will have to have different rules.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: OK. Let‘s bring in Rachel Maddow, host of “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” every weeknight here on MSNBC.
Rachel, good evening.
RACHEL MADDOW, “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW” HOST: Good evening, Keith.
Thanks for having me.
OLBERMANN: My pleasure. How real is this Republican antipathy toward the minimum wage? And what on earth could be behind it? How could it sell?
MADDOW: In looking into this today, knowing that you were going to be leading with this and we were going to be able to talk to it, I ended up going through my own files on the minimum wage. And I was surprised to sort of find there all the stuff about ACORN. Remember all the Republican hysteria about ACORN when it went from being sort of a corporate and conservative movement anti-ACORN thing, and it blew up and all the Republicans really started piling on against them?
The thing that ACORN was really, really good at was advocating for a living wage. Not only making sure that there was a minimum wage that was enforced everywhere, but that when you made minimum wage, it was a minimum wage that allowed you could to live out of poverty, that allowed you to live in a way that have some dignity. If you work full time, you ought to not be poor in the United States.
ACORN was great at that because the minimum wage and a living wage is very popular every time you put it on the ballot somewhere. That freaked out the right. And it stared off with the corporations trying to unseat them. And they eventually got the Republicans across the board to pile on to them. That was the real threat that ACORN ever, I think, posed to conservatives and to the Republicans that support them. And think that‘s why they had to go after them so vociferously.
OLBERMANN: My head hurts.
OLBERMANN: How—but how can you—how can you sell this? I mean, at any point, is a Democrat going to make it clear that the Tea Partiers are appealing to middle class and lower middle class and working poor who may feel overtaxed and some sort of natural affinity of those sorts of candidates—the guy with the 5:00 shadow in Alaska—that, in fact, these people are not only out to wage class warfare on them but actually seem intent on making sure that they shoot any survivors who might somehow slip through the cracks?
MADDOW: Yes. At this point, the Democratic challenge is to turn policy here into politics, because the reason all of these Republican candidates feel like they can say stuff this radical is because they think they‘re only talking to their base, they think they are talking about issues that only they will engage on, that there‘s no Democratic counter argument, that there‘s no way to seem too extreme from the right, that if you can—it‘s about mobilizing the conservative movement base. And there‘s no cost to pay. There‘s no electoral price to pay for being very, very radical on these issues.
Democrats, when they try to call Republicans out on these, find very soft targets. It‘s very easy to make an attack ad out of Rand Paul‘s position on what it is to not being ophthalmologist in this country. And people who try to do it have great success with those ads. It‘s just a matter of Democrats actually being willing to swing at those very soft targets.
OLBERMANN: All right. Well then, let‘s try this. On Joe Miller‘s argument, can you unpack this thing about constitutionality regarding this and Social Security, and, you know, pretty much everything that is considered a social safety net in this country? What is his argument?
MADDOW: Well, he‘s a Tenther. He‘s—you know, we had birthers, we had deathers, he‘s a Tenther. He‘s a person who has a radical fringe interpretation of what the 10th Amendment means. And so, he not only means that there ought not to be a minimum wage, that that‘s against the Constitution; that the government, whether or not it‘s a good idea, literally cannot have programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid. There can‘t be any unemployment insurance.
Joe Miller is one of these candidates who won‘t engage with non-conservative media. They won‘t, for example, his campaign won‘t make him available to my show or your show to do an interview. I know that we‘ve asked many, many times with him.
I would love for somebody who doesn‘t already agree with him and want him to win that election to be able to ask him questions, because I suspect that if you ask him whether it is—it is constitutional for there to be an income tax, we might find out that Joe Miller is a lot like Wesley Snipes. I think if somebody might if somebody asked him if there—if it‘s constitutional for there to be a Civil rights Act that prohibits businesses from refusing to serve black patrons, for example, we might find out that he‘s a lot like Rand Paul. As long he stays, though, in his right wing media bubble, nobody is asking him those questions.
OLBERMANN: The argument that states know best, too, is appealing if -
to anybody who actually ever took a course in American history or not recently, what is the reality of the society they want to bring about? Or should we actually say bring back? Is this what‘s kicking all the migrants and immigrants so that we can put Americans back in those jobs, you know, picking tomatoes and such? Where—what‘s the ultimate end of this?
MADDOW: Well, I mean, it‘s an argument that has a lot of very overt historical precedent. It‘s a very civil war-like argument. If the federal government does not have the power to set minimum rules for things under the interstate commerce powers that are declared in the Constitution, then the federal government can‘t say, “Hey, Deep South states, you have to pay people for working for you,” for example. I mean, this—when you have a radical proposition on states rights like Tenthers do, like, for example, Joe Miller does, there‘s—the slippery slope is very slippery and very steep back to Civil War era arguments about nullification and about, ultimately, slavery. I‘m not saying he‘s a pro-slavery guy but he‘s using the same arguments that were used to justify the position of the South during the Civil War.
OLBERMANN: Yes, I‘ve been waiting for Tea Party candidate John C.
Calhoun to show up.
MADDOW: Yes, with a cane.
OLBERMANN: And what is this, also, see, that‘s Brooks (ph) some in there, too—to what extent is this not class-based but generational? Because this Republican Tea Party wants our grandkids to pay for their tax cuts for the rich right now and the interest on the money they borrow to pay for them and they want to cut the retirement and medical benefits of the younger people, which the younger people will need more because they‘ll have to work longer before they can retire 50 years from now.
MADDOW: Well, you know, I think it is, in part, generational. I think that that some of what‘s going on here. More than that though, I think it‘s magic. I think the idea is that you pare down what government offers to the point where we‘re a nonsocial welfare state, you know, pre-social welfare state environment.
And you do it with arguments that are magic. I mean, Rand Paul, this weekend, on “FOX News Sunday,” is talking about how his first priority is to get rid of government debt. First priority is to get rid of government debt, and so, he wants massive tax cuts.
MADDOW: It‘s magic. It‘s magic. It‘s magic.
And you can‘t talk about it as if there‘s some shell game that they‘re playing, moving resources from generation to generation and who they‘re representing. But, honestly, the arguments don‘t make sense. The math doesn‘t work.
OLBERMANN: All right. Lastly. Looking ahead to the Sharron Angle story—she‘s caught on tape saying she has juice with DeMint. You‘re the mixologist. That‘s a Mozzie Aussie or Aussie—what is it?
MADDOW: The orange juice and creme de menthe, the Mozzie Aussie?
MADDOW: You know, if Sharron Angle were brandy, that would mean that she was delicious. But she is going to be a Mozzie Aussie, if we‘re talking about orange juice and creme de menthe here, we are in for not only bad night, but a very, very sick morning.
OLBERMANN: Rachel Maddow of the “THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW”—we‘ll see you in 46 minutes when you follow us always. Great thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Keith, thank you so much.
OLBERMANN: Sharron Angle‘s amazing revelation, “Third parties can‘t get traction,” she says as explains on tape how she use the Tea Party to get her nomination and is now using the Republican Party to get to Washington where she will have the insider, quote, “juice” she needs. And all of this is said as she tries to persuade another third party candidate to drop out and get out of her way in the race for the Senate in Nevada. Next.
OLBERMANN: She has backed herself into half a corner. While caught on tape saying Republicans have lost their principles, she tries to talk a third party candidate out of Nevada Senate race.
It‘s bad enough that we know that he is heavily involved as outside groups spend five times as much on midterm ads as they did four years ago. It‘s the 50 percent of contributors who we don‘t know who they are that are the real problem.
It‘s simple in Texas, donate to his campaign fund, get a grant from the state‘s technology fund.
And this Tennessee home owner thought the Tea Party version for America, government ala carte with just a scare tactic—that was until the fire department came over to his house and watch with him as it burned down. He joins us.
OLBERMANN: It is in a word remarkable, an authentic backroom exchange, a picture of exactly what happens when the Tea Party, that has taken control of the Republican Party, isn‘t quite enough. It turns out to have inspired yet another third party splinter group. And when the Republican Tea Party candidate talks out of both sides of her mouth in a desperate effort to get that another third party to drop out of the race.
In our fourth story: It‘s Nevada Republican senatorial nominee, Sharron Angle. “The Republicans have lost their standard, their principle. So, I said, all right, I‘ll work with it. You want to see DeMint? I have juice with him.”
At a meeting last week at a home of an Angle adviser, the Senate candidate tries to persuade Tea Party of Nevada candidate Scott Ashjian to drop out of the race to support her instead. Also present, Tea Party of Nevada chairman, Syd James, and Richard Ziser, the Angle adviser, a completely legal audiotape of the 38-minute meeting was obtained by Jon Ralston of “The Las Vegas Sun.” Angle wastes no time trashing the Republican Party once Mr. Ashjian begins expressing his disdain.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SCOTT ASHJIAN, NEVADA TEA PARTY SENATE CANDIDATE: I don‘t see the difference between a Republican and Democrat.
ANGLE: You know, it‘s true. The Republicans have lost their—lost their standard. They‘ve lost their principle.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: But Angle then tries to pivot, explaining that she has the machinery of the Republican Party right where she wants it.
(BEGIN AUDI CLIP)
ANGLE: The one thing you said about the machinery that has endorsed me—they have no choice. I mean—they‘re—it‘s me or Reid. I mean, that‘s what they got. In some ways, it‘s exactly where we wanted that good old boy thing is in the box.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Candidate Angle then launches into a lengthy David and Goliath analogy in which she is, of course, David, leaving Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid as the apparent Goliath. But in her telling, establishment Republicans are also villains by weighing her down with the armor of political machinery which she needs to cast off. She wraps up the David and Goliath analogy with this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANGLE: And that‘s exactly where I‘m at right now, is trying to get them to leave me alone long enough so I can get my sling and go after this guy. You go, like I do, on character and principle. And they‘ve got this political machinery that they‘d like you to wear out there. This time—you have tapped into it, you have tapped into the essence of America, and the essence of America is “We are tired of politics as usual.”
The only thing that‘s different between you and I is, I guess, that I was pragmatic enough to know—because of other battles—that third parties can‘t get traction. And so I said, all right, I‘ll work with it. Just show me what the rules are and I‘ll work with it.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: That‘s right. And, after all that, by God, she‘ll work with it.
Later, Angle talks about the grassroots power of the Tea Party movement, and how she can use it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ANGLE: That gives me some juice. And that gives me juice to help those that—and that‘s really all I can offer to you is whatever juice I have, you have as well. You want to see DeMint, I have juice with him. I go to Washington, D.C., and I say, I want to see Jim DeMint, he‘s right there for me. I say I want to see Tom Coburn, he‘s right there for me. I want to see Mitch McConnell, he‘s there.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s turn now to MSNBC contributor and political reporter with Slate.com, Dave Weigel.
David, good evening.
DAVID WEIGEL, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Good evening to you.
OLBERMANN: Holy crap. I mean, this is—this is—this is how she gained the Tea Party and gained the Republican Party, and how much of a pro she sounds like in a back, smoke-filled room. Is anybody listening to this tape besides Democrats?
WEIGEL: Oh, it‘s a hard tape to listen to.
WEIGEL: The audio quality reminds me one of those things that goes and were put next to a wall to find the Poltergeist.
But, actually, the campaign is not happy this is another day they don‘t get to talk about Harry Reid. They only got 30 of these days left to attack Harry Reid. And they think this was kind of a—this was a mistake to have this meeting. But the way I‘m hearing is spun is that, you know, this is not a bad thing ever for a Republican candidate to be on tape saying the people in D.C. are a bunch of morons.
And that‘s basically her message here. They‘re gullible. She‘s beaten them. She doesn‘t need them to succeed. And even when she gets there, she can promise access, which I guess that‘s the only really upsetting of this to a guy like Scott Ashjian.
OLBERMANN: Right. The backroom stuff and she—in other words, she has replaced the Republicans in their own hierarchy. She is the—she is the virus that comes in and takes over the cell. It doesn‘t change what the cell is going to do. Is that—is that going to resonate negatively within the Tea Party? Or again, they‘re just not going bother to listen to it because the audio is poor?
WEIGEL: Well, they‘re going side with her on this because the story of Scott Ashjian is sort of odd. He declared as the Tea Party candidate a while ago, more than a year ago, and immediately, the Tea Party Express, among other groups, dog-piled on him and had an ad campaign and a PR campaign to drive him down from, I think it was about 14 percent in the polls to single digits, with the message that he was going split the Tea Party vote. I mean, this is the first example of how the Tea Party movement, despite lots of talk about how they were not pro-Republican or pro-Democrat wanted to make sure Republicans won.
So, there‘s no sympathy for this guy here. It is—she‘s right, I think, about the Republican Party in D.C. There have not been a lot of an appetite for, you know, not giving Tea Party activists whatever they want. I mean, the best example was probably in Delaware where after they lost their preferred candidate in the primary, Mike Castle, when Christine O‘Donnell came in, the National Republicans went from saying they weren‘t going to support her to giving her a donation and supporting her in the press and saying she had a chance after all.
I mean, I think, Angle is right. I mean, she will. Now, either she‘s going to get played for a sucker or she will have a lot of pull. It‘s just weird to hear her say immediately—
WEIGEL: -- that she can promise it.
OLBERMANN: But Ashjian is not dropping out of the race. He still could get that sliver of support. Ms. Angle correctly described that as possibly being enough to cause her to lose to Harry Reid. Obviously, the audiotape came from Mr. Ashjian. Is he—is he taking the real DeMint line, the real New York 23rd congressional district line? It‘s better to lose with authenticity than to win with juice?
WEIGEL: Yes, he‘s hard to read because he—since he was kind of chased down in the polls, he hasn‘t done a lot of media appearances. It‘s curious that the Angle campaign even decided to have this meeting. Some people who I talked to today said they really didn‘t want to. They shouldn‘t have. It was a bit of a trap.
No, I don‘t—I don‘t think there‘s horse race-wise or anything revealing about the election apart from the fact that if she needs to grub for votes from this guy, she‘s not beating Harry Reid the way people thought Harry Reid was going to beaten. If at the beginning to a cycle, you know, just a couple of months ago, it was assumed that Harry Reid was the ultimate example of how doomed the Democrats were because Nevada‘s the worst place in the country for foreclosures. He‘s the leader of the Democratic agenda in the Senate. The fact that it‘s this close, I think, is a thing that should give the Democrats the most hope.
But you don‘t want to read too much into Ashjian. This is, unfortunately, for Democrats, not a case that‘s repeating itself in many other parts of the country. For the most part, Republicans, you know, Tea Party activists have just swarmed into the Republican Party without many questions.
OLBERMANN: Slate.com political reporter, MSNBC contributor Dave Weigel—as always Dave, great thanks for your insight.
WEIGEL: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: You thought Citizens United would be the end of democracy?
None sense, it‘s far worse than that. Ahead.
First, the schedule update: symmetry has now been achieved. We‘re now on at 8:00 and 11:00 Eastern and 8:00 and 11:00 Pacific. Easy to remember, live at 8:00 Eastern, replay at 11:00 Eastern, late replay at 2:00 a.m. Eastern. We‘ll leave the light on for you.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Citizens United. Half of the 80 million dollars spent by outside group on the midterms is from unknown individuals. Next.
First, the sanity break. And I‘m hesitant to present the Tweet of the day, as I‘ve just read in “New York Magazine” that, quoting, “there‘s a rule against mentioning Olbermann on Twitter.” Boy, are me and my 121,000 followers in trouble? From Cailey Donaldson (ph), “the first rule of Olber-tweet club is you do not talk about Olber-tweet club.”
Now I‘m in more trouble.
Let‘s play Oddball.
We begin in British Columbia, where this bear does not wait for the picnic baskets to come to him. He breaks into the convenience store and puts them together his own self. After walking up and down the aisles for a little, the bear wanders into the children section and leaves his own Winnie the Pooh.
Realizing that he has forgotten his coupon for Honeycomb cereal, the bears leaves without taking anything. Hey, Boo-Boo, time to knock over the nearby liquor store.
To Budapest, where the ‘80s live on. It‘s the Rubik‘s Cube European championships. Contestants from 28 different countries battled to see who would be the king of the squares. But after nearly 30 years of these competitions, they needed a new twist. This guy provided it. Well played, sir.
Yes, this genius has finally combined the skill of hacky sack with the hipness of the Rubik‘s Cube. You don‘t want to know what he can do with a slinky.
Finally, to the Internets. Everybody knows the best way to sweep a girl off her feet is with killer dance moves. Down goes his chances. That Vanilla Ice wannabe seems to be trying to serve the audience. Instead, he just knocks her foot loose. I assume she had a different idea when he told her he was going to take her out.
Time marches on.
The first early results of the Supreme Court‘s democracy ending Citizens United decision. At least 40 million dollars in advertising spent on these midterm coming from unidentified donors. Next with Howard Fineman.
OLBERMANN: In his State of the Union Address last year, President Obama warned of a stampede of special interest money flooding into our politics in the wake of the Supreme Court‘s Citizens United verdict.
In our third story, nine months after that decision, a month before the first post-Citizens United election, the president‘s stampede has long since proved to be an understatement. Tonight, there is hard evidence that faceless, nameless corporate interests are using unprecedented sums of cash, possibly some of it foreign, to push their radical right wing candidates over the finish line.
Today‘s “Washington Post” reporting that interest group spending one month before the 2006 midterm elections was 16 million dollars, and we knew where 90 percent of the money came from. So far in this cycle, the figure is five times that, 80 million so far, half of that money untraceable.
Quoting the Post, “the bulk of the money is being spent by conservatives who have swamped their Democratic-aligned competition by seven to one in recent weeks.” Federal Election Committee filings from the week ending September 26th show Karl Rove‘s American Crossroads PAC spent overly three million, nearly three times what the National Republican Senatorial Committee spent to oppose Democratic Senate candidates.
Back in August, American Crossroads raised 2.4 million dollars from three Texas billionaires. Rove now using that money to beat Democrats in Missouri, Nevada, Ohio, and Colorado. And that‘s only what we know.
We have no idea who or what gave the shadowy group American Future Fund the seven million dollars it has spent this election cycle. We do know the group is based in Iowa. We also know they paid the same guy who created the 1988 Willie Horton ad to make anti-Democratic ads playing on Ground Zero Islamophobia.
Now the Iowa-based nonprofit is doling out cash to try to defeat 16 Democrats in 16 Congressional races across 13 states outside of Iowa. American Future Fund mass producing Democrat-bashing ads Henry Ford style; insert your Democratic name here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On election day, take the right path. Vote against Mark Schauer.
On election day, take the right path. Vote against Jim Marshall.
On election day, take the right path. Vote guest Gary McDowell.
Vote against Bobby Bright.
Vote against John Spratt.
Vote against John Adler.
Vote against Mike Iliveria. Travis Childers. Chad Causey. Rick Larson. Denny Heck. Bill Foster. Debbie Halvorson. Herseth Sandlin. Martin Heinrich. Vote against Chet Edwards.
American Future Fund is responsible for the content of this advertising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Let‘s call in “Huffington Post” senior political editor, MSNBC political analyst Howard Fineman. Howard, good evening.
HOWARD FINEMAN, “HUFFINGTON POST”: Hi, Keith.
OLBERMANN: The Post called this a “spending frenzy conducted largely in the shadows.” Is there precedent for it? What does a government elected by Karl Rove‘s PAC and this American Future Fund look like?
FINEMAN: Well, a cross between the Bush administration and the McKinley administration. The last time it was like this, frankly, was when the Republican party was a wholly owned subsidiary of J.P. Morgan and the Pennsylvania Railroad and Andrew Carnegie. That‘s where things are headed now on the Republican side.
That Citizens United decision—by the way, I was in the court to listen to that rehearing, because I knew how important it was going to be. It was important legally, but it was also important psychologically for corporations, their leaders and Republicans in general. Republicans like Rove have gone out and solicited the money, telling corporate leaders don‘t worry; there‘s no legal—nothing legally to fear anymore.
The reason spending was held down in the past, the corporations, which are cautious by nature, were worried about lawsuits and federal action. They‘re not worried about it anymore, thanks to the Supreme Court.
OLBERMANN: The DNC said it had its best fund-raising month of the year, 16 million dollars from low dollar donors. It also has special interests spending money on its behalf. Does this all balance out, he asked leadingly?
FINEMAN: It does not balance out. First of all, on the advertising side, as the Post said, maybe seven to one. I‘ve heard estimates as high as nine or ten to one, attack ads against Democrats versus spending that would help the Democrats. Almost all that money is going into TV advertising. It‘s going to help Republican candidates in one way or another.
The Democrats are focusing on get out the vote. They‘re focusing on the ground game. They‘re facing a difficult choice. Do they leave the air waves unanswered? In other words, do they take some of their scarce resources and put it in television ads to answer this wave from Karl Rove and company, or do they try to do it on the ground.
The problem in a midterm election, a low-turnout midterm election, is TV ads are easy to do if you have the money. GOTV is hard to do unless you have enthusiasm. And in the union ranks and in the old peace movement of a few years ago, you just don‘t see the troops willing to get out there in the way they were in 2008.
OLBERMANN: One of the things, as you know from being in the room when Citizens United was announced, great concern about foreign entities having now a cleaner path into putting money into American elections. Is there evidence of that with this new report today?
FINEMAN: Well, I think there might be. I think Think Progress, which is out of research—progressive blog, they are saying that they think there‘s a lot more foreign money coming in, for example, through the Chamber of Commerce. The fact is that there‘s always been—there have always in recent years been foreign corporation that have a lot of employees here, that do get involved in Chamber of Commerce activities and other lobbying activities.
The difference here now is, post-Citizens United, there‘s an atmosphere of no holds barred. As much money as you want directly to advocate for or against candidates, as in those ads that you just showed. I think there is going to be a lot of foreign money in here, a lot of foreign corporate money. A lot of it will be untraceable, because it‘s not required that it be reported in many cases.
OLBERMANN: This is about—this last question about a new breaking advertising story. This is not soft money. This is not this money from Citizens United. This is from the campaign of Christine O‘Donnell. A new ad is out. It‘s non-witch news. I want to play it and get your reaction. Here‘s the non-witch advertisement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTINE O‘DONNELL ®, CANDIDATE FOR SENATE FROM NEVADA: I‘m not a witch. I‘m nothing you have heard. I‘m you. None of us are perfect. But none of us can be happy with what we see all around us. Politicians who think spending, trading favors, and back room deals are the ways to stay in office.
I‘ll go to Washington and do what you would do. I‘m Christine O‘Donnell. I approved this message. I‘m you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Howard, if she‘s me, I‘m jumping out the window. Did she say bathroom deals? It‘s a little—with the piano in the background, I couldn‘t hear everything. Is that a good ad or a really bad one?
FINEMAN: I think that—you don‘t even need “Saturday Night Live,” I‘m afraid to say in the case. Not since Richard Nixon declared I am not a crook has there been such a moment. To start an ad by saying, I am not a witch—but they did their best to make her look the junior league there. She‘s got the pearls and the piano in the background, and the shy black dress.
I tell you what—I will tell you who didn‘t make that ad. Karl Rove. Karl Rove, who‘s running the Republican party now, didn‘t want her in this race, is still vehemently against her, really, even though he claims otherwise, and is disconsolate at the fact that Republicans, he thinks, could lose their shot at taking the Senate because of her. She didn‘t do anything to get in his good graces with that ad, I do not think.
OLBERMANN: Better the junior league than the anti-sex league. Howard Fineman, now the senior political editor with the “Huffington Post,” thanks for your time. And neither of us are witches either.
FINEMAN: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Thank you, Howard. A Tea Party America in which you have to pay taxes for the fire department, plus a special fee. It is already a fact for one Tennessee family. They will join us.
Did you know he thinks slavery started with, quote, “seemingly innocent ideas, but then big government screwed it up?” This guy is nuts.
And when Rachel joins you at the top of the hour, actor Mark Ruffalo joins her on the threat to America‘s water supply.
OLBERMANN: It was a scene either out of “Fahrenheit 451” or a preview of Jim DeMint‘s America. The house caught on fire, the fire department showed up. And they stood and watched as the house burned down. A la carte government in action, or in inaction. That‘s next, but first get out your pitchforks and torches. Time for tonight‘s worst persons in the world.
The bronze to Shelly Stockwell, executive director of Stockwell Prep, a charter school in Brighton, Michigan. She suspended student Cory Kearer (ph) for ten days, told him to find a way to raise 1,000 dollars to compensate the school for its trouble, after he designed a cover for the school yearbook that Ms. Stockwell didn‘t like. Probably because Cory misspelled the name of the school. Spelled it Shockwell.
All right, maybe not the brightest kid in the school. But as he points out, at least ten other students and teachers also looked at the cover before they printed the yearbook. None of them noticed his mistake either.
The runner up, televangelist Glenn Beck. Did you know slavery was caused by big government? It‘s true.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLENN BECK, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: It also took a long time to start slavery. It started small. And it started with seemingly innocent ideas. And then a little court order here and a court order there and a little more regulation here and a little more regulation there, and before we knew it, America had slavery.
It didn‘t come over in a ship to begin with, as an evil slave trade.
The government began to regulate things because the people needed answers. They needed solutions. It started in a courtroom. And then it went to the legislatures.
That‘s how slavery began. And it took a long time to enslave an entire race of people, and convince another race of people that they were somehow or another less than them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Oh. In fact, America was born with slavery and the lack of government regulation is what allowed each state to decide for itself whether or not to let it continue. And heavens forbid, but the Fugitive Slave Act, which required the return of any escaped slave, and made it a crime to help an escaped slave—that was signed into law by the foundingest father of them all, George Washington.
Any claim that it “didn‘t come over in a ship to begin with as an evil slave trade” would be a silly statement even if it came from a nine-year-old child. My heroes Bob and Ray once conducted an interview with an imaginary author named Alfred E. Nelson, whose history of the United States book included such details as Abraham Lincoln driving to his inauguration in an automobile, and that the first capital of the country was at Bailey‘s Mistake, Maine.
Mr. Nelson admitted that as he wrote the book, he had relied on his memory of his schooling, which had ended in the eighth grade. But he kept pointing out that its merits were its 1,1100 pages and exquisite leather binding. Glenn Beck is Alfred E. Nelson.
But our winner, Governor Rick Perry of Texas. The “Dallas Morning News” has a searing analysis of what he means when he talks about smaller government, government in which he takes taxpayer money and hand it directly to those who donate to his campaign. The paper has found in government records that more than 16 million dollars from Perry‘s Emerging Technology Fund has been awarded to companies whose officials or investors are large donors to Governor Perry‘s campaign.
Sadly for this oversized symbol if Texas corruption, this is no accident. The Emerging Tech Fund was not only created by Perry. The awards not only shrouded in secrecy to supposedly protect the company‘s intellectual property rights. Not only administered by his office, but by law, he must personally approve each dollar awarded.
Say, partner, why don‘t you follow through on that secession idea and secede yourself right out of that office. Governor Rick -- 16 million and what do you get, another donation and Texas is deeper in debt—Perry, today‘s worst person in the world.
OLBERMANN: A look now into the America envisioned by the Tea Party. A home catches fire. Fire fighters arrive on the scene and watch the place burn down, all because the home owner did not pay an extra fee. Our number one story, pay the spray, just a preview of what would come in a kind of a la carte government. In a moment, the man victimized by this policy where it is already in effect will speak out.
It happened in rural Obien (ph) county in Tennessee. The grandson of Gene and Paullette Cranick was burning trash nearby the family home when the fire got out of control. The Cranicks called 911 several times, but the fire department would not respond.
Why not? Because each year, county residents must pay a 75 dollar fee on top of taxes if they want fire protection from the city of South Fulton. The Cranicks did not pay. The fire department eventually did show up when the fire spread to the property of a neighbor who did pay the 75 dollar fee. Fir fighters put out the blaze on the neighbor‘s property while the Cranick home continued to burn.
South Fulton‘s Republican Mayor David Crocker defended what is a 20-year-old policy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CROCKER, SOUTH FULTON, TENNESSEE MAYOR: Anybody that‘s not inside the city limits of South Fulton, it‘s a service that we offer. Either they accept it or they don‘t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OLBERMANN: Crocker telling the area newspaper “The Messenger” that if the fire department operated on a per call basis outside city limits, there would be no incentive for rural county residents to pay the fee. “The Messenger” reporting that Mr. Crocker likened the policy to auto insurance. “As an analogy, he said if an auto owner allowed their vehicle insurance to lapse, they would not expect an insurance company to pay for an unprotected vehicle after it was wrecked.”
In Obien County, three out of eight municipal fire departments require a subscription fee. Two of those fire departments, including South Fulton, state they will not respond without payment. While the Kenton Fire Department puts itself down as a maybe.
Meanwhile, the County Commission‘s latest report on its fire services applauds the county‘s progressive credentials. “Fire service is, without question, a basic life, property-saving emergency service. It‘s no less important than law enforcement, rescue, and energy medical services.”
Joining me now, as promised, Gene Cranick, whose home burned down as a result of this pay as you go policy. Mr. Cranick, thanks for some of your time tonight under these circumstances. Allow me to express our regret here over the loss of your home.
GENE CRANICK, HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: Thankfully, your family is OK. You‘re now reduced to living on a trailer on that property there, as I understand it. Can you tell us what was lost in the fire?
CRANICK: Everything that we possessed was lost in the fire. Even three dogs and a cat that belonged to my grandchildren was lost in it. And they could have been saved if they had put water on it. But they didn‘t do it. That‘s just a loss.
OLBERMANN: When you all called 911, as I understand it, you told the operator you would pay whatever was necessary to have the fire fighters come put out and prevent the fire from spreading to your house. What was their response?
CRANICK: That we wasn‘t on their list.
OLBERMANN: And did they say—when they finally got there and finally started to work on the flames, because they had spread to the adjoining property, what did the fire fighters say to you? Were they sorry about this? Did they express any regret?
CRANICK: They put water out on the fence line out here. They never said nothing me. Never acknowledged. They stood out here and watched it burn.
OLBERMANN: So if your neighbors hadn‘t paid either, and the flames jumped to their house, that would have burned down too. If nobody out there had paid, we would have had the entire rural community on fire?
CRANICK: It was—it was in a corn field. It had already harvested. They had a tractor in the distance. They had the flame contained in the field. The man that owned the field told help to put the water on the house. They said they couldn‘t do it because it wasn‘t on the list.
OLBERMANN: Has the fire department, to your knowledge, ever made an exception to the rule?
CRANICK: Yes, they have. Back when we had a real fire chief, he had enough gall about him that he would do things. About three years ago in December, this December, had the fire up here in my boy‘s house. And they waved the fee until the next day. But we had the thing out before they got there, which don‘t make any difference. But they still waived the fee until the next day and I went in and paid it.
OLBERMANN: Have other houses in the area burned down while the fire department watched because people hadn‘t paid the fee?
CRANICK: Yes, sir. They let—as far as mine—I know for sure, they let three. And I heard of four. And then on the other side of Union City in a community, they let a barn burn that had horses in it. So I don‘t know what about that.
OLBERMANN: Is your insurance going to help at all in this?
CRANICK: My insurance is—I talked to the adjuster today. They‘re right on the ball. So insurance is going to pay for what money I had on the policy, looks like. But like everything else, I didn‘t have enough.
OLBERMANN: Oh, goodness. Gene Cranick, I don‘t know what else to say, other than we appreciate your taking the time to explain this to us. Again, our sympathy on what happened. It‘s unbelievable.
CRANICK: I like to say one more thing.
CRANICK: If I can.
CRANICK: The mayor up here said I refused to pay. I did not refuse to pay. I told them I would pay whatever it took. But I had forgot this thing, and I know people don‘t think you forget things like that, but you do, and just so happened that I forgot it. Now, I have to suffer the consequences for it. So—
OLBERMANN: Yes. Well, you paid your taxes. One would think it would be covered in that. I‘m sorry to end the interview on that note.
But, Gene Cranick, I thank you for talking with us.
CRANICK: All right. Thank you
OLBERMANN: Thank you.
Keith Olbermann, good night, good luck.
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