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'The Rachel Maddow Show' for Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Read the transcript to the Tuesday show

Guests: Virg Bernero, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz


RACHEL MADDOW, HOST:  Good evening, Lawrence.  Thank you.

And thanks to you at home for staying with us for the next hour.


We begin tonight with a story that is not happening in Washington, D.C., so most of the beltway press will not tell you that it‘s happening at all.  But it is the story that I think is the single-most telling thing in American politics right now about the difference between the two parties, about the choice in basic philosophy that we‘ve got to make about how we shall be governed as Americans.

Despite what you will hear day in, day out from Washington, the difference between the two parties right now is not about President Obama versus House Speaker John Boehner, or even if you want to get really geeky between Senator Harry Reid and Congressman Paul Ryan.  We tend to talk about politics in those terms, in terms of personalities, obviously, or the radical budget proposal of the week that‘s never going anywhere, but will drag the whole country to the right in policy terms anyway while it‘s trying.  We tend to talk act politics in America like that.

But, frankly, those are stand-ins for the real debate between the two parties‘ visions of what government ought to do, of what politics are for, not about what people say they‘re for, but how they will act if they are in office.

And if you want to know about that, you have to go here, to Michigan‘s great southwest, to the little twin cities on the shore of Lake Michigan.

Last night, we talked about how one of these twin cities, St. Joseph, population: 8,500, is nearly 90 percent white, has a per capita income of about $33,000.

The other twin city, right across there, is Benton Harbor.  Benton Harbor, population: 10,000 plus.  It is nearly 90 percent black.  Benton Harbor has a per-capita income of about $10,000 -- a third of what its twin city enjoys.

Michigan‘s new Republican governor is a man named Rick Snyder.  Governor Snyder has spent his first few months in office engaged in an aggressive campaign to strip Michiganders union rights and pass big new taxes on the poor and the elderly, using the revenue not to plug the state‘s budget deficit but rather to give it away to corporations and to the already well-off.  That platform has not been kind to Governor Snyder‘s popularity.

But the one thing in Mr. Snyder‘s approach to governing that brought

out the biggest protests in the capital, reportedly the biggest protest

that Lansing, Michigan, had ever seen, the catalyst for those huge crowds,

those thousands of people was in part a Rick Snyder law that take ace way

people‘s right to choose their local elected officials, a law that allows

the state to declare your town a failure and to appoint an emergency

financial person to be the new boss over the elected officials in your town

someone who can order them to do things, who can undo what they have done as elected officials, who can fire them if she or he so decides.


The state is not only coming in and saying we don‘t care who we elected to represent you, we‘re firing them and taking over ourselves, and state is also claiming the power to just abolish your town.

When was your town founded?  Who are your town founding fathers or founding mothers?

The state says we can dissolve your town now.  We can wipe you off the map, give your land and assets to the next town over if we want to, just roll up the whole deal and deed it over.  Your town doesn‘t get a say in the matter.

The first town to feel the tender ministrations of Governor Snyder‘s new law is little Benton Harbor, one of the poorest towns in the state.  And yes, despite the Rust Belt decline that has defined life in Benton Harbor for decades, Benton Harbor is also home to the global headquarters for Whirlpool appliances.

Among the heirs to the Whirlpool appliances fortune is Benton Harbor‘s Republican congressman, Fred Upton.  A former Fred Upton staffer, Republican state rep Al Pscholka, he represents Benton Harbor in the statehouse.  He‘s the person who introduced emergency state takeover bill that Governor Rick Snyder signed.  This is their ceremonial re-enacting of the signing there.

Until last year, Mr. Pscholka served on the board of directors for a nonprofit that wants to build a half billion-dollar, 530-acre lake-front Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and luxury real estate development that would span both relatively wealthy St. Joseph and poor little Benton Harbor.  A development that eats the one collective asset that Benton Harbor had, Benton Harbor‘s beautiful beach-front park.  It would turn it into a place where caddies carry bags for Whirlpool executives and for rich folk who is drive in from Chicago for a weekend at their new luxury signature home.

I don‘t know what a signature home is, but they‘re very expensive and they‘re part of the whole golf course deal.

Benton Harbor‘s park, Jean Klock Park, was deed as a gift to the town, one of the poorest towns in Michigan.  It was deeded to the town in perpetuity in 1917.  Perpetuity I guess is not as long as it used to be, because now, Benton Harbor residents are looking at a golf course where the cost of an annual pass for a family to play there is $5,000 -- $5,000 is half the average annual income of actual families living in Benton Harbor.  This golf course development thing is not for them.

And neither, apparently, is Democratic local government.  On Friday, Benton Harbor‘s new state-appointed energy overseer Joe Harris, issued an executive order that restricted the mayor and the city commissioners to three duties: they can call a meeting, they can approve meeting minute, and they can adjourn the meeting.  Three things that elected officials of Benton Harbor are now allowed to do.  That‘s it.

That story broke in the “Michigan Messenger,” which is one of the few media outlets that has been covering this story with diligence.  Last night, as we were covering the story of Benton Harbor, the Benton Harbor City Commission met for the first time since the emergency manager guy there told them that they, you know, had been turned into pillars of salt, more or less.

The manager knew this meeting apparently might get a little hot.  He set up a two-minute timer for anyone who wanted to speak up at this meeting.  And this is what he got from local residents.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Somebody about to go, and I think it‘s going to have to be Joe.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He‘s not even an elected official!  He‘s going to fire me?  Why you going to fire me?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Adolf Hitler was a dictator.  Now we have a dictator in Joseph Harris.  We have allowed this man to be too comfortable in our homes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We‘re not going to let it start at the foot of a so-called giant who‘s really a grasshopper.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Nobody going to take this from me or my voice because (INAUDIBLE) and I have a voice.  And ain‘t no piece of paper going to take that from me.


MADDOW:  Goodwin‘s law notwithstanding, that‘s how it went last night in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

As the Michigan blog, Electablog, that‘s been covering this story, pointed out, it is sort of striking that some of the Republicans in Washington now are spending their down to the wire, shut gown the government budget meetings trying to defund four of President Obama‘s policy czars.  Remember this?

There are four jobs that are not filled, so it‘s a move that is purely symbolic.  It carries precisely zero implications for federal policy.  It‘s just that they are supposedly ideologically opposed to czars now and they want eliminating czars to be one of the things that they might shut down the federal government in order to do.

But when it comes to czars, when it really comes to czars, what‘s happening in Benton Harbor, Michigan, is kind of czar a capital C or T, depending on how you spell it.

This is really, really, really big intrusive government.  This is “sit down, shut up, your elections don‘t matter, we‘re in charge now” authoritarian giant government.  And this ought to be the debate about what‘s on offer right now from American politics.  This ought to be the debate about the two major parties right now, about whether we are OK as Americans with really big “takeover your town,” intrusive government, because that is what is on offer.

I realize that the debate in D.C. is going to be about the “gang of six,” whether the Democrats are really going to let them change the Social Security retirement age.  And that is fine.  That is a real debate.  It is important.

But on real policy, real implications, real governing, not what people are saying they‘re going to do but what they‘re actually doing, there is a stark choice to notice and debate out in the states.  Florida, Texas, Arkansas, North and South Carolina, now moving to require you to take a drug test, forced drug testing as part of getting the unemployment benefits that you paid for when you were working.  Arizona and Georgia passing laws that force anyone to prove they‘re in the country legally whenever a police officer wants to know—papers, please.

States across the country saying they will decide whether or not you can get an abortion and what your doctor is allowed to say to you about abortions in your doctor‘s appointment.  The government will give you a script.  The government will decide what your doctor says and what you are allowed to do.  The government decides now, not you.

State governments in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee, are acting people to strip people of their union rights.  You might have heard something about that.

This is big, intrusive activist government put into motion and law at statehouses around the country.  Republican-controlled legislatures right now are filled with politicians who campaigned on small government and respecting the will of the voter trademark.  And then they got into office and they really started doing quite radically the opposite.

In Montana this month, Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer, remember he heated up his veto brand far long string of bills that had been passed by the new legislature in Montana?  One of those bills, a bill to recriminalize medical marijuana.  The Republicans‘ bill would overturn a law passed by the people of Montana in a referendum in 2004.  Another one of those Republican passed laws would have allowed the return of cyanide leaching in mines.  Voters had outlawed that through a referendum not once but twice in Montana.  But the Republican bill would have overturned what the voters said they wanted.

In Wisconsin, the Republican legislature overturned a Milwaukee referendum that mandated that companies give their workers sick leave.  When that got up for the vote in Milwaukee, it got 69 percent of the vote. 

The people in Milwaukee want that.

Governor Scott Walker says he will overrule those voters, the state legislature will step in, the state will step in—they will overrule those voters.  Governor Walker says he will sign that bill.

In Missouri, last week, the Republican legislature there voted to overturn a citizen referendum that bans puppy mills—rules about cage size, rules on sick animals, feeding, stuff like that.  The people in Missouri voted against conditions like these for dogs.

And the Republican legislature has now voted to overturn the vote of the people of Missouri.

So, much for all that will of the people—will of the people stuff that everybody‘s been campaigning on this year.

As far removed as all of this seems from the slow-motion kabuki theater of budget season in Washington, as local and specific as this stuff seems at first glance—I tell you, if political discourse in this country were not dominated by the Beltway media, the entire country tonight, the entire country tonight would be talking about this, instead.  We‘ll be talking about puppies in Missouri and Benton Harbor‘s town park and whether Benton Harbor gets to keep it because they want to.

This is the vision of governance in America we ought to be debating, because regardless of what people say they‘re going do when they get in office, this is what‘s on offer now that they‘ve got there.

Joining us now is the Democratic mayor of Lansing, Michigan, Virg Bernero.  Mayor Bernero ran in the 2010 gubernatorial race against the current governor of Michigan, Republican Rick Snyder.

Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for being with us tonight.

MAYOR VIRG BERNERO (D), LANSING, MICHIGAN:  Rachel, thank you for being such a patriot and a believer in democracy for bringing this to the fore.

Our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves at what‘s happening in Michigan.  It is dire, and it is sad—a sad day for democracy.  It‘s really everything you said.  It is taxation without representation.  You know, it is the corporatization.  We‘re seeing the corporatization of our Democratic process.

Today, in Michigan, they trained something—the government is training 200 EFMs, emergency financial managers.  This is an industry now that the administration is going to be in.  They have lowered the bar for taking over cities.

It used to be—EFMs were very rarely used.  Their powers were circumscribed.  They were to go in and deal with the finances and work with the powers that be.

Now, they are in charge.  Now they can fire elected officials.  It is unprecedented in Michigan and I think in America and it‘s dangerous.

MADDOW:  I saw a Bloomberg News report about those trainings for the emergency financial managers, and one of the things that lucked out for me was—as you were saying, this is something that used to exist in a very small scale, reserved for real emergencies.  They‘re talking about broadly expanding this and using this with something—more than a dozen different triggers that can start a process like this where a town just gets taken over.

And what Bloomberg pointed out was that it is investment banks and law firms and other people who have been involved in sort of corporate takeovers, doing this stuff in the private sector, who are now hoping to get in on this as a hot industry in the public sector.

Do you see this as a privatization of democracy, of public processes?

BERNERO:  Exactly, and this is why I say corporatization—profitization of local government.

It is unprecedented.  It‘s dangerous.  It‘s incredible that it‘s come to this.

You know, I‘m a believer in democracy.  This is autocracy.  I think the governor must have asked himself WWPD, what would Putin do?

You know, this is the kind of thing in Russia, in Soviet Russia, what is becoming increasingly Soviet Russia again.  They appoint the governors and the mayors.  And that‘s basically what we‘re headed for.  And they‘ve lowered the bar.   So, it‘s very easily to fall into this.

And not only that, Rachel, but they‘ve cut revenue sharing for cities.  So they‘re really cutting support for cities.  In essence, shoot you in the foot and blaming you for limping.

We‘re struggling to survive in this economy, and the state is doing nothing to help us.  In fact, they‘re hindering us.  And the only thing they‘re doing then is threatening us with this privatization, this corporatization with a czar who‘s going to be appointed who is not going to work with the local authorities.

You know, never mind—what happened to local control?  I thought the Republican Party was the party of less control, less government, and local control.

They have thrown local control out the window.  This is a return to King George.  You know, this is what the American Revolution was about.

MADDOW:  Is this what the 2010 campaign was for there?  When you were running against Rick Snyder and Michigan voters were give an choice about who they want for governor, is this what the campaign was about?  Is this what Republicans, including Rick Snyder, said they were going to do to Michigan if they got into power?

BERNERO:  Well, absolutely not.  And, I mean, we tried to get out of him what he would do.  There wasn‘t a lot—there was one debate, exactly one.  He said very little.

I think a lot of the Republican candidates for governor said very little.  They had a script.  They stuck to it.

And certainly, there was nothing like this talked about.  In fact, there was talk about helping cities.  You know, I‘m a mayor, I was running for governor.  I know our cities need to be the hub of the wheel instead of the hole in the donut.

There was a lot of talk about how to help cities.  And I haven‘t seen any of it.  We‘re not getting any help.  What we‘re doing is getting the rug pulled out from underneath us and then these incredible, unprecedented powers, this power grab coming from the executive office is unprecedented and they‘ve lowered the bar so much.

You know, the governor‘s office is right across the street from me.  I‘m afraid if I sneeze loud enough that could be grounds for an EFM.  They have really made it easy to take over a city, and you‘d think that normally, the state government wouldn‘t want to do that.  Normally, the state government would be assisting and trying to help you on your own, maybe move you back.

Like I say, if there was an EFM, he would be in and out quickly.  He would make adjustments.  He would work with the locals, try to build an empowered local control.

They‘re doing just the opposite.  They‘re coming in and wiping out the local boards and the local institutions.  It‘s incredible.

And so, what are you going to be left with?  At the end of the day, what are these EFMs going to have accomplished?  They‘re going to wipe out a lot of city services.

Where is the economy going to be of the region?  How are we going to grow as a state if we‘re not enabling local control, if we‘re not building up our cities and helping our cities to become strong?

MADDOW:  Well, in Benton Harbor there will be three holes of that golf course, I‘m told, which will have a beautiful view of Lake Michigan.  That‘s apparently what they will be presiding over there.

BERNERO:  That belongs to the people.

MADDOW:  That‘s exactly right.

Virg Bernero, Democratic mayor of Lansing, Michigan—thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BERNERO:  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  And do not sneeze.  Appreciate your time.

“The Interview” tonight features the woman nominated to be chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.  I‘ll talk about with her.  Please stay tuned for that.



GOV. JAN BREWER ®, ARIZONA (via telephone):  The birther bill is the requirement that any presidential candidate or any other candidate would have to show proof of citizenship, and if they did it, then they would have to show baptismal certificate or a certificate of circumcision.  So, it is something that I was not very, very uncomfortable with, and I feel that it serves no purpose.  So, today I went on record and I vetoed it.


MADDOW:  Arizona Governor Jan Brewer explaining her veto of that state‘s birther bill last night on FOX News Channel, including her own discomfort with the circumcision certificate loophole.  Is that what we call it now?

When the “Arizona Republic” asked supporters of the birther circumcision bill if they plan to try to override the governor‘s veto, at least one of them warily, no.

So, the Mr. President, show me your birth or circumcision certificate bill might be dead in Arizona.  But just as the birthers hopes are being dashed in that state, they are coming true in the great state of Louisiana, where a birther bill was introduced just last week that would require candidates for federal office to submit original birth certificates in order to get on the ballot in Louisiana.  And, no, there is no weird circumcision certificate loophole in the Louisiana bill, at least not yet.

Today, Governor Bobby Jindal‘s office announced preemptively before that bill has even passed that if it does pass, he would love to sign it.  Mr. Jindal‘s spokesman telling the “New Orleans Times-Picayune,” quote, “If the legislature passes it, we‘ll sign it.”

And it‘s not just Bobby Jindal and the poor, sad Arizona legislature.  Birther bills are happening all over the place.  Birther bills have been proposed this session in as far as we can tell, at least these 13 states.

Nebraska‘s bill would actually require the parents of a candidate for president or vice president to have both been American citizens and it seeks their birth certificates, too—parents.  Constitution be darned.  Nebraska wants to see them.

Oklahoma‘s birther bill already passed in the Senate there, and there is a public hearing set for the Texas birther bill tomorrow.  That ought to be fun.

This is what is happening in real estate legislatures in real states.  Real lawmakers are introducing, and in some cases, moving on and in Arizona‘s case, passing legislation that would have the implication of keeping or trying to keep President Obama off the ballot in that state.  And it‘s ridiculous on the one hand, but even if they don‘t succeed in keeping President Obama off the ballot, if they do get these things passed into law, they could succeed in diverting his campaign into legal challenges over getting him onto the ballot.

So, as ridiculous as this is, it is possible that this could affect whether or not Mr. Obama is on the ballot in every state in the country.  And, therefore, whether or not he wins a second term.

There‘s a new Public Policy Polling—new Public Policy Poll out today of Iowa Republicans.  Forty-eight percent of them say President Obama was definitely not born in the United States.  Another 26 percent of them say they‘re not sure whether he was born in the U.S.

So, a total of 74 percent of Republican voters in Iowa say either President Obama was not born in the United States or they‘re not sure, 74 percent.

The Republican establishment is at great pains to down play this birther thing, to say, oh, we don‘t believe the president isn‘t a citizen, not for a second, not for a moment, that‘s weird.

But meanwhile, the big shot Republican establishment has been sort of minimizing and winking and nodding at this birther issue, it has taken hold entirely among the party‘s base and it has the special convenient added bonus of having a potential real political impact—a real impact on whether or not Mr. Obama is re-elected.

If Bobby Jindal does sign this thing in Louisiana, or if all goes well during the public hearings in Texas tomorrow, or unless reason prevails in Oklahoma, conceivably the president could be kept off the ballot in one or more of those states, or those Republican officials in those states could try to keep him off the ballot and, he, again, could be diverted into legal challenges to try to get his name on there.

This is an insane Orly Taitz issue that excites the Republican base like Roswell alien sighting rumors.  It is also a means of using public policy, however, to put Republicans‘ thumb on the scale for the next election.

That is also that what‘s happening with voter registration policy.  We highlighted this yesterday as Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a bill that would make it harder to register to vote in Kansas than anywhere else in the country.  This is a trend actually, and it‘s not getting nearly enough political attention, particularly from Democrats.

According to the Brennan Center, a nonpartisan think tank that studies this stuff, Republican lawmakers in these state, all 37 of them, are proposing legislation that would make it harder to vote or to register to vote in that state.  In these 13 states, they are trying to make it really, really hard, tying the ability to vote to the ability to prove—“prove” being the operative word—one‘s citizenship, one‘s citizenship, ala the Kansas bill, which says essentially you‘re going to need a birth certificate or a passport in order to register to vote.

In other words, say good-bye to the voter registration drive in the park, at your school, at the grocery store, unless you carry your birth certificate with you when you go to the grocery store or walk your dog.

Why make it harder to register to vote?  Why kill the voter registration drive in America?  Well, here‘s a thought—making it harder to register to vote means there will be fewer first-time voters in the next elections, fewer newly registered voters.  And that has real implications for the Democratic versus Republican part of the world.

In the 2008 election, according to our exit polling conducted at the time, 68 percent of first-time voters voted for Barack Obama.  Only 30 percent voted for John McCain.  First-time voters were perhaps particularly energized by Barack Obama in 2008, but they followed the general trend of first-time voters voting for the Democrats.

So, there is a political impact to all of these Republican proposals to make it harder to register to vote—fewer first-time voters and probably therefore fewer votes for Democrats, including for Barack Obama in the next election.

On the one hand, this stuff is late-night, a.m.  radio, conspiracy theory, you know, New Black Panthers stealing the election, conspiracy theory, fox in the afternoon craziness, that rewards the most conspiratorial, most insane fevered rantings of the right-wing base—in terms of ACORN and stolen elections of which there really is no evidence whatsoever.

On the other hand, it has a serious policy implication.  This is not a federal story.  This is not a Washington, D.C. story.  And so, it gets no national attention.

But this is a coordinated effort by the conservative movement and Republican legislators and Republican governors across the country to make it structurally more difficult for Democrats to compete in elections, to tilt elections institutionally against Democrats and Democratic voters.

Does the Democratic Party have a counterstrategy for this?  The president‘s choice to be the next chair of the Democratic Party joins us next.


MADDOW:  By the fall of 2010, the man who wrote Arizona‘s “papers please” law was running a campaign of his very own.  He wanted to be secretary of state in Kansas.  His platform was voter fraud.  He said voter fraud was a huge problem in Kansas and he was the man to crack down on it.

That said, precisely one case of voter fraud had been prosecuted in the state of Kansas over the previous five years.  So, the numbers didn‘t really seem to back him up.

In order to make people think there was a problem anyway, at one press conference, Mr. Kobach announced ominously that there were dead people on Kansas‘ voter rolls.  He even named one of these dead voters, Alfred K.  Brewer.  Alfred K. Brewer, Kris Kobach said, Alfred K. Brewer is dead—a dead guy supposedly voting.

Alas, Alfred K. Brewer, not dead.  In fact, a reporter from “The Wichita Eagle” found Alfred K. Brewer, the purportedly dead voter, that Kris Kobach said was at the heart of Kansas‘ election fraud problems, quoting from “The Eagle,” “Reached Thursday at his home where he was raking leaves, Alfred Brewer, age 78, was surprised some people thought he was dead.”

Quoting Mr. Brewer, “I don‘t think this is heaven.  Not when I‘m raking leaves,” he said.

Did that dead guy raking leaves vote?  No.  Was the dead guy raking leaves actually dead?  No.

But thanks to a campaign that said otherwise it‘s going to be almost impossible to get registered to vote now in Kansas anyway.

Joining us tonight for “The Interview” is Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  She is nominated by the president to lead the Democratic National Committee.

Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz—congratulations, first of all.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLORIDA:  Thank you.  Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Is making it harder to register to vote, which many Republican-controlled states are pursuing right now—is that a partisan tactic?

SCHULTZ:  Well, I think it‘s sending a very strong signal that Republicans don‘t think they can win elections in a fair fight.  So, they need to go systematically state-by-state rigging it so that it makes it much more difficult for all voters, regardless of political party affiliation or philosophical approach can get to the polls.

I mean, just to give you an example of a bill that‘s going through the legislative—the legislative session right now in Florida.  I mean, this is particularly offensive to women voters, there‘s actually a provision in a bill that‘s been introduced and pushed by the House speaker in Florida that says that a newly married woman cannot actually vote without bringing her marriage certificate to a polling place, and at that point, she can only vote a provisional ballot if her voter registration hasn‘t officially been changed to her newly married name.

I mean, those are the kind of outrageous tactics, the intimidation—and the thing that has been much more prevalent, Rachel, voter fraud has been proven time again in the last few years not to be rampant.  What is rampant is the intimidation tactics that have been used by Republican supervisors of elections, Republicans secretaries of state, and that the policies used across the country by Republicans overseeing elections has really been outrageous in terms of getting in the way of voters who simply want to go to the polls.

MADDOW:  We‘re looking at an extreme version of this in Kansas—

Kansas making it essentially impossible to register to vote unless you have your birth certificate or passport with you.  Given the proportion of Americans with passports that we know of, and I don‘t know how many people where their birth certificate is, it‘s hard to imagine many new voters will be registered in Kansas.

But it‘s not just Kansas.  We‘re seeing this in a lot of states.  The Kansas secretary of state is an activist Republican secretary of state.  He says he wants this to be model legislation across the country.

I feel like the defense on this has, in many cases, been left to civil rights groups who worry about the disproportionate impact of these sorts of things on minority voters, say, or elderly voters or the poor.  What about the Democratic Party institutionally sort of taking the other side of this fight?

SCHULTZ:  Oh, gosh.  No—I mean, institutionally, the Democratic Party has been very aggressive.  I mean, I sit on the House Judiciary Committee, as you know, Rachel, and, you know, particularly when President Bush was still in office, and there was hearing after hearing with the—with the Republican Department of Justice employees coming before us and literally maintaining that voter fraud was rampant, we called them out under the leadership of my colleague, Jerry Nadler, who‘s been the chairman of that subcommittee, and, you know, really pushed back hard on them.  Democratic legislators across the country have pushed back hard and have tried to flush out that voter intimidation practices by Republican elected officials are much more prevalent than the supposed voter fraud that they really haven‘t been able to turn up just about anywhere in the country.

And, you know, what‘s more outrageous about this whole effort by Republicans to get in the way of Americans who just want to go and cast their vote is look at what‘s going on in the Middle East and North Africa right now.  You have literally, you know, hundreds of thousands of people who are risking their lives and dying to be able to have the franchise, to be able to actually vote and choose their leaders.

And here we are, we have people who pull the levers of power in the Republican Party who are trying to do the opposite and disenfranchise Americans because they don‘t like the outcome of an election in a fair fight.

MADDOW:  In the last election cycle, if you look at the top 10 outside donors to campaigns—of the top 10, seven of them donated to causes on candidates on the right.  Those were all corporate donors, some Republican organized groups like Karl Rove‘s outfit, Chamber of Commerce, they all gave to the right.  The only ones that gave to the left of the top 10 in the last election cycle were unions—and public sector unions prominent among them.

Do you see the effort to strip union rights, particularly in the Midwestern states, as an effort to sort of cut the supply lines from Democrats so that they can‘t financially compete in the next election cycle?

SCHULTZ:  Absolutely.  I mean, I‘ll use my state as another perfect example.  We have collective bargaining in Florida‘s Constitution.  So, the Republican legislature can‘t go after that right.  So, instead they‘ve got a bill that they‘re pursuing that would prohibit public employees from being able to use a union due checkoff that they voluntarily decide to contribute to their union to use for political activity.

And that‘s absolutely targeted at making sure that you can neuter unions and prevent them from being able to get involved in their brand of activism and make sure that they can advocate on behalf of the employees that they were elected to represent.

I mean, the intimidation, voter intimidation has been the M.O. of the Republican Party, unfortunately, for many years now.  They don‘t like the outcome of elections when everyone from every walk of life gets to actually go to the polls and cast their vote.  They certainly don‘t like when we have record turnout of young people, record turnout of first-time voters.  They don‘t like the outcome of those elections.

So, instead, their goal now is to get in the way of those folks being able to cast their vote.  And, you know, hopefully, if they can rig the election with the right makeup of voters that they prefer, then their candidates will be successful.

MADDOW:  Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz—if all goes as expected, she will be the next chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee.  Again, congratulations, Congresswoman.  Thanks for your time tonight.

SCHULTZ:  Thank you.  Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW:  Appreciate it.

We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  The U.S. government today declassified the six oldest documents that we had that we still considered secret.  The CIA finally today decided we‘d all be allowed to see what they say are the only remaining classified documents from the World War I era.  They‘re 1917 and 1918 documents having to do with invisible ink.  I‘m not kidding.

There‘s also a bit about how to steam open letters without anybody knowing you‘ve done so.  Apparently, you use copper aceto-arsenite, acetone and some specific kind of alcohol.

But mostly beyond that, these documents are about writing in ink that disappears and then making the invisible ink appear again so you can read it.  Like this.

Dip a toothpick in common milk and write between lines of an ordinary letter.  The writing will appear by being ironed out with a hot flat iron.

There are a couple different things described as the German formula for secret ink.  One of them goes like this.  Take one ounce of linseed oil, 20 ounces of liquid ammonia, 100 ounces of distilled water.  This moisture must be well shaken up before using with a quill pen.

Write in free space between the words written in pencil.  To make the writing appear, deep the whole letter in cold water and read secret letter while wet.  Upon drying, the writing disappears.  But upon re-dipping it in water, it will reappear again.

How badly do you want to try to do that?  I know.

With the warning that the war between the spy or forger and experts continually bringing out new methods.

There‘s also a step-by-step guide to look for or make visible the enemies‘ invisible ink and secret messaging tricks.  Quote, “There are a number of other methods used by spies and smugglers according to the skill and education of the criminals, such as placing writings under postage stamps, wrapping messages in medicine capsules and engraving messages on toenails, which later are made visible with powdered charcoal.”  Engraving stuff on your toenails—this is so cool.

Probably the single best document, and there‘s three different copies of this in the PDFs that the CIA released today, best single one is the 12-step guide to determining whether or not some piece of paper you‘ve come across might have secret writing on it.  You start, step one, with just a bright light looking at it from different angles.  Then use a camera with different filters on the lens to take pictures of it to see if anything turns up.

After the bright light and the camera, if you don‘t find anything, then try exposing it to daylight for one or two hours.  That will turn up invisible ink made with salts of gold and silver.

If that doesn‘t work, dust the letter with a little powdered charcoal.  That will show you if there is invisible text written on it with paraffin, with wax.

If that doesn‘t work, then run a warm iron over it.  That will turn up messages written with a whole bunch of different chemicals or with the juices of lemons, onions, leek, cabbage or artichoke.

I didn‘t know there was such a thing as artichoke juice.

There are eight more steps you have to do to find that dastardly secret message that you know is secreted in that letter that you found roll up in the spy‘s hollowed-out heel or whatever.  If you want to read yourself, we have posted the full document, all 12 steps at, because we can—because the CIA finally decided 93 years later that it was OK for us to see the use a hot iron to show the artichoke juice writing memo.

The CIA director, Leon Panetta, said in the agency‘s press release about this today that they are finally showing this stuff to the public because, and I quote, “recent advancements in technology made it possible to release them.”

We contacted the CIA today for further explanation of what technical advancements since 1917 had only just recently replaced lemon juice and leeks.  They got back to us very promptly.  They said, “In recent years, the chemistry of making secret ink and the lighting used to detect it has greatly improved.”  I bet.

Doesn‘t part of you think, though, that the credentials on your toenails thing might still work?  Nobody thought to look for it?

Now, that there‘s this memo is out, now your secret toenail credential communication plan is blown.  Now everybody knows about it.

I love this stuff. if you want to check it out for yourself.  The stuff is amazing.

We‘ll be right back.


MADDOW:  Almost a year to the day after his company unleashed environmental Armageddon on the Gulf of Mexico, BP‘s Swedish chairman has given a remarkable interview reflecting on the disaster.

His reaction one year later, quote, “Halting deepwater drilling doesn‘t feel like doesn‘t feel like a logical conclusion to this.  Fifty thousand holes have been drilled in the Gulf of Mexico and this was the first time things went this wrong.”

I mean, if you do anything 50,000 times, you‘re bound to screw up once right?  Who‘s with me?

More from the BP chairman.  Quote, “It is a burdensome road to regain the trust of the American people.  The U.S. is one of the countries that reacts the loudest when something happens.”

The chairman of BP seems remarkably unfazed by what his company wrought in the Gulf just a year ago.  This may be the reason why.  These are BP‘s profits.  That‘s $4.3 billion in the last quarter of 2009, all the way up to $5.6 billion in the last quarter of 2010.

The thing right there in the middle, that‘s just one of their holes in the Gulf of Mexico that had a little problem.  No big deal.

BP has been doing great since the big Gulf disaster—thank you very much—so much so they are now trying to get back in.  They have a new permit to drill pending before U.S. regulators right now.  They have been busy buying stakes in other Gulf oil fields in the meantime.  BP, of course, is just one of three companies that were involved in that catastrophic spill last year.

How are the other two companies doing?  Also pretty great.

Transocean who operated the rig that blew up and sank last year, they are already back in business in the Gulf.  Of the first 10 post-BP deepwater drilling permits granted by the government, four of the 10 will be drilled by Transocean rigs—almost half of the new post-BP disaster wells will be drilled by the same guys whose rig blew up and caused the BP disaster less than a year ago.

The third company involved in all this was Halliburton.  They cemented the well.  That did not hold.  That blew up.  That killed 11 men that spewed for months into the Gulf.

How has Halliburton done since then?  Pretty great.  In the year since their failed cement job led to the blowout, Halliburton‘s profits have more than doubled.  In the first quarter last year before the blowout, they banked $206 million profit.  The first quarter of this year, $511 million profit.

And like Transocean, they are right back at work in the Gulf.  The company‘s chief exec is now bragging they have won 30 percent of the drilling contracts and 40 percent of the well work contracts for the permits that have been handed out by the government so far.

Tomorrow, April 20th, marks one year since the big BP/Transocean/Halliburton oil disaster.  And a year out from that disaster, which was specifically the fault of those three companies, really full speed ahead for all of them.

And it‘s not just those three companies.  It‘s really full speed ahead for the entire oil industry.  Heading into today, the federal government had granted 10 new post-BP permits to deep water drill on the Gulf of Mexico, and they did that even though they are still not done figuring out what went wrong in the BP disaster.

The investigation is not complete.  The results we have thus far indicate that the crucial piece of safety equipment known as the blowout preventer does not work, and yet the federal government is handing out new permits anyway while they acknowledge publicly that they haven‘t quite figured it all out yet and they‘re pretty sure new safety rules are necessary.


MICHAEL BROMWICH, BOEMRE DIRECTOR:  More change will surely come, although not at the frantic pace of the past year.  It will address weaknesses and necessary improvements to blowout preventers, as well as many other issues.


MADDOW:  That was the top oil regulator in the country, Michael Bromwich, saying in a speech today that more rules are needed, more rules are coming, but, you know, later.  Why later?

In part so the government can consult with the oil industry.  He says to make sure they are comfortable with all of these new rules.

A year out from the BP disaster, not only are permits going out again before the new safety rules are in place, but the regulators in charge of the permitting are bending over backwards to talk about how much these new rules will be guided by the industry, how much the oil industry will be consulted on all this.  We don‘t want to make them do anything they don‘t want to do.

Mr. Bromwich cited by name today the newly formed Center for Offshore Safety.  He said the Center for Offshore Safety will provide the basis for new regulations going forward.  Who is this Center for Offshore Safety?  Is this some disinterested group of experts?

Actually the opposite.  It is a project of the American Petroleum Institute.  The industry.  The industry‘s trade group.

So, the industry will tell the government which rule they think should be in place and which rules should not because clearly, they know what they‘re doing.

The role of the government when it comes to regulation is not could make sure the industry gets its needs met.  It is not to make sure all the new rules are cool with them.  The oil industry is not some struggling industry even after the BP disaster.

BP is still the fourth most profitable company in the world, right now.  The role of the government here, the role of the government regulators here, is to take care of us not to take care of them.  To protect us humans from what the industry is doing in order to make all of its obscene profit.

Right now, a year out from the BP disaster, the regulators are very, very well attuned to the industry‘s sensitivities.  What about ours?

The government was super excited to announce the first 10 permits that they gave out since the BP disaster.  It seemed like they thought everybody would be psyched about that.

But what those announcements turned into was people looking really closely at those new permits and being sort of uhgged out by what they found.  Oil spill response plans that date from before the BP oil disaster?  Really?

All of that digging led to a raft of negative press coverage that seemed to catch the permitting agency completely off guard.  I‘m sure the oil industry had told them how delighted everybody would be by these new drilling permits.  (INAUDIBLE) that there are interests here other than the industry‘s the government seemed to be not prepared for that.

After a less than glowing reaction to the first 10 permits, this drilling permit agency who again is there to protect us, the public, the Gulf, they say they will no longer announce to us the public when they hand out anymore new permits.  No more press releases, no more public chest-beating about how proud they are to be issuing permits.  No more nothing.

Today, through all sorts of sleuthing on their Web site, we were able to find there that they have now approved an 11th new permit to drill in the Gulf of Mexico.  This one to Shell Oil.  You really have to dig and snoop around in order to find it but it is there.

There will be no more public announcements about new drilling post-BP. 

But you know what?  There‘s already 50,000 holes in the Gulf of Mexico. 

So, who‘s really going to care about one more?


MADDOW:  A new poll from Public Policy Polling says that 48 percent of Iowa Republican voters think that President Obama was definitely not born in the United States.  Another 26 percent say they are not sure.  That makes for a grand total of 76 percent of Iowa Republican voters -- 74 percent of Iowa Republican voters who say they don‘t know or they are not sure if the president is secretly foreign.

How is that working out for birther newbie Donald Trump and his presidential hopes?  So far, it means Donald Trump is the freaking front runner—in a word that is rich and that means you should really, really stay tuned for “THE ED SCHULTZ SHOW” tonight.

Good night.



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