Guests: Jon Ralston, Sen. Robert Menendez
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 bombshell from an unlikely place. When you hear Senate Ethics Committee, you probably think—hmm, three boring words in a row. Or maybe you think strongly-worded letter of reprimand. At worst, maybe you‘re thinking censure.
Over the last decade or so, that‘s the kind of news that the Senate Ethics Committee makes wherever it makes news. Like remember the bizarre Senate appointment for President Obama‘s former Senate seat? Senator Roland Burris, appointed to fill President Obama‘s old Senate seat in Illinois by that state‘s governor, Rod Blagojevich, after Mr. Blagojevich was accused of trying to sell that appointment. The Senate Ethics Committee investigated Senator Burris‘ contacts with the governor.
Ultimately, Senator Burris was cleared of any legal wrongdoing, but they publicly admonished him with this letter.
Back in 2006, Republican Senator Pete Domenici called a U.S. attorney‘s office in New Mexico to inquire about please, might there be any corruption probes of Democrats conveniently timed at the next election? The Senate Ethics Committee responded with a public letter of qualified admonition.
You may remember the Larry Craig airport bathroom arrest sex sting incident thing. That earned Senator Larry Craig a public letter of admonition of his own.
You get the picture, right? The Senate Ethics Committee traffics in public letters of admonition. That‘s what they did.
Except today, they did not do that. Today, the Senate Ethics Committee released a 68-page report on their investigation into the now former Senator John Ensign of Nevada, along with referrals for prosecution to the Department of Justice and the Federal Election Commission. They also did this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Ethics committee rules make clear that whenever its members have, quote, “reason to believe,” unquote, that a violation of law has occurred, we, quote, “shall,” unquote, report it to the proper authorities. Our special counsel, Carol Elder Bruce, has written a report that speaks in great detail about her findings, and that report has been released today.
SEN. JOHNNY ISAKSON ®, GEORGIA: The report clearly indicates that the Senate committee did not act on what it thought or an opinion or a whim. It acted on facts determined through hundreds of interviews, 500,000 documents that were examined, and testimony that came to our committee.
BOXER: These findings are so disturbing that she believed that had Senator Ensign not resigned and had we been able to proceed to that adjuratory phase, that the evidence of Senator Ensign‘s wrongdoing would have been substantial enough to warrant the consideration of expulsion—the harshest penalty available to the ethics committee and the Senate.
And that is why when former Senator Ensign resigned, the vice chairman and I put out a statement and we said that he had made, quote, “the appropriate decision,” unquote.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: Senators Barbara Boxer of California and Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Democrat and Republican, chair and vice chair respectively of the ethics committee. The ethics committee is made up of exactly equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats. And that committee voted unanimously to release this scathing report today, that alleges wrongdoing and rule-breaking and potentially illegal behavior on the part of now former Republican Senator John Ensign of Nevada.
Senator Ensign, you may remember, very conveniently resigned effective the day before he was due to be deposed as part of this investigation.
From the written report released by the special counsel today, we learned a lot more than we ever knew about this scandal before. What the special counsel alleges in this report is worse than what was previously known.
We learn about how deeply implicated Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn was in the payoff effort to cover up the affair. We learned very, very granular detail about how C Street and the secretive religious group known as The Family tried to manage the end of the affair to protect Senator Ensign, in effect. We learned that the senator and his office took specific official actions on policy matters because of the affair and the payoff and the cover-up.
We have evidence that Senator Ensign‘s explanation for that $96,000 payoff after the affair, his explanation was not only a lie—it was I lie that he made his parents, his parents, swear to, in a way that may have legally implicated them. We learned that Senator Ensign‘s wife is the one who contacted the woman the senator was sleeping with to tell her she was being fired because of the affair.
We learned that the woman Senator Ensign was sleeping with did not want to be sleeping with him. She repeatedly tried to stop the affair, and the pressure to continue it derived from Senator Ensign being her employer and her husband‘s employer and the sole source of financial support for her now broken apart family.
And we learn all of this in a format that reads like a screenplay for a riveting and tragic movie.
John Ensign‘s wife is high school friends with Cindy Hampton. Cindy Hampton was a bridesmaid at the Ensigns‘ wedding. Cindy‘s husband Doug and John Ensign become best golfing buddies, that‘s page seven.
Page eight, John Ensign rises to become the number four ranking Republican in the U.S. Senate, living at C Street and taking on one of the leaders of the family as his spiritual adviser. John Ensign travels to Iowa. He is considered a future presidential contender for the Republican Party.
Pages nine and 10, the Hampton family is totally financially dependent on John Ensign. Ensign giving them tens of thousands of dollars worth of loans, propping up their mortgage on a home down the block from Ensign that they could not afford on their own. John Ensign even paying the private school tuition for the Hamptons‘ kids, paying for their family vacations.
Both of the Hamptons are employed by Senator Ensign. The affair of course will end all of that.
When the affair ends, both Hamptons lose their jobs. They end up losing their home and the senator—classy guy—stops paying the Hampton children‘s school tuition that he had been paying.
Page 11, the affair—Senator Ensign described as relentless, persistent. He just wouldn‘t stop and kept calling and calling and would never take no for an answer. Quote, “Ms. Hampton eventually yielded to Senator Ensign‘s pleas.”
Page 12, the affair discovered. Quote, “Mr. Hampton found out about the affair—listen to this—on December 23rd, 2007, while he and his wife were on the way to the airport to pick up their son for the holidays. Senator Ensign was in a separate car on the way to the airport to greet the son as well. While waiting in his car as Ms. Hampton went to pick up their son‘s girlfriend from her home, on the way to the airport, Mr. Hampton saw that his wife left her cell phone in the car. And he viewed a text message from Senator Ensign to Ms. Hampton that made clear an affair was occurring:
‘How wonderful it is. Scared, but excited.‘”
When Mr. Hampton—excuse me—when Ms. Hampton came back to the car, Mr. Hampton stated, “I know what you and John are doing.” Mr. Hampton then called Senator Ensign and said that he knew what was happening. Senator Ensign did not inform his wife at the time.
When the cars were parked in the airport parking lot, Mr. Hampton jumped out of his car and chased Senator Ensign in the airport parking lot. Mrs. Hampton went into the airport and sat there for hours. Ms. Hampton later took a taxi back to her home. That‘s two days before Christmas.
The two families then spend Christmas together. And Senator Ensign pledges it‘s all over, it was all a big mistake. But by January, he is pursuing Cindy Hampton again.
Cindy Hampton is described as despondent over this, but she goes along. Her family is 100 percent financially dependent on John Ensign. So, she goes along.
He gives thousands of dollars in cash to pay for hotel rooms that he has her booked in her own name for their liaisons.
At the C Street-sponsored National Prayer Breakfast, he tells her he wants to marry her. He makes $1,000 worth of phone calls to her. During a congressional delegation he‘s on to Iraq, he lists her as Aunt Judy in his cell phone to cover up the calls he is making to her. It does not work, this cover-up.
Senator Tom Coburn whether I have with Senator Ensign in C Street. The husband of Cindy Hampton asks Tom Coburn and three of the leaders of The Family in C Street to tell John Ensign that the affair needs to stop. John Ensign says, OK, OK, the affair will stop, but he does not stop.
Two days after the interception, Tim Coe, one of the leaders of The Family at C Street gets a call from Cindy‘s husband again, saying he spotted his wife‘s car and John Ensign‘s car both parked at the same time in a motel parking lot in Summerlin, Nevada.
Tim Coe calls Ensign on his cell phone and tells him, “I know exactly what where you are. I know exactly what you are doing. Put your pants on and go home.” Senator Ensign initially says he would not leave the hotel room, telling Mr. Coe, “I can‘t. I love her.”
And so, the next day, John Ensign fired her husband. After this affair with Cindy Hampton, John Ensign fired her husband, cut off Cindy‘s kids‘ tuition he was paying, and then Senator Ensign‘s wife fired Cindy herself.
The rest of the report details the illegal lobbying job that Senator Ensign put Cindy Hampton‘s husband into after Ensign fired him from his own staff. How Senator Ensign retaliated against a constituent who would not hire Doug Hampton for that illegal lobbying job, telling his staff to, quote, “jack him up to high heaven,” and tell him that he has cut off from the office and never to contact Senator Ensign again.
How the senator‘s office facilitated that illegal lobbying by Doug Hampton and what Doug and did what Doug Hampton asked, using the power of the office of the United States senator in order to make good on this payoff after the affair.
The illegal $96,000 check to the Hampton family arranged by Senator Ensign, how Senator Ensign had his parents explain that payment in a way that his father totally disavowed and denied under questioning by the special counsel.
In trying to cover up the whole sordid affair, the affair itself, the payout, the illegal lobbying, all of it, Senator Ensign started using Gmail instead of Senate email accounts. He started a new shredding policy in his office. He changed the responsibility of his Senate staffers so that the ones who realized what was going on was probably illegal no longer got to see what was going on anymore.
His chief of staff, John Lopez, did realize that what was happening was at least wrong and potentially illegal. So, John Lopez, got put in charge of handling the details of most of it in a way that would protect Senator Ensign. John Lopez is implicated as the senator‘s chief of staff.
Why is he not in trouble? Because he got immunity from prosecution. He got immunity from prosecution in exchange for spilling the beans on John Ensign.
The special counsel also tried to get immunity for the husband, for Doug Hampton, get him immunity about the illegal lobbyist job and all the rest of it, but the Justice Department would not let that happen. They‘ve got Doug Hampton under indictment—which is where Senator John Ensign may end up as well.
The special counsel noting that there is enough evidence here to likely to have John Ensign expelled from the Senate if he had not resigned and skedaddled last week about a half second ahead of the cavalry.
But the referral of this evidence to the election commission and to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution probably means that this is really, really, really not over. Now, former Senator Ensign may yet be indicted. Doug Hampton is indicted. John Ensign‘s chief of staff who he dragged down with him only escaped the same fate by being granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.
Cindy Hampton and Doug Hampton are now divorced. The report says that Cindy Hampton is now filing for personal bankruptcy as well. She‘s trying to move to California to start her life over. She describes her life as ruined.
Senator Ensign‘s parents are potentially in legal jeopardy as well for lying—lying in statements they did not seem to understand, that Senator Ensign had drawn up for them to sign, and that they disavowed when they were asked about them by the special counsel.
Who‘s the only one in all of this story who is doing fine? Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, the man who knew about Senator Ensign‘s affair, and kept it secret, and tried to negotiate a nice settlement to end it, a financial settlement.
Senator Coburn is trying to negotiate a good deal for Senator Ensign. Right? This is in the report. Tom Coburn trying to negotiate a good deal for Senator Ensign, Page 37 of the report—trying to negotiate a payout to the family to make the scandal go away.
Quote, “Senator Coburn recalled that he was on his tractor at his home mowing his lawn at the time and was annoyed to receive the call in the middle of that task. But Senator Coburn did take the call on his lawnmower, and he played his role in the John Ensign scandal.”
Tom Coburn‘s role was to make a lower financial counteroffer when he heard how much money the Hamptons wanted from John Ensign. He was the one who negotiated a lower potential payout amount to John Ensign‘s mistress. He was out to save John Ensign some money in covering up this affair.
Everyone else this touched had their life destroyed by this, but Tom Coburn, still in the Senate, doing fine. His Web site bragging today about how he is a co-sponsor of the Defense of Marriage Act.
Joining us now is Jon Ralston, columnist for “The Las Vegas Sun,” host of “Face-to-Face with Jon Ralston,” and a man who features prominently on page 42 of the special council report in the Senator Ensign scandal.
Jon, I‘m not sure if congratulations is the right thing to say in a case like this, but I do feel like all of your reporting and your focus on this has been vindicated. Do you feel that way?
JON RALSTON, LAS VEGAS SUN: Well, I don‘t know if my reporting has been vindicated, Rachel. But I tell you who has been vindicated here: Doug Hampton, because everything he said on page 42, it‘s a link to that program we had him on “Face-to-Face” less than a month after John Ensign‘s disclosure, has been borne out to be true—the severance pay, the conspiracy to get him the lobbying jobs, the full knowledge that John Ensign had.
And Tom Coburn‘s role, which he detailed, and it‘s even more detailed in those granular details in that report, Rachel. He called Mike Ensign, John Ensign‘s father, which according to the report resulted in a torrent of expletives from the usually staid Senator Ensign.
So, everything Doug Hampton has said about what happened here has been vindicated in that report. And Doug Hampton is the one who‘s under indictment, and John Ensign is a free man? It seems like there‘s something wrong there, Rachel.
MADDOW: Let me ask you about the issue of the senator‘s father.
Senator Ensign‘s father is a wealthy man, a prominent man in Nevada.
And this $96,000 payment from the senator‘s parents, they said it wasn‘t severance. It was just a gift, part of a pattern of generosity of lots of gifts that Senator Ensign‘s parents had given the Hamptons. They cited a big trip to Hawaii, for example, that Senator Ensign‘s parents paid for for the Hamptons.
Now, Ensign‘s parents say the statements they signed that attested to all that stuff were lies. Did Senator Ensign get his parents in trouble here potentially?
RALSTON: It sure seems it might be possible since they were his main witnesses before the Federal Election Commission. John Ensign would have had to disclose that $96,000, which again Doug Hampton claimed from the word go was severance.
John Ensign has claimed it was not. It was a gift. He got his parents to swear to that in front of the Federal Election Commission.
Real quickly, Rachel, Mike Ensign is a very, very private person. Even when he was the head of a major gaming company, he did not like public attention. He wasn‘t thrilled that his son was in public office. He has to be mortified by all of this.
But let‘s be clear what that report says. That report has multiple witnesses inside John Ensign‘s office saying John Ensign described it himself as, quote, “severance.” That is devastating to what Ensign has said previously, what his attorneys have said. And, yes, what he had his parents swear to.
MADDOW: The election commission, the Federal Election Commission, had cleared John Ensign before this. Now, they‘re getting this referred back to them from the ethics committee with a lot of new evidence here. What do you make of that? I mean, part of the reason the assurance about severance is so important is because it violates election laws.
RALSTON: Yes, exactly. And by getting John Ensign and his parents to say what they said, they essentially took their word for it over what Doug Hampton had claimed that it was, that it was $96,000 in severance.
The evidence amassed by this special counsel—and we should say what an amazing job she did. But what you see is lesser part of this, Rachel. What is the Department of Justice doing?
There is a mountain of evidence against John Ensign in that special counsel‘s report. Conspiracy clearly, obstructing justice by shredding documents, going to Gmail—as you mentioned—instead of his Senate account, trying to ward the DOJ off of the scent. And Doug Hampton again is the one who‘s indicted, and Ensign is informed by the Department of Justice at the end of the last year that he can go have a nice life?
There is something really dissonant there, Rachel.
MADDOW: And that may not be the end of it. With this new evidence we all are sort of waiting to see if another shoe is going to drop from the Justice Department.
Jon Ralston, columnist for “The Las Vegas Sun,” host of “Face-to-Face” with Jon Ralston, and as I say, the star of page 42 of this report—Jon, thanks so much. Look forward to your continued reporting.
RALSTON: Thanks, Rachel.
MADDOW: Beyond the John Ensign scandal, it was a big day on Capitol Hill for CEOs getting yelled at, which for some reason made Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch make in public, in the United States Senate, a very specific request of me. I‘m pretty sure it was me.
In any case, Senator Hatch‘s request will be granted, next, live—and it involves hats.
MADDOW: Sometimes politics is about personalities. In today‘s news, for instance, there was a lot of personality as politics on display, even beyond the John Ensign affair, just looking at the positive stuff, the rollout of Jon Huntsman as a little known but promising Republican candidate for president. That rollout started today with a big puffy profile of Mr. Huntsman in “Time” magazine.
Did you know that John Huntsman played the keyboards in a band called Wizard? Not the wizard or the wizards but just wizard. Now you do. Thank you, “Time” magazine.
Candidate watchers are very excited also about the fact that Mitch Daniels‘ wife is giving a speech tonight in Indiana. That is seen as a key signifier that Mr. Daniels might actually be running for president this year, apparently based on what we know about his personal life and how his wife functions in his political decision-making.
Also the political press today parsed every moment, every aspect, of an interaction that President Obama had with a soon-to-be laid off federal employee at a town hall event yesterday—judging his perceived empathy, delving into the personal circumstances, the work circumstances of the woman who confronted him.
Sometimes politics is about personalities. And there‘s nothing wrong with that. Sometimes politics is about policy, very rarely.
But today was one of those days when politics wasn‘t necessarily about personalities or policy all that much, as much as it was about emotional catharsis.
As the CEOs of the five biggest oil companies in the country went to D.C. to a Democratic controlled hearing, to tell the Senate and the American people that while gas is 4 bucks a gallon, when it costs eight hours of minimum age work to pay for one tank of gasoline—eight hours for one tank—when oil companies are breaking their own records for the most profit ever made by any corporation ever in the recorded history of earth, when ExxonMobil is making $5 million of profit every single hour, the oil companies today tried to tell America that they need to keep getting their taxpayer subsidies, please.
You knew it was going to be a cathartic day when ConocoPhillips on the eve of today‘s hearings put out a press release to say it would be un-American for ConocoPhillips to no longer get hundreds of millions in corporate welfare despite its unbelievable profits. That was their press release the day before this hearing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. ROBERT MENENDEZ (D), NEW JERSEY: Did you really mean to question my patriotism and the patriotism of the 28 other United States senators who are co-sponsors? Do you believe that President Obama is un-American because he has proposed cutting oil subsidies? Do you believe that former President Bush, Speaker Boehner, Congressman Ryan, are un-American because they have expressed cutting oil subsidies?
JAMES MULVA, CONOCOPHILLIPS CEO: Senator, there was, the media—the title of our media release. Nothing was intended to be personally directed to you or any of the other senators, colleagues or anyone.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: Do you think anyone who advocates cutting these subsidies is un-American? Yes or no.
MULVA: Well --
SCHUMER: Yes or no, sir. That one, we deserved a yes or no answer.
And it was your release that said un-American. Yes or no?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s really not credible to say that you‘re going to raise gas prices simply because we are asking you to forego 1 percent to 2 percent of your profits.
SCHUMER: Do you think that your subsidy is more important than the financial aid we give to students to go to college? Could you answer that yes or no?
MULVA: Well, it‘s very difficult question for me, two totally different questions.
SCHUMER: But we have to weigh those two things, Mr. Mulva.
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: How much profit on a barrel of oil do you have to make to not be needful of these subsidies that we think you don‘t need? But you say your life depends on?
At some point, you know, you wouldn‘t need the subsidies. I don‘t—
I think you‘re there already, but you don‘t. So at what point do you think you don‘t need these subsidies?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we described, we don‘t receive subsidies, Senator. I don‘t think the American people want shared sacrifice. I think they want shared prosperity. And what we have to offer --
ROCKEFELLER: That‘s a lovely statement. But do you understand how out of touch that is? I think you‘re out of touch—deeply, profoundly out of touch, and deeply and profoundly committed to sharing nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: These five CEOs knew that this was what they were in for today. They are well paid, they know that this is part of their job to be on the receiving end of this kind of complaint, when all is causing everybody else so much financial pain, but it‘s causing them so much financial party. They know the drill, though, as it were. So they knew this was going to happen. So, mostly, they just sat there and took it today.
What was interesting, though, was that one Republican senator decided today that he would make a really big show of taking the CEOs‘ side, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH ®, HATCH: Well, the America people ask Congress to do something about high gas prices, the response of Democrats is to rail against oil executives.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leave Exxon alone!
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MADDOW: I‘m sorry. That was very petty. I take it back. I‘m sorry that we did that.
By way of explanation, though, this is why I am feeling petty about Senator Orrin Hatch today. I‘m sorry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HATCH: The liberal mouthpieces over at MSNBC certainly had the talking points yesterday afternoon and are ready to make some political hay at the expense of our witnesses today. Now, I‘m not going to wait for the MSNBC lineup to put on their hard hats and stand on an oil rig and do a promotional ad asking this tough question about the potential loss of blue collar American jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Hatch, I didn‘t know you cared. But since you do, I would love to talk to you about this stuff. I would love to talk to you about this stuff while wearing a silly hat if that‘s what you want. I would offer you a hat so we could both wear hats and talk about this stuff if that would make you more comfortable.
Your office told us that you were not available to come on the show tonight. But because of you talking about me in the Senate today, I know you‘re watching. So, I live in hope that you will want to be on this show.
Here‘s what I would like to ask you. First, you say we need to keep subsidizing these big oil companies so they‘ll keep investing in the United States and keep creating jobs, right? The thing is, the record shows that as they keep making more and more and more and more and more and more and more and more profits for themselves—that has not translated into them making any more jobs. Quite the contrary.
Here for example ExxonMobil‘s net income from 2005 to 2008. Look at that. Every single year they have made more and more and more money, and every single year they shed employees.
So, Senator, how much more profit do you think these oil companies will need to make before that actually does turn into jobs like you say it will?
Second question: you said cutting the oil company subsidies will hurt the industry‘s bottom line, and that means higher prices at the pump. Exxon just posted its highest quarterly profit since the end of 2008. Both of those record quarters came at a time when we were paying 4 bucks a gallon for gas.
If you really think there is a cause and effect relationship between the company having a good bottom line and us getting good gas prices, how much better do you think Exxon‘s bottom line is going to have to get before you‘re expecting prices to go down?
Third: back in 2005, when oil was at 55 bucks a barrel, oil company executives told Congress they didn‘t really need their subsidies anymore because prices were so high.
Your colleague Ron Wyden played that clip during the hearing today. Now, they‘re making double that amount of money on a barrel of oil. They are making double that, but now, they are saying actually they do need those subsidies. How do you explain that math?
Fourth: why do we need to incentivize oil companies at all to partake in the most profitable business the world has ever known? We have to subsidize their hauling costs, really? That‘s what these subsidies are for. They can‘t afford to pay for trucking? Taxpayers should be subsidizing repairs at their wells? They can‘t afford that?
If we decided tomorrow that all of the incentives were gone, would they decide that drilling was not profitable anymore? Would they quit? Would they stop doing it in?
And, you know, on that point, last year, these five oil companies alone made $1.5 trillion in revenue. Exxon Mobil makes $83,000 in profit every single minute. How much do you think they really depend on that few hundred million you give them in subsidies every year? It is a drop in their ocean, and it could actually make a big difference somewhere else in the budget.
How much profit do they need to make not to need the subsidies anymore?
Six: while we‘re talking, are your opinions on the oil companies‘ need for taxpayer subsidies even when they are making all of this money, are your opinions on this—are your opinions on this, Senator Hatch, at all affected by the fact that you‘ve been given $255,000 by the oil and gas industry over the course of your career?
Seventh: you are one of the most proponents of deep water drilling off of U.S. shores. Last month, the U.S. Coast Guard singled out Transocean in their history of safety violations as one of the key causes of the worst oil spill in U.S. history. But Transocean is now contracted to drill almost half of the new wells since the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Are you cool with that?
And eighth: speaking of offshore drilling, and your concern about those blue collar workers, are you concerned that an oil worker is five times more likely to be killed working on an oil rig in U.S. waters than working on an oil rig in foreign waters? Does that bother you, sir?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HATCH: The liberal mouthpieces over at MSNBC certainly had the talking points yesterday afternoon and are ready to make some political hay at the expense of our witnesses today. I‘m not going to wait for the MSNBC lineup to put on their hard hats and stand on an oil rig and do a promotional ad asking this tough question about the potential loss of blue collar American jobs.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Senator Hatch, you do not have to wait. You can have that conversation with me any a hard hat or not—your choice. I‘m happy to have that conversation with you. You think it makes great conservative politics to denounce liberal mouth pieces at MSNBC for wanting to talk about oil companies getting taxpayer subsidies.
I can tell you, sir, that me and other liberal in the country, mouthpiece or not, would be happy to talk about you wanting oil companies to get taxpayer subsidies every day from now until the next election and beyond. Corporate welfare for the most profitable companies the world has ever known, while they are charging 4 bucks a gallon for gas—you do not have to wait for me to want to talk about this, sir. You are welcome here anytime.
Up next: a senator who will talk to me about this. Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey.
We‘ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MENENDEZ: But you classify them as un-American. That means those who promote are un-American. And I just—I think that‘s beyond the pale. That‘s beyond the pale. And I was hoping you were going to come here and apologize for that, because it‘s simply beyond the pale. So, are you willing to apologize for what your company—
MULVA: Senator, what I just said, there was nothing intended personally. What it was --
MENENDEZ: So, you‘re not willing to apologize?
MULVA: We felt that the tax proposals under consideration, we question the fairness. And the other was that the tax proposals under consideration were inconsistent without having an energy policy that would have an adverse impact—
MENENDEZ: The bottom line is you‘re unwilling to apologize for your company‘s statement. OK.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: We‘re joined now by Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who cosponsored the bill that would repeal oil industry subsidies and who did not get that apology from ConocoPhillips‘ CEO Jim Mulva today.
Senator, thank you very much for your time tonight.
MENENDEZ: Good to be with you.
MADDOW: The implied threat today from these oil companies was that if you cut their taxpayer subsidies, prices will go up and it will hurt, I guess, oil industry jobs. Is that what you understand their threat to be?
MENENDEZ: Well, Rachel, I can‘t understand what their threats are. And I couldn‘t understand how those five CEOs could come before the United States Senate and the American people and say that going from $125 billion in profits this year, collectively, among the big five oil companies, to $123 billion this year, if we take away those subsidies, is somehow going to create—cost jobs, is somehow going to be a catastrophe, is somehow going to cause them to increase the price of gasoline. It‘s pretty outrageous across the board.
All of their testimony in my mind was pretty outrageous across the board. And, of course, with the ConocoPhillips saying it‘s un-American—well, I know most Americans whose medium income is about $50,000. They can‘t quite understand why they have to, in addition to pay at the pump $4 a gallon, have to dig in their pockets and give the oil companies $21 billion over the next 10 years.
MADDOW: In addition to your sort of moment today that we played at the top of this segment, you talking to ConocoPhillips, their CEO about that un-American charge, another moment that really struck me today was Senator Ron Wyden playing tape of these same companies, same major oil companies, saying when oil was half the price that it is now, that that oil price was so high they really didn‘t need their subsidies anymore.
Now, when they are getting double that amount for the price of a barrel of oil, they‘re saying they do need the subsidies. How do they explain that change?
MENENDEZ: Well, I really don‘t think they explained it to anyone‘s
satisfaction. Different CEO, same company. But it‘s the same proposition
that former President Bush, who was very friendly to the oil industry, said
well, after $55 a barrel, you do not need the subsidies. Well, we‘re at about $100, you know, that others have said as well.
Speaker Boehner has referred to this in the past. Now, he‘s walking it back because I guess he is getting pressed by big oil. Congressman Ryan, the budget chairman, the Republican budget chairman in the House, has talked about eliminating these subsidies. A whole host of my colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle in the Senate have talked about it.
So, you know, it seems to me that this is unexplainable by the industry. And no matter how they shape it or want to spin it, it‘s just one of those things that they should have come in and said, look, we‘re ready to join in reducing the deficit, because under my legislation, we take the $21 billion and the tax breaks they are getting and we put it towards deficit reduction.
We‘re all talking about reducing deficits. We need shared sacrifice. Certainly, the oil companies that are making $125 billion this year in profits—not revenues, in profits—could afford to let go of those $2 billion a year for the next 10 years.
MADDOW: You have been vocal in describing what you think is the political potency of this issue, saying that you are willing to keep talking about this as frequently as you, given that Republicans haven‘t come up with really a political answer for it. When this ultimately is voted on in the Senate, in terms of how this proceeds as a policy matter, do you expect that any Republicans will peel of from their party line on this and join Democrats in voting to repeal these subsidies?
Or do you think it‘s going to be a 100 percent Republican no vote?
MENENDEZ: You know, Rachel, we‘ll see. There are at least five Republican colleagues, present members of the Senate, who have said in one form or another, that these subsidies no longer are need and should be repealed. You know, there will be that moment—and their words versus their votes. And hopefully they‘ll join us.
But I‘m convinced we‘re going to do this, because whether this is done through my legislation or whether this is done as part of any debt ceiling vote, which we‘ll insist on, or whether it‘s done as part of any budget vote, we are going to eliminate these subsidies. I don‘t know how anyone, how any of these five CEOs, can come before the nation and say that making $123 billion versus $125 billion is un-American.
I think the average person out there in the country must have said these people—Jay Rockefeller, got it right—they are so out of touch, so out of touch. That it‘s just incredible to have heard them make the statements they made. And incredible for ConocoPhillips to say it‘s un-American.
It‘s un-American that we, in fact, permit them to in foreign countries, instead of paying a royalty, they have it ultimately fashioned as a tax so they can get that whole tax break here in the United States. And what U.S. taxpayers are doing is subsidizing the production of foreign oil. That‘s ridiculous. That‘s one of the things that I‘ll eliminate in my bill.
MADDOW: Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, one of the Democratic senators calling for the repeal of oil industry subsidies leading on this legislatively—many thanks for your time tonight, sir. I really appreciate it.
MENENDEZ: Good to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Take note about what Senator Menendez said there about that debt ceiling discussion, right, if that is not just a stand alone, clean, one issue debt ceiling vote and other things are going to be folded in on that. Senator Menendez saying that oil industry subsidies will be one of the things that Democrats insist be folded into that vote. Oh, really.
All right. It is not every day that Senator John McCain gives a speech on the floor of the United States Senate that Ed Schultz wholeheartedly admires and endorses and gives a personal Ed Schultz standing ovation to. But today was one of those days. Be sure and watch Ed Schultz tonight. You will not want to miss it.
Coming up on this show, why the response to this is the best new thing in the world today. You will want to see this. We‘ll be right back.
MADDOW: One of my favorite things about this job, and the excellent, excellent people I work with, is watching our whole staff freak out via “reply all emails” over some email, something that somebody has sent around, before I have seen the thing that‘s causing the freak out. Has this ever happened to you? Somebody sent something around, everybody has seen it. You‘re watching the entire reaction, and you still haven‘t seen the original thing?
That happened to me today when I turned on my BlackBerry after I got out of the gym and I was so happy, I almost called in today and didn‘t come to today.
What our executive producer Bill Wolff sent around this morning was subject lined: schoolhouse schlock. This was the topic of this morning‘s email that made so happy. It can be found at the new internet venture of Mike Huckabee, former Arkansas governor, self-help author, and FOX News Channel host who may or may not be running for president again this year. Mr. Huckabee‘s new gig is animated history videos for kids.
The first one is called “The Reagan Revolution.” It starts with kids taking a time traveling bicycle thing back to the late 1970s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next stop, Washington, D.C.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The downturn in the economy is killing us. People are out of work. And some of their morals are just gone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Give me your money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Spoiler alert. It turns out the economy and the morals all get completely better when Ronald Reagan is elected, and nobody ever gets mugged again by men of indeterminate race in disco t-shirts. There‘s more. Stay with us. More, more, more coming.
MADDOW: Since Mike Huckabee stopped being the governor of Arkansas, his life‘s work has become basically being Mike Huckabee—capitalizing on his name and his political potential as a maybe presidential contender for the Republican Party some day. Although he was coming to you on the TV machine as a FOX News Channel host or on the Internet, says, the author of books like a “Simple Government,” “Simple Christmas,” or “Living Beyond Your Lifetime,” also famously, “Quit Digging Your Grave with a Knife and Fork” featuring Mike Huckabee as your down home Republican diet guru—Mr. Huckabee has come up with a lot of different ways to make money off his own name.
But, now, he has a new way of making money off being Mike Huckabee. This is Mr. Huckabee‘s latest enterprise. It‘s a company called Learn Our History. It promises—it guarantees to give your kids a learning adventure they‘ll never forget. For a trial offer of just $9.95 you get a free DVD about American history along with four free gifts. There is a small processing charge of $8.95 for the free gifts.
All of this conveniently billed to your credit card and then you get a new history according to Huckabee DVD every month from now until eternity for $11.95 plus $3.95 shipping. They keep coming every month and you keep getting charged every month unless you call to cancel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE HUCKABEE ®, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: Our films make great gifts for your kids or grand kids—so why not see for yourself? Click on this button right here and your kids can enjoy the Reagan Revolution DVD for under $10. And as an added bonus, we‘re going to send you $50 in free gifts just for previewing the video.
If your kids don‘t love the film, just send it back within 30 days and we‘ll refund the purchase price. Give it a try. I guarantee your kids are going to learn and have fun.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Click on this button right here.
Almost every political candidate, Democratic or Republican, sells you on the glorious future you will have with them if they are in charge of it. President Barack Obama brings you a vision of winning the future—and so does Republican Newt Gingrich, word for word, winning the future.
But one difference between Republican politicians and Democratic politicians is that while both of them will sell you a new and improved future with them in charge, Republicans‘ culture war ethos about politics means they will also sell you not just a new and improved future but a new and improved past—a revised American history carefully constructed to make you feel more comfortable than you might otherwise feel about our national history.
Por ejemplo, you may remember the House on American Activities Committee. Part of that was Senator Joe McCarthy red baiting the living heck out of the entertainment industry, dragging in writers and actors and anyone he thought might have a whiff of communism on them. Remember those hearings? All the people who turned in their friends who then got blacklisted as communists and some of them got sent to prison. A bunch of them never worked again.
Well, in 1947, Ronald Reagan testified before that committee as a friendly witness, as the president of the Screen Actors Guild. And in 2011, Mike Huckabee re-imagines all of this as six words in his animated hagiography of Ronald Reagan for kids.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ronald Reagan started as an actor, but he was so much more. He worked against communism in Hollywood and became governor of California. Now, he‘s running for president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: He worked against communism in Hollywood.
We asked Learn Our History today who had done the animation on these DVDs. They would not tell us. If you know who brought this animated amazing sauce to life, please get in touch. We would love to know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wow. You can really say that every American pulled together to win this war. Even the gals were in on it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You go, girl.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show those Germans and Japanese the power of America.
UNDENTIFIED MALE: Woo-hoo!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Woo-hoo! Show them the power of America—under a Democratic president, who is not mentioned in the video reimagining the history of World War II. Maybe that part is in some kind of accompanying study guide not on the DVD. I don‘t know.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we see and hear isn‘t always the same as what we read in books or see on TV. So what? We know the truth. And that‘s good enough for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MADDOW: Yes, kid. Don‘t believe all that pesky book learning. For $9.95 billed monthly to your credit card by this Republican politician, plus shipping and handling, the future is waiting for you. The past? The past we can edit.
MADDOW: The best new thing in the world today is the latest version of this picture of the Situation Room during the bin Laden mission. Last week, a Hasidic newspaper erased Hillary Clinton and another woman from the picture citing the, quote, “laws of modesty.” Well, the Web site FreeWilliamsburg.com has now responded by taking all of the men out of the picture, saying they found those images of intense Obama and Biden too scintillating to handle.
“Best New Thing in the World Today” FreeWilliamsburg.com. The link is at our blog if you want to check it out.
Now, it‘s time for “THE ED SHOW.” Have a great night.
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