tv Moyers Company PBS June 18, 2012 12:00am-1:00am PDT
this week on "moyers & company" -- >> we have just come through this sort of extraordinary real world demonstration of the folly of our financial system, of all of the stuff that we've been doing, the deregulation over the last 30 year, the setup of the federal reserve system, however you want to put it it has all failed us. >> and -- >> no longer really have one person, one vote. you have one person, one vote, $1 million. essentially you can create the regulatory landscape that you want, if you can essentially buy elections. funding is provided by carnegie corporation of new york celebrating 100 years of philanthropy and committed to doing real and permanent good in the world. the kohlberg foundation. independent production fund with support from the partridge
foundation, a john and poly guff charitable fund. the clement foundation, park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. the herb alpert foundation. supporting organizations whose mission is to promote compassion and creativity in our society. the bernard and audrey rappaport foundation. the john b. and catherine t. mcarthur foundation committed to billing a peaceful world. more information at macfound.org. and the betty and jesse fink foundation. the hkh foundation. barbara g. fleshman and by our sole corporate sponsor mutual of america. designing customized individual and group retirement products. that's why we're your retirement company. welcome. if you're visiting a candidate this summer and looking for a thoughtful house gift, might we suggest a nice super pac?
thanks to the supreme court and citizens united, they're all the rage among the megawealthy. all it takes is a little paperwork and a wad of cash and presto, you can have, as "the washington post" describes it, a "highly customized, highly personalized" political action committee. it's easy -- super pacs come in all amounts and affiliations. you don't have to spend millions, although a gift that size certainly won't be turned aside. cable tv tycoon marc nathanson got a super pac for his friend, longtime democratic congressman howard berman from california, and all it cost was $100,000. down in north carolina, republican congressional candidate george holding received a handsome super pac that includes $100,000 each from an aunt and uncle and a quarter of a million from a bunch of his cousins. yes, nothing says family like a great big, homemade batch of campaign contributions. >> 2012 is the most important election we're ever going to
have. >> you can start a super pac on your own or contribute to one that already exists. super pacs are available for every kind of race -- presidential, congressional or statewide. but there are other ways you can help buy an election. look at the wisconsin recall campaign of republican governor scott walker. at least 14 billionaires rushed to walker's side. he outraised his democratic opponent by nearly 8-1. most of his money came from out of state, more than $60 million were spent, and $45 million of it for walker alone. here are just a few of the satisfied buyers -- wisconsin billionaire diane hendricks contributed more than $500,000 on scott walker's behalf. fearful the united states might become "a socialistic ideological nation," she's an ardent foe of unions -- and against, in her words "taxing job creators." true to her aversion to taxes,
she paid none in 2010, despite being worth, according to "forbes" magazine, about $2. billion. before he lost his crusade against the collective bargaining rights of working people, governor walker held his conversation with diane hendricks. >> any chance we'll ever get to be a completely red state, and work on these unions? >> oh yeah. >> and become a right-to-work? and what can we do to help you? >> well, we're going to start in a couple weeks with our budget adjustment bill. the first step is we're going to deal with collective bargaining for all public employee unions, because you use divide and conquer. >> and so he did. walker also hauled in checks from the texas oligarch bob perry for nearly 500,000. perry made his fortune in the home building business and is best known nationally for contributing $4.5 million to the swift boat campaign that smeared the vietnam war record of democratic presidential candidate john kerry back in 2004.
then there's casino king sheldon adelson, who gave scott walker's cause $250,000. of course, that's a drop in the old champagne bucket compared to the $21 million adelson's family gave to the super pac that kept newt gingrich in the race long after the formaldehyde had been ordered. addleson did not long mourn gingrich's passing, and is now giving $10 million to the pro-romney super pac restore our future. next up on scott walker's list of beneficent plutocrats, rich devos, owner of the orlando magic basketball team and co-founder of the home products giant amway, which, thanks to republican leaders in congress, once shared in a $19 million tax break after million dollar devos contribution to the republican party. he's a longtime member of the secretive council for national policy, a who's who of right-wing luminaries. and lewis moore bacon, the billionaire founder of the hedge
fund moore capital -- which in 2010 was fined $25 million for attempted commodities manipulation. a big backer of romney, he, too, came to walker's aid in wisconsin. i could go on and name more, but you get the picture. these are the people who are helping to fund what the journalist joe hagan described as a tsunami of slime. >> newt gingrich, too much baggage. >> even as they are afforded respectability in the value-free world of plutocracy, they can hide the fingerprints they leave on the bleeding corpse of democracy. and that's how the wealthy 1% does its dirty business. they want to own this election. so if there are any of you left out there with millions to burn, better buy your candidate now, while supplies last. this is no time to mince words and thank goodness, thomas frank never does so. in a recent essay in "harper's" magazine, "it's a rich man's world" -- he wrote, "over the
course of the past few decades, the power of concentrated money has subverted the professions, destroyed the small investors, wrecked the regulatory state, corrupted legislators en masse, and repeatedly put the economy through the wringer. now it has come for our democracy itself." strong stuff, and typical of thomas frank, the historian and journalist. his book "what's the matter with kansas?" was a best-seller about how we so willingly allow money and ideology to subvert government, against our own self-interest. now, we have his latest -- "pity the billionaire" -- in which the worst economy since the 1930s has led to a revival of power for the very people who brought it about. thomas frank, welcome. >> it's my pleasure to be here. >> this week jamie dimon, ceo of jpmorgan chase, testified before the senate banking committee on how his bank got it wrong on risk management. what would you think if i told
you that seven members of the senate banking committee have been recipients of money from jpmorgan chase? >> i would not be surprisednot in the least. that's obviously where jpmorgan would be spending its lobbying dollar, would be on the, you know, giving to the campaigns of the people on the committee. that's the wisest strategic choice for them. >> and get this. the bank has been the second largest contributor to senator tim johnson, democrat, the chairman of the committee. >> and i've got news for you. they also, i mean you know this already, they also were one of the biggest donors, or their, i should say their employees, to president obama's campaign in 2008 and also to, i believe, to john mccain's campaign in 2008. this is the nature of what they do. they spread -- they spread the wealth around, you know. >> and there's more. one of senator johnson's former staffers is now one of jpmorgan's chief lobbyists. and the chairman present top assistant used to be a lobbyist for a law firm that worked for
jpmorgan. i mean, this wasn't a hearing. this was a reunion of the gambino family. >> well, look, this is what we call in washington the revolving door, okay. and this -- if your viewers haven't heard of this, they need to learn about it right away, because this is how washington, d.c., work is that the people go back and forth from, typically from capitol hill staffs to working for lobby firms or directly for these, you know, clients of the lobby firms that have to do with the interests that they used to work on when they were on capitol hill. and they go back and lobby to their former boss, right, and convince him or her to vote on one way or the other. and that's how you get ahead in lobbying, is you start out working for someone on capitol hill, a powerful senator on a given committee. and then you go and essentially sell that expertise, you know, the fact that you're friends with that guy to, you knowing to a lobbying firm or to a bank or to whoever. that's totally how it works. >> it's an interlocking cartel
and it's serious business. how can we claim to have a representative government when they really are representing the people who bought the campaigns and not the voters who voted for them? it's a serious question. >> well, there are people who, i'm going to get cynical on you here, bill. there are people who believe that the more money we have in politics, the closer we become to a democracy. they think it's better for there to be more money in politics. why do they think that? because they think that the market is a democracy, that markets are a democracy and that the government is, when government interferes in the economy it's illegitimate by definition. and so the more money we get in there, the more it allows entities like jpmorgan to defend themselves against the sort of, you know, the heavy-handed meddling of some, you know, washington, you know, bureaucrat. >> but what does say when members of senate banking committee have received $13
million over the last few years from the financial services industry? and these are the guys who are supposed to protect the common folks out there from the predatory lends are? i mean, what happened? >> they haven't done a very good job, have they? >> that's the answer. >> they've done exactly the opposite. i mean, you can look over their record over the last 20 years, all the amazing ways in which they deregulated the financial industry. i mean, this is the story our time. and they deregulated this aspect, the other aspect, everything, you know, over turned the glass-steagall rules, you know, that's the biggest example. but my favorite one, this actually wasn't the senate that did this, this is the bush administration, a lot of states have laws against predatory lending and were enforcing those laws. and this would have stopped the housing bubble in its tracks, you know, the no-doc loans and this kind of nonsense that was going on. the bush administration preempted those laws, the state level laws, and said, "no, no, predatory lending is now only going to be enforced at the federal level and here's how we're going to enforce it, by doing nothing." >> there's also a report out
this week from senator bernie sanders, the independent senator from vermont. would you believe, according to his figures, that 18 former and current directors from the federal reserve banks, including jamie dimon, directly benefited from the financial bailouts after the 2008 crisis? >> that's not a surprise. it's a cronyism in this kind of extreme, otherworldly dimension. when the bailouts happened and when all of this stuff was on the front pages, it was -- it was the kind of moment that really shakes faith of an entire nation. it was so disturbing. well, first the financial crisis was disturbing, the failure of lehman brothers, merrill lynch going down, chrysler and gm declaring bankruptcy. >> right. >> one after another on the headline of the newspaper, it was the pillars of the middle class life crumbling around us. and it was astonishing, okay, and then the second chapter, the bailouts, with this enormous price tag where these guys on
wall street, the bankers just whistled up the resources of the public treasury for their own benefit, you know, and the country could have gone in any of several different directions. now, i was looking at this from the perspective of the 1930s. >> when the collapse of the economy brought out a large social protest and -- >> exactly there were even -- >> -- and a demand. >> there were bailouts then in the '30s. hoover, the hoover administration did massive bailouts of the banks. and it was exactly the same thing. it was rampant cronyism. i'll tell you a story. so the head of hoover's bailout agency, it was called the reconstruction finance corporation, the guy that hoover put in charge of it had been calvin coolidge's vice president, you know, this is cronyism already, right? at one point the guy quits his job as head of the bailout agency and goes back to his bank in chicago. couple months later he comes to the reconstruction finance corporation, which he had just, a few weeks before, been the head of and says, "oh, i need a bailout," and they give him one.
and the country is, like, outraged, right? because the ordinary people have lost their jobs, unemployment is at 30%, whatever it is. it's a catastrophe and this guy who, you know, politically connected, is getting a bailout. and the country reacted though not with the tea party movement, not with, you know, people demanding more deregulation. it reacted by electing franklin roosevelt, and it reacted with an enormous labor movement and all of the things that we recommend from the 1930s. and i -- when i watched this stuff happen, you know, the banks get their bailouts, i thought were going to see that happen again, we're go down the tracks of you, know, very well-worn tracks. we can all see what's coming. >> and everybody was saying, come on, barack, give us an fdr, right? >> that's right. i thought it was a roosevelt moment. >> yeah. >> and he certainly had the public -- the kind of public adulation that franklin roosevelt had in 2008. remember those crowds when he was inaugural inaugurated?
all of those people on the national mall? he was something like a national savior. people really thought it's franklin rose develop all over again. didn't work out that way. >> but recently barack sent his campaign manage, jim messina, to the new york to assure the financial services industry, wall street, that when they heard barack talk populist rhetoric on the campaign trail he wasn't going to demonize them. he wasn't going to demonize wall street? oh, no. this is the amazing thing to me, that we have just come through this sort of extraordinary real world demonstration of the folly of our financial system, of all of the stuff that we've been doing, the deregulation over the last 30 years, setup of the federal reserve system, however you want to put it, it has all failed us. and we haven't been able to rise to the challenge and do anything, you know, to fix it in a really structural way like they did in the 1930s. we haven't done that. and barack, who had that opportunity and had both houses of congress and had, i mean, the world at his feet in 2008 could have gone in any direction he
come chose. instead chose to basically follow in the footsteps of the sort of tepid centrist democrats before him, you know, to do little regulatory things here and there, to use some sort of mean-sounding rhetoric at times, but to not really change anything. and the failure is the democrats. democratic party has, by and large, not risen to the challenge. i mean, this is not the party of franklin roosevelt. it's not the party of lyndon johnson. this is the party that you can't you know -- >> and barack obama, for all of his virtues and intelligence, is not a man of the people. >> no, he's not. and he also, he's a man of academia. he's a man who believes in experts and expertise, as we have seen in many, many, many, all of the different sort of arenas of his presidency, whether you're talking about the war in afghanistan or whether you're talking about the financial crisis. this is a man who defers to experts, believes in expertise. he does not have much sympathy for, say, the labor movement. he can't go out there and tell
you why, say, the regulatory agencies failed. he can't, but it doesn't make sense to him. he can't talk about these things that everybody wants to know. now, on the other side you've got a movement, the conservative movement, a right-wing populist movement, that talks a very good game, that speaks to the people's anger and that offers them a kind of idealism, a kind of hope that perversely draws on a lot of rhetoric of the 1930s and models itself after a lot of the movements of the 1930s. and what they offer, this is interesting, what they offer, the dream, the sort of utopia, the vision that they have for the future of our country, is pure free markets. and they say this all the time. it's not me making this up. you go to any tea party rally -- >> that's right. we've covered them. you're exactly right. >> -- and they talk about this. if we can just get government out of the way and we can reach out, you know, and -- >> but getting government out of the way is what helped bring down the economy -- >> of course. but they say the only problem is that government, you know, yes, we deregulated all of that stuff, we deregulated all through those year, but we didn't go far enough.
and so you can say to them, well, look at the record of george w. bush, the champion deregulator. look at all of the amazing things that he did to set wall street loose to deregulate. and they're like, well, george w. bush was not a real conservative. they say this all the time. it's very easy for them to, you know, because they're such purists and ideologus to excommunicate someone like george w. bush from their movement and say, well, he wasn't pure enough. ten years ago they had little statues of him on their desks, you know. but how he's thrown out the movement, "not pure enough" -- >> that's their idealism? >> -- because of the bailouts. >> their idealism is their unblinking faith in the free market? >> yes, and this is an idea that when i first started writing about it was something that you only saw from the jamie dimons of the world. i called it market populism. it was something you saw on cnbc in early days in the stock market boom in the '90s, see in personal investment books and i made fun of it. today it is everywhere. it is epidemic. and it's not just the high and the mighty that believe this
stuff. that believe that markets are both a natural phenomenon and a democratic phenomenon. this is average people all across america that believes this. >> your history, why has this happened? >> our anger turned from wall street to washington. and it happened in a very short period of time. remember back to 2009, when the bailouts were going on, the high point of public anger came when aig, remember these guys, a company that should not exist any long, these are people that invented -- they didn't invent the credit default swap but took it to -- took it to its logical extreme, and these guys were not only bailed out, they were handing out bonuses to executives in the division that had invents the credit default swap and done all of these crazy things and the public was so ang angry, march '09. i remember the feeling. >> i was reporting on it. >> all of a sudden the direction changed in -- it went away from
aigs and over to washington and we decided that the real villains in all of this was washington. >> but, tom, why wouldn't you feel that way if you saw how the banking committees dominated the money from wall street if you know that 18 members of the federal reserve board of directors benefitting from the bailout if you see the deregulators helping washington street, why wouldn't your anger be directed toward washington? >> they certainly zeev a big helping of public anger. there's a lot of terms -- i imagine i'm going to make fun of the tea party movement, you know, and i -- that's certainly what my new book "pity the billionaire" is about but give them some concessions. crony capitalism, the interconnections between the banks and ledge later tos, they're right. they use the term, the ruling class, that term is totally right on the money. that's a term that we should be throwing around these days. these people are in bed with each other.
>> the ruling class is funding their movement, the koch brothers. >> dpexactly. >> big corporations, wisconsin. >> instead of looking at the present situation and saying, the regulatory system broke down, we need stricter oversight on these people, a political -- we need washington to at least be strong enough and smart enough to supervise these guys, and make sure this never happens again -- which is the response in the 1930s -- their response is it's impossible to regulate these guys. what we have to strive for instead is some kind of pure free market system. so get government out of the way altogether. stop trying to regulate them. and you see the kind of people who have been elected as a result of this populist anger out there in the country, getting in office and go to war against the securities and exchange commission, that's supposed to regulate wall street. they want to hammer those guys into the ground n. they go after the substantial new regulatory agency the
consumer financial protection bureau, they go after those guy, they've tried to defund them. they wanted to make sure liz with warren would not be chairman. they've gone to war against regulation, the very idea of government oversight of the financial markets. this is fascinating. how can you react to, you know, three decades of financial deregulation leads to this collapse, this tremendous disaster, and our response as a nation has been to say, we need more of that. we need to deregulate more. >> is one of the reasons money and politics, both of us know there's nothing new about money in politics in american history. what's the difference now? >> well, there's two things, ones the sheer size of it. we've turned it loose with citizens united decision, we're going to see a wave of money like we've never seen before. the 2010 midterm elections dwarfs what they call independent expenditures, in
2010 were two times what they were in 2008. there's that. the other thing is that, we are so blase about the money. it doesn't shock us anymore. you know, there was a time when, you know, john mccain, a republican, was offended by money in politics. today, you know, we're all -- we've all made our peace with this. >> citizens united, when justice anthony kennedy wrote the majority opinion for the other conservative judges, he said flatly, quote, this court now concludes that, independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. can anyone seriously now, can anyone in touch with reality believe that? >> i don't see how you can, to say that doesn't give rise to the appearance of corruption when billionairers are more or
less directly you know, staking these men to run for the presidency? >> and banking committee taking money from jpmorgan whose ceo is testifying? >> even worse, when he wrote those words the country was in the throes of this populist outrage at wall street, because wall street had been able, as i said before to give itself a bailout. the connection between private wealth and the, you know, public power and the force of government had never been more clear, and that's the moment when he wrote that decision and said, by definition, we decree that is not corrupt, and that it's not even -- it doesn't even appear to be corrupt. and yet the country's politics are being moved by that very perception. at that same moment. >> someone you know, the writer e.j. d oichion is part, quote,
larger initiative by moneys conservatives to rig the electoral system bens opponents you agree. >> no doubt. for a long time the people have been talking about the conservative movement in their effort to develop some kind of permanent lock on power. and i think that citizens united might be what, you know, mighten the thing that delivers that. not because it's going to give republicans, per se, a lock on power, give them a permanent majority or anything like that, you're going to have a two-party system, no matter what happens, but it will tilt our politics in a certain direction, it will draw both parties by a sort of force of gravity in a certain direction. before you can -- when you put such a price tag on elected office, and this has been going on for years, but today it's way up there, in the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars to run for the presidency, and who knows how many millions to run for the united states and senate a couple million to run for the house of representatives, when you put a price tag like that on political
office, you automatically rule out lots of people and lots of ideas from the competition. if you have to be able to reach out to the billionaire community and make your case to the billionaire community, even before you begin, even before you start running for office, you know, automatically a lot of ideas and a lot of ideas that are traditional, very american, you know, red, white, blue ideas, are automatically off the table. you have to be able to please that class of donors before you even start. >> our choices are narrowed to candidates favors by the rich. >> the choices have been made for us. >> yeah. >> instead of you know 20 candidates out there, they've chosen two candidates swho who have made it through the money primary and that's who we get to take our pick from. >> tom, here's the dilemma, i know a lot of good citizens who are giving up. two nights ago i was with old friends in the midwest, your part of the country, one of them looked at me and said i don't know what to do, i'm bailing out. and she was serious.
>> look, i have the same problem myself. i also have an answer. i have a solution. want to hear what it is? >> i do. >> we need third parties in this country. by that i don't mean another third party supported by bi billionaires, not ross perot, different spectrum, which was the last time we saw a third party movement, you know, that contested the -- from the bottom to the top. they were a real politic. party. the techniques the populists use are against the law in the united states. if we repeal the laws you might have a vibrant third party screen. >> the two parties, democrats and republicans, make sure -- >> those laws stay in place. >> barriers are not taken down. >> the other thing we need -- everything is going against me here -- a labor movement. it seems -- as i look back over all of the books that i've written, and we look back over our lives, what's missing from
when we were young and where we are now? what made that world, you know, in 1960s different from this world that we're in today? and the answer just leaps out at you, a strong labor movement. >> do you think the returns in wisconsin suggest that is -- >> new york i don't think that's in the cards and the democratic party could have made it a possibility with something like the free employee free choice act in the obama years and they declined, they decided not do it they didn't lift a finger for their friends in the labor movement and are watching them just get wiped out. >> if we become, as you suggest we are already becoming a country of rich people, what's the odds then of reversing that treb strends. >> we're not going to be a country of rich people. we'll be a country ruled by rich people. we already are, to a certain degree and there's a word for plutocracy, ruled bywell. there's no doubt in my mind.
this is the direction we've been heading for a long time. we came to a turning point and we didn't turn. we came to a point where this, the pleutocracy had ruined all f our savings, you know, smashes our 401(k)s, defrouded us in countless ways, defrauded our government and we didn't turn. we decided new yoo we've got to double down on this, we need a stronger dose of the bad medicine. that's where we are today. >> why pity the billionaire? >> that's sarcasm. >> no. tom frank sarcastic? the book is "pity the billionaire" very good reading. thank you for being with me. >> my pleasure. it's not just the wealthy,
there are super pacs and candidates they buy who profit from all of this money. dan froomkin and paul blumenthal at "the huffington post" report that the top 150 political consultants and media buy have grossed anotherly half a billion in this election cycle and there are five months left to go. these vast amounts of cash, much of it from anonymous sources have been described as dark money, and few have pursued the dark money trail more vigilantly than the people who coin that phrase, the hard working journalists at "mother jones" magazine. clara jeffrey and monika bauerlein have been the coeder tos of "mother jones" since 2006, clara jeffrey senior editor at harper's magazine and worked at washington city paper in washington, d.c. monika bauerlein was the investigator editor of mother jones and an editor at city pages in minneapolis, st. paul. their dark money project is produced with support from the shoeman media center of which i'm president.
their latest issue of "mother jones" is a spellbinding look at dark money's history in the 40 years since the watergate scandal brought down richard nixon in a tangled web of break-ins and bad men. welcome to you both. >> thank you. >> thank you, bill. >> love your cover, want to buy an election? dracula with his jacket open and american flag in it. want to buy an election? both parties play this game. both parties raise as much money as they can, go as close lo the law as they can will do almost anything to raise it. is there some distinction between the money that flows through the republican party and the money that flows through the democratic party? >> it used to be more equivalent than it is today. we remember covering the clinton era scandals, and at that time that was really a time when we saw the democratic party being turning to big business and to wall street for funding that was no longer coming from organized
labor and other democratic constituencies that lost the clout that they used to have. but now it's the money coming from conservative and deregulatory interest is so much larger and so much -- >> more extreme. >> -- better focussed in many ways that it puts to shame what democrats can do. >> let's look back at obama's ability to raise a decent amount of money from wall street. and you know, obama managed, for better or for worse, the response to the recession, did not come down heavily on the bank, did not -- no one's in jail. there's been some scolding but nothing's really happened to the hedge fund managers, to the big banks, and yet that money is not 100% but close to 100% going to romney this time because those
interests see in romney and see in the republicans that their agenda is going to be pushed to where they want it, that it is a more extreme pro-business deregulatory climate, that the republican party is eager to usher in. >> both sides can play this game, but republicans have an inherent advantage in their natural constituency has a lot more money. outside expenditures the kind of money we refer to as dark money is, you know, about two-thirds two three-quarters republican, and the rest is on the democratic side. i'm sure democrats and liberals in general would take more of that kind of money if it were available but it's not. >> "mother jones" was the first i saw that used the term "dark money" what are you after there? why that term? >> searching around for a metaphor and we had celestial inspiration, as it were because
like dark matter, which is something that's in the universe and we know is powerful but we don't understand it and we can't see it we're only beginning to measure it, that's true of dark money, especially since citizens united. there's just so much unregula d unregulated, undisclosed money flowing through super pacs and 501(c)s that are going to candidates and to paraphrase john mccain very often we don't know where the money's coming from who it's going to, what its purpose is. it's just out there. we can see the effects of it later, but we don't really know in anything close to real time what's being raised and spent. >> i want to show you an add that i think is a perfect example of dark money. your reporter, marv list reporter, andy krole, followed the money back to a virginia-based super pac called the coalition for american
values, which spend something like $300,000 on ad time in each of wisconsin's seven major media markets. but let me play this ad for you. >> sure. >> i didn't vote for governor walker. >> i did not vote for scott walk. >> i didn't vote for scott walker but i'm against this recall. >> recall isn't the wisconsin way. >> there's a right way. there's a wrong way. i just think that this is the wrong way. >> i like -- >> let's him serve it out. >> living in a democracy, you have to have faith in who the people elect. >> i didn't vote for scott walker but i'm against the recall. >> i agree. i agree with you. >> end the recall madness. vote for scott walker, june 5th. >> that ad is really a perfect example of what we call dark money, because, as you saw at the very end it names a treasurer and that is literally the sum total of the information really that's available about this group, you know, when our reporter, andy, tried to figure out who was behind this ad, he
found a. a p.o. box in milwaukee that leads to a p.o. box in virginia that leads to nothing. and that is possible now, especially in the wake of citizens united, the supreme court decision, and it doesn't allow voters to make up their own mind about where this message, this sensible sounding message from bob and chad and so forth is coming from. >> and the message, people would say it's a legitimate message if -- you may not believe recall was the way to punish the governor. >> sure. interestingly, a lot of people who declared that they didn't really like walker or his policies, but they did not vote to recall him because they did not think this was the right remedy. now, would they have had that opinion so firmly if the state had not been bombard by these ads a week ahead of time? it's impossible to say. but what we can say is that this group, you know, andy was able to figure this out the day bv
the election, that this group was dumping all of this money in and who they were, at best we know. but that's precious little information for voters of wisconsin to judge who's trying to influence them. >> what does it mean that the money can't be traced, that the public, the voters, the other candidate, the opponents, cannot figure out who's putting up this money? what are the implications of that. >> that's really the question that you want to know, as a participant in a policy debate is, who is my opponent? who am i debating? what is their motivation for making the argument that they're making. that's part of the totality of information that in a democracy citizens should have available to them. and with dark money, that's really not possible because you get a message, a well-crafted stage managed message, and you can't assess for yourself whether the person's telling you this has an ulterior mote inand historically we have had
conflict of interest laws we have had legislation limiting how much money to invest in a political campaign because people fully understand that those vested interests make a difference. >> i mean, americans have had aee sengslily the same debates about the role inside of government and of who should be helped by government and to what extent since our found, right? that's a fair debate. it's a worthy debate. but if you are being influenced by things, and you don't know who is doing it, and the messages are maybe not 100% honest, shall we say, if it's advertising, if it's push-pulling and robocalls that imply things about your candidate that are not true, that fundamentally changes the debate from one that's a fair and honest debate that should sheld /* helveg russly.
and the power stacks up to the side of the wealthy again and again you're talk about large portion of people in the country being disenfranchised. >> do you think there's a connection between citizens united and what happened in wisconsin? >> there's a direct connection new york doubt about it. when you look at money that flowed into the campaign, that was made possible in part by citizens united because citizens united wiped out the clean elections laws in state like wisconsin and wiped out a tradition of disclosure, people were able to play the game in a way that they would never have been able to, had chief justice roberts and justice alito and the rest 0 the citizens united majority not paved wait for them. >> you say something in your joint editorial, the right recognizes that something few on the left recognize that campaign finance law underlies all other
s substantive law. >> it doesn't matter when your primary issue is second amendment issues or abortion rights or the environment. all of those policies are made by politicians, that are now deeply and unhappily influenced by the kind of money that's washing through the system. essentially you can create the regulatory landscape that you want, if you can essentially buy elections. >> take the role of the u.s. chamber of commerce, which represents these very huge corporations, and the instant that the supreme court ruled in citizens united, the chamber of commerce said we're going to be a big player. even when a district court, district judge required that they disclose the money they're giving they just thumbed their nose at the court and said we're not going to -- >> right that ruling came down a few weeks ago and the district court was say, groups like the chamber of commerce, you will have to disclose your don'ts and
the chamber of commerce said we're not going to do that, we'll wait for appeal. i think it's a pretty -- a pretty straightforward calculus. a they can have, by spending in this election, they can guarantee the results that they want in these elections, but also, they're looking at a supreme court that has come down quite clearly on the side of deregulation. >> so the chamber of commerce can contribute unlimited amount of money that it has collected from corporations and wealthy individuals, and we'll never know where that money's coming from, right? >> interestingly, yes, they can, exactly, and that's what one of the things that everybody was wondering after citizens united first came down was who will be the first, which corporations, which individuals will expose themselves to public scrutiny by going in and taking advantage of their freedom to spend money however they look, wherever they like, and the result is nobody, everybody likes to hide behind
an organization with an innocuous name like american for prosperity and you know americans for apple pie, and spend unlimited, unregulated money without any scrutiny and any disclosure. >> or give their money to the chamber knowing full well that the chamber will spend their money generally to eliminate regulations that are onerous to businesses, whether clean water and clean air act regulations or tax regulations or, you know, pushing for things that are -- would rein in the subprime industry, the chamber of commerce will make it the least friction to business as possible. and so corporations don't want to be known that they have dumped a ton of money into one race but they can give money to the chamber with the full knowledge that the chamber will do it. furthermore the chamber, then, has filtered money through things like the republicans' governor association, so it's
ever changing complicated set of three-card monty, the month any's there but you can't trace it. >> it's particularly bad at the state level. that's something even people who have followed the evolution of dark money don't fully understand, at the federal level it created this new structure of super pacs and, you know, 501(c)s and so forth but at the state level a national federal organization can go into wisconsin, register as a politically active corporation, check a box on a form, and never tell anybody anything other than, yes, our income comes from another p.o. box and another state which gets its income from another p.o. box in another state. >> should we be looking at money going into the races for congress and the senate as much as we look at the money going into the presidential race? >> maybe even more so. >> if not more so, we will be looking at it very closely. you know what else? we will be looking at that nobody's paying attention to yet
is if you can get a lot of bang for your buck if n. a statewide election like this one and you might be able to get more bang for your buck in targeting a few seats in a state house and swinging the majority in a state legislature, you can get untold bang for your buck in a judicial race if you decide to invest in removing a judge in a habit of ruling in favor of consumers, for instance, or for upholding government regulations, if you can get rid of those people, as people have done, there have been fascinating john grisham cases, specifically investing in judicial races -- >> like our old friend, bob "swift boat" perry has given money to every member of the texas supreme court -- >> in their race for office? >> uh-huh. which ruled in his favor regarding a lawsuit involving the sort of quality and
conditions of -- he makes his money being a mass of the biggest home builder in america and people suing him for having shoddy construction, you know, they ruled in his favor. it's impossible to say that they wouldn't have otherwise, but here's the thing, the appearance of corruption is almost as bad as actual corruption because it just makes people think that they have no stake in their government. >> i agree with you about the appearance of corruption and that was the main argument when i was young in journalism. but the fact of the matter it seems to me, as a journalist today, it's the actual corruption, the payback in which the donor gets favorable regulations or favorable judicial decision, that's corruption. it's bribe by, by another name. >> i think what's interesting it also works to some extent the other way. when politicians are shaking down lobbyists because they desperately need the money in the race, i mean the lobbyists say, it's not us shaking them
down, they're shaking us down. but they are locked in this arms race where they have to raise more and more money. we broke down how much congress people have to raise per hour and say in the case of our own senator barbara boxer, if she just fund-raises for 40 hours a week, she has to raise $2,400 an hour. i mean, that's a phenomenal amount of money that they have to raise. and you know, ordinary people don't have that money to give. >> it's so much listening to some specific person who gave you a specific contribution. that's how people used to look at it. now it's much more about can i have a career in politics if i routinely antagonize the interests, the only interests that can afford to underwrite a campaign? and that's something that everybody from a city council member all the way to the president has to contend with.
>> how do we change the game? the supreme court has essentially said money is speech, corporations are people, therefore, under the first amendment the government cannot stop corporations from spending almost anything they want to spend. that's pretty awesome. how do you change it? >> the start, really, probably is information. even to us, you know, when we work on these stories, a lot of the time it's not so much outrage that grips us as it is astonishment, you know. we follow this stuff for a living and we're still flabbergasted some of the time at the -- at what we find. transparency fortunately is not something the supreme court stops us doing. the supreme court came right out and said, transparency is a good thing, it's congress' job to make sure there's transparency, you over there take care of that, knowing full well of course that it's very, very difficult to get an incumbent
congress to mandate transparency. but in theory there's nothing to stop the congress from passing fantastic disclosure legislation tomorrow. >> well, in fact, there was a disclosed act introduced a couple of years ago and the republicans killed it, mitch mcconnell in the senate killed the act. that's not encouraging. >> but it's back. it's back. it's winding its way through congress again. this time, john mccain, who did not speak out for it last time, has started to speak out on its behalf. there is a chance that that could pass. >> and then once you have that, and you no longer have dark money filling every crevice of the political system and there's sunshine on some of these activities, then you can start having a conversation about, do we want this to happen? who is buying and selling your politics for you? and with that comes potentially momentum for change. >> shame. shame is a great motivator.
and sunshine will -- would allow, you know, us to see who is doing this and for what reason and in real time, that's completely possible, it's not like you know in the days of old where if someone gave money, the fec couldn't possibly know for a full quarter. i mean they can know right away. we just need the laws to demand that transparency happen immediately. >> in fact we have fantastic tools. now with what's available on line you can make this kind of information available in real time to voters in every channel imaginable, annotate every political statement with pop-up video showing who paid for it. >> a twitter stream, showing who gave when and what in real time. that's all technologically possible. it's just a matter of pressuring congress first to past the disclose act or something like it, and to have similar measures in the state houses and just to bring transparency back. what can be the argument against transparency?
>> what can be the argument against transparency? >> not a good one that i can think of. i can see all kinds of reasons corporations and other vested interests wouldn't want people to know that they're doing this. but it's really hard to make an argument, a public argument. >> clara jeffrey and monika bauerlein, thank you very much for being with me. >> thank you so much for having us, bill. >> thank you. another grandson graduated from high school this past weekend. we were there for the festivities. from the hamburgers, hot dogs through the memories, recollected with laster and tears on the front porch long after the ceremonies ended. i never tire of these rituals. like the pickle relish and mustard on the bratw ruchurst ts
anticipation in equal portions. where did that little kid go? yesterday squealing in the sandbox chasing the cat, soaring on the tire swing hanging from the elm out front, stuck his toe smashgi smacking his lips over water, teasing grandma from the backyard slide and begging for one more round of charlie and the chocolate factor. now in blazer, tie, white pants trying to stifle a big grin he marches past us with classmates so tall he has to duck and swipe away a vine from the trellis that separates the past from the future. the searing minnesota sun threatened to cook us until headwind of a summer storm cut the heat. no one seemed in a hurry for the afternoon to end but it was a relief when the commencement speaker, eloquent defender of the liberal arts, proved to be both wise and mercifully brief. the crowd laughed, have you ever
found yourself saying that speech would probably have been perfect if it had been longer? the school chorussed as if to tell us to relax they know the score, belted out john mayer's no such thing i want to run through the halls mif high school i want to scream at the top of my lungs, i just found out there's no such thing as the real world, just a lie you've got to rise above. and that's when it hit me. how we've left these kids down, the mess we've handed them. the huge debts. an economy producing too few jobs and vast inequality. a rich man's country with a flailing middle class, the tenuous prosperity of everyday people wiped out by wall street insiders and washington lucksters still up to their old tricks. like the passengers on the titanic the poor traveling as always at the cheapest rate, trapped in storage.
how did we become a country of such ugly, stupiding politics? one party feckless, the other radical and reckless and downright mean, driven by unblinking ideologues with kamikaze souls? did we become the united states of denial? i read a report in the journal nature by a team of 22 scientists warning in the lifetime of these high school graduates, earth could reach a tipping point as we put more and more pressure on our life support system, our crops, fisheries and clean water the diversity of species that enable us to be here, the planet could be plunged into uncharted territory from which there's no return. these scientists are parents and grandparents, too. and they reject despair. the reports's author told interviews my bottom line is
that i want the world in 50 to 100 years to be at least as good as it is now for my children and their children. it's not too late to change course, he says. we are a clever species. we have the solutions to these problems in our grasp. but for the denial. i snap out of my revery. i hear our grandson's name being called, see him handed his diploma watch the whole class rise and think, they just might do it. just might pull us back from the edge. get us on the right track again. the musicians strike up the recessional and here they come to applause and clears and tears. once more through the trellis and on beyond. billmoyers.com we created a money and politics page, report, tools and lings aimed at pulling dark money out of the shadows. that's all at bill mys are.com. see you there.
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