Skip to main content

tv   After Words with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse  CSPAN  April 1, 2017 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT

10:00 pm
>> up next on afterwards bert white house offers his thoughts on how government is impacted by corporate money and special interest groups in his book, captured the corporate infiltration of american democracy. senator white house's interviewed by "new york times" investigative reporter eric lipton. senator, i want to set is up by asking why did you write this? simple question. >> the simple answer is i was getting really disturbed at all of the criticism frustration
10:01 pm
about our federal government which generations of americans have fought and bled and died to create and protect and preserve when the real problem i think is not the government. but it is infiltration by corporate forces. i think if we could get those corporate forces where the founding fathers thought they should be which is out of election and out of politics, everybody's frustration with government could decline a lot. >> just sort of wanted to go way back to your beginnings and you went to. your dad was a diplomat in service and thailand. just tell me a little bit about your upbringing and your world view and how you think through the process of, you know, living through the experiences that you live through you sort of developed that. >> well, growing up in the foreign service, i saw two things.
10:02 pm
one, we were always in pretty dangerous and impoverished places soy saw around me everywhere american families who had chosen to go where if their kid was seriously hurt there was not a good hospital or there weren't medicines where you couldn't go to the movie and water wasn't safe to drink or if somebody got bit by a dog you have to go through the rabies series because it was probably ravid what you learn from that generation is people didn't talk about it as much as we do it is something mattered. something is mattered about america that was worth putting your family through all of that stuff. and then i sought resip in all of these different countries they say they like to tweak the eagles beak we were a big player and they have to pushback. but behind was that a respect for an admiration and confidence in america that created i think
10:03 pm
a beaken for many, many people and many, many countries around the world. so it kind of -- came in by osmosis and slowly nobody gave me a lecture and told me this. but the important role of america in the world an fact of who we are and marts enough to put people in harms way not just our soldiers but civilians as well has been a kind of lasting lesson from my, my youth. >> and just, you know, going to cut to the book in a minute. but looking at your with career you've been pretty much in government service since you graduated from university of virginia law school. you worked in attorney general office there to start and then you -- went to work for the then you were u.s. attorney and attorney general yourself, and then ultimately elected to u.s. senate so much of your career with with stints in between in private practice is that has
10:04 pm
been in the government sector. why why do you think that's been the career and light that you've chosen? >> i think part of it is to try to follow the lesson i learned as a child which is that -- america is a special place and getting government right for america is a special thing to do. even if the state and local level, it has given me the chance to see government from a lot of different perspectives and it is that array of different perspectives that have heed inform this book. >> so the core argument of the book captured is essentially that there's this unseen ruling class corporations and they're kind of army of lobbyist and tax and superpacks and conservative fact foundation and 501c4 and 527 an entity, you you know, tht
10:05 pm
all in -- in some coordinated way working to it try to influence the american political system and congress and successfully doing it. and so you know, why is it different now than it was, you know, decades ago do you think what has changed i know citizens united is prep os to the top of your list but what has changed so much it be about the control from your perpghtive that this kind of -- opt pus of players has over american political system? >> some of the elements of corporate influence have been around for quite a while. the extent to which corporate lobbying dominated in congress. i think it's about 30-1 over everybody else. by recent studies, that's probably been so since the 1970s. and the problem of regulatory
10:06 pm
capture in administrative agency and regulatory agencies where regulated industry basically moves in and begins to exert control over the regulatory agency has been around since woodrow wilson wrote about it so some of this is a constant theme. new things i think have been i think stsd united and the entry of corporate power and the front groups that exert corporate tower into our elections in such an amazingly dominant way. when you have one corporate front group spending 700 million dollars plus -- in the last election, and threatening planning to spend 400 million in the next election in the midterms. that's just a huge footprint, and there's a lot more going on behind it. the second piece of that has been kind of bringing home long-term effort of the republican party to put business
10:07 pm
friendly judges in the court. so that the courts have become increasingly hostile to regular folks and increasingly interested in protecting corporations to the point where there was a poll not too long ago that asked whether a human being could get a fair shot in the united states supreme court. and i think 9% of the people who answered said yeah it could not. i take it back 6% of the people said -- yeah we think an individual can get a fair shot against a corporation and 54% said nope. the corporation is going to have the advantage. so when you've got a 9-1 spread like that, about whether a human being can get a fair shot against a corporation, in the united states supreme court, that's a signal that we have a problem. >> so the book talks a lot about the impact citizenned united and turning points and influence of money and politics -- but i get i wonder how do you
10:08 pm
reconcile with the fact that we have donald trump who defeated 16 gop consistents and hillary clinton both of whom for much of their races funded by tax and interest groups than trump, and then similarly you have the tea party which disrupted congress before trump came along and -- chamber of commerce and coke brothers are not friends of the tea party. so i wonder how you reconcile your sense that citizens united brought this upon with with us with these counterrealities. how do you reconcile those things? >> well i don't think they need all that much reconciling it's a longer conversation than we should probably have here today. but jeff nesbitt once a republican communication person in the white house and then went to fda as a republican official there has written a book called poison tea about the extent to which the tea party was actually
10:09 pm
closely connected with the fossil fuel crowd and the tobacco industry and how that all developed very much in sync with propolluter agenda of those two forces so i don't think that is quite as out of sync as you might think. and i put the question about drumpt other way. i think one of the reasons the people were attracted to somebody with his -- brag and with his -- sort of general disruptiveness was because they were etd fed up. an one of the reasons they were so fed up is they saw a government that has started to bog down and bog down and bog down into -- unable to cross any corporate interest so he in some respects trump may be actually the product of what i'm talking about in the same way that i think to the democratic side of the aisle that bernie folks were
10:10 pm
responding to a similar impulse that, you know, we're sick of this. nobody is listening to us what the hell is going on here. >> you have a chapter in the book that is entitled constitutional blind spot i guess i wanted you to explain a little bit more if you see that there's a -- flaw in the way that the constitution was drafted or is it just sort of a weakness with congress and the courts, i mean, could you sort of explain the viewers what your view is on that . >> sure. the constitution was drafted by america's founders as the document that was going to balance different conflicts of interest. and the key interest that they were trying to balance was the right of the people to not be overwhelmed by their government and so they divided up the government into different branch that could check one another and the protection of -- from the creation of a new royalty or a new arrest --
10:11 pm
so they have a specific set of concerns that they were trying to address and i think they addressed them really quite wheel you consider how long that document has lasted. but the public was not happy with that. they wanted more. they wanted bill of rights and make sure they were protected but then it got added but through that entire process there was not a lot of concern about about corporate -- you know, participation in our -- in our politic it was understood that this was going to be a human being, citizens -- operation and there weren't have many corporations and once that could have been threatening were far away in england and disgraced themselves in some cases already. there were few corporations in once that were built canal or schools and -- that was it. and then there were also close
10:12 pm
control that set them up so i don't think it ever crossed founding fathers minds that corporations qowld have a big role in this political institution that they established. and that blind spot has been exploited by corporate power first in the runup to the progressive era when teddy roosevelt took him on and actually broke him and set it right. and then now they've rebooted and we have the problem again of -- of way too much corporate power that founding fathers never contemplated they would be and didn't built a safeguard or checks and balances. >> so one of the most interesting parts of the book i find is extent to which it examines role of nonprofit groups and sort of, you know, organizations that are backed by what -- by groups that present themselves is fill tropic but part of alliance with funders that -- that allows them to influence the political process without
10:13 pm
necessarily registering lobbyists. and as a reporter that writes about this -- i see this a great deal myself it is not simply the registered lobbying. but it's all of the -- work on the side that perhaps this is greatest role in influencing process and then lobbyists simply walks in and points to the handy work of affiliated groups which have been lined up by same funders. but just talk a little bit about what it's like as a u.s. senator to see the hand did i work playing out in a way that it creates this appearance of a like a ground swell nationally when, in fact, it is something that has been coordinated by a small group of player. talk to that a built. >> sure, let me give a very specific example. i was united states supreme court attorney back when they sued tobacco industry for behaving in a fraudulent fashion in denying that tobacco caused
10:14 pm
health harm to human beings. so rm that very well. the government won the case. it was very clear. and i've had that in the back of my mind so i wassing this about whether that particular lawsuit brought against the tobacco industry back then should may be be considered as a model for looking at climate denial and a the fossil fuel industry, and i wrote -- an op-ed to that effect that the washington post was good enough to publish. and there was a little pause because i'm not a, you know, very prominent senator. i'm not one of the celebrities and nobody really paid attention very much for a while. but after a couple of days, suddenly one of the things about being a senator is that you keep track of your press. and so i noticed suddenly over the next couple of weeks, that there were more than 50 op-ed pieces that appeared around the country attacking me, attacking this idea an they all came from
10:15 pm
the same more or less theory you could scramble the words around a little bit. but it was essentially a repeat performance cookie cutter argument in many cases with the same authors and you could in every single one trace it back to this machinery of -- special interest front groups. and it came up with a telltale ideas like that there's a first amendment right of the fossil fuel companies to commit fraud which is wrong. that's just legally a falsehood forever first amendment has ended where fraud began. and so the argument, that that wasn't the case or the implication that that wasn't the case was leak a tall tell sign that this had a common thread to it and then it happened again a couple of months later when i provoked them in a different way so you can actually kind of ring the bell of this network and
10:16 pm
watch it respond with multiple dozens of apparently independent and apparently legitimate expression of opinion that are, in fact, just the beef doing its propaganda work. >> what is wrong with that setup to you? why does that threaten democracy from your perspective? >> because people don't know who it is. right if it was exxonmobil say okay this is our opinion. and we're going to fight for it. this is coke industries and this is what we believe an what we stand for which is that we should be able to defraud are the public till our heart is content whether climate change is real then we can have that discussion and you know who the party and interest are, and the people understand what the circumstance is. when you fed up something called heart land institute which nobody knows what it is or set up an institute that is named after the the -- extraordinary hero george c. marshall and steal his name put
10:17 pm
it on an institute and march it out as your front group, and you do that 40 or 50 times, you end up with this array of screens that deceive the public as he was saying this stuff because it really helps people understand the story when they know who protagonist are and if you've been able to hide who the real is if they're behind a curtain pulling strengs then the public is deceived and that is not good for if democracy. >> so -- dungts the left do some of the same things and we have -- your book opportunity talk about george or labor unions or environmental group, about and they all have their network of nonprofits have that opinion pieces op-ed piece what's different about their operation? i think close to the environmental community and first thing i'd say about them and to their faces so not speaking at a school here but
10:18 pm
pathetically badly organized everybody goes off and does their own thing, and it is really rare to get any kind of -- organization or strategy on an issue. whereas on the other side this is all straw teenagely developedded because these are not legitimately organizations but tips of the same creature. so they're deployed to create the illusion that it is a lot of different things but that aid and ain't so. other big, big difference is four o environmental group and labor unions are spending dun a scarce resource when they engage in this kind of work. and they've got to run out to try to get donors who believe in their cause to try to fill that resource back in so they can stay in business. on the other side this is a money-making proposition for these big industries. the international monetary fund has said that the -- fossil fuel industry gets a city in the united states of every
10:19 pm
year 700 billion. billion with a b, so for that, to protect a subsidy that big there's an enormous amount of money that you can spend so it is profitable for the other side to play this game and our side has to try to find friendly and sympathetic sources to replenish their coughers and that creates a massive unfair advantage. so both in resources and in strategy, the corporate side is miles ahead of us. >> but they're using some of the same tactics but wonderrering where you're not more critical. >> when lcv league of conservation voters say we're the league of conservation voters everybody knows who they are, there's nobody behind them oarnl like the gazillion donors and members who believe in their cause. they're not a front group for a particular corporation or a particular industry. whereas the george c. marshall
10:20 pm
sthiewt behind it is five big foundation and companies and it is part of an array that they maintain. so you don't know when they write an op-ed in the local paper who they're there on behalf of. when gene of the league conservation voters right in the local pairm everybody knows that's the league conservation and environmental group nothing is being hidden. >> i'm going to read language in breitbart to describe you ecoloonie jerk anti-murdock spewing out conspiracy that makes you sound like a hard left attack dog blogger as a center of american progress so you are a conspiracy theorist who is a knee jerk anti-murdoch type. what's it like to be on receiving kind of that kind of criticism?
10:21 pm
>> well it shows that i'm getting through because -- sort of left -- desperation is that. they don't say what i say is not true but they attack me as -- an attack dog or whatever. i think anybody who reads this book will see that i have taken a very thoughtful ep approach following legal principle and history and looking around at what everybody see it is plainly happening around us and drawing very logical conclusions from that. so this isn't suggestings that jfk and marilyn monroe are in the salt caves in utah and that you know justin bieber is their love child. this is very, very -- i think -- sensibly developed stuff. they just don't want to hear it because they're gaming the
10:22 pm
system and so they put people out there to try to, you know, smear things up a little bit but it all comes in a day's work. >> another thing that i've read is criticism in some way you're influenced by your wife in a appropriate way they point out that she has ph.d. and marine science, and specializes in biology, and in some way that she -- >> she knows something about oceans so the fact that fossil fuel industry is polluting oceans in ways that you can demonstrate in a middle school science lab by combining salt wart and co 2 and watch acidification go up. i can hope my wife and other scientists have influenced me in the way i -- argue this stuff because it is really deadly serious. stop for a minute about the book and stop for a minute about people's opinions. you know the ocean is acidifying
10:23 pm
right now at the fastest rate are since we've been on the planet. c02 is 400 parts mother million basically between 170 and 300 for as long as human beings have been on the planet. so we are -- rolling some really dangerous dice and going to places we've never been in the history of the species before. and you know, now you see species leak the tara pod although it is important in thed food chain and go off the coast of washington and oregon and measure at 50% of those sea creatures have had severe shell damage. and acidification of the sea has a important role in that so real stuff that is going on, and i couldn't be more proud to stand with nasa and noaa and union concern science and academy of science and wife in pointing all of that stuff out. >> uh-huh.
10:24 pm
so -- let's talk a bit about -- you used a term of money landering when you talk about groups leak donors trust that are philanthropic groups 5013 that donate money to other groups why do you describe them as money landering efforts? >> i think that describes them as identity landering efforts what they do is they take money from whomever. let's say you're exxonmobil and you want to make a big contribution to the george c. marshall institute. but you don't want the george c. l marshall institute to be tag ged by a member of the press who takes huge amounts of common mobile money. so then you go to a place like donors trust which has set up to have exactly one purpose that is to take money and move it through themselves and deliver
10:25 pm
it to where the money source wants it to go with the name and identity of the source stripped away so that now the donation to the george c. marshall institute just says donors trust. it is an extra layer of -- deceit that protects from people knowing what is being done and this is actually their hands that work and not some innocent sounding actually quite impressive sounding, you know, public research group. so it has kind of been a role in i think protecting all of these different front groups from accountability for who they are that can be proven by where they get their money and severed that link so that the money seems to come from this kind of neutral place called donors trust and it is identity landering why should the way of the identity of the donors and for that exact purpose in my view.
10:26 pm
>> uh-uh had you. so how serious do you consider the problem of the way that nonprofits are used as a way to influence political system and even though they are -- under law a nonprofit organization. how serious do you consider that issue? >> i think it is pretty darn serious. first of all, in some cases by virtue of being nonprofit they can hide donors and who is really bpgd them and speak as if they are independent when, in fact, they're actually the glove over the hand of a particular -- industry, second they are capable of gathering enormous amounts of resources to become immensely powerful and third, they're allowed by citizens unitessed to get involved in politics and to spend enormous amounts of money in politics. so when americans for prosperity for instance a coke funded front
10:27 pm
group says it is beginning to spend over $700 million in last election and does, and is now going to spend they say over 400 million dollars or up to $400 million in the coming midterms, that sends an incredibly powerful signal to the political class to stay out of our way, don't cross us. and when they add to that threats they've made publicly like you're going to be severely disadvantaged that's a quote that really disadvantaged if you cross us. and when they crow about the quote again political peril, that they've caused. i think that's a danger a sign again you don't know who players is. this is just this americans for puppy and prosperity and what is this group? who are they really for? so that's i think been a problem -- and that segues into the -- final and really deadly problem of the groups which is that if they spend the money then everybody at least knows that americans for prosperity is spending the money and you can
10:28 pm
look back to see what on earth try to, you know, use investigative journalism technique to figure out who they're doing this for. but if they just threaten to spent the money if they're just going into the campaign manager of the candidate and saying listen, pal, you're going to vote this way on these things else we spend $10 million on your primary o opponent in the next election and we're going to whack you and never know who it is because we'll be gone before people can identify front group. that's a really serious threat and nobody will ever see that it just changes the way politics work and it is not visible up in the public space and it is wrong. >> i'm going to read from page 182 your book where you're discussing some of these things in a paragraph that i thought was cool peeling and i'm sure your republican colleagues don't like too much. but think of the republican senators in their core corral fenced in. think of the fences as high barbed think of gun towers at
10:29 pm
corners and signs on the fences warning political peril. and imagine the bull horn amplified voices warning nobody leaves the corral. try to leave the corral and you're going to be severely disadvantaged. you -- that's in the a bad analogy. there are rumble inning the corral and inmates are are restless. car rile is not a great place to be. nobody likes to be threatened and bossed around the. nobody likes to play the full or cater to someone else's whims no one likes to go against voice in their own conscience and home state universities are telling them. but your point is that, you know, that the republican senators aparticipantly feel compelled to do so. and just talk about that a little bit. >> i've said it -- i've said this over and over again talking to -- republican colleagues about climate change is like talking to prisoners about escape. they may very well want to do it. but they're really anxious about
10:30 pm
being caught. so we probably have 6 to 10 republican senators who probably would like to work on a climate bill we have once who have sponsored before citizenned unitessed and run for president on good climate platforms. but nobody will budge. the getaway car if you will what we could do for climate change is -- a carbon fee. and we've just had three republican secretary former secretaries of the treasury endorse a carbon fee, and the former chairman of wal-mart and george bush economic so the distinguished group of republicans who have comp with a climate solution. and they're not the only ones. there's a broadser array of people who support a revenue neutral they call it border adjusted carbon fee.
10:31 pm
so between -- an actual solution that republicans support and a bunch of republican senators who have a record of supporting action on climate what's the problem? the problem is that kill zone that had the citizens united decision has alouded the fossil fuel industry to set up were they say look we have unlimited funds and crush anybody who crosses us and they've been clever about just trying to nail all a of the republicans to the ground. knowing that that makes it look like it's partisan opposed to just traditional smelly old special fleeting and a that they can then use the republican party to prevent things from -- from getting done. so they don't torture us in the democratic side anywhere near as much as they threaten the republicans. to be a republican and come out on climate is extraordinarily brave thing to do right now. >> any of the republican stharts
10:32 pm
colleagues comp to you and say they've offended by your suggestion that they're essentially held hostage by money and denying true beliefs perhaps on the issue and anything they've privately conversed with you about or confronted you? >> yeah, i get both that and then i get look, i know i'm stuck keep doing what u you're doing. we've got to get there. i know it's the right thing. but you know right now -- they just can't do it. so i get a little bit of both. and when i get the first comment what i try to do is go to the home state universities of the colleague who expressed their disappointment or frustration with me and say look, here's what the universities in your home state say about climate change. so if they'll say this, maybe -- you listen and we go on from there. i try to be polite about it but we have a real problem on our hands in fossil fuel industry of
10:33 pm
misbehaving in exceptional ways. >> maybe we could just i want to go back to talk to a little bit more about tom steyer and his role in democratic party an trying to promote -- measures for climate change, i mean, that's, you know, you say that -- looks like, you know, the environmental funded by small dollar amounts an they aren't -- why again i want to get become to why his role is not as -- you would argue is different from role that exxonmobil plays on the other side because his -- dollar amount that he's putting in are so great an may have factors that are influencing him and his role in the democratic system that are -- that are self-interested as well. >> there may be. but i haven't seen that. i mean, i think tom meads an enormous am of money as a big investor out in -- california. and he's now -- out of that business and he's
10:34 pm
spending his fortune and one way to put money into trying to counter the fossil fuel effort by putting some money up on the environmental side of the issue. and if i don't know exactly what he spent but news reports last time around about 50 million dollars. welt, americans for prosperity alone spent $750 million. so he's up against forces that are way, way bigger than him and although he has a considerable fortune there are only so many billionaires who want to spend it on trying to protect the earth and trying to fight back against this industry. and on the other side the industry has an endless desire to prevent any kind of regulation and continually spend money at those levels and you know run these -- front group operations out in front of themselves. so -- you know, i admire what tom is
10:35 pm
trying to do and i think you can say okay you've got big money. billion mare on one side ands fossil fuel industry on the other but not equivalent certainly in the politic of this by people who, you know, live and die by the politics of this, nobody really sees it as equivalent. >> uh-huh. one of the things again that book does is it walk through a range of levels of activity. but you know, interested corporate funded organizations, and so for example, you know, you talk civilly lit gigs and jy in a way to influence outcomes so i wanted to ask you to define term bulk jerry commandering and what it means and what effect it has on democracy in the united states. >> sure. >> old days it startedded startd
10:36 pm
governor gary of massachusetts had a legislative drawn in such a way that he couldn't possibly be defeated because he was a key political ally of the governor. and the newspaper made a cartoon of the shape of the district that looked like a salamander they called it it gerrymander that's where it came from. well it didn't take lock for people to figure out if you can do -- protection gerrymander and also do attack gerrymander so people drawing districts to ruin the chance of -- opponent politics that they didn't like. but republicans did in a thing called the red map project was to say wait a minute, this is not about the individuals. this is about a delegation so what they did was they took states like wisconsin, ohio, and pennsylvania --
10:37 pm
swing states, and they drew maps in which democrats were concentrated into very, very heavily democratic preserves basically sucking democrats out of the general population into these high concentration districts. and that allowed them to go through the of the rest of the state to draw with a comfortable 55, 58% margin, and so the result was situations like in ohio in 2012, president obama got reelected in ohio. statewide -- my friend senator brown democrat got elected statewide back to the senate. but ohio set a congressional delegation that year with 13 republican to five democrats. so they sent a huge countermajoritytarian delegation because they packed democrats together this in five districts
10:38 pm
that aloud them to carve up the rest of ohio into 13 republican districts by doing so they were able to win the house then. and they took pride in that. they sent out a memorandum that said guess what guys we lost congress by over a million votes. but we won it by 0 congressman because we had carved up the districts in this way. and unfortunately five republicans on the supreme court had given green light to do that and no matter how bad behavior was going to be they would never quarrel with that kind of political jerry commandering. >> if republicans have taken control of the majority of state legislatures in the governors, in the united states, you know, why is it not then their right to create congressional district they see fit from your perpghtive? >> because there's a constitutional principle of one person, one vote. and the theory of that is that everybody's vote will more or
10:39 pm
less counting the same. and any deliberate attempt to take people who vote a certain way and isolate into highly concentrated districts so they don't have the effect statewide that they should have in a regular democrat system so dealing with the house supposed to be majority rules place, you're basically turning upside down one of the most basic democratic principles which is them that win the most votes, wins the election, and i think that's the tough game to start to play. >> uh-huh. so you talk about, you know, going to the supreme court and you feeling that it shows a pattern that is inconsistent with with a disinterested neutrality. and you know, what is -- the supreme court do you feel it has become more plit sizessed in recent decades, and what are
10:40 pm
consequences of that from your perspective? >> look, i've argued a case in front of the supreme court and spent time in appellate and state supreme court, and it is -- it's hard to believe and it's hard to it say that a court has begun to put its thumb on the scale. but when you look at the big business lobby group in the country winning by 2-1 incase of nowadays, and when you look at the predictability of the case that involve either the ability of republicans to win elections, or the balance between corporations and human beings being directed in favor of corporations or some of the far right wing social issues they just always, always, always -- seem to tip that way. it is like that had needle has
10:41 pm
always poingtd magnetic north and then you get good correspondents who have covered the supreme court for in some cases decades jeff toobin. linda greene house and they've all basically thrown up hands and come to agreement to say look this is -- this has gotten political. and it's blatantly political in many cases 4-5 decisions with all of the republican appointees lining up to do stuff, and the four democratic saying wait a minute, this is not right. this isn't consistent with precedent. this isn't consistent with origin mallism. this isn't consistent with the text of the constitution. this is a doctrine that you just made up and it doesn't matter because time after time after time 5-4 reliable is clock work there they go. and the pattern i think this is becoming demonstrable that is one of the reasons that i think the public december enchampment with the court is so
10:42 pm
significant. the court can't enforce its orders people have to believes in the court and when 6.of people polled think that a human being will get a fair shot in the supreme court against the corporation, and 54% think that they won't get a fair shot in the supreme court against the corporation, something is wrong that goes beyond just, you know, one senators observations. >> wufnts i one of the things is extent to which there's awstles these sprees and interveners an often come with names that are academic or, you know, trade associations but their playing a role in moving forward cases that seem king thely aligned with the corporate interest that are also, you know, litigating the same cases.
10:43 pm
hold up of that is happening and grown in the role that is playing in federal court matters that they move forward. >> it has grown. it has new and it is dirchts and it is weird and i don't think -- many americans are aware that it is going on. i think most people believe that what happens in a case that gets to the supreme court is that a litigant has a grievance so they go out and hire a lawyer and the lawyer then takes the course to trial seeking to win the trial for the litigant and eventually the case if it continues to be disputed works its way up to the supreme court. that's not the way these cases work. very often you have a -- group that is paid for by corporates interest to scan the country looking for litigation opportunities to try to bring cases up to what they perceive to be a friendly court and then the lawyers go out and hire the litigant. they found a case in rhode island when i was the attorney
10:44 pm
general a group called the pacific legal foundation came all the way across the country to rhode island to find gee gentleman say look we like your case and like to come and take to the supreme court because we think we can prove a point with it. so he went along with it, obviously, and got free lawyering and then nec thing you know i'm in the supreme court arguing this case. but that has been turned completely backwards, and then there's this additional added echo chamber ofbrief from the front organizations that are telling the republican appointed judge of what it is that they want. so when the republican appointed judges then deliver back to them what it is thebes that they want i think it creates the very unfortunate impression that -- there's basically a machine being cranked on the court where -- special interest put up and supreme court listens to brief and benefit goes to special interest, and on back to the
10:45 pm
front group around and around. that's not what a court is supposed to be. >> one of the players that has been participating in litigation which has a lot of these briefs and -- groups that are funding, you know, the writing of memos and trade associations -- attorney general scott pruitt had lawsuits against environmental protection agency who just last week was confirmed to serve as administrator of the epa what you voted against scott pruitt what is your concern about having him running the epa? >> well, he has -- never given any indication that he has the slightest concern for the environment whatsoever. predecessor in oklahoma i was rhode island attorney general and i served with drew and he had environmental protection unit that he ran in office not only that set up a statewide environmental prosecution task
10:46 pm
force with other agencies and environmental groups and so forth scott pruitt came in he shut all of that down and opened up a new appellate unit designed to basically sue on behalf of the fossil fuel industry, so this was a big step up for the fossil fuel industry that used to have to go to front groups to follow the brief and now had attorney general who would loan them his bandage and go into court on their behalf. so if you wanted to obscure hand of industry and add a have legiy to argument what better thing could you do than to get attorney general and come and do this for you so with all of that going on i think the prospect for assistant environmental enforcement happening in this epa under its any administrator are really, really small and i think people around the country have to look very, very
10:47 pm
carefully if you like clean air and water watch what's going on up there. because i think he'll be up to no good. >> one of the things you don't focus a great deal on in the book is how do you get out of the situation you think we're in and path way forward and take some time to take four or two to three or four ideas is how did we emerge from this place that you think we've ended up in? >> well, the simple way would be to pass the disclosed act that has been in the senate for years now. that would require the dark money that comes into our elections, the money that nobody knows where it is from to actually be reported. it is pretty simple if you contradict more than 10,000 dollars you've got to report it and if it ends up this politic doesn't matter how many front groups you lander through on the way through to spending it in the election, you've got to follow it all the way through.
10:48 pm
so takes fun out of hiding behind all of the screen groups because you end up having to disclose anyway. that would be very important. i frankly think that corporations should not have a political role in this country. founding father sets up nothing for the corporate america to have a political role. they assume that america and the elections that run will all be decided and run by u human beings and -- corporations committed this landscape and they're very, very successful creatures and predators against regular human beings. so backing them out i think more or less completely, would be significant. they're various campaign finance ways of doing that. but ultimately as you look around at all of the alternative facts and fact news and propaganda ultimate thing for us in the past has been for the
10:49 pm
american people to step up. you know, when we took a look at the river burning, we decided okay enough on the pollution stuff. and we change the whole way we looked at it with a big inflection point and passed a bunch of laws but mostly we changed the way we thought about pollution and environments and we've had a similar thing with diets. i grew up with tv dinner and canned vegetables all supposed to be great stuff and learned wait a minute. in health foods stores have gone from being weird places that you have to be a member to join to being whole foods with trillions of dollars in business. so we've had another inflection point there. and when so much of our public debate is now -- the information equivalent of pollution and junk food i think we're, we need to make that step as a people and when we do we'll be a better educated citizen and more active and more aware and knowledgeable citizenry to push
10:50 pm
back against these powers that nobody really invited into our politics but are now dominant. have you considered reach aring out to donald trump elect on campaign talking about trying to, you know, decrease power special interest in washington. is that something you thought about doing and tried doing it? is it possible to attempt to do that? yeah, i don't know. i don't know the people around him. i've written some things and said some things publicly that i hope might, you know, trigger a response if somebody is -- listening in the white house. but it has been really are discouraging here was a guy who came off a populous disruptive campaign, and he could have easily been a force for really good change in washington. but instead, if, you know, goldman sachs a treasury, polluters, at epa it is the for profit education industry, at
10:51 pm
the want did of education, over and over again -- the most quite a few nefarious interest in the area has actually been given control over the the regulator, and it's about anti-populous as you can get, so seeing that signal has been really discouraging because i hope that we could have had conversations like that and we're still looking forward to doing things that he promised on the campaign trail like getting rid of carried exception with huge hedge fund billionaires lower and figure out a way to bring down cost of pharmaceutical when it is nutty we pay highest price in the world and they say they need to charge us more to the their research. but if the consider company said we're going to charge americans for our cars to do our safety research or boeing said to charge americans more for our airplane than anybody else in
10:52 pm
the world because we want to make them safe or and charpg for safety research nobody would accept that. it is nutty. so there are areas where we can push back and i hope they'll pick them up and see if he's u true to his promises. >> what's it like to be in the senator in congress basically right now in american political system if you look at with the exception of, you know, maybe the new england states or west coast, where democrats, in fact, have so little power that all of the things that you're talking about most in your book there's little prospect for actually implementing change you're talking about. what's it like to be in the senate right now in such a place? >> well it's a little frustrating because we were in the election expecting to be in majority in the senate expecting to see hillary clinton in the white house and expecting to have agenda that i think would have been a very good one for american people and instead dealing with a very unusual president who has created enormous amount of alarm both in
10:53 pm
congress among republicans and among democrats among americans who are out protesting in the streets like never before -- and worldwide of people look to america for leadership and wonder what did he mean by that? so it's a very -- bit of an eerie time right now, but i take confidence that it is hands of the people in america and they vote in the 2018 elections, in any kind of sympathy with the expressions that we're hearing from the public right now, well will have a democratic speaker of the house at least and will be able to push back and try to get some of this public business done. >> practically speaking, i mean, you're a united states senator you're, you know, part of life in rhode island how did you manage to figure out time to write are a book while you were doing your job as a senator and -- as a husband and father, i mean,
10:54 pm
just talk about that a bit. >> well, it's -- a little hard hadder than i thought. some of the different chapters thought about issues as senator so i wrote articles on regulatory capture and fossil fuel industry role in climate denial. and i've spoken about the court and the extent to which its tendencies run towards corporate and republican interest now, so certainly amount of the stuff i learn and gathered in ordinary course of my work and sitting down to write it out was not easy. but weekends and late at night before going to sleep, and on that wonderful 55 minute plane flight between washington and providence turns out if you go at it you can get a lot done. >> uh-huh. and so you, did you ever talk to
10:55 pm
jody the senator joe did about your suggestion that she essentially was of the koch brothers and what was her response to that? >> no, i haven't i use it as an example it is really about less her i think than about that series of -- different intervention by front groups that escorted her along her way. she's not focus of that story. she's the passenger, the the focus that koch brothers had elaborate setup in which they handle off at different stages of the election their support effort so they can keep themselves under water and not be visible to the public as they support candidates and to me that's the -- of the story. >> what's your word of advice
10:56 pm
for reader or someone in american public watching the political process play out? what's kind of advice would you have for them as they're feeling like prosecutorred frustrated or powerless at this point? >> i would say that first of all, everything comes back to voters. citizenship is more than just wafnling tv ad and facebook posts and being a citizen an consumer are not the same thing. second thing i would say is we should not lose faith in the american system of democratic government that we thought was and survived depressions and industries have passed protecting us. and so what is wrong with it isn't government itself. what is wrong with it is the fact that corporate force intruded into it so it is not
10:57 pm
responsive to human beings any longer because they're such a small signal? is overall noise from corporate america and corporate money that they're really not heard. so don't lose faith in the system if you don't feel you're not heard. figure out why it is that the system is not hearing you. i think if you read the book and if you take a look around you you'll come to conclusion if you can pull corporations back out of their political role, and put them into the economic role where they've been so incredibly valuable for human kind, about but not in a political role, that if human beings started run aring our democrat again all feel a lot better for everybody. >> okay well thank you for spending time with us to talk about the book and -- >> thank you for having me on appreciate it. >> we'll watch and see how it plays out. thank you. >> we'll see. thank you. >> c-span where history tun
10:58 pm
poteds daily in 1979c c-span created by america television companies and is brought to you today by your cable or satellite provider. >> senator cory booker has a private book clb and regularly moderates a book he's reading. recently he hosted a live question and answer session book won pulitzer prize in 2015. >> so -- i have to say i love to read and this book -- is it not a scientific book but ittells stories here so beautifully told that i learn a lot and like i know a lot in the field but i learn a lot with a great read. it is really an enjoyable book to write. so --
10:59 pm
this people often ask me writing the book. process of writing this is probably -- not that interesting to most readers. i took a lot of wrong turns so it went -- >> how long did it take? : it took over four years. oh, my gosh. that is a long time. but you literally travel the planet earth. that's why i would hate to think why it took a long time because it sound like numerous continents that you were on. >> that was the really -- really wonderful part about it so people often ask me like -- oh, how did you get through, you know, so which it is, i don't in any way want to -- dispute that but the actual process of going to places that i go to in the book --
11:00 pm
the amazon, the andys or so spectacular that it was really a tremendous, you know, privilege to go there. >> to watch the entire question and answer session visit senator booker facebook page at booker. >> i'm robyn on behalf women national republican clb i'd like to welcome everyone here this evening for what is going to be a terrific program. we're really excited to have with us this evening reagan biographer craig stirly. [applause] and i might add his wife with us as well. [applause] and no stranger to any of us, monica crowley. [applause]


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on