'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Guests: Alex Wagner, Sen. Jeff Merkley, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Christina
LAWRENCE O'DONNELL, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?
Doubling down on "W." Democrats defending their majorities by going on offense - today unveiling a six-week strategy to force Republicans to answer a simple question: How will their Congress yield anything different than the failed policies of George W. Bush?
The House Republican lobbyist problem: John Boehner last week responding to allegations of an inappropriate relationship between a Republican congressman and a female lobbyist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), MINORITY LEADER: Seems like a rumor to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Today, that rumor has resurfaced. A day removed from the WikiLeaks document dump, the House votes on funding the war in Afghanistan.
And the president reacts in the Rose Garden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The fact is: these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan.
(END IVDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Tonight, Representative Lynn Woolsey on what she is calling an unwinnable war.
"Don't Vote For My Dad." A family feud in Oklahoma leading to a bizarre campaign by a daughter to keep her father out of elected office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love my daughter. I want to make peace. And that is my goal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And the California town with the highest paid public official in the country and a quarter of its population living below the poverty line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You all need to go to jail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Tonight - more resignations and more outrage in Bell, California.
All the news and commentary - now on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Good evening. From Los Angeles, I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann.
With 98 days to go until the midterm elections, Democrats have come up with a new campaign strategy - and our number five story tonight: it turns out it's the same campaign strategy that gave them victories in 2006 and 2008, run against President George W. Bush.
How's that supposed to work now?
According to the newspaper "The Hill," the White House and congressional Democrats this summer will point out how congressional Republicans would govern in exactly the same mold as they did when they were working hand-in-hand with President Bush.
Democrats plan to hit the GOP on one issue each week beginning with the August recess. The idea is to reveal the Bushian elements on issues ranging from social security to jobs to veterans. This, a marked contrast to last year when Democrats went into the August recess uncoordinated and unprepared for dozens of angry town halls and shouting matches about health care.
Those town halls, however, did advance the Democrats' ultimate goal this year, to reveal the Republicans as having no plans whatsoever - something Republican Senator Tom Coburn confirmed last year when a woman asked what the Republican remedy is for her husband with traumatic brain injury whose insurance refused to cover his home care.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM COBURN (R), OKLAHOMA: The first thing we'll do is see what we can do individually to help you through our office. But the other thing that's missing in this debate is us as neighbors helping people that need our help. You know, we tend to -
COBURN: The idea that the government is the solution to our problems is an inaccurate - a very inaccurate statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And Republicans - always good neighbors - continue to provide Democrats with new ammunition for their back-to-the-future argument, including absurdist Republican Congressman Joe Barton apologizing to BP, something he would be doing as chairman of his committee if Republicans were running Congress. And Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio just posted his fiscal platform, calling for raising taxes on the middle-class by eliminating the stimulus and its tax cuts, even though he supports renewing, of course, the Bush tax cuts for the rich - without saying how he will pay for them.
Let's bring in MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also associate editor and Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist at "The Washington Post."
Eugene, you and I have never had the burden of coordinating strategy for midterm elections, but can you really use the president who hasn't been in the White House for the last two years as your rallying cry this year?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Only if you do it properly, Lawrence. You can't expect Democrats to be re-elected or newly elected on the basis of conditions two years ago. You can't just do it directly and say, you know, it's all George Bush's fault. I think there's a certain fatigue about that line of argument.
However, I think if you point across the aisle at the Republicans and
say, what's their plan? What do they actually propose to do if they win
your support and get elected, and win perhaps majorities in one or both
houses of Congress? And if you can demonstrate that they haven't offered
any new solutions and, in fact, are talking about the same old policies
that George Bush followed - well, we all know where those policies led us
I think that's, perhaps, a fruitful line of argument for Democrats.
O'DONNELL: And if Democrats run against Bush and we assume that Republicans of course will run against Obama, will anyone be running for anything?
ROBINSON: No. We're not going to have - this is not going to be a positive campaign, I think. And, you know, a negative campaign for a country that's in a negative mood. So, I think it's going to be each side trying to scare people about the other side.
O'DONNELL: Now, how does this play on the left of the Democratic Party? It seems to me there's a little bit of a problem with this on the left side of the party where there are some Democrats whose passion is needed in midterm elections, and they feel that the Obama administration, in too many ways, resembles the Bush administration and is an extension of its war policies.
How do they get that side of the party activated for this midterm election?
ROBINSON: Well, that's a very good question, Lawrence. And, frankly, at that point, I think you'd have to say that that may be a structural issue rather than a tactical issue. I mean, I don't think that just waging the campaign in this way, trying to scare people about the Republicans, in and of itself, dampens passion among the Democratic base. It's just that if you didn't push hard for card check, are the unions going to be really excited about mobilizing their vaunted get out the vote efforts? If you didn't really push on immigration, are you going to lose some of that 69 percent support that you had from Latinos?
But, again, these are things that either got done or didn't get done, and I think on a parallel track the Democrats are going to have to make their arguments to the Democratic base and try to stoke that sort of passion - given the actual circumstances, given what they did and what they didn't do.
O'DONNELL: Now, does anyone expect this August to be as noisy as last August? Or has in the meantime the Tea Party, in effect, been institutionalized within the Republican Party so that they have to be much more careful about exactly what kind of noise they're making since the Tea Party candidates like Sharron Angle are going to be, you know, suffering guilt by association if Tea Party members get out of hand at town halls?
ROBINSON: Right. Well, first of all that's an interesting image of the Tea Party being institutionalized. But, I - you know, I think that the Tea Party - last year, of course, it was - it was Democrats who were most at risk from the Tea Party.
This year, I think, it's Republicans in that I don't think the Tea Party, the various Tea Party factions, intend to become wholly-owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party. And I think they're going to be fractious and noisy at times. Their candidates are going to want to take positions that cause Republican senior leadership to develop more white hairs than they already have.
It's going to be - you know, you ride a bucking bronco and then you just try to hang on and I think that's what the national party is going to be doing with this Tea Party element that is unpredictable. And, you know, I'm not going to sit there and predict that all is going to be calm.
O'DONNELL: MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson, also of "The Washington Post" - let's see how your non-prediction of calm works out. Thanks for your time tonight, Eugene.
ROBINSON: Great to be here.
O'DONNELL: Here's another issue for the Republicans in November. House Republican leader John Boehner has reportedly spent the last year and a half trying to get his fellow Republicans to stop partying with female lobbyists.
His attempts to avoid drawing attention to the issue have now drawn attention to the issue. Several unnamed sources told "Roll Call" that Boehner has spoken privately with, quote, "several House Republicans." He refused to comment when asked about it last week, but now, "Roll Call" confirms a story first reported by "The New York Post" that Congressman Lee Terry was overheard asking what "The Post" called a comely lobbyist, quote, "Why did you get me so drunk?"
Then there is Congressman Sam Graves pictured at dinner with a woman reportedly identified as a lobbyist for big oil, among other industries. In May, Boehner told "Roll Call," quote, "I've had members in here where I thought they crossed the line," and said, quote, "I'm the most transparent person in this town." Of course, the perfect segue for Boehner's spokesman telling "Roll Call," quote, "Any conversations Boehner may or may not have had with other members are private."
Today, in the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell succeeded in protecting lobbyists and senators from that transparency, filibustering the Disclose Act which would have required lobbyists to disclose their sponsorship of some campaign ads.
Let's turn now to Alex Wagner, White House correspondent for "Politics Daily."
Alex, good evening.
I want to get to the partying with the lobbyists. We're going to get there, don't worry.
But, first of all, let's talk about a little bit of governing. The Disclose Act seems to have been stopped in the Senate. The goal of the act was to mitigate some of the effects of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United that lets private companies put more money into campaigns during certain times on the calendar where they used to be prevented from doing that.
But the Disclose Act was not exactly a clean bill moving through the Senate. It had some problems on each side of it, didn't it?
ALEX WAGNER, POLITICS DAILY: It did. It was kind of like fruitcake. I mean, nobody really liked it and it was jam-packed with all sorts of stuff.
The issue is that, you know, gun control advocates like Senator Dianne Feinstein had an issue with the bill because there was a pretty large carve-out for the NRA, making it exempt from some of the legislation in the bill, and then labor unions, who had supported the House version of the bill, because it had carve-outs for labor unions, didn't support the Senate version of the bill, which did not have the labor union carve out.
And then Republicans, of course, didn't support the bill on whole because they stand to share in the windfall of money that would come from corporations and businesses in the run-up to the midterm elections.
O'DONNELL: So, just to clarify, the Disclose Act required big monied interests to disclose who supplied the money for these campaign ads except, of course, for some big monied interests that were exempt from this law, if it can pass.
WAGNER: Exactly. I think that messiness sort of complicated its passage in Congress. You know, this was something that was supposed to mitigate the Supreme Court decision and then there were these holes for special interest groups. And I think that was a problem for a lot of legislators.
O'DONNELL: Now, "Roll Call's" piece about fun with lobbyists starts by saying that D.C. is abuzz with rumors about House Republicans and female lobbyists. John McCain had to deal with a story like that in "The New York Times" during the presidential campaign. He seems to have gotten by it.
Is there any more substance in this round of possible lobbyist scandal?
WAGNER: The walls are literally buzzing. The - you know, I think, certainly the "Roll Call" revelations today with the Sam Graves photo and the Lee Terry comment of "why did you get me so drunk" are difficult for a Republican Party that is still dealing with the wake of the scandal a few weeks ago when it was revealed that the RNC had sort of footed several thousands of dollars in reimbursements for a night out at a bondage club in west Los Angeles.
So, I think Republicans are trying to really be on their P's and Q's with stuff like this, and it doesn't help that they have candidates or - sorry - representatives that are going out with lobbyists.
Now, Boehner is an interesting fellow, because he is known to sort of be a bar fly about town. You know, Joe Scarborough even said a few weeks ago, this is a guy who you can find at a bar at 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. who's not known to be the hardest working man in Washington. So, you know, Boehner knows from bacchanalia.
O'DONNELL: And Boehner reportedly told his members that the partying was a distraction from his attempt to win back the House. But now, has his attempt to keep this thing quiet become even more of a distraction?
WAGNER: Yes, I think it's sort of a general rule of thumb. If you - you know, the more effort you put towards brushing something under the rug, the bigger deal it's going to become - especially in this day and age where people have camera phones and you're sort of never far away from the media.
O'DONNELL: Alex Wagner of "Politics Daily," please find out why that lobbyist got that congressman so drunk.
WAGNER: I will, Lawrence, for you.
O'DONNELL: Thanks for your time tonight, Alex.
O'DONNELL: BP's CEO is set to change. But what difference does that make if the company won't put safety ahead of its stock price? Up next: what is Congress doing to make sure oil rig workers won't be sacrificed for corporate profits?
And the political fallout from the WikiLeaks documents - some Democrats already working to end the war in Afghanistan say the leaked documents just show it's time to stop wasting money there and bring troops home.
O'DONNELL: Coming up: Tony Hayward says BP is the picture of good social corporate responsibility. Where was the sense of responsibility to the families of the dead rig workers or the survivors who were forced to sign waivers before they could see their families again? Up next, if BP can't be trusted to change, what can Congress do to fix that?
And later, a man running for a judgeship in Oklahoma has a big electoral surprise. His daughter wages a campaign against him called "Don't Vote For My Dad."
Details ahead - on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: As if the Gulf Coast were not suffering enough already from the impact of all the crude oil that has gushed from BP's damaged well in the Gulf of Mexico for three straight months now, oil started spewing today from a new damaged well along the Louisiana coast.
In our fourth story: We can also expect more of the same inept leadership from the BP executive suite where the company chairman claims that replacing one failed executive with another failed executive amounts to a fresh start.
The Coast Guard says it is investigating how a tow boat collided with a wellhead near Barataria Bay, Louisiana, right in the heart of the bayou where authorities have been fighting wave after wave of oil from the Gulf spill. The Coast Guard said a company named Cedyco owns the small oil well but it couldn't yet say how much oil has leaked or when they might be able to stop the leak.
And speaking of leaks - getting rid of Tony Hayward as BP's chief executive does not seem to have humbled him. The fired executive complained to a British newspaper that he has been unfairly demonized and vilified in the U.S., adding that "BP's response to this tragedy has been a model of good social corporate responsibility. It has mounted an unprecedented response."
Hayward also said he won't be showing up on Capitol Hill Thursday to explain BP's role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber because he's got a busy week. The Senate was forced to cancel the hearing as a result.
Hayward's boss, the chairman of BP, told CNBC this morning that replacing Hayward with another company executive, BP managing director, Bob Dudley, was the chance for a new beginning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARL-HENRIC SVANBERG, BP CHAIRMAN: In order to rebuild our position, in order to rebuild our brand and reputation, we needed fresh leadership and that is why we're doing the change.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: As we reported last night, the Senate held hearings last week on safety at BP before the blowout - at which BP's so-called vice president of safety refused to say he felt in any way responsible for the disaster and the 11 workers who were killed.
Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, took part in those hearings as a member of the health, education, labor, and pensions committee. He joins us now from Washington.
Senator, if BP's vice president for safety, Steve Flynn, isn't responsible for the explosion that killed 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon, then no BP executive is responsible. Isn't that what BP is trying to tell us?
SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D), OREGON: Well, absolutely. Steven Flynn came into our committee and he said in the beginning of his testimony, "Safety is our top priority." And we had before us all kinds of history of BP safety violations.
You have a situation where over a three-year period, Exxon had one -
I mean, one single egregious willful violation while BP had 760. And that contrast, this is a company that absolutely ignored safety, cut every corner in favor to turn a larger profit, and coming before the American people, before Congress, and saying safety is number one - completely unacceptable.
O'DONNELL: Now, if the vice president for safety still has his job and the company has replaced the CEO with another executive who was in place before this disaster occurred, before this explosion occurred that killed BP workers, what - what has really changed? I mean, why wouldn't they be bringing in someone who didn't have any of this blood on his hands?
MERKLEY: Well, I tell you this. I hope that Bob Dudley seizes this opportunity to completely change the corporate culture. Exxon after the 1989 spill, Exxon Valdez, it proceeded to change everything. They brought a top team together. They looked at everything from the temperature of the salad dressing to the safety of deep water drilling. And the result was a complete corporate makeover.
BP could go through that, but it has to have the will power and has to start with Bob Dudley. And I guess we'll find out soon if he has that determination based on what actions he takes in the department of the safety team.
O'DONNELL: Now, Tony Hayward is out there very proudly talking about BP's unprecedented response to the environmental disaster. Of course, it's an unprecedented disaster. SO, of course, the response would be unprecedented.
But what is really unprecedented is what you just pointed out about BP's occupational safety record - as was pointed out in the hearing and you pointed here again. Egregious violations in this industry, 760 out of 761 of them belonged to BP prior to this explosion.
I mean, what do you have to do with a company like that to get real change? And what will you be looking for after Dudley takes over that you could call real change?
MERKLEY: Well, I think the first thing we'll look for is whether Steven Flynn remains in charge of safety. This is a man who's been with the company for 25 years. He's been head of safety for a long period of time.
He had every opportunity after previous disasters to make over the company, didn't do it. Maybe he tried. Maybe he wasn't allowed. But whatever the reason, he didn't make it happen. And so, that will be a clear indication.
But Congress also has to do its part, because, certainly, we have not been clear enough, strict enough, about the requirements necessary both to protect workers and to protect the environment.
O'DONNELL: Now, Senator Franken referred to BP in the hearing in terms of safety as an outlier, a company that seemed to be much more reckless than anybody else in the industry. Is that your feeling? Is the rest of the industry operating at a substantially safer level than BP?
MERKLEY: There is no comparison. You have other companies like ConocoPhillips and so forth that may have two violations or four violations over the same time period that BP had 760. It is - it's such a gap.
And when I questioned Steven Flynn about this, he played the victim.
He said, I'm so disappointed people would view us that way. And he almost
and I said, well you almost sound like you're blaming the process, like you're the victim. And he said, well, they're looking at violations and they're not comparing apples and oranges.
There was no taking responsibility for a series of egregious violations over a long period of time that just didn't take the lives of the Deepwater Horizon. That was - it was terrible and awful. But there were terrible and awful instances before in which at least 30 earlier workers had died due to the safety practices of this company.
O'DONNELL: Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon on the health committee -
Senator, I just want to commend you for maintaining your patience and dignity in the face of that outrageous testimony last week. It was really something to see.
MERKLEY: It was surreal.
O'DONNELL: Thanks for your time tonight, Senator.
MERKLEY: You're welcome.
O'DONNELL: A reminder tonight about two upcoming health clinics made
possible by the generous donations from you, our Countdown viewers. On
August 4th in Washington, D.C., you can register to be seen by going to
freeclinics.us, or to donate your services and time - medical or otherwise
please do so as well.
The other clinic that we are still raising money for is a two-day clinic in New Orleans coinciding with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, taking place on August 31st and September 1st.
As always, we appreciate all the efforts, time, and money that you have provided to give health care to those in need. Again, that's freeclinics.us.
Coming up - a city council out of control: politicians lining their pockets with huge pay raises at the expense of property owners. The resignations have begun but so, too, have the criminal investigations.
And a local political drama of a much different kind: a man running for district judge in Oklahoma is now battling his daughter who started the Web site "Don't Vote For My Dad."
Details ahead - on Countdown.
O'DONNELL: Ahead on Countdown, in the wake of the massive war document dump online some Democrats say it proves it is time to get our troops out of Afghanistan and stop wasting money we need so badly here at home. Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey will make that case next.
Here in California, most communities have been hit with very challenging economic times. But in one town the city council has said, who cares? Local leaders have been raising taxes so they can raise their own salaries. Now the town is fighting back in a big way.
Later, a family fight hits the campaign trail. John Mantooth wants to be a district judge in Oklahoma but his daughter has launched a powerful public campaign against him.
O'DONNELL: Less than 48 hours after a massive release of classified documents raised new questions about the war in Afghanistan, Congress passed additional funding for that seemingly endless war. But in our third story tonight, if the pivotal shift is ever to happen in congressional support of the war, it may have begun this week. And there may now be a renewed focus on what kind of war our country is waging in Pakistan.
Today, the House overwhelmingly voted for the war supplemental bill providing another 37 billion dollars for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But 102 Democrats voted no. Last year, only 32 Democrats voted against the war supplemental.
But in a nod to the war's opponents, Democratic leaders allowed an hour of debate on Congressman Dennis Kucinich's resolution to compel the U.S. military's withdrawal from Pakistan. Congressman Kucinich saying, quote, "it's not generally known that we have at least 124 special forces troops on the ground inside Pakistan. It is absolutely urgent that we take a stand to stop spreading war in Pakistan, to nip in the bud the U.S. ground presence."
As for the 92,000 documents released by Wikileaks, Congressman Kucinich suggested that the problems with the war in Afghanistan have been crystallized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: Our troops are being placed in mortal peril because of poor logistics. Countless innocent civilians killed by mistake. An Afghanistan government which is hopelessly corrupt. Pakistan intelligence collaborating with the Taliban against the U.S. The Pentagon understating the fire power of the insurgents. A top Pakistani general visiting a suicide bombing school monthly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: And today a Senate panel held hearings on President Obama's choice to head the Military Central Command, General James Mattis. While Senator John McCain seemed eager to portray the Wikileaks documents as harmful to the war's chain of command, General Mattis disagreed, even though he deplored the release of those documents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: What effect does this have on them?
GEN. JAMES MATTIS, US ARMY CENTRAL COMMAND: Sir, I would speculate, but due to the urgency of the operations in a combat zone, it probably won't have much because at the moment they're actually reporting, they are probably more eager to get the truth up the chain of command.
That said, I just thought it was a - just a - an appallingly irresponsible act to release this information. It didn't tell us anything that I've seen so far that we weren't already aware of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O'DONNELL: Let's bring in Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of California's Sixth District, also co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Congresswoman, the Wikileaks, did those documents have any effect on the vote today?
REP. LYNN WOOLSEY (D), CALIFORNIA: Oh, I'm certain that they did. And you neglected to say that 12 Republicans voted against the supplemental. It was a much larger vote than the past. And maybe there wasn't a lot of new news out of Wikileaks. But what was new was that we knew for sure that a lot of what we've been talking about, what I've been talking about on the House floor, was absolutely crystal clear, and was fact, and that there is actually no military solution for Afghanistan.
O'DONNELL: Now, you picked up 70 votes between last year's vote and today's vote. At that pace you're two years away from shutting down funding for this war effort, if you pick up another 70 next year, 70 the year after that. Do you feel with the Wikileaks, with this vote today, with that huge pickup in no votes today that this - we're trying to write history as we do the show tonight - that this is at the threshold at least of an historic turning point in congressional support for the war in Afghanistan?
WOOLSEY: Well, the support has been turning, Lawrence. We've known that this was going to be a much greater vote before the Wikileaks. But the support is turning and there will be a point - and certainly next year at this time if, as the president has said he was going to begin a real withdrawal from Afghanistan - if that isn't happening, and it's just the beginning of two more years of something, I think he'll know that the great majority of House members disagree with him.
I'd be bringing our troops home now. I'd be planning right now how to start bringing them out of there safely, and certainly pay to get them home. And then I'd be sending a surge of civilians to Afghanistan, so that we could be working with the Afghan people so that they don't prefer the Taliban over Americans.
O'DONNELL: Do you find that the Obama administration has been more candid with Congress about this war than the Bush administration was?
WOOLSEY: Well, I think they've been more believable because, you see, this is - he's my president. But I think George Bush told us what he was going to do over there and he did it. And certainly I disagreed with him all the way along the way. But I'm hoping that my administration, the president of the United States today, will be as candid as he can be about this, because, first of all, just the idea of Pakistan - going over there without the War Powers Agreement supporting it is the wrong thing to do. And I say this about my own president.
O'DONNELL: If Pakistan is supporting the Taliban and supporting the efforts against American troops, isn't some reach across that border reasonable under these circumstances?
WOOLSEY: Well, the very idea that we've spent in Afghanistan alone a quarter trillion dollars when we need that money right here at home - that we would be using our tax dollars and have those dollars go to our enemies to run against us and work against us - no, I don't think there is any way we should be supporting people who don't support us.
O'DONNELL: Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, thanks for your time tonight.
WOOLSEY: You're welcome. Thanks for having me.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, an attack ad gets personal, really personal, as in a daughter paying for an ad that says "don't vote for my dad."
And a city in revolt; Bell, California, a blue collar town, a town 100 times smaller than Los Angeles, found out it's been paying the city manager double the salary of the president of the United States.
And at the top of the hour, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW," an even dozen Republicans, as Lynn Woolsey pointed out, voted against funding the war in Afghanistan. One of them, Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. is on the show.
O'DONNELL: Before last week, today's primary election for the District 21 judge seat in Oklahoma wasn't exactly on the national media's radar. But in our number two story, last Tuesday, a lawyer's daughter took out a quarter-page newspaper ad urging voters to reject her dad's election bid.
"Don't vote for my dad," the ad blared. "He is not a good father. He is not a good grandfather. He would not be a good judge." As they begin to count the votes in Oklahoma, more on this family feud from our NBC affiliate KFOR.
JOHN MANTOOTH, CANDIDATE FOR JUDGE IN OKLAHOMA: There is no justification for this sort of attack, personal attack upon me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Mantooth knows personal attacks are nothing new to political campaigns, but this one is as personal as it gets. His own daughter, Jan Schill (ph), who now lives in Colorado, bought this newspaper ad last week. It says, "do not vote for my dad. John Mantooth is not a good father."
She also created a website called DoNotVoteForMyDad.com, which talks about her father's divorces.
MANTOOTH: This should not have been made a public thing. I love my daughter. I want to make peace. And that is my goal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why did she place the ad? Mantooth points out his son-in-law, Andrew Schill, used to work for him but then became law partners with his primary opponent in this election, attorney John Dixon. Dixon, though, says he is not using their family problems to help his campaign and says Schill left his law firm three years ago.
JOHN DIXON, CANDIDATE FOR JUDGE IN OKLAHOMA: To try to deflect whatever his family situation may be to hurt me, personally, in my family, he'll have to live with that.
O'DONNELL: Andrew Schill told us by phone he and his wife want voters to focus on court cases listed on their site that involve Mantooth's professional conduct.
ANDREW SCHILL, SON IN LAW OF JOHN MANTOOTH: His experience should be looked at. His record should be looked at. We've scratched the surface. We've provided black-and-white examples. I think if the voters look at that, those speak for themselves.
O'DONNELL: Coming up, a city runs its manager out of town after discovering he was slashing programs and cutting jobs all while taking home nearly 800,000 dollars a year. But was anything he did actually illegal?
O'DONNELL: Bell, California, population 40,000. It's one of the poorest cities in Los Angeles County. So in our number one story, why were Bell city officials the highest paid government salaried officials in the country? A recent investigation by the "Los Angeles Times" revealing top officials were paid two to three times what their counterparts make in other cities. City manager Robert Rizzo stealing - I mean drawing a salary of nearly 800,000 dollars annually, or double President Obama's salary. His deputy over 376,000. That's more than Joe Biden's salary. While Bell's police chief making double of what his counterpart in Los Angeles earns.
Some more perspective: each resident of Bell pays 20 dollars for Mr. Rizzo's salary. Each United States citizen pays one tenth of a penny for President Obama's salary. Mr. Rizzo, seen here after he was arrested and charged with drunk driving in March, defending his salary to the "L.A. Times." "If that's a number people choke on, maybe I'm in the wrong business."
Mr. Rizzo, his deputy, and the police chief have since resigned. Now angry residents want answers from the mayor and the city council. Our correspondent, George Lewis, has more.
GEORGE LEWIS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Bell city council confronting an angry crowd last night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please, I need respect from everybody. Please.
LEWIS: But there is no respect.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You all need to go to jail.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ask you, leave, and give us our city back.
LEWIS: Even after the mayor and three members of the part-time city council voted to give up their 96,000 dollar a year salaries, people today are calling for their resignation.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you have a business and you know someone is stealing from you, are you going to let them stay a little longer because it's easier, or are you going to do everything you can to get them out as soon as possible?
LEWIS: Last week, the city manager, Robert Rizzo, was forced out after it was revealed he was earning 788,000 dollars a year, almost twice what President Obama makes. His retirement package could net him 710,000 a year. This after Rizzo severely slashed the city budget, laying off scores of workers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They told us there was no more funds for our departments.
LEWIS (on camera): The big question, how could all of this happen? How could city officials award themselves those lavish salaries while cutting jobs and services and hiking taxes?
(voice-over): The problem, according to good government groups, is that in California cities like Bell can set salaries in closed door meetings, although the amounts have to be reported to state pension plans.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our pension systems have known about this and are doing nothing to change it.
LEWIS: Now prosecutors are investigating as this city, appropriately named, is setting off alarm bells everywhere.
George Lewis, NBC News, Bell, California.
O'DONNELL: At this hour, the Associated Press is reporting that the L.A. district attorney's office is investigating allegations of voter fraud in Bell involving off-duty police officers reportedly going door to door with absentee ballots last year attempting to persuade voters. I'm joined now by Christina Garcia, who we met in George Lewis' report. She is a member of the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse.
Christina, you were paying your city manager what would get us four and a half governors here in the state of California, a state that I think maybe needs four and a half governors. When did you discover how much money these officials were making?
CHRISTINA GARCIA, COMMUNITY ACTIVIST: We knew that their salaries were over-inflated. But it wasn't until the "L.A. Times" actually broke the story that we knew the magnitude of the salaries.
O'DONNELL: What is your group trying to do at this point? You seem to have gotten rid of M. Rizzo. But is he really legally in line to get a pension around 700,000 dollars?
GARCIA: So far, that seems to be all of the indications. And the only way we know for sure we could revoke that pension is if we could prove that there was some sort of malfeasance and misuse of public funds, in which case there could be a criminal investigation and he could have a breach of contract.
O'DONNELL: So you taxpayers there could be paying that pension for decades at this point?
GARCIA: That is definitely the biggest injustice here, that not only has he bankrupted the community and bankrupted the democratic system, but we could be footing the bill for the next 20 years.
O'DONNELL: Is there anything in the voter fraud case that we've heard
is being developed this afternoon that is related to the salaries? Was
there some local ballot measure there that affected the salaries?3
GARCIA: In the state of California, we have limits on what local officials could earn, but not what appointed officials could earn. So in 2005, the city went from municipal general law into a charter law. So that was done through a special election. And that was how they gave themselves permission to be in cahoots, the council members with the city officials, to create these giant salaries and these giant pensions.
O'DONNELL: This is a case of political insider trading if there ever was one. I mean, these guys all making sure that each one of them was getting rich with your tax dollars. It seems that the litigation will go on for years trying to revoke these pensions. And the litigation, itself, will be very expensive, won't it?
GARCIA: Definitely. It seems to be that way. But I think the community needs justice and we need to send a message to the rest of the country that this is not OK and that we're not going to stand by this. I think not just the city of Bell, but residents across the whole country need to have faith in their government. And so I think this is just one of the steps that needs to happen.
I think that, you know, this type of investigation needs to happen across the United States, because this is not just something that happens in city of Bell. We see this in cities all over the place. We have these predatory individuals that come in and take advantage of the elements for their own personal benefit at the expense of the community.
O'DONNELL: Christina Garcia, thanks for your time tonight and good luck getting your tax money back from those crooks.
GARCIA: Thanks for having me.
O'DONNELL: That will do it for this Tuesday edition of Countdown. I'm Lawrence O'Donnell, in for Keith Olbermann. You can catch my new MSNBC show at 10:00 p.m. week nights this fall. Now to hear more about the Republicans voting no on war funding, I present Chris Hayes sitting in for Rachel Maddow again tonight. Good evening, Chris.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END