Thursday, January 12, 2012

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for Thursday, January 12th, 2012
video 'podcast'
Special bonus podcast (MLB Network Clubhouse Confidential)

Guest host: David Shuster

watch whole playlist

#5 'Raising Bain', Shira Toeplitz

#5 'Uncivil War', Andy Kroll

#4 'Super Pac-Men', Evan McMorris-Santoro
YouTube, (excerpt)

# Time Marches On!

#3 'Project Voter Fraud', Ryan Reilly

#2 'Duck And Cover-Up?', YouTube

#1 'Incoming!', Lizz Winstead
YouTube, (excerpt)

printable PDF transcript

On the show: , , , , , ,

DAVID SHUSTER: Which of these stories will you be talking about tomorrow?

Bain of his existence.

(Excerpt from video clip) MITT ROMNEY: I think, by the way, that in order to create private-sector jobs, it helps to have had a private-sector job.

SHUSTER: Romney goes on offense, not merely defending his record at Bain, but touting it, with a fractured GOP coming to his defense.

(Excerpt from video clip) RUDY GIULIANI: What the hell are you doing, Newt?

SHUSTER: One thing he isn't doing is dropping out, with several billionaire backers refusing to give up on their anti-Romney candidate.

Jimmy O'Keefe strikes again.

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER: Here you go, Mr. Beaulieu.

(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Now, I'll tell you what, I left my I.D. in the car. My identification.

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER: You don't need it. It's not required.

SHUSTER: Project Veritas attempts to reveal voter fraud at the New Hampshire primary - by committing voter fraud! The Attorney General is now considering charges. Thankfully, they have plenty of evidence.

And wealth and taxes. While Romney refuses to release his tax records, Warren Buffett causes a stir with his.

(Excerpt from video clip) MITCH MCCONNELL: With regards to his tax rate, if he's feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check.

(Excerpt from video clip) BUFFET: If we go to a contribution system, I'll match the total contributions made by all Republican members of Congress. And I'll even go 3-for-1 with McConnell.

SHUSTER: So, what's it gonna be Mitch? What are you - chicken? Oh, right, turtle.

All that and more, now, on "Countdown."

(Excerpt from video clip) BOY: I like turtles.


SHUSTER: Good evening from New York. This is Thursday, January 12th, 299 days until the 2012 presidential election. I'm David Shuster, sitting in for Keith Olbermann.

Mitt Romney is fighting back against charges he was a heartless, job-killing capitalist, while the Republican Party is now tearing itself apart over the Republicans using those charges to try and kill Romney's presidential run.

Our fifth story on the "Countdown" - tonight, the Romney campaign is reportedly preparing new advertisements to counter both Democratic and Republican attacks on his years running Bain Capital. The campaign hopes to negate comparisons between Romney's and Hollywood's most infamous venture capitalist Wall Street's Gordon Gecko.

(Excerpt from video clip) GORDON GECKO: I am not the destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them. The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed - for lack of a better word - is good.

SHUSTER: But is it fair to compare Romney to Oliver Stone's caricature of a ruthless company killer? Romney insisted again, today, that we should focus on four businesses Bain Capital helped to start - Staples, Bright Horizons, Children's Center, and the Sports Authority.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Those four alone added well over 100,000 jobs and then the press has also reported on businesses that lost employment. And that was a few thousand jobs that were lost.

SHUSTER: Romney also dripped a few tears for the job cuts that followed many of Bain's corporate restructurings.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: Sometimes, businesses in trouble have to shed employment to try and maintain a brighter future and ultimately survive and then hopefully grow again. I wish it never involved any reduction of employment but unfortunately, over time it has.

SHUSTER: But at least one of Romney's Republican critics is keeping up the attacks. Newt Gingrich did not back down on Bain today, despite telling a South Carolina voter yesterday that President Obama's "class warfare" made it impossible to rationally discuss Romney's corporate career.

This morning Gingrich told "Fox and Friends" that, where Bain was concerned:

(Excerpt from video clip) NEWT GINGRICH: When you have a circumstance where they made a lot of money and the company went broke, it's legitimate to ask the question - and this is the whole Wall Street problem - how come the big boys made a lot of money and they went broke?

SHUSTER: Meanwhile, Democrats are enjoying Gingrich and Texas Governor Rick Perry going for broke over Romney and Bain.

One Obama campaign strategist said that "having the Republicans eat their own actually makes the Bain story more potent than we ever could, because it instantly validates it as a line of attack."

And a senior Democratic strategist added, "Now the charges about his status as a corporate raider enjoy the luster of bipartisanship."

For more on the Romney campaign struggle to push back the attacks on his years at Bain Capital, we are joined by Shira Toeplitz, who writes on politics for Roll Call. Shira, good evening.

SHIRA TOEPLITZ: Good evening. Thanks for having me on the show, David.

SHUSTER: Of course.

Romney's South Carolina comments today, insisting again that Bain added well over 100,000 jobs and lost just a few thousand more - do those numbers hold up? And has the Romney campaign offered any specifics, besides telling - besides Romney telling reporters to check the websites of the four firms that he mentioned?

TOEPLITZ: That's exactly what Romney's staff has been telling reporters. And I think that's one of the big problems here, is - we don't have good way to verify these numbers.

These companies, venture-capitalist firms, are notorious for how secretive they are. And you just can't get these numbers. It's not like we are dealing with the federal government - we can FOIA numbers, we can put in press requests, all of that kind of thing - we just can't get at these numbers.

But, in a way - I hate to say it - the truth doesn't matter that much. What matters in politics is the impression it's left on his candidacy. And I think it's fairly great.

SHUSTER: And speaking of impressions, Romney's efforts to show empathy with people who lost jobs in corporate restructurings - how much work does he have to do to make that the story line instead of his claim that he, too, once feared being fired and that he liked firing people?

TOEPLITZ: I think he has a lot of work to do in that department. First of all, he has never been known - neither in his 2008 run or in this current run, or even in his previous runs for governor and for Senate - he's never been known as, like, a cuddly, fuzzy kind of candidate. All right? You don't want to give Mitt Romney a hug when you see him, okay, like you do with some other candidates.

So, I think that this is definitely a problem for him. He is going to have to do some work. I think the campaign is beginning to start that work by touting his accomplishments, but he can't overplay it. It is going to look really false. And when things look fake on Mitt, they really look fake on Mitt. So he can't overdo it.

SHUSTER: And the Democratic strategists, gloating over these GOP attacks - are Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich really doing the Democrats' work for them?

TOEPLITZ: I think they are opening the door. But Democrats - I saw the Democratic quotes you ran earlier - I think, publicly, they are saying that they are happy Republicans are taking out the trash for them.

But really, I bet a lot of this they wanted in their arsenal for the general election. This was the prime stuff. Right? This was the good stuff they thought they could attack Mitt Romney with come, you know, August, September, October. If they face Mitt Romney, this is what they wanted to run. They want to run against the Mitt Romney - the picture with dollar bills coming out of his suit, okay? I think by doing this now, it makes it less salient down the line. The only way this is good for Democrats, is if the attacks work and he doesn't win the nomination.

SHUSTER: What about the flip side - that, perhaps, it sort of lays the groundwork for these similar attacks in the fall, that voters will have an opportunity, perhaps, to hear about them now from Newt and Rick Perry, but again, certainly from the Obama campaign, come the summer and fall?

TOEPLITZ: Only if there is more down the line. I think voters have a pretty short attention span once they have heard something, once they have it in their head and they remember it. I think you need to see more of it, you need to see more revelations of the kind of stuff that Newt Gingrich is talking about to really make it damaging for Mitt Romney - more companies.

From what I hear, there is definitely more out there. I mean, venture capitalism is not a pretty business. Okay? It doesn't elicit kind, happy feelings. It's about making a profit. And that doesn't sit well with a lot of people.

SHUSTER: And later in the show, we are going to be talking about Mitt Romney refusing to release his tax documents and records and what we can glean based on his FCC records. But, how nervous is the Romney campaign - and his supporters in Washington - about the, sort of, general direction, the tone this race is going right now?

TOEPLITZ: I think they are pretty confident after New Hampshire, generally. They feel like they are in a pretty good spot, but they were caught off guard by this attack.

They knew this would always come down the pipelines. They knew this was in the opposition research book that everyone who has run against Mitt Romney - big old fat binder, they knew this was in here. I don't think they knew it would come this soon, David.

SHUSTER: Shira Toeplitz, politics writer for Roll Call. Shira, thanks for your time tonight. We appreciate it.

TOEPLITZ: Thanks for having me.

SHUSTER: While the Romney campaign is preparing to defend itself from the wave of attacks on his Bain record by Republican candidates, other GOP stalwarts are stepping up to attack the chief culprits - Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry - starting with John McCain.

(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN MCCAIN: These attacks on Bain Capital is really kind of anathema to everything that we believe in.

SHUSTER: Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani praised his own ties to Perry and Gingrich, then told Fox News -

(Excerpt from video clip) RUDY GIULIANI: What they are doing to Mitt right now is totally, absolutely unfair and bad for the Republican Party.

SHUSTER: It also cost Rick Perry a key donor. On Wednesday, Perry had this to say about Romney's performance at Bain Capital:

(Excerpt from video clip) RICK PERRY: I understand the difference between venture capital and vulture capitalism.

SHUSTER: But today, Perry backer Barry Wynn, an investment fund executive and major GOP donor, told the Associated Press he was dropping Perry for Romney. Wynn said that Perry's vulture capitalism had crossed the line: "It's like fingernails on the chalk board. It just kind of irritated you to hear those kind of attacks."

And that may be why Perry had this to say about unfettered capitalism today:

(Excerpt from video clip) PERRY: I love capitalism. I mean, free-market capitalism in the state of Texas has created over a million jobs.

SHUSTER: Apparently, Sarah Palin didn't get the memo. The Fox News contributor and former GOP candidate for the vice presidency was still backing Perry's assault of Romney last night.

(Excerpt from video clip) SARAH PALIN: What Governor Perry is getting at is that Governor Romney has claimed to have created 100,000 jobs at Bain, and, you know, people are wanting to know - is there proof of that claim? And was it U.S. jobs created for United States citizens?

SHUSTER: As for Newt Gingrich, last month, he claimed he would make former Bush UN Ambassador John Bolton his Secretary of State if elected. Today, Bolton announced he was backing Mitt Romney, in a statement that read in part, "Mitt Romney possesses the strongest vision for America's leadership role in the world."

And New York Republican Congressman Peter King piled on. He told the New York Daily News, "All Newt ever cared about was Newt. He absolutely doesn't care if bringing Romney down destroys his own party."

However, Rick Santorum stayed clear from Bain today. Instead, he attacked Romney by insisting the GOP needed a different candidate - one who would make a clear contrast with President Obama, "not just a paler shade of what we have."

For more on the fratricide that's tearing the GOP presidential field apart, we are joined by Andy Kroll, staff reporter with Mother Jones. Andy, good to have you tonight.

ANDY KROLL: Thanks for having me.

SHUSTER: Could anyone have imagined Newt Gingrich attacking Mitt Romney over his pension for unfettered capitalism as part of this campaign?

KROLL: No, I think the - the establishment Republicans have sort of grabbed their heads in pure shock and awe because Newt Gingrich, one of their own, has just gone off and attacked Mitt Romney up and down - in New Hampshire and South Carolina - for his time at Bain capital.

He has branded him a corporate raider. He has said what he does is destroying jobs in small town America, and the pro-Gingrich super PAC "Winning Our Future" put out this 27-minute documentary, which is something we haven't seen yet at all in this campaign, attacking Mitt Romney. "When Mitt Came to Town," as it's called.

So, I think this is quite a surprise for Republicans. Even from Newt Gingrich, who has been a wild card plenty of times in the past.

SHUSTER: South Carolina politics - presidential politics in particular - can be notoriously brutal, as John McCain learned in 2000, when McCain won the New Hampshire primary and then Karl Rove and George W. Bush decided to destroy his White House shot in South Carolina. By those standards, how tough are these attacks on Romney?

KROLL: Well, South Carolina, of course, is the state that brought us Lee Atwater, so the standards there - or, rather, the, you know, the attacks we have seen there get quite nasty. I wouldn't say that this is at Willie Horton level or that this is at some of the garbage that got thrown at John McCain in 2000, but this is some of the nastiest - some of the nastiest attack ads we have seen this campaign. It's not surprising they have come out in South Carolina. You know, I think Newt has a little ways to go before he starts get into Atwater territory.

SHUSTER: And as far as Rick Perry is concerned, he is, apparently, backing off after losing a major donor while Newt Gingrich seems to be doubling down. Is this just personal for Gingrich, at this point? I mean, Romney destroyed him in Iowa so Gingrich is gonna try to do the same to Romney in South Carolina?

KROLL: You have to think, in the back of Newt's mind, he is thinking revenge. He was flying high, he was leading in national polls and then the pro-Romney super PAC "Restore Our Future" comes along and drops a $2 million bomb on Newt Gingrich's campaign and just attacks him for everything that's ever been published about Newt Gingrich. There is this ethics scandal that sunk Newt's career. "Restore Our Future" is dredging this up again.

So you have to think, "Okay, Newt is not only competing, you know, presumably competing for the nomination. He is getting back at Romney a little bit for essentially nuking his campaign back in Iowa."

SHUSTER: And Gingrich has made a point of saying he is toughening up Romney. If Romney is going to be the nominee, better for Romney to get used to this stuff now. How come so much of the Republican establishment is jumping down Gingrich and simply rejecting that kind of argument?

KROLL: The establishment knows that Mitt Romney is going to be the nominee, plain and simple. He won in Iowa. He won in New Hampshire. He is leading in the polls in South Carolina and Florida.

The establishment does not want their nominee to emerge from this process cut up, bloodied and bruised. They want a candidate that can compete, as best as possible, with Barack Obama. Whereas Newt Gingrich is giving cover to the Democrats. Like you said, there is this bipartisan sheen now to attacking Bain Capital. And the establishment Republicans don't want that.

You know, I think the thing with Newt is, you know - Peter King, dare I say it, is actually right. When Newt makes decisions, Newt cares about Newt. And he is going to buck the trend, he is going to say, you know, "To hell with you, establishment Republicans. If I am going to attack Mitt Romney, I am going to do it."

SHUSTER: It was also so intriguing last night to see Sarah Palin, who's backing Rick Perry and also - actually is backing Perry's attack on Romney, not backing his candidacy. But her role - is she just maintaining a role as sort of a faux populist or is she more of a mischief-making person like Newt?

KROLL: Sarah Palin has never turned down an opportunity to jump in the limelight and, you know, jump on the pile or add fuel to the fire. This is just another example of that. She wants to claim that Mitt Romney is a "vulture capitalist," too. Well, you know, no one really listens to Sarah Palin anyway. But this is classic on her part.

SHUSTER: Well, we are listening to Sarah Palin because of something she said about Mitt Romney's tax returns that he won't make public. But in any case, we will talk about that later.

Andy Kroll. Andy, thanks as always. We appreciate it.

KROLL: Thank you.

SHUSTER: And coming up, we do have some new information about what is in Mitt Romney's tax returns and why he doesn't want those returns made public. But just ahead, the billionaires behind the super PAC ads that are shaping the Republican race. You are watching "Countdown."


SHUSTER: It usually goes with the territory running for President means putting your entire life under a microscope. But Mitt Romney says his tax returns will remain under seal. Well, in the documents he was required to file with the Federal Election Commission we've found some sugarplums.

James O'Keefe appears to be facing more legal troubles. The conservative activist, who posed as a pimp at ACORN and trespassed on a senator's phone system, apparently led a group to commit voter fraud Tuesday in New Hampshire. Prosecutors have begun an investigation.

Billionaire Warren Buffett is threatening to shame every member of Congress. We will explain that.

And the bowling professional who wasn't, in "Time Marches On."


SHUSTER: The Supreme Court ruled. The super PAC was born. And now the billionaires are taking advantage.

In our fourth story on the "Countdown" - what money can buy in the 2012 presidential campaign, particularly if you're a candidate-backing billionaire.

Up first, Sheldon Adelson, a Las Vegas casino mogul. According to business magazines, he is the eighth richest person in America. And according to Federal Election Commission records, he is the single biggest donor to the 2012 election so far. He has given $5 million to "Winning Our Future" - a super PAC backing Newt Gingrich. That group has used some of its vast resources to fund a 30-minute anti-Romney ad, parts of which are now airing in television commercials, and the entire film now posted on the Internet.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: There are a lot of reasons not to elect me.

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: No matter how much they already had, they just could never get enough money.

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN #2: He is more apt to put 'em out of work than he is to put them back to work.

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: They just don't know how jobs are created in the private sector. That's where I spent my entire career.

SHUSTER: And while the campaign of Jon Huntsman, Junior can't afford to put TV ads on the air, Hunstman's billionaire father can. Jon Huntsman, Senior - a former chemical and manufacturing company executive - has reportedly invested millions in "Our Destiny" PAC - a group which has spent more than 2 million on behalf of Huntsman the candidate, and on ads like this:

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: They've risen, they've fallen. Until two serious candidates remain. One willing to say anything, be anything, one who can one who can actually do the job.

SHUSTER: Over in Rick Santorum's corner - Foster Friess, an investment executive, and a major financial backer of the "Red, White and Blue Fund" - a group which can largely claim credit for the advertising that helped fuel Santorum's come-from-behind, close-second finish in the Iowa caucus. While Santorum's campaign spent a mere $22,000 on ads in that state, the "Red White and Blue Fund" spent $537,000 to promote the candidate.

(Excerpt from video clip) MAN: He's the principled conservative. Rick Santorum. Champion. Leader. Reformer. Rick Santorum is determined and will never waver.

SHUSTER: Even though two out of those three billionaire-funded super PACs have set their sites on Mitt Romney, don't feel too badly for the Massachusetts Governor. Ten of the top 20 donors to the 2012 election have given sizable contributions to "Restore Our Future." That would be the pro-Romney super PAC, also the largest single ad buyer so far this cycle. The group has spent just under nine million dollars since the beginning of December on ads like this one:

(Excerpt from video clip) WOMAN: Newt Gingrich's attacks are called "foolish," "out of bounds" and "disgusting." Newt attacks because he has more baggage than the airlines. Newt was fined $300,000 for ethics violations, took $1.6 million from Freddie Mac, and co-sponsored a bill with Nancy Pelosi.

SHUSTER: The Gingrich campaign is threatening to sue stations that air that spot, arguing the claim that Gingrich was fined $300,000 for ethics violations is false. "Restore Our Future" is standing by the ad. So, what does the last GOP presidential nominee think about all the billionaire-funded rhetoric? Today, Senator John McCain called the rise of the super PAC "terrible."

(Excerpt from video clip) JOHN McCAIN: You can put the responsibility right at the doorstep at the Supreme Court. Incredible naivety, ignorance of the real world of politics - it was outrageous. And, I predict to you, there will be huge scandals associated with this huge flood of money.

SHUSTER: One final note - of the top 20 donors to the 2012 election thus far, 17 have given to Republican or conservative groups and candidates. Only three have given to Democratic or liberal groups and candidates.

Joining us now from South Carolina, where he is covering the primaries for Talking Points Memo, Evan McMorris-Santoro. Evan, thanks for your time tonight.

EVAN McMORRIS-SANTORO: Hey, David how are you?

SHUSTER: Good. Describe what's happening over the airwaves now in South Carolina. Is it possible to overstate the impact of big money in the South Carolina primary battle?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: You could try to overstate it, but it would be hard. Just a little example of how things have been since I been here - I got here Monday night, before the New Hampshire primary had been declared and they were still campaigning up there.

I watched the New Hampshire returns from my hotel room here in Columbia. I watched Fox News as the returns came in, and - within minutes of Mitt Romney's acceptance speech - the following ad break was chock full of these negative super PAC ads that you're talking about. And they are running pretty much non-stop since then. On the radio, they are running. On television, they are running. This is a battle of the super PACs down here, and that's where we are. That's where we are at and that's what we have been seeing since Tuesday night.

SHUSTER: The Supreme Court Citizens United decision, which essentially opened the door - even if it were to be overturned, couldn't some of these billionaires find some other loopholes to fund their candidates?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, there is something interesting in that. I think, on the one hand, they always seem to find a way to get in if they want to. We have seen a lot of chances - attempts to try to stop them before, stop big money from being in politics before. It's never really worked as the people who planned it had hoped it would.

But an interesting thing in this race is that the candidates on this trail - a lot of Republican candidates are talking about campaign-finance reform, in a way, but the campaign-finance reform they are talking about would actually open the door to more billionaire donations.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum have talked about plans to - just sort of have unlimited donations with full disclosure, the idea is everything is disclosed but there's no limits at all, which would just sort of open the door to as big contributions as these guys could possibly add in - or could possibly send.

SHUSTER: As we just heard before, John McCain said, "I predict to you there will be scandals associated with this huge flood of money." Is he right?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, you know, it wouldn't - it's not a hard thing to predict. That's not a tough prediction to make. You know, something about money and politics that seems to always go together like this and, you know, they always say that, "Sunshine is the best disinfectant."

And one of the hard things about the way money works in this election is - so much of it is hidden from view, that it's hard to know where it comes from. It's hard to audit it and figure out where it's coming from.

And that is a recipe, I think - as somebody who's watched this for a few years - that's a recipe for something wrong to happen.

SHUSTER: Are there any particular lessons the candidates, this time around, and the super PACs are learning about the ad strategies, based on the race so far?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Well, if you look at it this way, I think the idea - what they've have learned is that, really, going negative and going loud and going big is really important.

Newt Gingrich, you know, obviously, he was up in Iowa. He was doing well in the polls in Iowa, and he was giving Mitt Romney a run for his money and then, all of the sudden, there is a huge ad buy from Mitt Romney's super PAC and just, sort of, squashes Newt Gingrich right down and squashes his chance of getting the Iowa caucus win just dead away.

And so, now you see him in South Carolina - he is going big. His super PACs are doing a big, huge buy - big, negative buy against Romney. Then you see Romney putting a lot money down here. Romney is putting a lot of money down in Florida already.

I think the lesson is - big buys, a lot of time, blanket the air waves, and, you know, go negative if you have to and, you know, go negative a lot.

SHUSTER: Do the campaigns, Evan, believe that these billionaires funding the super PACs are really good for the system?

McMORRIS-SANTORO: Like I said, it's true that you have seen Rick Perry - well, you're seen Newt Gingrich definitely - Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum all say they don't like these super PACs. They all rely on them to a certain extent, but they don't like them.

But then again, as I said before, their actual solution to this problem is to make it easier for billionaires and for rich people and for anyone to just give money directly to a candidate with unlimited access. So, while they don't like the idea of how the super PACs work, they are not certainly against the idea of a single player giving a ton of money to a candidate and influencing the election that way.

SHUSTER: Evan McMorris-Santoro. Evan, great reporting tonight. We appreciate it and thanks for your time.


SHUSTER: Coming up, multi-millionaire Mitt Romney is still refusing to release his tax returns. Perhaps it's because of his off-shore investments in the Caymans, or the 15 percent rate he paid on much of his income here in the United States.

But up next, for all of you dog lovers out there, have you ever played fetch with Fido and thrown the ball into a big pile of leaves? In "Time Marches On."


SHUSTER: Coming up, wannabe gotcha artist James O'Keefe attempts to prove voter fraud in the New Hampshire primary - by committing voter fraud?

But first, the "Sanity Break," and it was on this day in 1951 Rush Hudson Limbaugh the Third was born in Missouri. Born a giant whining baby, in many ways Rush hasn't changed much at all.

After graduating from high school in 1969, Rush would go on to drop out of Southeast Missouri State University after only two semesters. Rush later gained national fame in 2003 for being the subject of a prescription-drug investigation, after he obtained two thousand prescription painkillers over the course of six months.

I believe Mister Limbaugh also does a radio show on the side.

"Time Marches On!"

VIDEO: Aunt Carol dances to Usher in her kitchen.

We begin, as we always do, with senior citizens dancing to the music of Usher.

Aunt Carol is showing off her moves, while also showing off her awesome kitchen. That's right kids, that's an electric can opener on the counter. All part of the baller lifestyle.

Look for Aunt Carol on next season's "So You Think You Can Dance."

VIDEO: Willow the dog goes spelunking for ball in a pile of leaves.

To the world of dogs.

Willow, here, loves playing fetch, especially when it's a real challenge. So, when the ball goes into a pile of leaves, Willow is up to the task.

Humans call it finding a needle in a haystack, but the saying in the dog world is finding a ball in a pile of leaves.

Willow makes several attempts, coming up every so often for air. Eventually, upon her final dive, Willow comes up with the ball. She said she much prefers this whole fetch game she's asked to play in the spring.

VIDEO: Pro bowler gets thumb stuck in ball on release.

Finally, in sports, rookie bowler Josh Blanchard is making his first PBA television appearance. Let's see how it goes.

Here's the approach, and - oh, right, the release. Looks like Josh forgot one major part of the process.

Not the best day at the alley for Blanchard. He later claimed it wasn't him in that footage, he was framed.

"Time Marches On!"

Up next, conservative activist James O'Keefe did community service the last time he broke the law. Is he now looking at potential jail time? O'Keefe appears to have broken election laws in New Hampshire.

And later, federal election laws require presidential candidates to file financial disclosure forms with the FEC. Mitt Romney's forms are eye-popping, and they offer some new clues about his tax returns that he's keeping under seal.


SHUSTER: We bring you "Countdown" live each night at 8pm Eastern. Primary replays at 11pm and 2am Eastern.

Master of disguise and guerilla gotcha artist James O'Keefe has struck again, exposing the non-existent problem of voter fraud in New Hampshire.

In our third story on the "Countdown" - the conservative filmmaker and others working on behalf of Project Veritas are now facing a criminal investigation by that state's attorney general. There was every indication that O'Keefe and his colleagues committed voter fraud at primary polling locations Tuesday night. Undercover video shows O'Keefe's crew trying to get ballots from poll workers in Nashua and Manchester by posing as residents who had recently died - including impersonating a man who passed away only 10 days earlier.

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER: First name?

(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Robert.

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER: Robert William?

(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Yeah. Robert Beaulieu.

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER: Now, I've got the right one, right, Rob? Robert? Cassandra. Now, because I've got another William -

(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Right, it's Robert.

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER #2: And you've got a democratic ballot. There you go -

(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Now, I'll tell you what, I've left my I.D. in the car, my identification.

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER #2: You don't need it. It's not required.

(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: I don't need it? I'll go get it anyway. If you don't mind. I prefer to. I don't need identification?

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER: Nope.

(Excerpt from video clip) CAMERAMAN: Oh, boy.

(Excerpt from video clip) POLL WORKER: No, you don't as long as you're on our registered poll list you're allowed to vote.

SHUSTER: In operating an undercover sting to highlight the fantasy of voter fraud, O'Keefe's allies appear to commit voter fraud themselves and could face federal- and state-level criminal charges for procuring ballots under false names, as well as for violating New Hampshire's law against hidden recording devices.

The right-wing fixation with voter fraud is largely used as a justification for passing restrictive ballot-access measures designed to suppress voter turnout among people who tend to vote for Democrats. According to a study, though, by the Brennan Center for Justice - people are far more likely to be struck by lightning than impersonate anyone at the polls.

But these facts haven't stopped little Jimmy O'Keefe from wondering why he hasn't won a Pulitzer yet. On Wednesday, he told the Boston Herald, "I notice a hostility from the media establishment towards us. The journalism establishment is not very friendly to me or to our work product, when they've been using these tactics for decades."

For more, let's bring in Ryan Reilly, reporter with Talking Points Memo. Ryan, thanks for your time tonight.

RYAN REILLY: Thanks so much for having me.

SHUSTER: Regarding O'Keefe's last claim - I have never broken the law while reporting a story. Has anybody at Talking Points ever done that?

REILLY: Not that I am aware of.

SHUSTER: Has voter fraud ever been a problem in New Hampshire?

REILLY: You know, it really - there is no evidence that it has or, specifically, in-person voter, impersonation voter fraud has not been an issue. Nor has it been across the country. And that's really what voter photo I.D. laws would prevent. Specifically, in this investigation, there was - there is an issue with the - I'm sorry - with the in-person fraud, whereas absentee-ballot fraud which is actually - could actually, potentially, be an issue wouldn't be prevented by a photo I.D. law.

SHUSTER: A federal prosecutor in New Hampshire, Mark Zuckerman, is reviewing the Project Veritas video. In most cases, O'Keefe's agents received ballots but did not actually vote, in spite of O'Keefe's assertions that his team had the ability to cast more than a dozen votes. Does it matter, according to election law experts, whether they actually voted or is simply obtaining ballots under false pretenses, is that, itself, enough to charge O'Keefe's crew?

REILLY: Right. The voter experts - voting experts I spoke with said it really isn't an issue. Federal law bans the procurement, as well as the casting, of ballots that have false information. So, just by simply obtaining the ballots - that could be a violation. So, this is both an investigation on the state and the federal level.

SHUSTER: And I know that, as far as federal criminal law, you have to prove intent. And it seems like O'Keefe has already made that pretty easy for prosecutors to do, because - yes, he intended to do this.

But never mind the potential criminal investigation. Any chance of civil lawsuits being brought by families of those who died and had their identity grabbed by Keefe's gang?

REILLY: That would certainly be at their discretion. There hasn't been any indications of that yet. But, however, I did see an interview with one of - a widow of one of the individuals who was impersonated by an affiliate of O'Keefe, and seemed pretty upset with the circumstances in which it took place.

The interesting thing was - they only took individuals who had died within a very recent period, who hadn't yet been cleared off of the voting rolls. And, in order for a scheme to operate on a massive scale like this, it would take a significant amount of effort. There is a limited pool of candidates which you could impersonate.

And, like they found out in this investigation, there are a number of trip wires. Individuals could recognize you at the polling station - as happened to one of the individuals who was working on this investigation - and there are just a number of potential things that could go wrong. So that's why, really - schemes like this to steal votes individually at the polling station aren't really effective and rarely happen.

SHUSTER: Fox News has been a crucial media ally for O'Keefe to promote his guerilla exposes. Most notably, following his ACORN sting, appearing on that hour clad in pimp attire. Last night, Fox promoted a claim from South Carolina's Attorney General Allen Wilson who said that the records in his state indicate over 900 residents cast votes after their reported death day, but the official who publicized the discrepancy said the error could be due to voters casting absentee ballots before their deaths. Is this the only known attempt at in-person voter fraud and, if you plan on committing voter fraud, is in-person voter fraud the worst way?

REILLY: It is. It is actually the worst way you can possibly go about this. It's a very ineffective way of trying to steal an election. In order to do that, again, you would have to have an organized effort and there are plenty of ways that you could already get caught.

New Hampshire doesn't have, like many other states, make you actually sign a piece of paper when you accept your ballot. So that's something that could, potentially, have prevented this as well. They do have some lax rules. But the idea that a specific D.M.V.-issued voter identification is the only thing that could have prevented this really doesn't square with the facts.

SHUSTER: Ryan Reilly, from Ryan, thanks for your time tonight. We appreciate it.

REILLY: Thanks for having me.

SHUSTER: You are welcome.

Coming up, Mitt Romney is refusing to release his tax returns. But, like all presidential candidates, he did to file financial disclosure forms with the Federal Election Commission. And we've found some sugarplums.

Plus, the battle over tax rates intensified today with a remarkable debate over the airwaves between billionaire Warren Buffet and millionaire Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.

This is "Countdown."


SHUSTER: Just ahead, billionaire Warren Buffett is promising to squeeze a millionaire Senate Republican leader.

And speaking of multi-millionaires, up next, Mitt Romney is refusing to release his tax returns. However, documents at the Federal Election Commission give us a good idea of what Romney is trying to hide.


SHUSTER: Four years ago, when Mitt Romney first ran for the Republican presidential nomination, he refused to release his tax returns. And in this campaign, Romney is refusing again and he keeps responding to the tax return request with this:

(Excerpt from video clip) ROMNEY: You never say never to questions of - that people have, but I'm going to do the things that are required under the law of the United States and, respectively, of my state when I was there. That's what we did and that's what the people expect.

SHUSTER: Actually, Governor, people expect you to release your tax returns.

As a Washington Post editorial put it this week, "Mr. Romney's determined lack of transparency represents a striking and disturbing departure from the past practice of presidential candidates of both parties."

And in your case, Governor, it's even more disturbing.

You see, we've actually looked at the financial disclosure forms that you, and all candidates, are required to file. And in your case, the disclosure forms reveal that you and your wife have millions of dollars in offshore accounts. Your offshore funds are in the Cayman Islands and other places that give huge tax advantages to investors.

I appreciate the statement by your campaign that "the Romney's have paid taxes on all income, including offshore investments." However, the tax rates and income levels are not specified in the disclosure forms.

So, by with holding your tax returns, we do not know how much you've earned, where all of your investments are and what tax rates you've paid on your earnings. In other words, things are unclear.

However, here's what we can deduce.

It's public knowledge that you made most of your fortune running Bain Capital, a company that buys other companies. We also know that firms like Bain, as well as hedge funds, qualify for a 15 percent tax rate on what is known as "carried interest." Carried interest means the profits made on investment deals.

And given how successful you say you were as Bain's CEO, I'm sure your investment profits were huge. And, I suspect those huge profits, and most of your income, qualified as carried interest and got taxed at 15 percent.

Most middle-class Americans, as you know, derive their income from salaries and wages, not investment deals, and their rate to the IRS is 28 percent. Your 15 percent versus most voters' 28 percent.

Governor, I'm correct, aren't I? This is the reason you won't release your tax returns, right?

Look, I get it. You are probably staring at a huge political liability. And the damage from releasing your tax information might be far worse than any criticism you ever get by keeping your tax returns under seal.

But, as you stand for your own political expediency, I'm wondering - do you feel any obligation to the primary and caucus voters in your party? Don't they deserve to have full information before they make their choice for the Republican nomination? Even Sarah Palin understands what you are up to. And her view is insightful.

(Excerpt from video clip) SARAH PALIN: Barack Obama and his machine and the billion dollars that he has got behind him will bring all this stuff out anyway. Let's get it all out there. Let's hear the defense of the candidates who are being charged with some of this. It's kind of like some "come to Jesus" moments for these candidates and that's healthy and that's good.

SHUSTER: Governor Romney, Palin is right on this one. Releasing your tax returns would be healthy and good. Maybe not for you, but it would certainly be good for the voters.

And the fact is, you are the one who has chosen to run for President and trust the judgment of the American people. To that end you've repeatedly touted your success as Bain CEO. If you now cannot be transparent about your CEO income and about the taxes you paid, you should get out of this race.


SHUSTER: Most of their protests camps may be gone for the winter, but the Occupy movement continues to have a huge impact on the conscience of America.

In our number-one story - the notion of a conflict between rich and poor has now reached its highest point in 25 years. The Pew Research Center asks respondents if there was conflict between the rich and poor in America. A staggering 66 percent indicated they thought there are "strong or very strong conflicts." And that's a 19 percent jump from two years ago.

Part of this is due to the higher percentage of respondents who believe the rich are not sharing the appropriate economic burden. It's a notion billionaire Warren Buffett expressed in an op-ed in August.

Using his own office as an example, Buffet showed how the tax burden is disproportionately placed on the backs of the middle class. "What I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income - and that's actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent."

This set off a firestorm of criticism from Republicans. Now, they claim Buffett's words were merely a case of "rich man's guilt".

(Excerpt from video clip) MITCH McCONNELL: With regard to his tax rate, if he is feeling guilty about it, I think he should send in a check.

SHUSTER: Senator John Thune went as far as to introduce the Buffett Rule Act of 2011 which would add a space on tax forms, asking for contributions to pay down the debt.

In an interview with Time Magazine, Buffett responded. First, he mocked the Republican's idea of bringing down the debt through public donations. Then he issued a challenge to all Republicans, and he singled out the top Republican in the U.S. Senate.

(Excerpt from video clip) WARREN BUFFET: I'll match the total contribution made by all Republican members of Congress and I'll even go three-for-one with McConnell.

SHUSTER: Unfortunately, it doesn't seem the Republicans will take Mr. Buffett up on his offer.

A spokesman for Senator McConnell said, "So I look forward to Mr. Buffett matching a healthy batch of checks from those who actually want to pay higher taxes, including Congressional Democrats, the president and the DNC."

Ah, yes, shift the burden again.

Joining us now is Lizz Winstead - comedienne, co-creator of "The Daily Show," and author of the upcoming book "Lizz Free or Die." She is also a host on, 1480AM in Washington, DC. Lizz, thanks for your time tonight.

LIZZ WINSTEAD: Good to see you, David.

SHUSTER: Lizz, this drastic 19-point jump in the Pew poll of people who think there is a strong conflict between the rich and poor - is this because the Occupy movement brought income inequality to the forefront of people's minds, or was this a feeling that was, essentially, already growing?

WINSTEAD: You know, I really give the Occupy movement, like, 99 percent of the credit, no pun intended. I didn't mean that to be a joke.

I think that it was on the consciousness of people's minds and it was, you know, these Americans finally just said, "You know what? Why aren't we talking about this, when the promise has been - through the Bush tax cuts, that the reason we were giving rich people these tax cuts - was they were going to create jobs and then there was no jobs."

It became blatantly obvious there was no jobs and rich people were getting richer and that enough was enough.

SHUSTER: And, perhaps, was this feeling of conflict inevitable - with the top one percent's income climbing so quickly, while middle-class wages have, essentially, remained relatively stagnant.

WINSTEAD: Stagnant and fallen and, you know, I think - as people were looking at how the country was going and even, you look at Romney's tax plan, you know, nothing - there is not one bit of the tax plan that even remotely closes any loopholes. And actually, taxes will go up on those people even more.

I just feel like, also, the promise - if you will recall - when Boehner was so hopped up on making sure we made the tax cuts permanent, he said the way we could pay for them is to have people working until they are 70. And it's like - people aren't working now.

I don't mean to - I am no economic person, but seems that they have to be working at some point. And 70-year-olds are not the new college kids. I don' think that it's the new place you want to go for hiring. It's just ridiculous.

SHUSTER: In the same Pew poll, 46 percent of respondents suggested the majority of the rich have their money because of "personal connections" or "inherited from their family." Does this mean that people will begin to reject the Republican idea of "Don't tax the rich," because they are the "job creators?"

WINSTEAD: Yeah. And when they see, I think part of, I think, what doesn't get talked about enough is that - nobody cares that someone gets rich by working hard and making a lot of money. I think what people get affected by is that very thing you just said, which is that you were just given this wealth. It's not like you worked hard and you made all this money and you are going to create jobs and give it back.

Not to mention the other things. All of the people that affect us in our daily lives aren't making nearly as much as people who push money around and make money off of investments. Nurses, teachers, doctors, firemen, cops are barely scraping by on the money they make, and I think that's the part that gets very insulting.

You know, you and I are overpaid, you know, blabbers. And we know that. We know that. And so, when I look at what I do - which is tell jokes to drunks about politicians for money - and I get paid more than a teacher? I feel obligated to give back. I just do.

And the fact you don't leads me to ask the question - are there just two kinds of people? Are there people who have a moral responsibility, that they know they are overpaid for their job, to give back and those who say, "What's mine is mine and what's yours is mine sometimes?"

SHUSTER: Turning to Warren Buffett's challenge, why don't think Republicans won't accept it?

WINSTEAD: 'Cause they don't have to. If none of them accept it, then they are fine with it. They can keep on with their meme of, "Oh, Warren Buffett is just somebody who is complaining."

Not to mention, I think that the only thing these Republicans are going to respond to is that the folks who make a lot of money actually vote for people, vote them out of office and vote for people who say, "You know what? I am willing to pay more. I am rich. I want to vote people in who want to make me pay more." Then there is a wake-up call to them. Then I think they will reconsider.

Until then, there is kind of no proof that wealthy people are going to take the bait and go along with it. They need to vote guys out of office to show they are serious.

SHUSTER: Lizz Winstead, comedienne, co-creator of The Daily Show, and author of the up-coming book "Lizz Free or Die." Lizz, thanks so much. We really appreciate it.

WINSTEAD: Thanks, David.

SHUSTER: Be sure to listen to Lizz's show at, 1480AM on the radio in Washington, D.C.

That is it for our show tonight. I am David Shuster. On behalf of all of us at "Countdown," thanks for watching, everybody. Have a great night.