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Public Statements

MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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Why has Sherrod Brown become such a target? We`ll ask him. Senator Brown joins us now in a HARDBALL "Dirty, Angry Money" segment.

Senator, why you?

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Well, I think why me is because I`ve been a strong progressive voice. I assume it`s oil companies spending money in Ohio because of my opposition to tax breaks for the oil industry.

I assume it`s Wall Street banks because I want to end -- my legislation to
end "too big to fail," to really end "too big to fail." I assume it`s the companies that want to outsource American jobs and benefit from that outsourcing because of my Chinese currency jobs bill. I don`t know for sure, but I think that`s what makes you a target in this business and...

SMERCONISH: Well, let`s underscore that point.

BROWN: You know, that`s the way it is.

SMERCONISH: Let`s underscore the point that you have to qualify this by saying, "I assume, I assume, I assume" because there`s no disclosure that`s required, at least at this stage.

BROWN: Yes, this is what`s -- it`s bad enough that billionaires and huge corporations that have already too much power in our government, in Congress, in the executive branch far too often, -- that they already have that power, and then they can spend money without disclosure.

And that`s the importance of this whole citizens` movement. If you go to SherrodBrown.com, you sign our petition -- we have more than 150,000 people already have signed up. This is going to take a citizens` movement to take our democracy back because this money -- partly the Supreme Court decision, partly the loopholes that were already there, when Exxon and the big drug companies and Wall Street banks can have this kind of influence with the electorate, not just with Congress. That`s why the citizens` movement is so important.

So as I said earlier, SherrodBrown.com, sign our petition. It`ll help us fight back. It`s one we`ve got to win.

SMERCONISH: Here`s what they`re doing with the money. This is an ad that Crossroads is using against you. Let`s watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s time to play who`s the biggest supporter of the Obama agenda in Ohio? It`s Sherrod Brown! Brown backed Obama`s agenda
a whopping 95 percent of the time. He voted for budget-busting "Obama
care" that adds $700,000 to the deficit, for Obama`s $453 billion tax increase and even supported cap-and-trade, which could have cost Ohio over 100,000 jobs.

Tell Sherrod Brown, for real job growth, stop spending and cut the debt!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SMERCONISH: Senator, why are liberal groups being outflanked in this regard, not keeping pace thus far with these sort of expenditures?

BROWN: Well, I think groups that are more progressive don`t have the resources. I mean, keep in mind that when the oil industry spends that kind of money, when their side wins, they get tax breaks, they get weaker environmental laws, they get anti-labor legislation. So there`s real incentive for the individual billionaires to get their taxes cut, so they invest.

It really is an investment to them. They invest tens of millions and get billions in tax breaks and in benefits from weaker environmental laws and anti-labor legislation.

SMERCONISH: Might labor offset this? I ask the question because "The Wall Street Journal" reported today that organized labor groups spend a lot more money on politics than previous estimates would have you believe, about four times more.

According to "The Journal," quote, "Previous estimates have focused on labor unions` filings with the federal election officials, which chronicle contributions made directly to federal candidates and union spending in support of candidates for Congress and the White House. But unions spend far more money on a wider range of political activities, including supporting state and local candidates and deploying what has long been seen the unions` most potent political weapon, persuading members to vote as unions want them to. The result is that labor could be a stronger counterweight than commonly realized to super-PACs that today raise millions from wealthy donors in many cases to support Republican candidates and causes."

Truth to that? Could labor be your saving grace, the saving grace of Democrats being outspent?

BROWN: Well, labor matters. I`m a subscriber to "The Wall Street Journal." I picked it up in my driveway in Ohio today. That article caught my attention, of course.

Keep in mind, they said more money from labor than they thought there was from labor. It`s not more money from labor than all the billionaires combined, by a long shot. Labor plays a role, but labor can only compete a dollar for every five or for every ten when you have the Koch brothers and you have Adelson and you have Exxon and you have these big companies that outsource them.

And they`re -- they`re worth tens and tens and tens and tens of billions. Labor can`t do anything like that.

Labor`s very good at talking to their members. And when you talk about voting the way labor wants, it`s elected labor union leaders who are setting the agenda for labor, just like people who vote for political figures.

So labor can`t compete in this -- at this level. Labor is going to help try to fight back against some of this, but, you know, you`re looking at a bunch of people that are paying union dues of maybe $100 or $150 a month or a couple hundred dollars, in most unions, not that much.

SMERCONISH: Understood.

BROWN: It`s not even a comparison.

"The Wall Street Journal," which is -- is a pretty conservative newspaper, factually, they`re generally good, but a pretty conservative newspaper, of course puts that on the front page. It was well-written. It was well-researched. But there was some bias in that direction making it look like they could compete on an evening playing field with the Koch brothers, but they can`t.

(CROSSTALK)

SMERCONISH: Understood.

BROWN: Exactly.

SMERCONISH: Senator Brown, thank you very much for you time. We appreciate it.

BROWN: My pleasure. Thanks very much.

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