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Public Statements

MSNBC "Hardball with Chris Matthews" - Transcript

Interview

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Location: Unknown

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

You`re smiling. Do Republicans see the contrast in the way they look at regular working people and the way they look at rich people when it comes to identifying them?

SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE (D), RHODE ISLAND: I think they have a lot of trouble with this one both for the reasons that you mention, Chris, and because so many of them for so many years -- 10 sitting Republican senators have been out in favor of transparency and disclosure in election finance before.

Mitch McConnell is actually being critiqued in his home state newspaper with editorials quoting from previous editorials that he had written in favor of disclosure. So they`ve really tied themselves in a knot. It`s not a great spectacle from their point of view.

MATTHEWS: Well, before I get to Senator McCaskill, I got to ask you this. You`re the chief sponsor. Have you confronted a guy I respect, certainly, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, people like that? How do they hide from this? It seems to me it would be purely partisan for them not to support this measure, not at all to do with their ideals.

WHITEHOUSE: Well, first of all, like you, I admire Senator McCain. He joined me on the brief in the Supreme Court criticizing Citizens United. That was a brave step on his part.

In this case, he tells me that there`s something in my bill that favors unions. I don`t see it. It`s $10,000 across the board. I keep saying, John, tell me what it is and we`ll talk about it, and nobody`s ever been able to show me what it is.

So...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: ... your bill covers union money, PAC money from unions, as well as money from -- money from corporate...

WHITEHOUSE: Absolutely.

MATTHEWS: OK, let me go to Claire McCaskill...

WHITEHOUSE: PACs, individuals (INAUDIBLE) corporations...

MATTHEWS: Senator McCaskill, we`re all big fans of yours on this show. We`ve seen you how as a moderate Democrat in the Midwest have been really fighting, fighting for a different kind of politics, right down close to the middle on the liberal side.

Now, let me ask you thins. Why would any Republican oppose this bill?

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: Well, because of what`s going on in Missouri this year. You know, here`s the deal. There has been almost $8 million of secret money spent against me in this campaign. They began back in October. They`ve been on the airwaves with false and lies about me -- false claims and lies about me since then.

They want to buy this election, Chris. It`s pretty simple. This is the party of big money and there`s a few masters of the universe that...

MATTHEWS: Well, why are they afraid of saying they`re masters of the universe? Why are they -- if they`re proud of backing your opponent or proud of backing anybody, why don`t they say so?

MCCASKILL: I don`t think they are proud. I don`t think the Republicans want everybody to know who`s paying for these ads. I think it would be very unpopular.

I think the people of Missouri, if they knew who were paying for these ads against me, I think they`d be proud of the enemies I`ve made.

MATTHEWS: Do you know who they are?

MCCASKILL: I think it would get me votes. I don`t know who they are. I have got some good guesses.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MCCASKILL: But I don`t know -- I don`t know who they are. I know this. We`re trying to get this thing passed. And I think we have to keep the pressure up on this. They say, why do you keep bringing this up?

We bring it up because people are upset about it. And at ClaireMcCaskill.com/discloseact, sign on to be a co-sponsor of the bill, a
citizen co-sponsor.

MATTHEWS: OK.

MCCASKILL: Let`s not let these guys buy our elections out from under
us.

MATTHEWS: Let`s just guess, probably the Koch brothers, oil and gas, Sheldon Adelson, gambling. Let`s make the worst assumptions.

MCCASKILL: Oil. Probably big oil.

MATTHEWS: If they don`t want to tell us who, go to the worst-case. Anyway, today, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, who wants desperately to be the majority leader, criticized the Disclose Act, calling it -- what an odd thing for a Republican to say -- it`s like they`re saying somebody is swift boating. They`re the ones that swift boated.They`re calling it -- Mitch McConnell is calling it Nixonian. Was that a bad word for a Republican? Let`s listen. This is bizarre.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The purpose of this legislation is totally clear. After Citizens United, Democrats realized they couldn`t shut up their critics, so they decided to go after the microphone instead by trying to scare off the funders.

The creation of a modern-day Nixonian enemies list is currently in full swing. And, frankly, the American people shouldn`t stand for it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: So he doesn`t like Richard Nixon anymore.Anyway, on "Meet the Press" in 2000 -- he switched on this one as well -- McConnell had a different opinion back then. Let`s listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "MEET THE PRESS," 2000)

MCCONNELL: Republicans are in favor of disclosure. We need to have real disclosure, and so what we ought to do is broaden the disclosure to include at least labor unions and tax-exempt associations and trial lawyers, so that you include the major political players in America. Why would a little disclosure be better than a lot of disclosure?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: God, our good friend Tim looked great in that picture, Tim Russert.

What do you think of that switcheroo, Senator Whitehouse? There is a guy singing the praises of full disclosure, and here is opposing that disclosure.

WHITEHOUSE: I know. That`s the pickle that they`re in. As Claire has pointed out, it`s because the big money is with them.

But, also, as Claire pointed out, the public is against them. She`s got probably a ton of people on her Web site -- Credo Action, I showed on the Senate floor 213,000 signatures on a citizen petition. If you go to discloseact.com, we`re at nearly 300,000 different signatures of people coming in to register.

This is an issue that Americans care about. They know very well that their democracy is slipping away from them into the hands of the special interests.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCASKILL: You know, Chris...

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: Go ahead.

MCCASKILL: Yes. And, Sheldon, let me throw in here, Chris, you remember a time, Chris, when people used to carry around a briefcase of cash.

MATTHEWS: Well, I`m not that old, but I know about it.

(LAUGHTER)

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: I think it was before `74, when they actually would actually put money in the pockets, the raincoats of senators when they`d walk into their offices. But that were the bad old days, yes.

MCCASKILL: And that`s what we`re getting back to here. It`s like we`re going back to a time where they don`t want everyone to vote without showing five forms of I.D., but they want secret money to buy elections.

And there will be a scandal. I don`t know if this ugly petri dish that we`re seeing across this country will produce it this year, but mark my words. If we don`t get transparency, if we don`t get antiseptic sunshine on the buying of American elections, there is going to be a big scandal and people will go to jail eventually.

And that`s why we have got to get this disclosure thing done. I hope the Republicans come to their senses, and they will if the American people put enough pressure on them.

MATTHEWS: Well said.

Thank you very much, Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

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