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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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Joining us now for "The Interview," Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, running for election this year. His opponent is a man named Josh Mandel.

Senator Brown, thanks for being here. It`s nice to see you.

SEN. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: Good to be back. Thanks, Rachel.

MADDOW: The secretary of state in Ohio said he opposed these new rules because he wants to level the playing field. Do you think he has succeeded in that? Do you think everybody has equal access to the polls now in Ohio?

BROWN: No, he acts like that`s a nod to good government by taking away the advantages that overwhelmingly white suburban upper, more higher income Republican counties have.

But what he`s done is -- I mean, it`s happening on both ends. We`re seeing on the one hand billionaires put huge amounts of money into political campaigns, overwhelmingly on the Republican side, they want tax breaks, they want weaker environmental laws. They want more Wall Street involvement in government instead of less.

And on the other end, they`re keeping -- they`re tightening up voter rules to the point of keeping people away from the polls. What you point out at the beginning of this show, the beginning of this segment, Rachel, is after 2004, even Republicans in Ohio and Ken Blackwell, were embarrassed about what Ken Blackwell did, the secretary of state in those days, and they bipartisanly, they were in the majority, Democrats assisted them on this, set up early voting and made it much more accessible.

So they basically are rolling back reforms they made, and in no time really in our lifetimes have we seen us go backwards on access to the ballot. This is just morally reprehensible to allow more and more big money on one end and shut people down on the other end that would like to vote early.

MADDOW: What explains, in your mind, that abandonment of that consensus that we used to have in this country about the expansion of voting rights, about the idea that partisanship didn`t have a role in the administration of elections? Obviously, there`s been crooked elections officials here and there throughout American history.

But in recent history, we all used to think we were all sort of polling in the same direction, particularly after there had been some national embarrassments. How did it change so fast and go so far?

BROWN: I think these -- I think they feel so threatened by Barack Obama, so threatened, the far right and some of their large corporate interests, particularly Wall Street and the oil industry feel so threatened by Democrats winning, by Barack Obama, that they are willing to change the rules.

The rules on campaign finance were pretty much agreed to. Full disclosure, put limits on outside -- try to ban outside money, put limits on what people were contributing on voter laws, make them more accessible as long as we did them fairly and honestly and transparently.

On both ends of that, they`ve really betrayed what -- they betrayed the national interest and betrayed our values of what we stand for as a country.

They also really undermined their own agreed to reforms of less than a decade ago. And they should be ashamed of themselves for that.

MADDOW: Ohio voting rules and access to the polls is obviously critical, dead critical for your re-election effort in this campaign. Also for the president`s re-election effort, Ohio as always, incredibly important part of the campaign. But one of the things that we are seeing nationwide and particularly in all of the swing states is that Democratic voter registration efforts are not keeping pace with Republican registration efforts this year. We`ve had a couple pieces of new data this week saying however much concern Democrats are expressing about this, Republicans are registering more voters since the last election.

What do you think about that, and does it apply in Ohio?

BROWN: I don`t see that in Ohio. I`ve heard some of those stories outside Ohio. We have such momentum last year from Issue 2, the collective bargaining legislative -- collective bargaining bill, first time in American history when collective bargaining rights were put on a statewide ballot. We won with 61 percent of the vote, beating back the efforts to take away collective bargaining rights. We have momentum that way. I think that will continue, but it`s all about organizing.

I asked people on your show before to come to SherrodBrown.com, sign up to help us fight back on the big money in these campaigns. To help us fight back on Citizens United. To help us organize. And that really is a key to winning, to winning for the president and for my re-election.

MADDOW: Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio -- thanks for your time tonight, sir.

BROWN: Thank you, Rachel.

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