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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript


Location: Washington, DC


Senator Tester, thank you for being with us.

SEN. JON TESTER (D), MONTANA: Great to be with you, Rachel. Thank

MADDOW: Since -- I`m going to go out on a limb and say you Democrats can`t get this bill passed given the way the vote went this afternoon, what is the goal here? Are you hoping people are just going to hear more about the issue, are you hoping Republicans will feel embarrassed? What are you hoping for?

TESTER: Well, I think the goal here ultimately is try to get some transparency into all this giving that`s going on, all of the secret money going into elections. I don`t think it`s healthy for our democracy. And quite honestly, I think we`re looking for some folks to change their mind.You know, in Montana, everybody says they`re for transparency, yet when it comes to voting for it, sometimes they don`t. And hopefully, common sense will prevail here and the next time we have a vote, whether it`s early this morning or tomorrow, we`ll get enough votes to be able to move on to the bill and get it passed.

It`s the right thing to do for this country. It`s the right thing to do for Montana, and I think it`s the right thing to do for our democracy in general.

MADDOW: In earlier debates about money and politics, the Republican line for a while was that they weren`t against limiting donations. They wanted people to make unlimited donations. And any concerns about the outsized impact that anybody might have, outside influence anybody might have, because of unlimited money could be remedied by disclosures. They were in favor of no limits but disclosure.

Now we`ve got Republicans against disclosure, too. Something like a dozen Republican senators who voted for a proposed law like this in the past are now against it.

Do you have any theory to explain the evolution there?

TESTER: Well, I think that your previous chart probably showed it. I think some of the folks on the other side of the aisle see a political advantage at this point in time with having no disclosure.

I can tell you that I don`t -- I don`t think Democrats or Republicans win with this Supreme Court decision on Citizens United over the long haul. I think the democracy loses. And hopefully people back in Washington, D.C. will understand that.

I mean, this really amounts to Rachel is who are you accountable? Are you accountable to the people who elect you, who vote for you, or are you accountable to the corporations that donate boat loads of money into the third party folks, all anonymously, for the most part all have an agenda of some sort or another? As you pointed out earlier on this show.

MADDOW: You were up for re-election this year in a race that has featured lots of outside money. Much of it being used to attack you. Do you feel like when you`re meeting people in Montana, when you`re campaigning, when you are running for re-election, you`re talking about some of the stuff thrown for you in these ads, is it registering with folks who is running these ads?: Does it matter to them who the author of that ad is, either who`s got their name on the end of it or who is paying for it?

TESTER: Well, I think it does. Montana has got a little different history than most states, that back in 1899, William Clark literally tried to buy an election with some $431,000 back, $11 million in today`s money.

And so, I think Montanans look at it differently, and I think it cuts part y lines, whether you`re Democrat, Republican, or independent, all of Montana has a little bit of libertarian tilt and they don`t like people buying their government.

And so I do think it makes a difference. And I think it`s going to have -- there`s going to be a law of diminishing returns.

But there`s no doubt about this, Rachel. We are on a different landscape now than we`ve ever been before, as far as the amount of money coming into these campaigns and the amount of secret money that`s coming into these campaigns.

MADDOW: You are a centrist senator on a lot of issues. I know you`ve had good relations with gun owners and sportsman groups. And you`ve had a solid rating from the NRA in the past. The NRA has decided to score this vote as if it is a gun rights vote.

I`m wondering what your reaction to that is, as somebody who`s been pretty down the middle on that issue?

TESTER: Well, you know, I support the Second Amendment, always have, always will. This is about transparency, and I also support transparency.

You know, Montana`s a very transparent state when it comes to their government. We allow press in just about every meeting that`s out there, if you have more than a couple of people that are meeting. And I think that`s a good thing. And I think we ought to be doing that more in Washington, D.C., and the whole transparency argument about money coming into these campaigns and where the money comes from is absolutely critical to me.

So while I support the Second Amendment and I support it firmly and will continue to, I also support transparency. And I think transparency is critically important.

MADDOW: Senator Jon Tester of Montana -- thank you for joining us tonight. It`s going to be a late night for a lot of Democrats tonight. I appreciate it, sir.

TESTER: Thank you, Rachel.


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