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LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK
Duncan Hunter Announces Presidential Bid, Concerns Over New Voting Machines, Corrupt Border Cops Sentenced
Aired November 4, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Now in the news, a special board of overseers dismisses a minister caught up in a sex scandal. Pastor Ted Haggard on the right there admitted buying meth and getting a massage from a self-professed gay prostitute, the man on the left. Now, the board says Haggard's own statements prove he is guilty of sexually immoral conduct.
Residents of Baghdad and two other Iraqi provinces will awaken to a ban and all foot and vehicle traffic. The tough curfew begins at sunrise. It is meant to prevent violence after tomorrow's suspected verdict in the Saddam Hussein trial.
An editorial to be published in Monday's "Army Times" newspaper says secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld should be fired. It is the second time the paper has called for Rumsfeld's removal. Today the White House dismissed the paper's position as old news.
Three days until midterm elections and President Bush is back at his Texas ranch tonight after a quick campaign stop in Colorado. Tomorrow Mr. Bush plans to stump in both Nebraska and Kansas. Those are the headlines. I'm Carol Lin.
LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK starts right now.
LOU DOBBS, CNN HOST: Thank you.
Tonight, the battle for Congress is in its final stages. Republicans and Democrats making a final effort to win your vote. We'll have a special report tonight on the issues likely to determine the outcome of this election and will your vote count? Will Election Day be an utter disaster? Electronic voting machines, a threat to our democracy. We'll examine that tonight and the illegal alien lobby and the ACLU determined to stop one community from tackling our nation's illegal immigration crisis. The case could have implications for communities all across the country.
We'll have that special report and a great deal more straight ahead here tonight.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK, news, debate and opinion. Here now, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody. And welcome to LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK. The midterm elections are now upon us. And both Republicans and Democrats tonight are saying they're confident of victory. Many candidates are campaigning hard on issues such as gay marriage, flag burning and stem cell research. Issues that have literally nothing to do with the worsening plight of our middle class.
Those candidates are ignoring the very real problems of this country, falling house prices, skyrocketing health care costs and crippling tuition bills. Christine Romans reports.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Georgia, wild applause on a subject the president says is critical for American families.
GEORGE W. BUSH, U.S. PRESIDENT: We believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman and should be defended.
ROMANS: The president using a so-called wedge issue to rally his base and lure some Democrats to the Republican side. Just as last- minute stem cell research ads may lure Republicans to vote for Democrats.
MICHAEL J. FOX, ACTOR: What you decide can affect millions of people.
ROMANS: Appealing to emotions, playing up values on the campaign trail.
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: It's designed to take people's eyes off Iraq and it's designed to keep people's eyes off the failure to get a serious immigration bill, a serious immigration bill. It is designed to divert attention from the more serious issues the country faces in and the next Congress will face.
ROMANS: Issues like the state of the American family where 36 percent of births are out of wedlock and 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce. Like our failing education system where nearly a third of high school children will not graduate. And our struggling middle class, where 47 million are without health insurance, a record number of them children.
ROBERT GREENSTEIN, CENTER ON BUDGET & POLICY PRIORITIES: What to do about that? Change the topic. Talk about flag burning, talk about anything but the real core issues that people who were sent to Congress here in Washington are supposed to address.
ROMANS: It may be more convenient to campaign on wedge issues than Congress' record.
ROMANS (on camera): After all, if these statistics are the way to keep score in Washington, then Congress has a failing grade. Better to rile people up on the campaign trail than really focus on what matters to the middle class, Lou.
DOBBS: Absolutely. That seems to be the preferred way of doing business in the nation's capital. Christine, thank you. Christine Romans. The biggest issue for many voters in this election is the president's conduct of the war in Iraq and the rising number of American casualties. Voters' frustration and anger with the progress of this war has dominated the election campaign.
The war has now lasted longer than World War II, and there's no end in sight. Bill Schneider has our report.
BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN ANALYST (voice-over): Many Americans felt misled when the Bush administration's case for war, Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, proved false.
Increasingly, Americans are deeply disturbed by the mounting losses, more than 2,800 Americans killed so far.
Underneath it all is a stark political reality. Americans don't want to fight an unwinnable war, which is why President Bush talks about a plan for victory.
BUSH: Our plan for victory says that we want an Iraq that can defend itself and govern itself and sustain itself.
SCHNEIDER: When Americans concluded the Vietnam War was unwinnable, they turned against it. When they began to see Iraq as a civil war between rival Islamic sects their frustration mounted. Why should that be our war?
Six months ago, 44 percent Americans felt the United States would never accomplish its mission in Iraq. Now a majority feel that way. The administration's response? Turn the question on the Democrats, what's their alternative?
BUSH: This is a serious political party in the midst of a war, and they have no plan for success. They don't even have a plan for victory.
SCHNEIDER: Most Democrats don't talk about immediate withdrawal.
HOWARD DEAN, DNC CHAIR: This is a plan that has been adopted by many Democrats, certainly not all of them, calls for strategic redeployment which gets us out of Iraq over a reasonable period of time but keeps troops in the region, not in Iraq.
SCHNEIDER: Most Americans do favor withdrawing U.S. troops but not immediately. They don't want to risk Iraq becoming a base for terrorists who threaten the United States.
BUSH: Imagine a safe haven for an enemy that ended up with the resources that it had.
SCHNEIDER: Democrats feel they don't really need a clear alternative. Yet.
DEAN: The truth is if we were to take over Congress, that the president is still going to control foreign and military policy to a large degree. So what we will be able to do is put some restraint on the president. But we are not going to be able to change the policy overnight. That is going to require a new president.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): If Americans elect a Democratic Congress, it would be a vote of no confidence in the Bush administration's Iraq policy. The message would be, this is not working. Lou?
DOBBS: Bill, this study group, the Iraq study group headed by Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton, this weekend weakens suggestions that there be significant ramifications from that.
SCHNEIDER: That's right. They've apparently been looking at all the information coming out of Iraq and concluded that the policy is a total mess making strong recommendations for big changes.
DOBBS: Bill, thank you very much. Bill Schneider.
Democrats believe they have their best chance of winning control of Congress in more than a decade. Republican candidates have been trying to scare voters into supporting the GOP by suggesting liberals will be in charge if the Democrats win Congress. Andrea Koppel reports.
ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're among the most liberal politicians in America, Nancy Pelosi, Alcee Hastings, John Conyers, Henry Waxman and Charlie Rangel. And if Democrats win back the House next week, they're set to rocket to the top positions in Congress.
Republicans have seized on the prospect of liberal lawmakers running the House as a way to fire up their base on the campaign trail. The president singled out New York's Charlie Rangel, though not by name.
BUSH: I think it is interesting to note that the person who wants to be the head of the Ways and Means Committee for the Democrats said that he can't think of one tax cut that he would extend. See, that's code word for get ready. If the Democrats take the House, your taxes are going up.
KOPPEL: Embattled Indiana Republican John Hostettler's campaign is using this radio ad to scare voters away from his Democratic opponent.
ANNOUNCER: Speaker Pelosi will reauthorize the Clinton gun ban, give amnesty to millions of illegal aliens with Detroit liberal John Conyers, and raise taxes with New York liberal Charlie Rangel.
KOPPEL: In a recent interview with CNN, Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats are for tax cuts but only for the middle class. REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) MINORITY LEADER: We're going to do things that are positive rather than give a tax cut to the wealthiest people in our country, which has only taken us deeper in debt at the expense of the middle class.
KOPPEL: Republicans also point to other Democrats who will be in charge like Florida's Alcee Hastings, a former federal judge, impeached by the House in 1989 in an alleged bribery scheme, who could be the next chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Hastings says he did nothing wrong.
And Michigan's John Conyers, who has called for President Bush to be impeached. And until recently on his congressional Web site, demanded an investigation into what he called administration abuses of power.
And if the Democrats take power, the 21-term Michigan lawmaker would likely become the next chairman of the House Judiciary Committee.
(on camera): But even if these lawmakers would be their party's public face, their clout would likely be limited due to a significant number of more moderate rank and file Democrats who often find themselves at odds with their more liberal leadership. Andrea Koppel, CNN, Capitol Hill.
DOBBS: Still ahead here, e-voting is a huge threat to the integrity of our election system but hardly anyone seems to be paying attention. We'll have complete coverage and the illegal alien movement and the ACLU going to court, pushing their open borders, amnesty agenda, trying to stop one community from tackling illegal immigration.
And many state officials ignoring our laws. They're giving illegal aliens taxpayer funded benefits that are denied U.S. citizens. Why? We'll have that story here next.
DOBBS: A federal judge this week blocked Hazleton, Pennsylvania, from enforcing its ground breaking anti illegal immigration laws and a state whistleblower is under attack for trying to stop illegal aliens from receiving millions of dollars in taxpayer funded benefits.
Christine Romans reports on Oklahoma social worker Steve Thomas, who is daring to speak out on his state's failure to enforce illegal immigration laws. And Lisa Sylvester reporting on the ACLU's efforts to stop Hazleton, Pennsylvania, from cracking down on illegal immigration.
We begin with Christine Romans. Christine?
ROMANS: Lou, Oklahoma lawmakers are demanding an investigation into what they say is a state bureaucracy that just too easily allows illegal aliens to receive taxpayer benefits.
ROMANS (voice-over): Steve Thomas is an 18-year veteran of Oklahoma public service. Determining eligibility for public assistance benefits. But obeying the law nearly cost him his job.
STEVE THOMAS, OK. DEPT. OF HUMAN SERV. EMPLOYEE: Five days suspension without pay. I was transferred to another office. And at the time I was escorted through my office in front of my peers by armed security.
ROMANS: His offense? Back in 2003, he told a man seeking food stamps that anyone in the country illegally can be reported.
THOMAS: They said that I threatened the client with our policy. And I explained to them I did not threaten them. I was trying to explain what our reporting requirements were. And they got scared and they didn't want to apply.
ROMANS: Thomas was finally cleared of all charges last year but his case highlights serious trouble on the front lines for taxpayer benefits. Giving food stamps to illegal immigrants is illegal. But according to Thomas and workers like him thousands are improperly receiving these benefits.
In fact, in a Department of Human Services DVD obtained by CNN, employees are instructed ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us not be immigration police for the lack of any other word. Let us determine our eligibility and leave other folks' responsibility to them.
ROMANS: Evidence this scandal is wider than just one employee, says Congressman Ernest Istook, the Oklahoma Republican nominee for governor. He's demanded a federal investigation telling the Department of Homeland Security and USDA that food stamps are routinely awarded to households headed by illegal aliens.
The state appears to be intimidating its employees to prevent them from personally reporting those illegal aliens.
REP. ERNEST ISTOOK, (R) OK: The workers tell me that illegal aliens with impunity tell them yes, I'm here illegally. I admit it. But can't you give me benefits and just put in it the kids' names? Then the state doesn't turn them in.
ROMANS: Oklahoma's Department of Human Services says only American children of illegal aliens get taxpayer funded benefits and insists there is no cost to Oklahoma taxpayers for food stamps to people in the country illegally.
But the cost to Steve Thomas almost $10,000 in legal fees just to keep his job.
(END VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS (on camera): Oklahoma Department of Human Services strongly denies any allegations that employees there are intimidated. And it says its workers are trained to follow strict guidelines for issuing food stamps and other benefits. But Lou, this agency admits that illegal aliens do receive debit cards with food stamps on them. But it's on behalf of their American born children.
DOBBS: This is just incredible. And Medicaid being made available to illegal aliens that would be denied U.S. citizens in exactly the comparable situation.
ROMANS: Ten million dollars in Medicaid last year, almost all of it for labor and delivery in Oklahoma.
Christine, thank you. Later here we'll be hearing from Steve Thomas on his fight to expose illegal immigration fraud at the state level. And I'll be talking with a Catholic charities lawyer who denies there is any problem at all with illegal aliens receiving taxpayer-funded benefits that are denied U.S. citizens.
Illegal alien amnesty groups and the ACLU working together this week to block Hazleton, Pennsylvania's anti illegal alien ordinance in court. Hazleton had hoped to begin enforcing that groundbreaking law this week. A federal judge granted the ACLU a temporary restraining order against the city. Lisa Sylvester reports.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hazleton intended to start November 1st registering anyone who rents in the city, but the plan was blocked by a Pennsylvania judge who granted a 10-day restraining order. The district court judge also put on hold a related ordinance that would have allowed the city to suspend the business licenses of companies that hire illegal aliens and impose a $1,000 fine on landlords who rent to them.
MAYOR LOUIS BARLETTA, HAZELTON, PENNSYVANIA: It's just one step to where we have to go with this. And I'm sure both sides are prepared, the line has been drawn here in the city of Hazleton and both sides are prepared to go the distance.
SYLVESTER: The city council originally approved the anti illegal immigration measures in July. The language was rewritten last month so it could withstand legal challenges. The ACLU and Hispanic organizations filed a lawsuit Monday.
JONATHAN BLAZER, NATIONAL IMMIGRATION LAW CENTER: It is not up to individual municipalities to set immigration policy for this country. This country needs to have a unified immigration policy so that when people come here, they know what to expect from township to township, to state to state.
SYLVESTER: The case is being watched closely around the country. Other jurisdictions and localities have either passed or considering legislation modeled after Hazleton. Even though the law has not taken effect there, it's already having an impact. On Wyoming Street, an area populated with the city's legal Hispanics and illegal aliens, there has been an exodus.
SYLVESTER (on camera): Judge James Munley (ph) set a preliminary injunction hearing for November 13th. At that time he'll decide whether to lift the restraining order or keep it in place until the issue goes to trial. Lou?
DOBBS: Lisa, thank you very much. Lisa Sylvester from Washington.
Still ahead here, ordinary citizens all across the country fighting to ensure the integrity of our midterm election. And do the job that federal officials have been unable to do. We'll have that story next.
And Congress finally being asked to put the interests of their constituents above the interests of corporate donors. What an idea. We'll have a special report.
And corporate executives never had it so good. You won't believe how much CEOs are earning these days compared to hard working middle class Americans. All of that and a lot more coming up. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Tonight voting activists all over the country, not the federal government, are leading the battle for electronic voting security. They've been calling for action to fix the problems while the federal government has remained silent and in denial. Kitty Pilgrim reports.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Who makes sure that your vote counts? In this election it is most likely a citizen activist group. For example, the Chicago office of People for the American Way Foundation are training 3,000 students to troubleshoot problems on electronic voting machines on Election Day.
JULIE SWEET, PEOPLE FOR THE AMERICAN WAY: These kids are going to be there for us, just kind of look over the election judges' shoulders. If they have problems, then the kids step in and they figure out how to make it work.
PILGRIM: Groups that have spearheaded the effort include VoteTrust USA, Common Cause, Mainstreet Moms, Voter Action, verifiedvoting.org, Voting Integrity Alliance, Florida Fair Elections Coalition, Cleveland Center for Election Integrity, votersunite.org, saveourvote.org, Accurate and academic researchers at Johns Hopkins and NYU's Brennan Center.
They inspire each other. One of the founders of Florida Fair Election Coalition talks about going to the polls with Beth Harris of Black Box Voting, one of the early critics of security flaws in electronic voting.
SUSAN PYNCHON, FLORIDA FAIR ELECTION COALITION: They were taking buckets of paper trash out the back door of the elections office as they were talking to Bev inside telling her that they didn't have the records. So I rescued those with another woman from Broward County, we rescued all those records from the trash.
PILGRIM: Activists appear on Capitol Hill wearing "Got paper?" t-shirts demanding a voter verified paper trail.
At Princeton a computer science professor, Edward Felton, and two graduate students demonstrated security flaws in Diebold computers, becoming the unofficial gold standard of safety. This week owners of Sequoia Voting Machines were asked if they would submit their equipment to them for a test.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you splay them with a machine with software the look at?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think we'll take it under advisement.
PILGRIM (on camera): Why do activists have to take action on their own? Well, many election officials fell down on the job, simply trusting the voting machine companies to fix any flaws. What has happened is elections are not sufficiently transparent. If the voting machine manufacturer declares the results and election officials blindly accept them, Lou, somebody has to cast a critical eye on the whole process.
DOBBS: And hopefully we'll have enough people watching these elections all over the country to prevent any serious damaging problems. Kitty, thank you very much. Kitty Pilgrim.
A New York State newspaper report this week is raising new concerns about Election Day fraud. The "Poughkeepsie Journal's" John Faroh (ph) discovered that as many as 77,000 dead people are still on New York's list of registered voters. No one in New York's state government was able to catch those errors despite a recent overhaul of the state's election database.
Time for some of your thoughts.
Phil with the army in Baghdad said, "Lou, I'm in the process of reading your new book. And it really scares the hell out of me. I guess I have several questions one of which is this -- when the corporations that are leading this war finally win and suck those of us in the middle class dry of our economic blood, who are they going to turn to for their next meal?"
From Dave in Michigan, "Lou, in a sense we have a three party system, the lobbyists, the Republicans and the Democratic parties. Unfortunately, the lobbyist party owns the other two parties so I guess that makes it a one party system. Corporations primarily control the lobbyist party leaving middle class America without representation."
From Gerald in Wisconsin, "If our elected representatives showed only half as much courage, patriotism and willingness to sacrifice as our young men and women in uniform, we would have a much better country."
A much, much better country. Send us your thoughts at loudobbs.com. Each of you whose e-mail is read receives a copy of my new book "War on the Middle Class." Coming up next, government watchdogs have a plan to rein in special interests, but the plan is meeting with resistance from, you guessed it, incumbents. Imagine that. We'll have that story.
And when it comes to making money, CEOs are thriving, but middle class workers in this country barely staying even. We'll have a report. And what in the world are our courts thinking? Two U.S. Border Patrol agents who simply did their jobs given harsh sentences while two other agents who accepted huge bribes are sent to jail for just a few years.
We'll have that report and a great deal more still ahead here. Stay with us.
LIN: Now in the news, the Reverend Ted Haggard is out of his job. Haggard agreed to resign after the board of the church he founded announced he would be dismissed for what it called sexually immoral conduct. Haggard had denied any knowledge of a Denver man who calls himself a former prostitute, but then acknowledged calling the man to receive a massage.
President Bush campaigned across the country today trying to help Republicans hold on to Congress. In Colorado, Mr. Bush praised the economy and warned that Democrats would raise taxes.
The "Army Times" wants President Bush to replace defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In an editorial to be published tomorrow, the newspaper says it's clear that Rumsfeld has lost the support and respect of military leaders.
A strict curfew goes into effect this weekend in Baghdad and two other provinces plagued by violence. The government fears possible chaos after tomorrow's expected verdict in the trial of Saddam Hussein.
Iran said today it has a new rocket launcher that can destroy enemy tanks. The announcement came on day three of large scale Iranian war games. Iran also said it developed a sniper rifle that can penetrate bulletproof vests.
And Katherine Jeffords Shori (ph) is now presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. She was installed today in a ceremony in Washington's National Cathedral. She becomes the first woman to lead the nation's Episcopalians.
Now be sure to join me tonight at 10:00. But right now back to LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS THIS WEEK, news, debate and opinion. Here now, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Common cause and other leading public interest groups tonight are demanding that Congress fix this nation's broken campaign finance system. They're asking congressional candidates to support comprehensive public financing of election campaigns. They say it is finally time to put the public interests ahead of corporate interests. Lisa Sylvester reports.
SYLVESTER: The disgraced former members of Congress, the lobbyists who bought them, the lawmakers who remain under a cloud of suspicion, they show a political system in Washington out of control and Congress refuses to rein in the influence peddling.
MARY BOYLE, COMMON CAUSE: Right now we have special interests that are controlling the agenda. It's their voices that are being heard because they are giving all the campaign contributions. We think it should be the public's voice.
SYLVESTER: A group of watchdog organizations has launched a campaign to convince candidates to put voters first, ahead of special interest groups. Three hundred and fifty-nine candidates so far have signed a pledge to clean up Congress by supporting spending limits and public funding for campaigns, setting new restrictions on gifts by lobbyists, and fully disclosing lobbyists' contributions.
John Sarbannes is running for Maryland's third district. He has signed on. So has his opponent, John White, who has not taken a dime from political action committees.
JOHN WHITE, (R) MARYLAND CONG. CANDIDATE: At least people in my district will know I'm not beholden to anyone, no one's hand is in my pocket, and I don't have a black book of people that I owe money to.
SYLVESTER: The pledge list includes Democrats and Republicans, but challengers far outnumber incumbents by at least three to one.
BOYLE: It's a hard sell for elected officials because they are comfortable and they trust in the system that brought them there.
SYLVESTER: But it's a system that has served the few and not the many.
(on camera): Common Cause is singling out candidates who are running on a reform Washington platform but have not signed the pledge. One example, Michael Steele. He's running for a Maryland Senate seat. His campaign has featured several anti-lobbyist ads, but he has not signed the pledge after repeated invitations. His campaign office did not return our calls.
Lisa Sylvester, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)
DOBBS: The Bush administration calls the economy robust. The Dow Jones Industrials have reached record highs and corporate profits are soaring, but the income of working Americans is barely keeping pace with inflation. And it raises the question, what group is benefiting from this robust economy? Certainly CEOs top the list.
Bill Tucker reports.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The average CEO earns 262 times what the average worker is paid. That means many CEOs now make in one day what it takes a worker one year to earn.
But even in the world of CEOs, not all are created equal.
CHARLES PECK, THE CONFERENCE BOARD: Construction has been doing very well for the last several years, showing double digits increase well into the -- 20 percent.
TUCKER: And most recently they did even better. Construction industry CEO pay rose 37.6 percent in 2005, making them the winners in the CEO pay increase race.
Yet what happened with most construction worker wages is the exact opposite. In a workforce which is widely estimated to be made up of one-fifth illegal workers, wages from 2000 to 2005 did not rise. When adjusted for inflation, those wages actually fell 1.5 percent.
Another group of CEOs who fared very well last year: energy executives. While consumers are struggling with record high gasoline prices and record high home heating costs, CEO pay rose 25 percent.
Disturbingly, there's nothing new about the trend.
LARRY MISHEL, ECONOMIC POLICY INSTITUTE: We see CEO pay rise by 85 percent over the last five years and worker pay going nowhere. CEOs now live in a totally different economic stratosphere. Growth happens to them. And for the American people, it's a spectator sport.
TUCKER: While executives have always been the better paid, the disparity has not always been as wide as it is today.
(on camera): Forty years ago, the average CEO earned 25 times the pay of the average worker.
Bill Tucker, CNN, New York.
DOBBS: In Arizona, voters this election day will have a chance to help working men and women in their state. A measure on the ballot in Arizona would raise the state's minimum wage from the federal rate of $5.15 an hour to $6.75. If the measure passes, Arizona would become the 23rd state, along with the District of Columbia, to have a minimum wage set higher than the federal rate. Five other states, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Ohio, also have minimum wage initiatives on their ballots.
Coming up next here, Congressman Duncan Hunter, the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, joins us. He's a leading advocate for border security, and he announced this week he wants to be president of the United States.
And many state officials are ignoring our laws, giving illegal aliens taxpayer-funded benefits they're not entitled to. Why? We'll have that story and a great deal more. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Six-year sentences handed down to two U.S. Border Patrol agents who were convicted of taking bribes to allow illegal aliens to go free. But why do corrupt agents receive lighter sentences than two U.S. Border Patrol agents who were just doing their jobs?
Casey Wian reports.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former California Border Patrol agents Mario Alvarez and Samuel McClaren this week received six-year prison sentences for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from Mexican smuggling gangs.
JAMES MCCLAFFIRTY, U.S. BORDER PATROL: This investigation started because several of our agents noticed some questionable behavior.
WIAN: Among the charges: releasing an illegal alien smuggler in the parking lot of this Calexico (ph), California Wal-Mart. U.S. attorney Carol Lamb said in a statement, "These are Border Patrol agents who smuggled illegal aliens. It doesn't get much worse than that."
So why were their sentences so much lighter than those received by Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean in Texas last month? Those agents pursued, shot and wounded a Mexican drug smuggler but failed to report the shooting. Yet they received 11 and 12 years in prison for mistakes made trying to do their jobs. Alvarez and McClaren, meanwhile, received half the prison time, though they admitted to taking bribes and actually helping the criminals they were supposed to apprehend.
TJ BONNER, NAT'L. BORDER PATROL COUNCIL: I think that the sentences that the two agents in San Diego received were extremely light, especially when you consider that they knowingly and willfully violated the public trust.
More troubling is the fact that two agents, who were doing their job, defending themselves against a known, armed drug smuggler in Fabens, Texas, received sentences double that these agents received.
WIAN: Prosecutors in Texas charged Compean and Ramos under a law of intended to target drug smugglers and other violent criminals, using a gun to commit a crime. It carries a mandatory ten-year prison sentence.
LAURIE LEVENSON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Prosecutors have a lot of discretion in deciding which charges to bring. But frankly, once they decide that a law enforcement agent has crossed the line into criminal behavior, they are inclined to throw the book at them.
WIAN: Levenson says a presidential pardon is a possibility.
(on camera): Last month, a dozen U.S. Congressmen sent a letter to President Bush, asking him to pardon the two agents. Meanwhile, Congress still plans an investigation into their case by the end of the year, but no date has been set.
Casey Wian, CNN, Los Angeles.
DOBBS: Congressman Duncan Hunter has announced the first step in a run for the White House in 2008. Congressman Hunter is the powerful chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and during his 26 years in Congress, he's fought to secure this nation's porous borders. I talked with Congressman Hunter and asked him what kind of a chance he thinks he has against big names like Senator John McCain.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER, (R) ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, Lou, I think the primary issues over the next several years are going to focus on national security. And as chairman of the Armed Services Committee, I've got one term left to continue to be chairman, and I think that's an area I've devoted a lot of time to. And further, I think that the border issue is now a major issue. And I built the border fence in San Diego, wrote the law, along with other Republicans, that would extend it seven hundred miles across the southwest border. I think that now border security is a national security issue, not simply an immigration issue. So I think it's a time when I can add something to the national debate.
DOBBS: Are people saying, well, you fear that there might be -- and I love what a number of the savants are saying, Duncan Hunter is just doing this because he thinks that the Democrats are going to take control of Congress and you needed something to do with the next two years. How do you react to that?
HUNTER: Well, you know, that's nuts. Because if I'd hidden this thing -- and I've decided some time ago to run for the presidency, to start the preparations for running, that's what we're doing. We're going to start the preparations. If I had hidden it from my voters until after the election, then I'd be criticized for hiding it. So there's never a good time.
But I fully intend to be chairman. And I think that that helps the campaign a lot because that allows me to talk to great folks like you about things like North Korea, Iran, the emergence of China as a superpower in the wake of the Soviet Union, and how the United States needs to position its defenses.
And incidentally, Lou, that's the trademark of the Republican party. We have built a national security apparatus, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, that is outstanding, that is second to none.
DOBBS: Well, we can also -- you talking to folks like me, you're also going to get asked questions like this one. You're accused of taking some $46,000 from the very same defense contractors that were turning money over to Duke Cunningham, who's now sitting in prison. How do you respond to those critics that suggest something more there?
HUNTER: Well, Lou, what always happens, you open up the doors to a fund-raiser and a thousand folks come through it. There's nobody sitting there with a crystal ball, saying eight years from now this guy that's contributing to you will be in trouble. So you open up those doors and folks come in.
But I would also say this, General Dynamics was probably my biggest fund-raiser over the years based in San Diego. I killed their biggest program at one time, the Seawolf program, because I thought it was too expensive for the taxpayers. Boeing was probably my second biggest contributor, and I killed her their biggest program at one time, got overridden by my colleagues from the Armed Services Committee...
HUNTER: ... for the country, Lou, and let the chips fall where they may.
DOBBS: It's going to take a lot of money to run for president. You may have disadvantaged yourself significantly there, Congressman.
HUNTER: Well, Lou, I'm going to go out and lay out the principles I believe in. And incidentally, I believe in the American defense apparatus, products for our defense, like ships and planes, should be made by Americans. That's going to be a major part of this campaign. I'm going to lay those things out, and if folks think that's a good philosophy, then I've got a good chance.
DOBBS: And as soon as you incorporate the middle class working men and women into that entire philosophy, you know, that sounds like you just might have yourself one compelling platform there as you move forward into exploring running for the presidency. And we congratulate you on your decision and wish you all the best.
HUNTER: Thank you very much, Lou.
DOBBS: Coming up next here, illegal immigration, a crisis the federal government is ignoring. We'll be joined by an Oklahoma state employee who's been harassed and punished for trying to do something about it.
Also tonight, a private citizen alarmed about electronic voting machines has this warning for all of us in a new HBO documentary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEV HARRIS, FOUNDER, BLACK BOX VOTING: When people see what's really going on, there's no way we will allow this to continue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Bev Harris joins us here next. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Illegal aliens receive billions of dollars in taxpayer- funded benefits. Oklahoma State Human Services employee Steve Thomas is among those aggressively fighting benefits fraud in his state. His battle almost cost him his job. I talked with Thomas, Oklahoma State Representative Randy Terrill and Catholic Charities attorney Shirley Cox about the issue. I asked Thomas about reaction to his fight to report illegal alien benefit fraud.
STEVE THOMAS, OKLAHOMA DEPT. OF HUMAN SVCS.: Well, that reporting requirement is something that I felt like was entitled to every client that came into our office to know what their rights and responsibilities were, and what our reporting requirements were. And I did not personally say I was going to report him. I just showed him the memo that we're required to fill out on them and send to the state office. And the state office sends it on to immigration if they find appropriate.
DOBBS: Let me ask you, if I may, Randy Terrill, what in the world -- ere's a state requirement and a requirement for that notification, how can state officials there be telling the employees, like Steve Thomas, that this requirement is going to be suspended without any action by the legislature or by the federal government?
RANDY TERRILL, OKLAHOMA STATE HOUSE: Well, that's the question we ask in the interim study last week. And it's not a state requirement, although we're trying to make it that. It currently is a federal requirement.
And let me tell you, DHS has morphed its internal policy from what is a mandatory reporting requirement in those circumstances to essentially what is a discretionary reporting requirement. And let me tell you what DHS is saying, that there are no illegal aliens that are receiving these benefits, is not only false, but let me also tell you they aren't reporting those who attempt to fraudulently obtain those benefits. And the DHS director admitted that in a separate state Senate hearing on illegal immigration a few weeks ago.
DOBBS: Admitted it.
MERRILL: Admitted it.
DOBBS: Shirley Cox, what's your reaction to all this? SHIRLEY COX, OKLAHOMA CATHOLIC CHARITIES: My reaction is that the Department of Human Services is following the federal law. And the Federal Register, in September of 2000, the Federal Register reflects a discussion among five different agencies that came together to talk about how it would be that people should be reported under what's called the Personal Responsibility and Work Authorization Act of 1996. Under that act, state agencies can elect, and this is what the Register said, to simply report if an agency knows of the existence of an undocumented person. That knowing element requires a finding of fact or a conclusion of law that is part of an administrative determination, that's subject to review and includes documentation from the Immigration Service, now called USCIS, but at that time called...
DOBBS: Shirley, you're from Catholic Charities. That's a pretty high barrier. I mean, so what you're saying is that it's almost -- it's extraordinarily difficult, let me say, for anyone to deny illegal aliens benefits, then under that high threshold?
COX: No, no, that's reporting requirements, not denial of benefits. They are denied benefits if they're not a U.S. citizen. And that's where the discussion is. But the reporting requirement is if they know.
DOBBS: Well, let's get to that issue. Let's get to that issue. Do we know how many applicants have been denied benefits in the state of Oklahoma -- let's start with food stamps -- because they're illegal aliens?
Shirley, do you know?
COX: No, but if they're not U.S. citizens, they're not eligible for food stamps...
DOBBS: Well, Steve Thomas says they're getting them. Randy Terrill says they're getting them.
TERRILL: This is -- Lou, let me be clear about this, what she's saying. She's technically telling you, according to federal law, they are not eligible to receive the benefit. She is therefore ipso facto wanting you and all your viewers to believe that they are not getting them, which is patently false. The DHS director even admitted that there are illegal aliens fraudulently using documents to obtain these public assistance benefits, specifically food stamps.
Beyond that, the scope of the problem is even greater than that, because those numbers don't take into account the anchor baby phenomenon. So once they have a child that is actually an American citizen, then they become eligible not only for the food stamps but for all the other benefits. So the scope of the problem is enormous.
DOBBS: Shirley, well, let me ask you, I'm trying to figure out your perspective here, then, if what Randy is saying is right. I mean, what is your interest in denying what is reality?
COX: There is no denial of reality. The so-called anchor babies that Randy Terrill is talking about are U.S. citizens of the United States, entitled to the rights and benefits of all U.S. citizens of the United States. They are not people, they are not somehow entities that anchor these families.
They are entitled to food stamps, but that amounts to one person being entitled for food stamps. A family cannot survive on one eligibility, one person's eligibility for food stamps. So saying that they can support an entire family is simply an inaccurate statement.
And they are U.S. citizens. The 14th Amendment of the United States says any person born or naturalized in the United States is a U.S. citizen. And they are eligible for benefits if they are a U.S. citizen.
TERRILL: Lou, she's now trying to convince you that illegal aliens aren't getting any greater benefit than U.S. citizens, and that's absolutely false.
DOBBS: We're going to have to break it here, Randy Terrill. Go ahead and finish your thought real quickly.
TERRILL: It's a license to steal from the taxpayers. The taxpayers have a right, an absolute right, to know how many illegal aliens are getting these benefits and what the cost is.
DOBBS: We appreciate you being you here, Steve Thomas...
TERRILL: OK. Thank you, Lou.
DOBBS: ... Randy Terrill, Shirley Cox, thank you very much, all of you.
DOBBS: Still ahead here, I'll talk with Bev Harris, the focus of a powerful new documentary on HBO that sheds light on potential security problems with our e-voting machines. She joins us tonight, along with Hugh Thompson, a machine security analyst.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Electronic voting machines will count at least three out of four votes cast nationwide Tuesday. But can we really trust those machines? Will our votes count?
Bev Harris is the founder of Black Box Voting and she doesn't think so. Her work is central to the documentary "Hacking Democracy", a documentary airing on HBO throughout this month. Earlier I talked with Bev Harris and security analyst Hugh Thompson about just how dire is the threat to our Tuesday election.
HARRIS: I think Tuesday's going to be pretty rough. It may look okay on Tuesday, but in the ten days following, I think we're going to find a lot of records that don't match up. And there is going to be a lot of confusion.
DOBBS: A lot of confusion. Do you think -- we hear from our viewers all the time -- concerned in partisan way about what will happen with these four -- these machines manufactured by four basic manufacturers. They view these machines, not only suspiciously in terms of the software that they use, the way in which they're designed and operated, but they think there's true partisan influence. Do you agree?
HARRIS: Well, I think on both sides. You see, the problem with the machines is whoever has custody of the machines has a tremendous advantage if they choose to manipulate the election.
DOBBS: And I just -- I cannot imagine, Hugh, how we got to a situation where the federal government is spending billions of dollars to buy machines that can be opened with mini bar keys, that can be tampered with.
DR. HUGH THOMPSON, CHIEF SEC. ANALYST, SECURITY INNOVATION: It's kind of scary when you kind of take the analogy of electronic voting machines with other machines that have huge consequences of failure that people put their trust in. Like, when I get in an elevator to come to this interview, or when I go in an airplane, I believe that someone who knows a lot about airplanes and knows a lot about elevators has checked these things out for safety and security. But the kind of flaws that we found just sort of show that checking really isn't being done.
DOBBS: In the documentary, one of example of the way these machines can fail is the case of Susan Bernecker, a Republican candidate from New Orleans as you well know, who ran for city council.
Let's take a look at what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUSAN BERNECKER, (R) CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE, NEW ORLEANS: This is where I came the day that the warehouses opened to the candidates to inspect. So I came here with an old college buddy. He grabbed his camera, and I asked him to show me how the machine works. So I just started fooling around with the machine. And it's when I pressed the button next to my name, and then I looked down and I see Mr. Gambellluca's (ph) name in the display when I pressed Susan Bernecker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: What do you think?
HARRIS: All too common, unfortunately.
DOBBS: How did we get to the point that four basic manufacturers making these machines, using laboratories to test and verify their equipment -- that the companies pay, rather than independent federal agencies doing, so -- or even state agencies. How did we get here, Hugh?
THOMPSON: It's kind of like -- asking me, so my Ph.D. is in mathematics, and it's like asking me to verify the flightworthiness of a Boeing 737. I don't know anything about planes or avionics, but I can say, well, it's got a couple of engines, it's got a big fin on the back, it looks like it's ready to go, there's somebody sitting in the front seat.
And that's what is happening with voting machines. You have people that don't understand software security that are saying, OK, it adds two votes together, let's push it off. So we really need new standards.
DOBBS: And the idea that these companies, with their proprietary software -- and this is the part I really love -- are basically in control of the election because no one can verify what they're doing, except their own employees. What are we going to do?
HARRIS: Well, one of the things -- it's too late for this election to really do any fundamental changes. And so one of the things we need to do is really document the heck out of this situation.
And, you know, in 2004, we had people telling stories. This time we need to be out there with video cameras and get public records so that we can really tell the story of what happens. Then we're going to need to solve it longterm.
DOBBS: Well, the Diebold Corporation is not happy about this documentary.
THOMPSON: But you know, the interesting issue is the documentary really isn't about a particular company or a particular voting system. It's more about, you know, we don't have standards to verify these things.
DOBBS: And we should point out, we have been doing intensive reporting on this broadcast.
DOBBS: We want to point out that Diebold has not ever accepted my invitation to join me here to talk about it, which we find remarkable.
We thank you both. We wish you good luck, Bev. Hugh, thanks very much.
THOMPSON: Thanks so much for your coverage.
DOBBS: Thank you.
DOBBS: Thanks for being with us tonight. For all of us here, thanks for watching. Good night from New York.
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