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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Health Care Reform Bill Passes Senate Finance Committee; Did Texas Execute Innocent Man?
Aired October 13, 2009 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.
Tonight, "Raw Politics," a major milestone in a fight that has gone on for 97 years -- that's right, 97 years -- the fight over how to make sure anyone who needs medical care can get it, not die waiting for it, and not go broke paying for it. We will tell what you lawmakers decided today, what they and the president do next, and, foremost, what it all means to your health and your bottom line.
Also tonight, "Keeping Them Honest": Did the state of Texas put an innocent man to death, and is the governor of Texas now trying to cover that fact up? He's not talking, but the guy he just fired, the guy heading up the investigation, is. You will hear from him tonight. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And "Crime & Punishment" literally in your face: the paparazzi. California's governor just signed a bill to crack down on them. They're accused of hounding stars, causing accidents, endangering lives. But does the new law really do anything to stop the most aggressive paparazzi out there?
First up tonight, today's historic vote on health care reform, what it means to you and why, historic though it is, the battle isn't over yet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, the final at ally is 14 ayes, nine nays.
SEN. MAX BAUCUS (D-MT), FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: The ayes have it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: The Senate Finance Committee this afternoon approving its version of the reform, a lone Republican, Olympia Snowe of Maine, voting aye.
The bill outlaws denial of coverage for preexisting conditions. It mandates that everyone carries insurance and either expands Medicaid or provides subsidies to help Americans afford it, the cost, $829 over 10 years, to be paid for by Medicare cost savings and a tax on very-high-end insurance plans.
It does not provide the choice of government-provided insurance. What's more, it still has to be blended with other Senate and House legislation, all of which do. Negotiations start tomorrow.
So, first up tonight, Candy Crowley.
Candy, A lot of people saying this is a victory for President Obama.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Listen, it is. It is certainly not the final victory for President Obama. They still need to deliver a health care bill to his desk that he signs and enacts into law.
But, as you note, it's historic. It has been almost a century since anything this big has made it this far through Congress having to do with health care reform. More importantly tonight, I -- I think the better victory for the president is that this is momentum.
Things had really sort of bogged down in the Senate Finance Committee, in the sense that the other committees have passed them out pretty quickly. And then you had that heated August full of all those town hall meetings, and public support for the public option, for what people felt was Obama-care, began to fall off.
This now puts the president back sort of on offense, where they have been on defense for so long. So, it is important politically, for that matter. The rest is sort of a history book thing, which will pale in comparison if he can get this thing passed.
COOPER: Orrin Hatch was critical, saying, look, now this thing goes behind closed doors to be negotiated. And, in fact, tomorrow, that starts. How far away are we from the president actually being able to sign something that changes the face of health care?
CROWLEY: I talked to several people on Capitol Hill today. One of them said to me, do not make any New Year's Eve plans. I'm thinking he's kidding, but not necessarily, because, really, now it gets tough, because, as you mentioned, there are five bills out there.
Three of them have to kind of be melded on the House side, two of them on the Senate side. Then it goes into this conference committee. There is this work behind closed doors tomorrow, with Senator Reid and two important committee chairman and the White House trying to come up with their bill. So, we're many moons away at this point from getting something final.
But the fact of the matter is that there are huge differences, and here are two of them. One of them is, how are you going to pay for this? We're already seeing unions, who support health care reform, coming out, many of them, and -- not all of them, but many of them -- saying, we do not support the idea of taxing those kind of high-end health care plans, because they believe the definition of high-end will include some unions, which fought want very hard to gave give up pay increases, in fact, to get better health care.
So, you're already seeing the unions, who say they're going to start advertising. We saw the insurance industry come out and say, wait a second, whatever happened to controlling costs? So, it is now very, very hard. And this is when the battle really counts, when they start line by line going through it. You're going to hear from a lot of different parties.
So, it will be a long slog. But, by the end of the year, you will see something.
COOPER: Well, if it goes to New Year's Eve, I'm going to be working in Times Square at the ball drop. You can join me there.
COOPER: We will cover it together?
CROWLEY: OK. It's a deal.
COOPER: All right.
Whatever the final version, the impact of this will not be felt for years. And, despite today's vote, as Candy said, there is still a long way to go. Reform faces major hurdles before any bill gets to the president's desk.
Tom Foreman has the "Raw Politics" on that.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At this moment, as you watch at home, the president and other politicians here in D.C. are also watching you because they really don't know what you want or what you will support. And their jobs down the road depend on figuring that out.
It's also safe to say they're highly sensitive to the three questions you care about most. The first, we have heard in virtually every one of those town hall meetings. What about my insurance, the care I have now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm leaving.
FOREMAN: Even though most Americans want reform, almost 80 percent told a CBS/"New York Times" pollster they're pleased with their own health care. And many fear reform could force them to change.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why would we have to change if we're completely satisfied with what we have?
FOREMAN: The president says, no, you won't be forced, but the opposition has whipped that worry into a frenzy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, AD)
NARRATOR: For seniors, this will mean long waits for care, cuts to MRIs, CAT scans, and other vital tests. Seniors may lose their own doctors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FOREMAN: Here's the second question: What about big government getting even bigger? Again, a very hot issue in all those town halls.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This government is out of control.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're in debt up to our eyeballs. And you all are doing nothing but putting more debt on us and our children. And it's got to stop.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
FOREMAN: "USA Today"/Gallup found more than half the voters think big government is a bigger threat to the future than big labor unions or big business, the bailouts, the soaring deficit all driving that concern.
And, finally, what if this measure passes, but fails to produce the results that people expect or want? Health insurance for everyone was the president's goal. But even if the plan approved about by Senate committee passes, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 25 million people will still be uninsured in 10 years.
And the rest of us, well, an NBC/"Wall Street Journal" poll found 70 percent of you think reform will make your care no better, might make it even worse.
Fair or not, these are real challenges that you have raised for supporters of this measure -- Anderson.
COOPER: Well, Tom, thanks.
Let's dig deeper now, a lot to talk about.
With us tonight, political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, and Ari Fleischer, former White House press secretary in the G.W. Bush administration.
Paul, you say that because of Olympia Snowe's vote today, that Madame Tussaud's should a wax model out of her and put it in the Smithsonian.
COOPER: What are you talking about?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, she is the last -- the last of the moderate to liberal Northeastern Republicans, she and, frankly, her -- her colleague from Maine, Susan Collins, who is also a moderate, voted for the stimulus plan at the beginning of this year.
But that's about it. I mean, there was a time -- I remember when President Clinton was pushing his health care plan. We couldn't pass it. But we got three votes from Republicans in that Senate Finance Committee. Now we're just down to one.
But, frankly, one is all the Democrats need. We have had this tectonic shift in the Republican Party. But the Democrats have -- part of the reason we have so many fewer moderate Republicans, frankly, is that moderate Democrats defeated them. And so now the whole center of gravity has shifted to the Democratic Party.
But Olympia Snowe has done a very smart thing. She becomes the most important person in this -- in this game right now.
COOPER: Ari, is she going to get punished by her fellow Republicans?
ARI FLEISCHER, FORMER GEORGE W. BUSH WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. I think we have seen that people have independent judgments and they exercise them.
But I think the real issue here, in terms of voting behavior, is so little of what President Obama has promised has been able to achieve bipartisan support. The only thing bipartisan has been opposition. Many Democrats have joined with Republicans in opposing it.
And I think the biggest reason why is the fear that it just won't work. It's going to make people pay more for their health care. It's going to remove seniors from Medicare Advantage, which is going to hurt seniors who currently enjoying health care.
I think they're just putting together a terribly complicated government solution by terrible -- by a large number of committees that's not going to get the job done, and it won't get health care to the people who need it.
COOPER: But, Ari, have Republicans come up with any actual counterproposals, I mean, anything...
FLEISCHER: Well, sure.
COOPER: ... or plans of their own?
FLEISCHER: Sure. And I think, had they been allowed to have hearings and have their ideas accepted in the way of amendments and other -- other ways legislation moves forward, you would have had a system where you have much more individual-based care with the current deduction that goes to corporations is instead given to individuals, so they can buy health care.
You would have had medical malpractice reform. You would have had portability of health insurance as well. And you would have had prohibitions on insurance companies so they could not deny care to people who are sick, particularly people who currently have jobs and lost their jobs.
COOPER: Paul, what about -- Paul, what about that? (CROSSTALK)
FLEISCHER: There was a lot of individual-based health care by Republicans.
BEGALA: I haven't gotten the count yet from the staff of the Senate Finance Committee. But the other four committees that have voted on health care bills have accepted 183 Republican amendments, in return for which they got zero Republican votes -- 183...
COOPER: Paul, I got to...
BEGALA: ... some of them minor and technical, some of them bigger.
COOPER: I have got to jump in there. I have got to take a short break.
COOPER: Paul, I will let you continue and then, Ari, respond. We're going to have more with our panel right after this break.
Let us know what you think. Join in the chat at AC360.com right now.
Later, is Texas Governor Rick Perry trying to cover up the execution of a man many now believe was innocent? Randi Kaye investigates. She has uncovered a shocker. She's "Keeping Them Honest."
Plus, our week-long series, "Politicians Behaving Badly," it starts tonight. We're talking about Republicans and Democrats. Believe me, there's a lot of them going around. We start with the governor who said he was hiking the old Appalachian Trail, but was in Argentina instead. He's been out of the headlines, but his troubles aren't over yet.
COOPER: Let's dig deeper now with Paul Begala, Ari Fleischer on health care reform, what it means to you and this president, as the financial legislative player, the Senate Finance Committee, weighs in, approving its own legislation today.
President Obama praising the committee, but not taking any victory laps yet. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. Now is not the time to offer ourselves congratulations. Now is the time to dig in and work even harder to get this done. And, in this final phase, I hope that we will continue to engage in each other with the spirit of civility and seriousness that has brought us this far and that this subject deserves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Let's continue on with Paul.
Paul, you were -- you were saying that you believe the Republicans have been given a fair chance to actually weigh in.
BEGALA: Well, sure. First off, the American people gave them a chance. The American people gave them the House, gave them the Senate, gave them the White House.
I have to say, America, I warned you. But we the people gave them all of that.
BEGALA: And they produced, as we say in the Catholic Church, bubkes, nothing on fundamental health care reform, except President Bush did sign a vast expansion of prescription drug benefits without any way to pay for it, which is about $800 billion added to the deficit, which helped a lot of people, but it cost a lot of money.
But, in fundamental health care reform, nada, zilch, nothing. So, they had their chance. But, still, the Democrats have allowed over 180 amendments, even before this Finance Committee bill, which will be the most bipartisan in its ideas. It has earned the support of a lot of prominent Republicans.
Bill Frist, a doctor and a former Senate Republican leader, has endorsed this bill, and -- and plenty of others.
COOPER: So, Ari, what about that? It sounds -- if you listen to Paul Begala, it sounds like the Republicans were given every opportunity to do something.
FLEISCHER: Well, Anderson, listen, the way Washington works, the party in power gets to have its way. And the party that is the minority seldom does. And I understand that. That's the way it should work.
I want to talk more about the substance of the bill than whether it has X votes or Y votes, because that's really where the problem for the American people is going to be. I think there's a 50/50 chance this bill passes. There is still a lot of Democrat opposition to it, particularly in the House.
Here's one of the biggest reasons why. You said you're going to be in New Year's Eve, Anderson -- in Times Square for New Year's Eve. I will guarantee almost everybody in that crowd who is young is not going to have health insurance, because they choose not to, unless they work for a company that just gives it to them anyway. Young people who are healthy, who have a choice, don't want it. They don't want to pay the premiums. Under this bill, they will be fined $200 if they don't get health care. The problem with that is, the only way this new provision works, this new whole system -- health care system works is if you get the entire country to have mandated coverage, because, now, you don't have to have coverage, and you can't be denied if you're sick.
Don't get coverage. Wait until you get sick, and then you sign up. People are going to game the new system. It's human nature. That's the biggest problem this bill is going to have. That's why it's going to collapse, I fear. And you and I and everybody who has health care is going to pay much higher premiums as a result of that, because a huge segment of this population that is young and healthy will opt out.
FLEISCHER: There really is no mandate.
COOPER: ... do you believe our fellow Americans are going to game the system?
BEGALA: Well, people game anything they can.
You know, Ari makes a legitimate point that the mandate needs to be toughened up. I will point out that the mandate is an idea that has been championed by Republicans, especially, for example, Charles Grassley, the most senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.
This idea of individual mandates is something Barack Obama was kind of queasy with in the primaries, Hillary Clinton was for. So, this is where Senator Obama has come toward where the former adversaries were, including many Republicans.
But the most important reforms are the ones that will affect those of us who have health insurance and who like it. No longer will the insurance companies be able to dump you for the sin of getting sick or the crime of getting older or being a woman of childbearing age, these preexisting condition rules that they use and this post facto underwriting, where they kick people off, they call it recision. It's really, frankly, an insurance company death panel.
There are really remarkable abuses in the present system. They have been going on a long time. And I think that's why this reform is going to be, actually, it's going to be very effective. It's likely to be very popular as well.
COOPER: Do you think by the end of the year, though, Paul?
COOPER: And, Ari...
BEGALA: And I'm with Candy. I think the ball, they should make it look like a thermometer, because that's when the health care bill will be signed, about the time that that -- that that ball drops.
BEGALA: And, Ari, you say you -- you still think it's a 50/50 chance?
FLEISCHER: Yes, I really do. I still think you see a lot of queasiness by moderate Democrats in the House of Representatives especially.
And you still have the huge unsettled issue about how it's going to be paid for and how much debt will be piled on to our country because of it. Massive difference between how the Senate raises taxes to get it done and between how the House raises taxes to be done.
FLEISCHER: So, while I think the core of the Democrat Party, their heart is in this, they really want to get it done, there's a lot more details that are terribly problematic for the country and how to do it.
Plus, they have a real senior citizen problem and a growing problem. They're gutting a program called Medicare Advantage, which tens of millions of seniors have and -- and like -- millions of seniors have and like. And they're gutting that program. That's a problem.
COOPER: We are going to have to leave it there.
Ari Fleischer, Paul Begala, thanks.
COOPER: As always, a lot to learn online on AC360.com, where you will find a kind of Rosetta stone to the debate, a complete guide to the most important terms you need to know to help you to fully understand the issue. Check that out.
Coming up, though, tonight, we kick off a new series, "Politicians Behaving Badly," with an update on this guy, the governor who cheated on his wife and is under fire for a whole lot more.
And, later, cracking down on paparazzi -- a new law in California seeks to punish those who invade celebrities' privacy, but does the law actually stop those car chases and harassment by the most aggressive photographers? Find out tonight in "Crime & Punishment."
COOPER: There's been a break in the case of the Florida teenager who was set on fire, horribly burned over 80 percent of his body. We will have the latest on his case just ahead, but, first, some of the other important stories we're following.
Erica joins us with a 360 news and business bulletin -- Erica.
ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, one story that we have been covering very closely for more than two years now, youth violence across this country, claiming more victims today -- two teenagers killed, three wounded in a drive-by shooting this afternoon in Northeast Washington, D.C. The suspects opened fire outside an apartment building. The mayor and police are asking witnesses to come forward.
The Department of Defense saying today all four military branches met or exceeded their recruiting goals for fiscal year 2009. This is the first time it's happened since the draft ended in 1973. The bleak job market has actually helped to fill the military's ranks.
More fallout today from a problem CNN first investigated in 2005 -- Ford now recalling another 4.5 million vehicles because of a fire hazard linked to faulty cruise control switches. It is the eighth recall tied to the faulty switches. It brings the total to about 16 million vehicles.
President and Mrs. Obama celebrating Hispanic musical heritage on the South Lawn of the White House tonight. Fiesta Latina was the event. It featured the band Los Lobos, singer Sheila E., along with Marc Anthony, Gloria Estefan, Jose Feliciano, and many others on hand.
And at the World Masters Games in Sidney, Australia, 100-year-old Ruth Frith breaking the record for her age group with a 13-foot, 4.2- inch throw.
HILL: Take that, shot put.
HILL: The great-grandmother was the only competitor in the over- 100 category.
COOPER: That's farther than I can throw.
HILL: I know, right? Me, too.
Apparently, she also competes in the javelin and the hammer throw.
HILL: And she trains five days a week.
HILL: Don't mess with granny.
COOPER: Wow. Cool for her. Next on 360: a governor under fire over a controversial execution. It's a story we have been following on 360 -- tonight, new details about new when new evidence suggesting a condemned man was innocent actually came across the governor's desk and whether or not the governor actually looked at it. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Also tonight, Rush Limbaugh and the NFL backlash -- some very prominent voices from the NFL speaking out against the radio host's bid to own a football team.
COOPER: In Texas tonight, explosive new charges over the execution of a man who at least half-a-dozen forensic experts now believe was innocent.
These new charges are again being leveled against Governor Rick Perry, who removed four members of a state commission investigating the death of this man, Cameron Todd Willingham. And, as you will see, the new accusations have some convinced that the governor's office may be trying to cover up this execution.
We're "Keeping Them Honest." Randi Kaye has been following the story for us for years now. She joins us again with the latest.
Randi, this execution took place five-and-a-half years ago. Why is the governor in the spotlight now for it?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There are still so many questions about this, Anderson. The story really started to pick up steam again just a couple of weeks ago, when Texas Governor Rick Perry suddenly removed three members of the Texas commission investigating the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham.
The question all these years later is this: Is the governor who is in the middle of a tough Republican primary trying to cover up the execution of an innocent man on his watch?
Willingham was convicted of arson homicide for setting a fire that killed his three baby girls. He was put to death by lethal injection in 2004.
No, in the years since Willingham was executed, at least six forensic scientists have said the fire was not arson, that it may have actually been an accident. And this commission we're talking about was supposed to be the final official word on the matter, until it was delayed, maybe even shut down, because of the governor's decision here.
Now, here is what he did. Two weeks ago, the governor removed three members of the commission. That was just 48 hours before a major hearing on the case. And then, just this weekend, he removed a fourth member. Their terms were all up, but the governor had the right to keep them on.
Tonight, the chairman of that commission, Sam Bassett, who was just replaced, is speaking out, adding even more fuel to the charge the governor may be trying to hide something. Bassett says the governor's top aides told him they were unhappy with the direction of the investigation and that he was asked by aides if this case were really something the commission should even be looking at.
The governor's office told us tonight that Bassett was simply asked if he was -- quote -- "comfortable" with the commission handling this review and that he was not asked to discontinue his work at all -- Anderson.
COOPER: So, going back to 2004, evidence was given to the governor right before this man was executed. What do we know about that?
KAYE: Well, this is what's really at the heart of this case. This is the issue here.
We know -- the new information that we actually just confirmed tonight, we now know, just 88 minutes before the execution, Governor Perry's office received a fax. Now, that fax contained an arson expert's findings that the fire Willingham had been convicted of setting was not arson, and that botched evidence and a poor evidence of arson science was about to send an innocent man to his death.
The fax, we know now, was five pages long. But what is unclear even now is whether or not Governor Perry actually read the fax. We asked his office tonight and his spokeswoman told us -- quote -- "Given the brevity of the report and the general counsel's familiarity with all the other facts in the case, there was ample time for the general counsel to read and analyze the report and to brief the governor on its contents."
So, the governor may or may not have read the report with his own eyes. We can tell you this, though. About an hour-and-a-half after that fax was sent, Cameron Todd Willingham was executed.
His final words: "I am an innocent man convicted of a crime I did not commit."
COOPER: Now, the governor has always stood by his decision, though.
KAYE: Absolutely. And he still does. Governor Perry has said there was clear and compelling overwhelming evidence -- that's a quote -- that Todd Willingham set the fire that killed his three baby girls. The question still remains, was the governor playing politics here in trying to delay or derail this investigation?
If the committee's work stayed on track, its final report would likely have come out, Anderson, just weeks before the vote in this Republican Texas primary.
COOPER: And a very tightly contested vote, it is.
All right, appreciate it, Randi. Did Texas execute an innocent man? And is the governor trying to cover it up? With us now is Samuel Bassett. He was the head of the panel ordered to investigate the case, that is, until Perry removed him from the commission. Also us is Michael Hall, senior editor of "Texas Monthly."
Sam, I want to start off with you. Your commission was in -- was set up about to -- was set up originally to investigate bad forensic science, correct?
SAMUEL BASSETT, REMOVED FROM TEXAS FORENSIC SCIENCE COMMISSION: That's correct, Anderson.
COOPER: And what was your sense of when suddenly folks from the governor's office start sitting in on meetings and start talking to you? Had they ever done that before about any other case?
BASSETT: The first time the governor's office sent a representative to one of our meetings was following a February 2009 meeting that I had with the general counsel for the governor and one of his deputy general counsels.
COOPER: And that was a meeting specifically about the -- this -- this case, this execution?
BASSETT: The meeting that I had with the governor's aides encompassed a lot of issues, but, clearly, the majority of the time was spent discussing the Willingham investigation.
COOPER: They said they were unhappy with the direction of the commission. What do -- when they told you that, what did you interpret that to mean? Or what do you believe that you meant -- that meant?
BASSETT: I was a little bit surprised.
What they said to me was, they didn't think that this type of investigation was an investigation that was authorized or was the intention of the legislature when they created the statute creating the commission.
COOPER: From my perspective, though, it -- just the reading of the evidence, it seems like this is exactly what your commission was set up for, to investigate possibly bad forensic science. And now we have had a lot of forensic scientists come forward and say this whole arson investigation on which this guy was convicted is just ridiculous.
BASSETT: That's right, Anderson.
And I -- at the time, I wasn't prepared to meet their statement, because I wasn't -- they -- I wasn't given an agenda for the meeting. But I went back to my office and satisfied myself that we were acting under statutory authority. And the commission had voted unanimously to conduct this investigation.
COOPER: Michael, you wrote in "The Texas Monthly" -- and I quote -- "You don't have to be against the death penalty to think that something is terribly wrong here."
Do you think there is a cover-up?
HALL: Well, it sure seems like a political move to head something off. You know, it was obvious what the result was going to be. It was going to be embarrassing to the governor. And it -- what's bizarre about this is how the governor doesn't seem to have any sense of how bad it looks. I mean, everybody is looking at this and saying, "How -- what's going on here?"
COOPER: How many...
HALL: It doesn't smell right.
COOPER: Michael, how many folks have come forward, you know, forensic experts, subsequently, to say this evidence doesn't seem right?
HALL: Well, I mean, there were originally seven experts have looked at this and said, by all -- by all their science, this fire was an accident, including Craig Byler, this guy from Baltimore who's not just an expert. I mean, this guy is the guy. He's the Michael Jordan of science, of forensic science and with arson. This is not just some guy.
Perry mocked him as being a so-called expert. This guy is the real deal.
COOPER: Sam, I understand also that the governor's people questioned whether or not the money that was being spent on this made any sense.
BASSETT: There was a comment by the deputy general counsel, Miss Wiley, that perhaps this was a waste of state money.
COOPER: So why do you think you were replaced as head of the commission? Why do you think the others -- other three people on the commission were replaced?
BASSETT: I can't -- I'm not a politician or a political pundit. I have no idea. I'm awfully disappointed, and I certainly would like to see this investigation finished. I thought it was an important investigation for the future of criminal justice in Texas.
COOPER: Michael, why do you think Sam was replaced? I mean, everybody who could have been replaced, that the governor could have replaced, he has replaced.
HALL: You know, and it destroyed the institutional memory of this -- I mean, Sam and these guys have been working on this thing for four years. You know?
And then right at the point where they're doing their most important investigation their -- you know, their first serious investigation, you know, he replaces half of them. I mean, to me it just looks like he was uncomfortable with the result that he knew they were going to come to.
COOPER: And Michael, the new people who have been brought in, are they going to continue this investigation? Or how have they performed thus far on this case?
HALL: Well, you know, there is -- there were these roundtable discussions, these educational, open-to-the-public things. The first one was supposed to be, I believe, November the 6th. They've already canceled that. I mean, it just -- it just doesn't look good. I mean, nobody is -- nobody has come forward and said, "Well, we're going to -- we have a timetable here, and we're going to make this thing happen." They've been silent.
COOPER: We should say we pointed out we've asked the governor multiple times for interviews repeatedly. He's refused -- or not been able to meet our requests so far.
Sam, at this point, have you actually made up your mind about whether bad forensic science led to this man's unnecessary execution, or do you not know?
BASSETT: I certainly had serious concerns, Anderson, after reading the report by Dr. Byler and the other evidence. However, I had not made up my mind finally. And the point was the commission wanted to hear all sides of this. And we have just gotten started.
COOPER: And Sam, why do you think this is important? I mean, beyond the possibility of a cover-up, beyond whether this man in particular was executed unnecessarily, what does it say about the chance for, you know, proper criminal justice in the state of Texas?
BASSETT: Well, many people are in prison for arson. And we don't know how many of the people in prison for arson were convicted under similar circumstances. And forensic science carries a disproportionate weight in the courtroom. And it is very influential on a jury. So we need to be sure before we convict someone in Texas that we're doing the best job possible.
COOPER: And Sam, that's important. Because back in the '80s and even in the '90s, a lot of the things which you had arson investigators testifying about, about patterns of burns and stuff, saying, "Well, this could only be caused by arson," we've now since learned that's just not the case. Things with water can cause some of the things that people used to say arson was the cause of.
BASSETT: Exactly. Some of the old arson myths made intuitive sense. But what we're discovering now is that even the things that made intuitive sense could not pass scientific muster.
COOPER: All right. Sam Bassett, we'll continue on the case. Michael Hall as well, appreciate it. Thanks, both of you.
So do you think the governor is trying to cover up a botched execution to stay in office? Join the live chat happening now at AC360.com. We'd love to hear from you. Still ahead, another governor under fire. South Carolina's governor, Mark Sanford. He disappeared from office, you'll remember, for five days to see his mistress. Did he use state money to pay for his trysts? The latest in the case, the ongoing case against him.
And up close, California's governor taking aim at the paparazzi. Will the new law put them out of business or at least restrain them? If it does, how will celebrities stay celebrities? We'll right back.
COOPER: Tonight, we kick off a series, "Politicians Behaving Badly". Frankly, there are so many, it's hard to know where to start.
We begin, though, with South Carolina's governor, Mark Sanford, whose sex scandal came with a bonus sleaze factor, a new euphemism for cheating on your spouse. At a press conference in June, Sanford admitted that he'd actually been hiking the Appalachian Trail during his five-day disappearing act. He'd been in Argentina with his lover.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I've been unfaithful to my wife. I developed a relationship with a -- what started as a dear, dear friend from Argentina.
I hurt you all. I hurt my wife. I hurt my boys. And all I can say is that I apologize.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: In the fallout with the media, late-night comics cracked a lot of jokes. Sanford's colleagues called on him to step down. His wife and kids moved out. Investigations were launched.
Sanford has managed to hold onto his job, and he's promised to cooperate with investigators.
But now, as a state ethics commission prepares to release the preliminary report, the governor is trying to block that -- state lawmakers from actually seeing it.
"Keeping Them Honest," Joe Johns and Candy Crowley join me now.
Joe, what's the latest on this ethics investigation?
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the question is whether Mark Sanford did anything unethical when he's flying around the country and the world over the last several years. We've been taking a look at his travel documents. He's a fiscal conservative, and he's taken hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of business trips paid for by taxpayers. Some of those were on commercial airlines, business class. Some of those trips were on aircraft owned by the state of South Carolina inside the U.S. He's even traveled a couple times on privately-owned planes. Spent enough on business travel for critics to ask if that's the way a budget hawk should behave. Sanford said his travel was in line with other South Carolina governors. And the record supports that.
Then it gets tricky. The state ethics commission started looking at Sanford's travel records. And at first he said he would allow that information to become public.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANFORD: And so here's where I am. I'm going to waive confidentiality on the ethics probe against me, because my belief is we have an outstanding record with regard to standing up to the taxpayer and trying to do the right thing consistently.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JOHNS: That was in August, when he said he wanted it all out in the open.
But now Sanford has seemingly reversed himself. He's even in court fighting to stop this closure of a preliminary investigation report. He said releasing it would be against the law. It would poison the ethics process, he says. It's going before the state supreme court next week, Anderson.
COOPER: So Candy, I should point out that Sanford was investigated for improper use of state funds on that trip to Argentina, cleared on that. But a lot of his current troubles stem from that, right?
JOHNS: Absolutely. That's how it all begins. That's how it always begins, when you look at a lot of other governors. You know, Spitzer, McGreevey, those names are associated with allegations of illegal conduct. Two governors that left their jobs rather quickly after all this was discovered.
In this case, Sanford is simply a law enforcement -- actually got an investigation. But it's not about illegality, Anderson.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, what this is about, Anderson, is a man who very publicly came out, gave this news conference, the kind of -- which we have seen in so many of these cases and said, "I'm sorry. It's the wrong thing to do. I've hurt all these people."
And at the time, he had a fairly good base of support. I talked to Republicans right after that first news conference. You played a little part of it. And they said, "OK, people make mistakes. He came out. He said all the ring right things now." And they thought he was going to go back to his wife, they were going to heal their marriage. He's going to get on with the governorship.
The next day he goes out, and he gives this interview to the Associated Press, refers to this woman in Argentina as his soul mate, says that he was trying to fall back in love with his wife, and his friends went crazy. And they went to him. And they said it was almost like talking to a brick wall, that he did not understand the political implications of what had happened. That all his response to them was, "You have to understand. This is a love story."
So from there, he began to lose his Republican supporters. He had already begun to lose the Democratic supporters. Public support fell off. And they could not -- they could -- it was not enough to force him out of office.
And then it begins. It's the hypocrisy thing. Well, you say you're saving money, but you're using all these expensive flights.
So it stemmed from what he refers to as this love story, which got into other aspects, which wouldn't ordinarily had been looked at, had it not been for this affair with this woman and this flight down to Argentina.
COOPER: The other thing is Mrs. Sanford has acted kind of unlike a lot of politicians' wives. She's kind of not standing there silently next to her man. She's kind of gotten a life of her own and gotten a lot of respect for it.
CROWLEY: She has. And she's writing a book. So stay tuned for next year, because that should be interesting.
But you're exactly right. We've seen several kind of templates here. We saw with first lady -- then first lady -- Hillary Clinton, who did silently, if not stand by the president during the Monica Lewinsky affair, was there. Did largely do her suffering in silence.
We saw Elizabeth Edwards, who came out finally, talking to Oprah Winfrey at one point. Very bitter toward the other woman.
And then along comes Mrs. Sanford, the first lady of South Carolina. She is an accomplished investment banker who quit to become a mother, who ran his campaigns. And she really wrote the template. This was a woman who came out and said, when asked, "I forgive him because that's what" -- she's a very Christian woman -- "that's what I'm told to do. But reconciliation is up to him."
She left the governor's mansion. She went down to South Carolina, where she -- southern South Carolina, where she is with her boys. And she is writing this book. And they are not reconciled.
COOPER: So Joe, at this point the ethics commission, they're going to release this report? I mean, he's trying to block it, what, Monday?
JOHNS: Yes. Well, that's the million-dollar question. I mean, he basically says, "Look, the law says you can't release this information. So don't release this information."
Of course, it's really about politics. I mean, the bottom line is there are people who want to impeach him. And he's afraid that, if they release that information, it will be used as fuel...
COOPER: So he's trying to delay as long as possible?
JOHNS: ... impeachment proceeding. Exactly.
COOPER: All right. Joe Johns and Candy Crowley, appreciate it. Thanks very much. "Keeping Them Honest" tonight.
Coming up next, paparazzi under fire. Do photographers go too far to get the shot? A new law is taking aim at them. We've got reaction from those taking the pictures, as well as those buying them. It's tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report.
And the chorus against Rush Limbaugh is growing louder in some circles. Should the talk radio host own an NFL team?
We'll be right back.
COOPER: "Crime & Punishment" tonight, the new war on the paparazzi. This week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a new bill into law that holds the media outlets libel for buying photographs that invade a celebrity's right of privacy. The measure also fines those who take illegal pictures.
Now, the law goes into effect in January. But will it work? We're going to talk to a paparazzi insider in a moment.
First, the dark side of business and why a lot of stars believe these photographers will stop at nothing to get a snapshot. Erica Hill reports.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Throngs of photographers jockeying for the money shot. It's become almost expected. But that doesn't mean it's welcomed.
Sean Penn's dislike of paparazzi is legendary. Even Britney Spears famously had enough one night, taking an umbrella to a photographer's SUV. In 2008, a British jury found Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were unlawfully killed more than a decade earlier by the grossly negligent driving of their chauffeur and the paparazzi who were following them.
It can clearly get rough. But things aren't always what they seem.
BEN WIDDICOMBE, CELEBRITY COLUMNIST: A lot of times the shot you see in the magazine is actually orchestrated by the celebrity themselves. Celebrities like Britney Spears, for example, are infamous in the industry for letting their assistants tell the paparazzi when they'll be leaving the gates.
HILL: These photos are big business, especially when it comes to major milestones. Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher reportedly pocketed $3 million from OK for their 2005 union. Eva Longoria and Tony Parker's lavish Paris wedding, $2 million.
But the real money comes once baby makes three. Or more.
WIDDICOMBE: The Brad Pitt-Angelina Jolie twins, "People" was reported to pay $14 million.
HILL: All shots and price tags OK'd by the stars themselves. But whether the celebrities approve them -- or not, they all keep the fans coming back for more.
HILL: One thing that was really interesting, Anderson, we called "People" magazine, "Us Weekly," "InTouch" and "OK magazine." No one was available to comment on this story for us tonight, which we thought was kind of interesting.
COOPER: What about the paparazzi themselves? Are they talking?
HILL: Also interesting, one of our writers, Maureen, came upstairs and said, "Hey, there's a bunch of paparazzi outside the building." So we went downstairs to talk to them. And I spoke with one photographer.
So I talked to him about a number of different things. He was here for a Jessica Simpson event in our building where we were. And when it comes to the security issue, I asked him about that. And you know, these swarms of photographers around people.
He said, "You know what? It's not the photographers who are the problem here. It's the security detail from a lot of these celebrities. They run red lights. They try to act like they have more power than they do. They think they're like law enforcement. They're justifying their jobs. And they make our job unsafe. Which I thought was a very interesting take.
COOPER: Interesting take, indeed. Yes. Never heard that one before.
With me on the phone is a person who works closely with the paparazzi. She's with X17 online, one of the most well-know celebrity photo agencies around. She asked us not to use her name.
Do you think that this new bill is actually going to affect how you run your business at all?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't think it will have any effect at all. None.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because if you read the language of the bill, it states that -- what they're talking about are photographs of pain through an invasion of privacy.
We already follow the laws of the state of California and of the United States. And we don't take photos in that manner. So it's, I think, part of this story is that it's kind of run out of control because of the misreading of the language of the law. It's not going to affect us.
COOPER: This law affects photographers that go on celebrities' property or who maybe not physically go on the property but use extended lenses to get private shots of a celebrity at home, correct? That is what is affected by this law, correct?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Exactly. Exactly. And I can tell you how infrequently that happens these days. I can't even tell you of one photographer I know who owns a telephoto lens longer than 500 millimeters and actually ever uses it. It's not the way it works any more. We're on the street. We're in front of the celebrities, right in their faces, really.
COOPER: But didn't your own agency back -- your own agency in, I think, I don't know, 2003 or something, didn't you pay $550,000 to Jennifer Aniston for -- for naked photos you'd taken of her sunbathing on her own property?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I won't tell you how much we paid. But, yes. We -- there was a lawsuit against our agency.
COOPER: So you have done that in the past?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I have not. A photographer --
COOPER: Your agency has?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It did do that, yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can I tell you that we've never done it again? Because that $550,000 is...
COOPER: But also your agency gets accused by a lot of other photographers who say, "You know what? You hire -- the people you hire aren't even photographers."
You hire people that have no photographic experience but basically are just incredibly aggressive. And they work in SUV convoys with radios to stalk these people, basically. I mean, do you -- you have no qualms about how you guys operate?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. First of all, I would say that that's untrue. And secondly, I would say...
COOPER: You don't buy photographers without any experience?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We hire some without experience but not for those reasons. Not for (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
I can tell that the same pool of photographers that we hire from is the same pool from which TMZ hires from, which is owned by your parent company. Our biggest competition in Los Angeles is TMZ. And basically...
COOPER: My job isn't to shill for TIME Warner. My job is to get to the truth. And if you -- I'm curious. Why are you guys hiring people with no photographic experience? What do they bring to the table other than being incredibly aggressive?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Persistence, motivation and knowledge of a celebrity. Contact in a restaurant, hotels, publicists, managers, agents of Los Angeles. That's what they bring to the table.
COOPER: The other point...
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Photography, we can teach anyone.
COOPER: You requested and were -- were following your requests out of courtesy of not using your name or showing your picture. But isn't that kind of ironic? I mean, you said it was to protect your kids. Isn't it ironic that, I mean, basically, you follow celebrities all the time and take photographs of their children. And yet you don't want to be seen because you're worried about, you know, invasion of privacy?
DEBBIE ROWE, MICHAEL JACKSON'S EX-WIFE: It's highly ironic. But I choose not to identify myself. And part of the reason is being that I'm next to these celebrities in stores, in the clubs, in the restaurants. And if they know who I am, that's going to cause a problem for me. So it's easier -- I can do my job better if the celebrities don't know who I am.
COOPER: When you see these hoards of people following people and driving in cards and racing past them, you don't have any concerns about, you know, hurting somebody down the road?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't see that personally. And I would say that if that were happening and if there are accidents caused because of that, that we hear about it on the news. You'd love to have that headline on your show. And we don't hear about it.
So I just think that -- that a lot of this is hype created by, for whatever reason, politicians who's want to bring attention to this issue when there is no issue.
I would agree with Mr. Widdicombe earlier saying that, I mean, I have a lot of these celebrities' phone numbers in my cell phone. They're calling me; they're texting me. More than 50 percent of the people that we photograph who actually sell are people who are working with us. You're protecting people who aren't asking to be protected.
COOPER: Interesting. Hey, listen, I appreciate your expertise. And I appreciate your coming on the program. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.
COOPER: Coming up next, will Rush Limbaugh get a piece of the NFL? Well, big names speaking out today, including NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. We'll tell you who else is opposed to the talk show host's bid to own a team. We'll be right back.
COOPER: Let's get caught up on the other stories we're following. Erica Hill has a "360 Bulletin" -- Erica.
HILL: Anderson, five Florida teenagers are in police custody, charged with intentionally setting a 15-year-old boy on fire. Michael Brewer has burns now over 80 percent of his body. Police say Brewer was attacked because he told police who stole his father's bicycle on Sunday. According to witnesses, one suspect yelled, "He's a snitch" several times during the attack.
The owners of the Indianapolis Colts vowing to vote against Rush Limbaugh if he tries to buy a stake in the St. Louis Rams. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell says Limbaugh's divisive comments would not be tolerated.
And a Maine couple wins the North American Wife Carrying Championship. A proud day. Dave and Lacey Castro beat 40 teams to take home their prize. Lacey's 97-pound weight in beer and five times her weight had cash, $485.
COOPER: Wow. I don't even know what to say about that.
HILL: Wow pretty much says it all.
COOPER: Yes, it pretty much says it all.
Serious stuff at the top of the hour. Your health, money, and how today's big vote on health-care reform will effect you. We'll be right back.