J.D. Hayworth on "Rachel Maddow"

J.D. Hayworth on "Rachel Maddow"

By Rachel Maddow Show - March 15, 2010

MADDOW: Not even a year and a half ago, John McCain was the leading Republican in the United States. At the top of his party‘s presidential ticket, it‘s hope for the future. Now, John McCain is not only not president, he‘s not only not the future of the Republican Party, he‘s fighting to hang onto his present job as a U.S. senator as he faces aggressive challengers for his Arizona Senate seat from within his own party.

One of those challengers is J.D. Hayworth, a six-term former congressman, who is swept into Washington along with the 1994 Republican revolution, and then swept out again in 2006.

Joining us now is former Arizona Congressman J.D. Hayworth. He is running in the Republican Senate primary against McCain.

Congressman Hayworth, thank you so much for being here. It‘s nice to have you on the show.

FMR. REP. J.D. HAYWORTH (R-AZ), RUNNING AGAINST SEN. MCCAIN: Hey, Rachel, thanks for the invitation. I‘m honored to be with you.

MADDOW: OK. You served six terms in Congress. You were ousted by a Democrat in 2006. And by that point, people who knew nothing about Arizona politics knew you for being one of the Congress‘ top recipient, if not the top recipient, of money from Jack Abramoff. How do you ever recover from that politically? What case do you make to the voters about being the top recipient of Abramoff money that makes them want to put you back in office?

HAYWORTH: Well, first of all, Rachel, your information is incorrect.


HAYWORTH: In fact-yes, I actually-I only received from Jack Abramoff $2,250. The first contribution coming in 1996 of $2,000, the last contribution to my leadership PAC in the year 1999.

Now, what happened was-and it‘s a very clever idea, the so-called "do-gooders" said that, gee, because Abramoff was employed by a certain firm and had several Indian tribes as clients, then all that money was, quote-unquote, "Abramoff money." Well, that‘s not the case because that implies that sovereign tribes are incapable of making decisions on their own. And many of the tribes said to me, hey, look, as chairman of the Native American Caucus or one of the bipartisan co-chairs, you continue to represent us.

Now, remember, Rachel, when I first went to Congress, one out of every four of my constituents was American-Indian. And I worked to represent those whom I served, and had a very good relationship, but that‘s part and parcel of the political theater, and I‘m so glad to have a chance to correct it.


HAYWORTH: But even if you accepted-even if you accepted the evaluation by, I believe, it was-I believe CREW was the group. If you really go back and take a look at the numbers, I ranked ninth in overall contributions from those who might even have a tangential affiliation to Mr. Abramoff. In fact, some other groups rated higher. For example, the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democrat Senatorial Campaign Committee, I ranked ninth on that list.

So, I‘m glad to have a chance to correct the record.


MADDOW: I-just to be clear-

HAYWORTH: There was never a quid pro quo. Mr. Abramoff never-Mr.

Abramoff never came to my office, never lobbied me directly on any issue.

And so, I‘m very happy to point that out.

MADDOW: Just to be clear, it‘s not just do-gooders. It is the Department of Justice that put Jack Abramoff in prison. I mean, one of the things he went to jail for was-

HAYWORTH: Oh, yes-no.

MADDOW: -- fraud involving getting his lobbying clients-including tribes-to donate money to people to do the sorts of things that he got caught for doing. But in terms of the number-


MADDOW: Wait. Hold on, one second, you talked for long time, now, I‘ll talk for a little bit and then you get to talk again.


MADDOW: When in terms of you receiving money from Abramoff, your chief of staff in 2005 admitted that was over $150,000 of money linked to Abramoff. "The Washington Post" listed you third. The Center for Responsive Politics listed you first. Others have listed you second.

So, somebody else might have listed you ninth, but you‘re known as an Abramoff guy. And I just wonder, if in this campaign, if you‘re making a case to the voters of Arizona, that either you‘re different, or it wasn‘t that big a deal. I mean, how do-how do you explain this away?

HAYWORTH: Rachel, your researchers should have done a better job. For had they checked, they would have seen corrections from "The New York Times" and other media organizations accepting and going back and taking a look at the evaluation, but enough of that. I‘ll be very happy to point out how this may apply to the upcoming Republican primarily. Senator McCain has joined the chorus of those attempting to link me with someone by the name of Jack Abramoff.

And please don‘t make the mistake of thinking in any way I‘m defending Mr. Abramoff. That‘s not the case. I‘m offering you a spirited defense of what I believe to be incorrect information that you have received.

But with reference to my immediate Republican opponent, Senator McCain

he chaired hearings, you may recall, of the Indian affairs committee, if memory serves, I believe in the spring and summer of 2006. Never did my name come up in testimony, never was I mentioned, either during those hearings or in the committee‘s final report.


So, the bottom line is this: I did nothing wrong and the people of Arizona will have a chance a chance to decide that.

As for John McCain, a man who says he‘s a man of honor, I think quite frankly, he knows these charges to be incorrect. And in desperation to keep his job, sadly, he is now proving himself unfit for service in the United States Senate.

MADDOW: I‘m not carrying any water for John McCain. I don‘t actually even know what he‘s been using against you. But I have to ask about five different fundraisers that you held in Jack Abramoff‘s skyboxes starting in 1999. You didn‘t report at the time that he did that for you. You were just using the skyboxes and not reporting where those gifts in kind came from. You later paid back the money back.

But what you were thinking at the time, that you‘d be able to use those skyboxes for free? How-I mean, how does that-what was in your mind?

HAYWORTH: No. No. Well, first of all, it didn‘t even come to mind, because-as you may be aware, Rachel, just as you have a very capable staff of producers that go through pre-interviews and help you with research, I had a staff, both a campaign staff and an official staff. And as I understood it from them, they repeatedly asked Mr. Abramoff and the tribes involved for an accurate accounting. When we failed to get that, when that was brought to our attention, Rachel, we actually went to the Federal Election Commission, and with their guidance, determined that we could make payments to the respective tribes who were hosting those events.

So, it was not a matter of trying to run away or be elusive, or in any way involve ourselves in nefarious schemes. It was simply where we failed to get answers. After a while, we apparently-those who were working for me-did not get those answers. But once it was brought to my attention, we went to the FEC. We cleared it up.

And, again, Rachel, you will note, as I‘m sure your producers have, that no charges were brought. There were no infractions even cited by the Federal Election Commission.

So, again, I thank you for the chance to properly put this in perspective.

MADDOW: I‘m glad to give you the chance to do it.

In terms of what‘s going on right now with this race against McCain, you are running as the consistent conservative. That‘s the banner across at the top of your Web site. In your announcement speech, you went after Mr. McCain for voting for the bailout bill in 2008. I know you‘re strongly against the bailout. You specifically went after him for voting for that bill in part because it had lots of earmarks.

Now, you voted for the Bush Transportation Bill in 2005, had a $138 million in earmarks just for Arizona.

Is there-are you worried about the hypocrisy in that charge, going after him for voting for bills with earmarks when you did the same thing?

HAYWORTH: No, what I did with the transportation bill, and you mentioned the fact there were specific projects in Arizona. Certainly, Rachel, you understand the tremendous growth that Arizona has undergone in the last decade, in particular, and the need for infrastructure in the state. I appreciate you pointing that fact out.

No, the problem with the earmarks accompanying the $700 billion bank bailout of the investment banks was the fact that it basically was to grease the skids, a separate $150 billion set of earmarks. Mr. McCain said it was bad. Mr. McCain said it was an obscenity.

But in the final analysis, he voted for that particular collection of

earmarks. And to my understanding, there weren‘t any definitive projects

in Arizona included in that bill. Instead, it was simply to get the

necessary votes to pass the controversial bailout. And, of course, later -



MADDOW: So, his earmarks were bad, and your earmarks were good?

HAYWORTH: I don‘t believe the earmarks in the 2008 bill were necessary in terms of what they were, was more than a spoonful of sugar to help Congress swallow an ill-advised bailout. And I have a problem with that. But as just as you made reference, Rachel, many of the dollars included in the transportation bill you discussed were dollars specifically for Arizona infrastructure. I make no apologies when spending is necessary.

And, you know, of course, given your knowledge of history and government, that we don‘t have the luxury of a line item vote on appropriations bills, do we? They come in one package. And you have to decide if it is a vote you will make or a vote you will not make. I‘ve made my votes and I‘m happy to stand by them and defend them. And that‘s what I‘m doing here.

MADDOW: Congressman, I know you made headlines nationwide yesterday when you gave an interview on a talk radio station in Florida. And this is the comments you made about same-sex marriage. I know you‘ve been asked about this a lot today. Here they are.


HAYWORTH: You see, the Massachusetts Supreme Court, when it started this move toward same-sex marriage, actually defined marriage-now, get this-it defined marriage as simply, quote, "the establishment of intimacy." Now, how dangerous is that? I mean, I don‘t mean to be absurd about it, but I guess I can make the point of absurdity with an absurd point. I guess that would mean if you really have affection for your horse, I guess you could marry your horse.


MADDOW: So, here‘s my question about that. Where is-does the establishment of intimacy thing come from? Where in Massachusetts law or in the Supreme Court ruling does it say the establishment of intimacy? I read-spent the whole afternoon sort of looking for that and couldn‘t find that anywhere.

HAYWORTH: Well, as we went back and reviewed that document, back when the argument was made, the high court in Massachusetts defined marriage in a rather amorphous fashion, simply as, quote, "the establishment of intimacy." Now, I think we all agree there‘s much more to marriage than that.

MADDOW: Sir, I‘m sorry, it didn‘t.


HAYWORTH: And it is on that predicate that I preface my remarks. OK.

You and I have a disagreement.

MADDOW: Well, I mean, I went OK, so, I‘ve gone through the Supreme Court ruling and I found all of the references to the word "intimacy," which you can‘t get to your assertion without using the word "intimacy." And it‘s things like, "The United States Supreme Court affirmed that the core concept of common human dignity protected by the 14th Amendment precludes government intrusion into the deeply personal realms of consensual adopt expressions of intimacy and one‘s choice of an intimate partner."

Quoting the U.S. Supreme Court, "Marriage bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship and intimacy."

I mean, those are the kinds of use of the word "intimacy," the establishment as the definition of marriage-it‘s just not there. I mean, let alone the horse thing, which I‘ll-I‘ll leave you to explain.

But what you said about the establishment of intimacy being the definition of marriage in Massachusetts, I don‘t think it‘s true, sir.

HAYWORTH: Well, that‘s fine. You and I can have a disagreement about that.

MADDOW: Well, it either is true. It isn‘t. It‘s empirical.


MADDOW: All right.

HAYWORTH: Well, I appreciate the fact that we have a disagreement on that. I‘m sure one of many disagreements we would have. And again, I thank you for the chance to join you.

MADDOW: All right. We‘ll post the-we‘ll post the ruling online.

Maybe our viewers can help us go through it and resolve this matter.

Congressman J.D. Hayworth, former Arizona congressman, running the Republican Senate primary against John McCain. I want to wish you good luck on your campaign, sir. Thanks for being willing to come on the show tonight. I appreciate it.

HAYWORTH: Thank you, Rachel.


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