Thom discusses with former Republican Congressman Bob Ney the Help America Vote Act (HAVA), the document he passed on to the White House saying that Iran would have recognized Israel and a whole host of other things and would have let our inspectors on their ground, and the reasons he was singled out for prosecution (while admitting he was guilty).
Thom Hartmann talks with former Republican Congressman Bob Ney, 20 August 2008
[Thom]: Bob Ney, welcome to the show.
[Ney]: Thank you.
[Thom]: I want to ask you about your prosecution and about Iran.
[Thom]: I know you speak Farsi and all those kinds of things. But first, I wanted to ask you about the Help America Vote Act. You were one of the main, one of the principle advocates of that. It was at a time when, apparently, according to your staff you were starting to drink at 7:30 in the morning. I'm curious how involved you were in that, how much you remember of it and what interests were represented on the inside? Because this thing has in many ways, it seems, it has set the stage for massive voter fraud rather than solving voting problems.
[Ney]: Actually, Thom, I saw something on a blog the other day and it had a cartoon of me and it said 'HAVA: Help America Vote Act, HAVA', it said,' Have a drink', and it actually mentioned the 7:30 thing. You know, at that time I had an alcohol problem but it was a bit more severe after that. So it wasn't that I was attending those conferences, you know, intoxicated, but as far as the bill itself, I was approached on that bill by a lot of people, both sides of the aisle. And I authored the bill with Congressman Steny Hoyer. And I know there's been a lot of speculation on the bill because of Diebold.
[Thom]: And also ES&S, I mean, you know, Chuck Hagel's old company.
[Ney]: What's that?
[Thom]: Also ES&S, Chuck Hagel's old company, which is actually the largest of the companies that count the votes.
[Ney]: Oh, OK, yeah, Hagel, frankly I never had any contact with Hagel on the bill.
[Thom]: No, well he left the company behind when he ran for the Senate.
[Ney]: Oh, I see.
[Thom]: He used to be president of the company that became the company that became ES&S.
[Ney]: Oh, OK. And then I was approached due to the whole, you know, hanging chad situation. And on that bill we went, we went at, basically pretty well line by line, brought in just about every group under the sun involved in that bill and passed it on a completely bipartisan basis.
[Thom]: So you're saying that you believed at the time that it was actually the best thing for America.
[Ney]: Yes, I was, and I was approached to do the bill by members, not by, you know, any special interests or anybody of that sort.
[Thom]: Right, OK. Thank you for that clarification. Pardon me for interrupting you so often here but we only have about four minutes in this segment.
[Thom]: You were prosecuted by the Bush Administration for what Ellen [Ellen Ratner of Talk Radio News.] has characterized to me as, you know, one possibly serious crime, one largely irrelevant crime. But mostly something that probably, a number of things that probably many members of congress could be gone after, and she seems to be of the opinion that your prosecution was a political prosecution because you were pushing back on Iran. You want to, can you speak to that, please?
[Ney]: But at the end of the day, you know, I brought a lot of things on myself, let me say it right out front, at the end of the day. And I did some things that were wrong. But I also believe that part of this was fueled in the sense of the Iran issue. It's been no secret that when I went to prison I gave permission for a secret meeting I'd had with Mr. Guldimann [Tim Guldimann, then Swiss Ambassador in Tehran] who came from Switzerland. He presented a document that was absolutely incredible, where Iran would have recognized Israel and a whole host of other things, would have let our inspectors on their ground; and I sent that to the White House.
I'll stand by that today; the White House denies it, but Colin Powell's former assistant admits that that came over to the State Department and the White House wanted no part of it. And I believe that every step of the way, and I think it came more from Cheney's people, but every step of the way that I attempted to deal with Iran, it got pretty harsh back. And so I think part of this, I made the bullets, I gave them the bullets, but I think some of the force was also involved with, you know, Iran and people that would rather see those countries not communicate, no matter who is head of Iran.
[Thom]: So Iran came to you because you speak Farsi and you are the Iran expert in the House of Representatives.
[Ney]: Ambassador Guldimann, who was ambassador from Switzerland to Iran, he came to me.
[Thom]: Right. Their representative. In other words, they approached you through their legal representative.
[Ney]: And I had participated in the meeting in Stockholm.
[Thom]: And they said that they would recognize Israel and that they would allow UN inspectors into their nuclear sites, and you passed that information along to the White House, it fell down the rabbit hole and immediately you were being prosecuted.
[Ney]: It fell down the rabbit hole, there was a lot of kickback. I know that Guldimann had terrible problems after that, I think with, mainly through Rumsfeld's people and Cheney's people. That's what happened after that agreement.
[Thom]: It so sounds like the Don Siegelman story and the Paul Minor story, and if you're not familiar with those two stories, I encourage you to do a little Googling. I think that we have political prisoners in the United States now.
[Ney]: Well, I know that the harshness of the administration, and again, I take culpability, I did some wrong things, but when you get in their path, I think they've taken bloodsport to a new level in this administration.
[Thom]: "They've taken blood sport to a new level'. What a quote! Congressman Bob Ney, thank you for coming on our program and sharing candidly with us your story."
[Ney]: Thank you.
Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.