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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Money and Politics; Interview with Jim Bopp; Slaughter in Syria

Aired February 9, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Money is flowing into political campaigns at an alarming rate, and it is going to get worse. That's the "Bottom Line" tonight.

And more bloody violence in Syria, victims, children and the man leading the charge against Mississippi's controversial pardons talks to us, comes OUTFRONT. Let's go.

Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, big, big, and bigger money in politics. Upwards of $11 billion will be spent on this year's presidential election, according to the Federal Election Commission. That would make it the most expensive election season in American history. But here's the dirty truth about American history.

Money always seeps into politics, and it has been going and going and going for a long time. Take President McKinley's campaign at the turn of the century. Even know that guy? Railroad and steel baron (ph) gave him the then insanely kingdom -- kingly sums of $6 million for his 1896-1900 presidential wins. That would be a lot of money now.

President Nixon, his campaign was given $2.5 million by one guy, an insurance executive when he ran for president in '68 and '72. Just two examples of what happens every time. Over the years the laws on campaign finance have tightened. But yet this is the strange thing. Make it harder and you say you can't give money here, and then it goes there and more money ends up being spent every single time.

Even with the landmark McCain-Feingold Bill passed in 2002, which requires limits in political donations to candidate, well guess what, a lot of cash has found its way into campaign war chests and the numbers have gone up. It happens on both sides of the aisle. In 2004, Democrat George Soros gave an enormous $23.7 million to liberal causes. Some of that money then ended up helping fill John Kerry's presidential campaign.

And on the other side, remember the Swift Boat ads? Texas financier Bob Perry (ph) forked over $4.5 million to attack John Kerry. Six years later we have Super PACs. They accept unlimited donations from corporations, unions, and individuals to support their favorite candidate. An overwhelming majority of their money as we now are painfully aware has been spent on negative ads, and all the candidates claim to hate them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Millions of Americans are struggling to get by, and their voices shouldn't be drowned out by millions of dollars in secret special interest advertising.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Campaign financed law has made a mockery of our -- of our political campaign season. We really ought to let campaigns raise the money they need and just get rid of these Super PACs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well, the man at the center of it all is Jim Bopp. He's the one who first brought the now famous Supreme Court "Citizens United" case, which along with other court decisions laid the groundwork for Super PACs. He's now a Romney supporter, and he's OUTFRONT tonight. Although, Jim, (INAUDIBLE) like you because he doesn't like Super PACs, but let me ask you, sir, the big question. Is this just something that you have to kind of innately accept as an American citizen, which is that every election season more money is going to be spent on campaigns?

JIM BOPP, ADVISER TO THE "CITIZENS UNITED" CASE: I think so. The government has grown tremendously over the last few years such that they were spending $3.5 trillion and of course this election is for the president and for Congress and those people are going to decide how to spend $3.5 trillion, so I don't think spending a few billion dollars on an election is really out of bounds in terms of the result. Who gets control of that federal government?

BURNETT: So you don't think that giving an unlimited amount of money to a campaign, whether you are an individual, a union, or a corporation is a bad thing.

BOPP: Do I think giving an unlimited amount is a bad thing?

BURNETT: Yes. That's the question.

BOPP: Well, sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't. Right now the problem is not giving an unlimited amount to a candidate, but the fact that candidates are severely limited in what they can accept. I mean I agree with Governor Romney. Why not give money to the candidate and the candidate spend the money. The candidate is the one that is accountable to the American people.

Rather than give it to Super PACs or other entities like that. That would be preferable. But as long as we have a First Amendment, which I support, groups are going to be able to come together and spend money on an unlimited fashion to advocate the election or defeat of their candidate, and there's really nothing that can be done about that.

BURNETT: What I'm trying to understand, though, is that -- you say, OK, they're going have responsibility over $3.5 trillion in budget, true. But the problem is, and this is the way I guess it's always worked in American history but a lot of people have a real problem with it, why should wealthy people and big companies be able to give those campaign dollars when we all know that they're doing it because they want rules that favor them in exchange?

BOPP: Well, actually the vast majority of people support candidates that already agree with them on the issues. It's a really stupid strategy to try to buy a candidate. Because if a candidate is up for sale, he will go to the highest bidder, and there's no way you can make sure that you're the one that actually gets the vote in the end. So people support people that already agree with them and then hope that they get into office through their support.

Look rich people have money. They're going to be able to spend their money. There's nothing under the First Amendment that will ever allow government to stop that from happening. So then the question is how about the rest of us? Are we going to be able to pool our resources in a group to spend money to participate in the election also? And that's what Super PACs are for or advocacy groups or 527s, all these different political parties even.

BURNETT: The problem is --

BOPP: All these different entities.

BURNETT: The problem is according to (INAUDIBLE) done a study of the Super PACs so far, the itemized funds raised from Super PACs, 93 percent of them came in donations of $10,000 or more. Thirty-eight percent of them were over a million given by 15 people. Ten thousand dollars is a lot of money, right? I mean this isn't all of us pooling our resources. This is really rich people pooling their resources.

BOPP: Well it is true in the case so far of Super PACs. It is major gifts fund-raising that is driving those contributions, but the problem has been is that the reformers want to attack groups. They want to limit Super PACs. They want to limit political parties. They want to limit advocacy groups. They want to limit unions, and of course groups are what people of average means must join in order to be -- to pool their resources to be affective.

You can't stop -- look, it's great to be rich. You can't stop rich people from spending money. But what you can do is have a system that, number one, people with average means can contribute and be effective and that requires groups and then secondly --

BURNETT: But why? They could give $250 to a campaign. A regular person isn't going to give more than the limit anyway under McCain-Feingold.

BOPP: Well, but some will and some won't. I mean it depends upon both their resources and their commitment. And if this money could go to the candidate, well, then we can decide whether we want to vote for candidate "x" or candidate "y" because of who their contributors are. When people are giving money to a Super PAC you can't vote against the Super PAC, so the problem is the system is distorted. Candidates aren't able to raise the money so that they can compete, and people are giving money to these unaccountable groups and there's nothing you can do about it.

BURNETT: Right.

BOPP: So why don't we let the candidates raise the money?

BURNETT: All right. Well Jim Bopp, thank you very much. We appreciate it. Let's bring in John Avlon now and Ken Vogel, who is influence reporter for "Politico". John Avlon, let me just say there's one thing that he said that I think most reasonable people would agree with. Maybe I'm wrong, but agree with this. If you're going to give money to a candidate and you like their cause, you should be able to give it to the candidate, not to all these roundabout groups around the candidate.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Right.

BURNETT: And the reason that people give to those roundabout groups is because there are limits to giving to the candidate and money always finds a way to go look for influence.

AVLON: That's right and he seemed to be sort of complaining in part about the system that he has helped create.

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: And look, you know the image of the Super PAC sort of functioning as George Bailey's building and loan where it's all just a bunch of you know middle class folks binding together to leverage you know their influence doesn't bear out with how the reality of how the system is working right now. We've got 200 individuals who have already paid for around half of the money given to Super PACs to date. We know the last cycle there was around $5 billion spent on this election. FEC is estimating 11 billion.

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: So it's more money and (INAUDIBLE) democracy in addition to fueling a lot of negative ads.

BURNETT: Right and Ken, what's amazing to me is that when you look at this, all this is, is every time we try to do campaign finance reform, the money just finds another way. 527s was what it was called when George Soros was giving back in 2004. Now here we are and it's called Super PACs, same thing, different name.

KEN VOGEL, INFLUENCE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes, that's right, Erin and first of all, interesting comparison to 2004. You cited George Soros' $20 billion contribution (INAUDIBLE) $20 billion from Peter Lewis (ph) the insurance magnate behind Progressive Insurance. Well those two guys are really being relied upon by Democrats that come off the sidelines and give a lot of money to the Super PACs supporting President Obama, Democratic Senate and House candidates, and they're not.

And part of the reason is they were so disappointed by their investment in 2004, not bearing fruit. They gave all that money. Other donors gave a total more than $200 million from the left to these outside groups and John Kerry still lost. So that's both evidence that maybe money does not always buy an election because that was a lot more spending in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth made, but it also shows kind of the conundrum that Democrats face themselves with now as they try to reengage in this game and they're not having a lot of luck doing so.

BURNETT: Money may not always buy you what you want --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: And Jim had an interesting point there. But, you know, when you look at rich people, you look at rich CEOs, OK, go look at a bank CEO. They tend to split their money between Democrats and Republicans because they don't want to PO anybody off.

AVLON: That's right.

BURNETT: And so they can get what they want. They don't want to go all in on one because you don't know who's going to be in power, but you've got to give because if you didn't then they could hit you.

AVLON: Right -- right and that indicates how much covering your bases like that becomes a form of collusion. Look --

BURNETT: Exactly.

AVLON: You know our elections are not supposed to work this way.

BURNETT: No, they are not.

AVLON: It's supposed to be one man, one vote. Corporations are not people, even though they're being recognized as the financial muscle to act that way in many cases.

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: And we're having people vote with their wallets and so you have some individuals who are much more influential in elections than other individuals and that creates a fundamental --

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: (INAUDIBLE)

BURNETT: Very quick final word to you, Ken. Why are we not seeing corporations though yet give to the Super PACs since they're now people? What I'm seeing (INAUDIBLE) there's a lot of rich individuals and LLCs linked to rich individuals. I'm not seeing Time Warner.

VOGEL: That's right and it goes back to kind of what you said about the bank CEOs splitting their contributions. Those are people who are invested in the system. That's smart money.

BURNETT: Yes. VOGEL: They're trying to get something for their contributions. They're trying to get access. Allowing the money coming to Super PACs is more ideological money. These are people who while they may think that Republicans or Democrats might be better for them in the long term if they're elected into office, they're not trying to buy favor per se. They're investing because -- and I have to agree with what Jim Bopp said -- because they already agree with these folks. It's not like they're trying to win something from them.

BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both you and as always, everyone let us know what you think. Money, will it always find a leak, a hole, a way to get where it wants to get?

All right, Syria under siege. In the past year, 6,000 have died and graphic testimony in the case of the UVA Lacrosse player and a man who compares killing people to crack cocaine.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, slaughter in Syria. Today alone at least 137 have died, including 11 children, with 110 of those killed from Homs, the city under siege. This, of course, comes from reports from human rights groups in the region. Homs is surrounded by tanks and troops. The uprising began last March, now being met with force in Homs. In less than a year, more than 6,000 lives have been lost, according to those human rights groups.

It's a stunning number. President Bashar Al-Assad has the might to crush the uprising. Syria has a ground force of 320,000 people, 5,000 tanks and then there are those fighter jets as we reported last night, at least 555 Russian MIGS. Add the 4,000-plus surface-to-air missiles, Syria's military is one of the largest in the region and would have the ability to fight back against western intervention. What happens if Assad is forced out -- power vacuum, instability, civil war -- coming OUTFRONT "Washington Post" columnist David Ignatius and David, great to see you.

DAVID IGNATIUS, COLUMNIST, WASHINGTON POST: Great to be with you, Erin. Thank you.

BURNETT: So there is obviously a lot of fear about the void that might be created if President Bashar Al-Assad is forced out. What would happen in that scenario?

IGNATIUS: Well, if he was eased out with a transition that specified that there was some interim government, one thing that's been proposed is that Vice President (INAUDIBLE), a veteran of this Syrian government would act in the interim, would appoint a transitional committee and then you'd have elections and then you'd have a peaceful transfer. If he's forced out with nothing, with no clear process of transition, you're going have a free-for-all. Syria is one of the most divided and volatile countries I know in the Middle East and people shouldn't underestimate the degree of bloodshed you could see there.

BURNETT: And what about a disorderly transition, a replacement (ph)? Obviously what we've seen even in places like Egypt is getting a replacement has been difficult, replacements that the rest of the world finds palatable, perhaps impossible, violence rises, unemployment rises, it's worse than it was before, it seems.

IGNATIUS: Well, the Arab world is having a difficult time managing this revolution. We're seeing the toppling of an old order that was characterized by authoritarian governments in Egypt, in Syria, in Libya, across the region and I suppose it's not surprising that after a year what you see mostly is chaos. I don't think that's a reason to give up on the process. What's scary about Syria, Erin, is that there are so many people dying every day. If you look at the -- at the videos that are being shot by people on the ground --

BURNETT: Horrific.

IGNATIUS: -- it is horrific. And so I think there's a fear that as this escalates and Bashar Al-Assad and his regime try to hold onto power, the number getting killed could grow, the reprisal killings by resistance fighters against Assad's minority Alawite sect could grow.

BURNETT: Yes.

IGNATIUS: I mean you could have a real ethnic slaughter back and forth. People have been afraid of this for as long as I've been covering the Middle East. That's 30 years. People have been worried about this kind of wholesale civil war in Syria. Now we seem to be slipping toward it and it scares people.

BURNETT: And important that you're using that word slaughter. I mean I feel like sometimes in these situations we tend to engage in hyperbole and the media sometimes not always knowing and you covering it for 30 years and using that word really is significant for everyone watching. I want to play something for you, David that John McCain said today about what the United States should do and get your reaction. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I think we should have a contact group, a joint coalition and also we should start considering all options including arming the opposition. The bloodletting (ph) has got to stop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: If the United States got involved, David -- we were just going through the Syrian military. It's a serious military. It's a well armed military. Would we have to accept that we would have to have troops on the ground and American lives at stake?

IGNATIUS: This risks being a big war. This is not the ragtag Libyan army of Moammar Gadhafi. The Syrian army is big. As you say, over 300,000 in addition to all the other things you mentioned. It has chemical weapons. It has big-time missiles. I mean this is an army that was prepared to fight Israel, so it could certainly fight a NATO type coalition. I understand John McCain saying the bloodshed has got to stop and this issue of arming the opposition is out there and Senator McCain is expressing a view that you hear more and more.

BURNETT: Yes.

IGNATIUS: My own feeling, for what it's worth, is that this is a situation in which the calls for arming the opposition, for taking the next step down this slope, this very dangerous slope, need to come from the region. That the Saudi government -- if King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia says it is essential that we support the Syrian opposition and begin arming them. That's powerful.

BURNETT: Yes.

IGNATIUS: If Turkey, Syria's northern neighbor, says this situation on our border is intolerable. Turkey cannot live with it and we're going to take steps --

BURNETT: All right.

IGNATIUS: -- those are the people who need to act first and then the United States naturally and properly follows along. And I don't think there's anything to be embarrassed about when you say following along. This is a time when the region has to make decisions and take the lead.

BURNETT: All right, well David Ignatius thank you very much.

Still to come, Attorney General Jim Hood, the man leading the charge to overturn Haley Barbour's pardon, he's OUTFRONT and boats and Boudicca, Boudicca comes OUTRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: The Pentagon announced today it's easing restrictions on women serving in combat, which will open 14,000 new jobs to women. The changes list a ban on women serving as medics, tank mechanics and radar operators in combat areas. They will still not be permitted to fight a battle. Now, Congress can review the decision and critics still question whether women have the necessary strength and whether this could hurt unit cohesion. They've clearly never heard of "Boudicca" and she brings us to tonight's number, 4.7 million.

That's the dollar amount Britain is spending to make its submarines female-friendly. Last year the Royal Navy said, hey, female sailors are going to be allowed to serve on subs and then they had to add bunks and toilets for them. Another cost female submariners will have to take pregnancy tests for fears fumes could damage an unborn child. That is something "Boudicca" would definitely not have tolerated.

The U.S. Navy also cleared the way for women on submarines last year but we're told the living spaces aboard our subs were big enough, no modifications needed. And in case you think this discussion about women in military is new, here's one more number we came across today, 135. That's how many women served in battle during the Civil War dressed as men. And even with today's new rules, that's still the only way for women to actually fight on the front lines. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Still OUTFRONT the "OutFront 5", murder or accident.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pattern of that blood indicates it was positional asphyxiation.

BURNETT: The ultimate drug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Part of war is extremely exciting. You can't find anything higher than that like crack cocaine.

BURNETT: All this OUTFRONT in our second half.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, we focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the OUTFRONT 5.

And first tonight, the man behind Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court case, that along with some other lower court rulings, laid the groundwork for super PACs. Jim Bopp, an adviser to the Citizens United case -- you may say he's the grandfather of the super PA -- came OUTFRONT tonight. He told me he believes individuals should be able to give to campaigns directly.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BOPP, ADVISER TO THE CITIZENS UNITED CASE: Right now, the problem is not giving an unlimited amount to a candidate but the fact that candidates are severely limited in what they can accept. I mean, I agree with Governor Romney. Why not give money to the candidate, and the candidate spend the money?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Jim Bopp is a Romney supporter.

Number two, a Los Angeles area school at the center of two child abuse cases reopened today with an entirely new staff. The school officials told OUTFRONT that just 68 percent of the students at Miramonte Elementary returned after a two-day break that followed the arrest of two teachers. We're told the attendance rate is typically 98 percent.

Mark Berndt is charged with taking pictures of students blindfolded and gagged. Martin Springer accused of fondling a second grader.

Number three: the five largest U.S. banks reached a deal to compensate people who lost their homes because of improper foreclosure practices. Twenty-six billion dollars will be used to cut the principal for borrowers who owe more than their home is worth or behind in their payments. The money will also allow some homeowners to refinance. Russell Goldman is the chairman and CEO of National Bank and strike member of our strike team. And he told OUTFRON that the settlement should accelerate the recovery of America's housing market by keeping many homes out of foreclosure and not increasing the nation's excessive industry. He's CEO of City National Bank in California.

You can learn more about the OUTFRONT strike team and who's on it by going to our Facebook page.

Number four: initial claims, the jobless claims fell by 15,000, to 358,000 last week. The four-week noting average, which gives you a better idea of the trend, near a four-year low.

Strategist Dan Greenhaus from BTIJ said the numbers are a positive sign, telling OUTFRONT with broad credit creation expanding, particularly consumer credit, indicators are lining up to suggest that the recent pace of employment growth is set to continue.

It's been 188 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get back?

Oh, by the way, jobs will help. A big part of the deficit will go away when tax revenues go up.

And in Greece, political leaders finally agreed to a series of austerity measures required for the country to get money from the E.U. and IMF. Greek parliament is expected to vote this weekend.

Well, in the Mississippi Supreme Court today, uproar over former Governor Haley Barbour's last-minute pardons of convicted felons. Attorney General Jim Hood says most of Barbour's 203 pardons should be overturned based on an obscure provision in the state's constitution, which requires this: that a felon's pardon request be published in a newspaper 30 days before the felon is released.

Here's what Hood told the paper today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JIM HOOD, ATTORNEY GENERAL, MISSISSIPPI: We agree that the wisdom of granting pardon is not just (INAUDIBLE), not an issue that we're bringing a discourse. It's whether or not those pardons met the constitutional requirements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All but 10 of the 203 people pardoned were already out of prison. Of those 10, five worked in the governor's mansion. Four of them were convicted of murder.

Attorney General Jim Hood is OUTFRONT now. And good to see you, Attorney General. Appreciate you're taking the time.

I want to start --

HOOD: Thank you.

BURNETT: So that I could understand and our viewers could understand, where do you stand on sort of the fundamental issue here before we get to the technicals. And for that, I wanted just want to play briefly what Governor Haley Barbour told John King about forgiveness.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HALEY BARBOUR (R), FOMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: The power of pardon in the state is to give people a second chance who have repented, been rehabilitated themselves. I'm comfortable that every one of these who were mansion inmates are rehabilitated and have redeemed themselves, and they deserve a second chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Do you believe in that concept, that someone who commits a horrific crime may be rehabilitated and may deserve a second chance?

HOOD: You know, I'm not contesting the wisdom of granting to whomever. Our issue is whether north the constitution was followed. You know, in our two previous constitutions since Mississippi became a state, the government had full authority to grant pardons. Apparently, the governors, prior to our 1890 constitution, abused that authority.

So the people took it back. They put in a reservation that required that no governor shall issue a pardon until it has been published in the local newspaper where the crime occurred for a period of 30 days. And apparently, all but 22 of the 203 pardons that Governor Barbour granted did not properly publish. In fact, 56 of them didn't publish anything.

So we're saying, the constitution prohibits the governor from granting or attempting to grant a pardon when he has not made sure that the constitution has been complied with.

BURNETT: It does feel like a technicality though. I mean, you know, you're looking at the four murderers who had worked as trustees in the governor's mansion. They were put in the paper, at least to my understanding, for 28 days, instead of 30. That's enough to have it taken away?

HOOD: Well, the constitution is not a technicality. I mean, the people reserve the right to have that notice so that the media -- the fourth estate would have an opportunity to discuss it. People realized in 1890, you know, that it was necessary, it was a constitutional right for citizens to have notice and an opportunity to comment on it.

You know, the very foundation of our country is due process. And so, we are in a -- in a position now that it appears that the governor has not complied with that constitution provision. So, we believe that the pardons have been valid. BURNETT: It does -- I hear your point, a lot of people, you have a constitution to respect. It makes sense. But it does feel on some level that this is -- well, it's not personal between you and the governor, at least political.

HOOD: Well, you know, my job as attorney general is to enforce the constitution. And the victims are concerned about these issues, as well as the people. I mean, the people deserve the right to have a 30 days 'notice.

And, you know, my job is to bring it to the court's attention, and it's up to the court now. We've argued -- I was in the Mississippi Supreme Court for an hour and half, just me arguing.

So, there are some concerns about it, but, you know, the constitution is not just some technicality. It is the constitution of the state of Mississippi, and it must be strictly construed and followed.

BURNETT: In these cases of these four individuals, did you spend time looking into the four murderers that served as trustees in the governor's mansion? Did you take the time to look at those individual cases? And did what you found and what you felt play into your decision to look for a technicality?

HOOD: No. I mean, there again, we don't look into the wisdom of what they did. That was -- that's strictly up to the governor. The only question for the state is whether or not the constitution was followed, whether the people's right to notice was violated, and whether or not it's an invasion of the judiciary's right to have its laws carried out.

BURNETT: So when do you expect a ruling?

HOOD: Hopefully in, you know -- hopefully -- it could come as early as tomorrow afternoon. Friday afternoons are good times oftentimes for opinions to come down. But, you know, it could very well be sometime next week.

BURNETT: And what would the ideal outcome be then that they go back and serve the rest of their sentence?

HOOD: Well, what would happen, that's correct. There are five that are presently being held pursuant to a lower court's temporary restraining order, and then there are five that have been released. If the court finds that those 10 are void, then certainly we would have to go track them down and -- to re-incarcerate them.

More than likely I think the court will decide whether it's something reviewable. It's a rather tawdry affair. I mean, you know, it's not something Mississippians can be proud of. Had Governor Barbour followed the law, we wouldn't be in this position. But, you know, it probably remains into the lower court, is what we asked. And that lower court will decide some of the factual issues that are raised.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much. Appreciate you taking the time, sir.

All right. Let us know what you think about that. Whether you think 30 days versus 28 days is a technicality or something else in this case, and what you think about rehabilitation. Please go ahead on Twitter @ErinBurnett.

Now, let's check in with Anderson. He's got a lot more on "A.C. 360."

Hi, Anderson.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hi, Erin. You know, we've been following Mississippi pardon story really since the beginning. Keeping them honest tonight again on "360."

The lawyer for ex-Governor Haley Barbour argued in court today that the pardoning of these four men, the four killers, ands other caused, quote, "no harm, no suffering" from a legal standpoint. But try telling that to families who have lost their loved ones. We're going to speak to two of those people tonight.

And President Obama's reelection campaign, we're also keeping them honest. The president has been talking tough about reform on Wall Street for years, but now his campaign is making promises and asking for money from financiers. Is election cash changing presidential priorities? Our panel weighs in on that.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist" at the top of the hour -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thanks and see you in a few minutes.

Well, the jury is shown graphic photos of a bruised and battered victim during the murder trial of the UAV lacrosse player Yeardley Love.

And a former marine is tonight's IDEA guest. Have you heard of matter horn? If you have, you're going to want to watch this.

And then, would cutting off and collecting enemy ears tough?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: It was an emotional day in court in the first-degree murder trial of the University of Virginia lacrosse player George Huguely. As prosecutors showed the jury photos of his battered and bruised ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love, a beautiful girl.

There's a gag order in the case, so none of those photos were released today.

Her family openly wept as first responders recounted finding the 22-year-old UVA lacrosse star on May 3rd, 2010, on the floor of her room. Her right eye was swollen shut. The prosecutors say Huguely was furious that his ex-girlfriend was, quote, "hooking up:" with another lacrosse player from the University of North Carolina, who testified he saw Huguely put Love in a violent choke hold three months before she was killed.

Huguely denies killing Love.

Mark Geragos is a criminal defense attorney who's defended dozens of murder suspects. Linda Kenney-Baden is former prosecutor. And they are OUTFRONT tonight.

Linda, let me start with you.

We heard for the first time from Yeardley Love's University of North Carolina -- "acquaintance" is the word we're using, perhaps someone that she had been dating.

LINDA KENNEY-BADEN, FORMER PROSECUTOR: Right.

BURNETT: Why is this story so crucial?

KENNEY-BADEN: It's crucial because it shows that George -- I don't fondly call him that, but Huguely had a motive. He wanted to kill her in the past. I mean, he had his arms and his hands, and they must have been large and around her neck, and it was witnessed by people. He couldn't control himself. He expressed himself.

It gives a motive and it gives a past opportunity that was interrupted that he fulfilled when he finally killed her.

BURNETT: Mark, does it?

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, motive is not something that's required for a jury to find somebody guilty. I think ultimately this case is going to come down to what does the pathologist say, and what does the defense pathologist say. And you're going to have a question as to whether or not -- what was the cause of death and what were the injuries and what caused those injuries.

You can have all of the motive and all of the violence in the past, and that makes for great emotion. But ultimately, at the end of the day, I think it's going to come down to the science.

BURNETT: And let me ask you about that science. I mean, is it possible, Mark, in your view that he could possibly make a case that a jury would listen to that he did not cause all the bruises, the swollen eye that we're hearing about, the horrific pictures that frankly I'm glad we're not able to show people?

GERAGOS: Well, yes, it is possible. I mean, there are -- depending on what the medical examiner testifies to, depending on what -- whether it's credible, and I certainly don't know because I haven't examined the evidence, but there are instances where when people are in some kind of under the influence, they can fall, they can trip. I don't know if the injuries are consistent with that.

But it sounds like that's where the defense is going, that this was alcohol-induced and that the injuries themselves were not something that he caused, and that's why I say it really comes down to the science of this case. They're trying -- the prosecution is trying to set the table, so to speak, for this idea that he must have done it and that he had the inclination. But ultimately at the end of the day, if they can't prove it beyond a reasonable doubt that these injuries were caused by another as opposed to some other cause, then they've got a problem.

BURNETT: Do they have to, though -- even if they could be successful, is there any burden -- as a layperson, any burden to say, well, then, who else did or provide some other scenario?

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEY-BADEN: Look, look. We know from the prosecution's opening she had brain stem damage. Her brain was injured. Now how did that get injured? He admitted he threw her against the wall. He banged her against the wall.

She's got her carotid artery damaged. How did that get damaged? He choked her. He admitted that he was choking her.

And, clearly, that's what killed her. I think this whole idea that she somehow got into bed afterward and she suffocated herself is so ridiculous that the jury is going to hold it against George Huguely.

BURNETT: Mark, can I ask -- I want to ask you to do this. We touched on this last night, but it's something that I'm very curious about this. Anybody with a kid in college is curious about.

Can alcohol appropriately be used as a defense? I mean, it seemed like yesterday that he may be trying to say, OK, did it, I was drunk and she was drunk. And so, therefore that's not first degree?

GERAGOS: Well, yes. The quick answer to that is, yes, it can be. And a lot of these things that you're hearing, the things that sound like bad facts actually may be ultimately at the end of this case in closing argument be embraced by the defense to argue if they're going to admit some kind of guilt, that they're going to argue that it's a manslaughter, that it negates the mental state for a murder case.

And if that is the case and I go back having kids in college as well, I understand what the genesis of that question.

BURNETT: Right.

GERAGOS: But it doesn't excuse it, but it does mitigate it.

BURNETT: Mitigating it, Linda, to the point of -- and this is what we were talking about last night that first degree is life in prison, and if they're able to use alcohol as a defense, it could be 10 years.

KENNEY-BADEN: Well, clearly, the case is it intentional murder, is it manslaughter, is it involuntary manslaughter, or voluntary manslaughter.

BURNETT: That's why the history matters so much.

KENNEY-BADEN: The history matters to the prosecution so much to show that he wanted to kill her. And right, Mark's right. You don't have to prove motive.

But, boy, if you really want to find somebody guilty of first- degree murder, you'd better have motive if you are a prosecutor.

BURNETT: Mark, if you have a domestic case and someone is abused over time, which let's just -- you know, for the hypothetical say that appears to be something that happened here and then eventually the person kills her. How does that play in? If he wasn't planning to kill but had a history of incredible violence?

GERAGOS: Well, oftentimes -- and I've had this in the recent past in the trial that I've done where the prosecution will put on an expert, and they will talk about just generically at least how domestic violence escalates, and then there's a trigger point and experts will testify to that. And that fits in with the theme that the prosecution is trying to lay out here.

The defense obviously is going to say, well, that's great in a generic sense, but that doesn't fit this particular case. And basically if there was no intent, no matter what the facts say, you still have to take a look at what was a look at what was going on in his brain.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it.

KENNEY-BRADEN: Thank you.

BURNETT: Well, former marine compares killing people to crack cocaine. Karl Marlantes with a big IDEA to help soldiers deal with the horror of murder.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: America lost more than 60,000 men and women in the Vietnam and Iraq wars. And of those who came home, 150,000 lost their lives after the wars ended by their own hands. Active duty soldiers are committing suicide right now at the highest rate in American history.

Tonight's IDEA guest is former U.S. Marine Lieutenant Karl Marlantes. He served in Vietnam. He was awarded the Navy Cross, the Bronze star, two Navy Commendation Medals for Valor, two Purple Hearts and 10 Air Medals.

He's an author of "Matterhorn," a book "The New York Times" called one of the most profound and devastating novels ever to come out of Vietnam.

Marlanates came OUTFRONT to talk about his latest work, it's a book called, "What It's Like to Go to War." It's been given to every member of Congress and his idea to help soldiers overcome what he calls the crack cocaine of all excitement highs, and the crack cocaine lows that come later.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL MARLANTES, AUTHOR, "WHAT IT'S LIKE TO GO TO WAR": You know, everybody knows that war is hell, and so that's what we talk about that. That's OK. But no one wants to cop to the fact there's a part of it that's terribly exciting.

Look at movies we look at. I mean, nothing but filled with violence. It appeals to us.

And in some ways, it's like why are we the top animal on the planet? It's not because we're nice. There's a fierce part of it.

One of the things I wanted to do in the book is say recognize this. You can't get control of it unless you see it.

And war, part of war is extremely exciting. I mean, it's life and death. It's on the edge. It's -- you can't find anything higher than that. But like crack cocaine, the costs are enormous. And I would never want to pay the costs again, if I don't have to.

But to deny -- tell a kid drugs aren't fun, he knows you're lying. What goes on here is that you have decent people, and we've been trained and we've been brought up to not kill anybody. It's thou shalt not kill. It's a Judeo Christian culture.

Suddenly, you take a 19-year-old to say, now, go ahead and kill. Well, how does that -- how does a kid handle that?

There's a V.A. study of 2010 that was quoted in "The Army Times," 18 veterans a day are committing suicide. Now, that's a horrible number. I mean, there's 24 million veterans, put in context, still, though, it's a very high number.

We are not doing something right. We are getting it wrong. And we're getting it wrong on the civilian side because these symptoms come out after they're discharged, long after, 10 years after.

BURNETT: And you really have an idea that could really go a long way to helping these people. The one way that you think you can make a real difference and a lot of the tragedies that happen when soldiers come home, people that fought that come home is by mandatory counseling.

MARLANTES: Yes.

BURNETT: How would that work and what difference do you think it would make?

MARLANTES: Well, the first thing is in the current military, you don't want to tell somebody that you're not all there mentally. You want to hide it. Why? Because your promotion's at stake. I mean, your career is at stake. And, you know, showing that, you know, you might be a bit unstable, that's not going to help.

BURNETT: So, opting for counseling can hurt you.

MARLANTES: Can hurt you, opting for counseling can hurt you. And the culture is such that there are people, they say it's OK, but there are people that say, well, I'm not sure about this. I don't want a guy who's seeing a counselor.

We haven't gotten to a point in our culture yet where we accept the counseling just part of healing, just like going to the doctor is. So, that by making it mandatory would take that away.

And a lot of people would bitch and complain and they want to do it. But at least those people that need the help and can get the help, they'll go there and they don't have to have a stigma of oh, I'm the weak one. I had to go get counseling.

And just a little bit of training so that when the battle's over, you can gather the people together and maybe the Navy corpsman says, OK, let's remember Joe, and let's remember, you know, that these people that we just killed were probably drafted, and let's try and say thanks we're still alive.

But just doing that, I think, would start to, again, bring you out of this thing that, well, they're animals which is where you have to be. That's the only way that this nation gets its 18-year-olds who are decent kids to kill them. If we want to send them over to do that, that's what they do.

But it would pull them out of it quicker. I think atrocities would be less likely to happen, because atrocities happen because the people are still in the frame of mind that they're not humans.

BURNETT: You write about how in Vietnam some of the men that were under you were collecting the ears of dead Vietnamese, literally stringing them.

MARLANTES: Well, they put them in a rubber band on the helmet. It was sort of like a trophy.

BURNETT: You made them go bury some of the people --

MARLANTES: Yes.

BURNETT: -- to force that connection.

MARLANTES: Yes.

BURNETT: And they cried, right?

MARLANTES: They did. You know, it was interesting to me. I mean, they had -- we had been fighting for days. And a lot of their friends had died and the dead bodies were all around, just below the fighting holes.

And so, you know, when they went down and cut off some ears, said, these are 18-year-olds, all right? And I just -- by the time, it was like -- I didn't get angry with them. I just felt like you can't do this. This is childish. This is wrong. You know? I mean, yes, bodies are dead. Rotting right there in front of you.

So, as far as they were concerned, when's the big deal? I said, you can't do this. This is just -- you know, these are people and they -- you killed their friends just like they killed your friends. And the kids sort of look at me, and I said take the ears and go bury them with the bodies. I made them to dig a grave for the bodies, which was no small thing because we were getting shot at.

And so, they risked their lives. We weren't right in the middle of a fight but could have been occasional sniper fire and they were down there digging those and I noticed that two of them started to cry. I mean, tears start coming down.

I went, well, this is what it's about, it is about regaining the humanity that they had lost and the sooner they can regain it, the faster they'll heal when they come home.

BURNETT: All right. Karl, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

MARLANTES: It's my pleasure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And we welcome your feedback about Karl. Hope you'll read his book.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.