Return to Transcripts main page

ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Mississippi Supreme Court Rules on Former Governor's Pardons; Lobbying Loophole

Aired March 8, 2012 - 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: It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight, "Keeping Them Honest" with a stunning court surprising court decision, Mississippi's Supreme Court affirming outgoing Governor Haley Barbour's decision to issue about 200 pardons, including some that put these convicted killers out on the street, killers who had worked as servants in the governor's mansion.

Those killers were already free when the state's attorney general moved to block the pardons. But five other serious felons were still in prison, from left to right, a drug dealer, a woman convicted of serious assault, a rapist, not shown here, an accessory to murder, and a convicted killer.

They're about to hit the street. Now, the court ruling in a 6-3 vote that pardons may not be set aside by the judicial branch and that the final decision on pardons rested entirely with the governor.

But it's primarily the governor's judgment that victims' families and survivors were questioning. Governor Barbour, you'll remember, refused to come on the program to defend his decision. Here, his people said no over and over and over again by e-mail, on the phone, face-to-face when we asked our Ed Lavandera to try and get some answers from the governor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Governor, Ed Lavandera with CNN.

GOV. HALEY BARBOUR (R), MISSISSIPPI: Hi, Ed. How you doing?

LAVANDERA: Can we talk to you real quick?

BARBOUR: Let me go get my instructions first then we'll talk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's get inside, first.

(CROSSTALK)

LAVANDERA: Can you come out and talk to us here in a second?

(voice-over): He wouldn't give us a second and walked right inside the building, but not before showing us what he thought of the questions. (on camera): Governor, can you talk to us about the pardons?

BARBOUR: Let me get my business straight here.

LAVANDERA: All right, we'll wait for you out here then.

BARBOUR: All right. Stay where it's cold.

LAVANDERA: Just told me to stay where I'm cold.

Governor, can we get a few minutes to talk about the pardons?

BARBOUR: Not really. When the Supreme Court rules, it'll be time to talk.

LAVANDERA: But --

BARBOUR: I'm not so presumptuous.

(CROSSTALK)

BARBOUR: I'm not so presumptuous as to predict what the Supreme Court's going to do. But when they rule, then we can talk.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, the Supreme Court ruled, so once again, of course, we contacted Mr. Barbour's office to see if he'd now make good on his promise to talk. His press officer told us, no. She said he's traveling, he's busy. We asked for a phone interview, she said, no, at least for the next few days.

Instead, the office issued a statement. In it, the former governor thanked the court, acknowledged the criticism, but also restated that -- quote -- "These were decisions based on repentance, rehabilitation, and redemption, leading to forgiveness and the right defined and given by the state constitution to the governor to offer such people a second chance."

Now Governor Barbour has offered that explanation many times before and he offers this as a justification for freeing the murderers who served him in the governor's mansion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARBOUR: For decades, our governor's mansion has been served primarily by -- mansion, by inmates from the state pen system. Almost all murderers, because the experts say people who committed one crime of passion in their life after they have served 20 years, and these have served on average 20 years, are the least likely to ever commit another crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: He said that over and over again."Keeping Him Honest," though, as the experts who come on our program have pointed out, people who kill on impulse, so-called crimes of passion, in the heat of the moment, are no less likely to kill again than anyone else. In any case, you'd be hard-pressed to describe what some of these killers did as crimes of passion at all.

Joseph Ozment, for instance, this guy, he stuck up a convenience store, shot the clerk three times on the way in the door and twice more before fleeing the scene. Not a crime of passion.

After arguing with his wife, Anthony McCray, that man, got a gun, returned, and shot her in the back. Not exactly heat of the moment either.

Neither is this. David Gatlin stalks his estranged wife, Tammy Ellis Gatlin, for weeks before striking. He shot and killed her while she held her baby in her arms and badly wounded her friend, Randy Walker. He's going to join us shortly. Now he fears that Gatlin may try and finish the job.

Tonight, Tammy Ellis's -- Tammy Ellis Gatlin's mom and sister are too shaken by the court ruling to talk about it. I spoke to them when this story first gained national attention.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TIFFANY ELLIS BREWER, VICTIM'S SISTER: He got life plus 30 years, you know? I mean, and he served 18 of them? You know, my sister lived 20 years. It's ridiculous. You know? It almost makes you -- I mean, Haley Barbour, obviously, did not even open the case to look at the detective work and the things that were said and, I mean, he actually told somebody before he came to do this that he was coming to kill her. You know?

COOPER: Betty, why do you think the governor did this?

BETTY ELLIS, VICTIM'S MOTHER: My real gut feeling is that it was a power thing with him. He did it because he could do it. And he wanted to.

COOPER: He didn't think about your daughter?

ELLIS: No, he didn't think about my daughter that being gone and none of us will ever be able to see her or hear her or talk to her ever again. He didn't think of any of that. You would have thought that being a father that might have crossed his mind.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Again, we welcome the governor to come on the program anytime. As you heard he said, he'd talk about it once the state Supreme Court rendered its decision. The invitation remains open.

I want to bring in senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, you were really surprised by the decision. Why?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely astonished. Because as we've discussed many times, the Mississippi constitution has this unusual provision. It says, no pardon is valid unless the person applying for the pardon publishes a notice in a local newspaper 30 days before the pardon goes into -- you know, is acted upon. It's clear, as the court acknowledges, that that notice provision was violated.

COOPER: And that was supposed to give notice to any potential former victims or victims' families out there, who could then, you know, raise a stink about it or talk to the governor about it or something like that?

TOOBIN: You could go to the governor and say, don't do this.

COOPER: Right.

TOOBIN: I mean, because this guy did all these terrible things.

COOPER: So that wasn't done?

TOOBIN: It was not done. Some people did it late, some people didn't do it at all. But it's clear that it was not done in accord with the law. The six justices in the majority said, doesn't matter. We, as a coordinate branch of governor, as an equal branch of governor in the judiciary, don't have the right to overrule the form of a pardon signed by the governor in the executive branch of government.

The three descending justices, who, frankly, I thought were right, said, wait a second. This is what courts do. We analyze the law and we decide whether the other branches of government have followed the law or not.

COOPER: So essentially the six ones who ruled on this, in favor of it, said that only the governor can decide whether the governor's actions are constitutional?

TOOBIN: Essentially, those actions, when it comes to exercising the pardon power, are unreviewable by a court, including us.

COOPER: How can that be? I mean, --

TOOBIN: I don't know.

COOPER: That means there's no oversight of this governor at all?

TOOBIN: I don't get it. When it comes to pardons, that's -- I mean, you know -- one of the most famous decisions, which these justices actually discussed, it's a United States Supreme Court decision Marbury vs. Madison, 1803, it says, it's the job of courts to say what the law is. It's not the job of the -- of the president or the governor or the Congress, it's the job of the courts.

This is what they were trying to do in this case because the law is so clear here.

COOPER: So can this go any higher? Is it to another court or is this it done? TOOBIN: See, that's the thing that's amazing here. No. COOPER: Really?

TOOBIN: This is done. This is over. This was a Mississippi court interpreting the Mississippi constitution. The United States Supreme Court doesn't do that. They don't tell the Mississippi Supreme Court that they're violating the Mississippi law. This case is over, these pardons are final. I think the legal process is --

COOPER: So these killers have had their records basically wiped clean. I mean, a pardon wipes it clean.

TOOBIN: Which is very significant here because it's not like they just got out of prison. They are not convicted felons anymore. They can, tomorrow, go buy a gun, they can go get a hunting license, they can go vote. It is as if these people were never convicted in the first place. It is a total clean slate for them.

COOPER: That's fascinating, and amazing. Jeff Toobin, appreciate it. Thanks.

As you heard a moment ago, Randy Walker, who was shot, nearly killed by one of the men who is now free and clear, the record of his deadly crime wiped clean. Randy Walker joins us now at the end of what has been, no doubt, a very difficult day.

What was your reaction when you heard the ruling, Randy?

RANDY WALKER, SHOT BY DAVID GATLIN: I just couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe that these six justices, as educated as they have to be, could interpret the law any other way than the way the three did. I was just absolutely blown away. These six guys took the political way out rather than doing what was right.

COOPER: Do you feel this ruling today has put your life in danger? The fact that the man who shot you is now out and can buy a gun?

WALKER: Yes. I mean, it's -- you know, part of the -- part of the justice system here, or in the United States as a whole, is there's two parts to it, to the justice system. One, if you're convicted, you do your time. If it's five years or 50 years, you do your time. After that, if you've committed a felony, you -- you give up your rights. I mean, you give up certain rights.

For these guys to have only served -- David Gatlin only served 17 years, six months, and three days for a life plus 30 sentence. He should have never gotten out of jail. You know, for them to be completely pardoned, as though your legal analyst said, it never happened.

Let me tell you, it happened for me. I'm still living it every day. I can't be pardoned from the scars I have. I can't be pardoned from the nightmares. I can't be pardoned from looking over my shoulder, wondering where this guy is. You know, none of that. There's no magic pill for me to take. There's no magic pardon pill for me. COOPER: And when you hear the governor say, well, this was a crime of passion, and therefore David Gatlin's not likely to do it again, according to our experts, though he's never said who these experts are, because we can't find any who say that.

WALKER: Yes, I don't know what he's -- I mean, he's -- I don't know. You know, he's just talking. I don't think he understands what he's saying. His lips are just moving. I don't understand his definition of crime of passion and mine are not even in the same world. I mean, a crime of passion, to me, is if you come home early from a business trip or you come home from lunch unexpected and you find your spouse, you know, doing something you're not supposed to do, and you snap and beat them to death with a -- with a lamp on the side of the bed table or something.

You don't, you don't drive nine hours from Georgia, stalked us all night long, followed me back to my house to find out where I live and who I am. Get up and sleep on it all night long, get up and hunt us down the next morning and then do it. I mean, there's plenty of time to stop what you've done here. And that's one of the questions that if Governor Barbour would ever get -- man up enough just to talk to me, that's the question I would ask him. How is this a crime of passion? Show me how this is a crime of passion.

COOPER: It doesn't surprise me that the governor hasn't the talked to me on this program or to a lot of other reporters about this, but it surprises me that he hasn't been willing to talk to you about this.

WALKER: Yes, I mean, he's just totally -- you know, I don't want to, I don't want to slap him or cause him any bodily harm. I feel like I'm owed some explanations. I mean, for him to say that, you know, it's in his Christian faith to let this guy go, what about the separation of church and state? The governor -- I don't see how he can make a decision, you know, that's a state issue, based on a church issue.

I mean, I don't understand. I mean, there's so many things here, there's so many -- there's stuff that nobody knows about that I would love to talk to you off-camera some time about, there's some other stories here, but you wouldn't believe the cover-up and the letters and the documentation that we have, where some people are saying one thing in an office, and somebody else is saying something totally different in another office. They're scared to death that I'm going to bring a huge lawsuit, so they're changing wordings.

I have gotten letters from lawyers that work for Barbour and they represent the Justice Department -- or not the Justice Department, the Department of Corrections, that they don't -- they think we're too stupid to keep what they write us. I have got letters from years ago where they say that David is a trustee in the governor's mansion and all this other stuff. And then I get a letter just here recently saying, well, we want to re-correct that. David wasn't actually a trustee, he was, he was in a work program. Because the Department of Correction's own handbook, not something I made up, but the Department of Corrections in Mississippi says that any person found guilty of murder, serving a life sentence or several other violent crimes can not be a trustee, period. Not at the governor's mansion, not in some farm in Yalobusha County, they can't be a trustee. That's in the Department of Corrections handbook.

COOPER: And Randy, if -- I mean, if you see this man who shot you, I mean, are you -- are you legitimately afraid for your life?

WALKER: I have been told not to say certain things, but I will say this, Anderson. If David Gatlin shows himself to me, I'm going to take it as a threat against my life or the life of my family and I will handle it accordingly.

COOPER: Randy Walker, I'm sorry you're going through this and I appreciate you talking to us about it.

WALKER: It's been an honor to be on your show, Anderson. Out of all the people I have been on there with, you share my outrage and the sentiments of my family. We really appreciate that.

COOPER: Randy, that means a lot to me, I appreciate that. And we'll continue to keep in touch with you and maybe see if this law could get changed, though it's not going to change the case of this pardon.

Randy, I wish you strength in the days ahead. Thank you.

WALKER: Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Let us know what you think about this. We're on Facebook. We're on Google+, on Twitter @AC360. You can also follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper.

Up next: Candidate Obama said Washington lobbyists wouldn't be running his White House. Remember that? So how does President Obama explain his new hire, a man who actually ran a lobbying firm? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And later, a dark and overlooked chapter in American history coming to light. This is just incredible. You -- you may not know this. California once led the nation in forced sterilizations and why even now the victims of some of those forced sterilizations are fighting for some kind of justice.

Let's also check in with Isha -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, new attacks on civilians in Syria, and why a new and influential voice is now arguing against outside military intervention to stop it -- that and much more when 360 continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" now on a very specific campaign promise that then-candidate Obama made back in 2008. That when he was elected he would run the White House, not Washington lobbyists. The question tonight is, is he breaking that promise and using a loophole as an escape hatch? Here's the pledge candidate Obama made during his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, 2008)

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will not take a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. We're going to change how Washington works. They will not fund my party. They will not run our White House and they will not drown out the voice of the American people when I'm president of the United States of America.

We've got to change how business is done in Washington. This is the major disagreement that I have with Senator Clinton. Now, she's a smart and capable person, but she is of Washington. And she believes that lobbyists aren't a problem. I think they are.

I would not take money from federal lobbyists. They have not funded my campaign. They will not run our White House. And they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president of the United States of America.

But if you are ready for change, then we can go ahead and tell the lobbyists, their days of setting the agenda in Washington are over. They have not funded my campaign, they will not run my White House, and they will not drown out the voices of the American people when I'm president of the United States of America.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Well, tell that to Steve Ricchetti, who is the new counsel to Vice President Biden. Steve Ricchetti's last job was running a lobbying firm. For years, he lobbied in Washington for GM, Eli Lilly, the American Banking Association, and others, seeking to influence government policy.

So how, you might ask, did he end up with a senior job in the administration? Well, it turns out in January of 2009, President Obama started backing away from his pledge, saying -- quote -- "When you were a lobbyist entering my administration, you won't be able to work on matters you lobbied on." But, "Keeping Him Honest," there's very little the White House is involved with that Steve Ricchetti or others in his line of work haven't lobbied on, such as banking, hospitals, and the auto industry.

The White House, though, is offering another justification. You can decide if it's a fig leaf or not. Ricchetti de-registered as a lobbyist in 2008 even though he continued to run his lobbying firm. So, officially, he was not a lobbyist anymore.

Dana Milbank's column in "The Washington Post" got this on the radar. I spoke with him and Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen shortly before airtime.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Dana, it seems the White House can appoint this guy, Ricchetti, because he de-registered as a lobbyist before President Obama took office. But, I mean, for all intents and purposes, he was still a lobbyist, right?

DANA MILBANK, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Right, Anderson.

And that's the problem with sort of the influence industry in this town. A relatively few people who practice this business are actually, technically lobbyists. So we live in this absurd situation where the president can get around his own ban on hiring lobbyists by hiring the president of a lobbying firm. So somehow that's better. It's just -- you know, it just sort of shows how deep this town is into the influence business.

COOPER: But, Hilary, I mean, isn't the president opening himself up to just a charge of hypocrisy on this? I mean, saying you're not going to hire a lobbyist, and then hiring a guy who's a lobbyist in everything but name only?

HILARY ROSEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: But he's not -- first of all, he's not a lobbyist in everything but name only. He did not talk to members of Congress about issues on behalf of clients, period.

COOPER: But he ran a lobbying firm.

ROSEN: That's the definition of a lobbying firm. Not his -- he has lobbyists in his firm but he did not do that. So here's the other thing, which is, this kind of stigma about lobbyists. First of all, I personally think this whole issue is kind of silly. Because, guess what, you want to have people who know how to get stuff done.

COOPER: No, no, no, I'm not --

ROSEN: Who know how to --

COOPER: I'm not arguing that point. But this is a president who has specifically said, I'm not going to have lobbyists, so it's one thing -- you can now argue and say, well, it's silly to have said that --

ROSEN: And he hasn't.

COOPER: But back --

ROSEN: No. No, no, no.

COOPER: But he attacked Hillary Clinton --

ROSEN: I'm saying I think it's silly to say.

COOPER: Right, I know. But the Obama campaign attacked Hillary Clinton in 2008 for taking money from him because he was a lobbyist then.

ROSEN: Well, he was a lobbyist then years prior to 2008. But since then, he has not lobbied. Which is the rule. Two years of no lobbying. So that means that you get all of the benefit of the experience of a lobbyist, without the current corporate ties. And that's an important thing. Steve Ricchetti is a good guy. This is kind of a -- you know, a crazy thing to be taking off after him for.

COOPER: Dana, in your column, you wrote -- quote -- "Only in today's Washington could a president circumvent his own ban on hiring lobbyists by hiring the head of a lobbying firm. His appointment shows just how flimsy Obama's ethical reforms have been and how absurd the official standards are for who's a lobbyist in the influence industry."

MILBANK: Yes.

And, I mean, look, I mean, Hilary makes a fine point that maybe they should be hiring lobbyists because they have experience. But then don't go and put in a policy in the first place that says you shouldn't be hiring lobbyists. Now he's the president of a lobbying firm. Basically, his other partner is his brother. His brother goes to lobby for people and says, hey, you know, my brother, the president of this firm, he's that guy who raises hundreds of thousands of dollars for all you politicians.

And I think any American looking at that would say, that stinks and that's ridiculous whether you call him a lobbyist or you don't call him a lobbyist. It's not saying Steve Ricchetti is a bad guy, from everything I understand, he's very competent, just the kind of guy you'd want in the White House, but it really doesn't smell good.

COOPER: And Hilary, I mean, doesn't this come on the heels also the president basically reversing himself on super PACs as well?

ROSEN: You know, it does come on the heels of super PACs, but this coming on the heels, let's go back to this, he has not gone back on his pledge not to hire lobbyists. Steve Ricchetti is not a lobbyist. When it comes to super PACs, you know what, as soon as Mitt Romney says that he's not going to take $1 billion from super PACs, my guess is Barack Obama would say so, too. But there's no way he's going to unilaterally disarm when the Republicans have, you know, empowered themselves with so much money.

COOPER: Again, I'm not arguing whether it's a smart strategic move for the president to do, but it is the reverse of what he said he would do earlier. Correct?

ROSEN: What he said he did -- would do in 2008, which was a different campaign finance system, now we're in 2012, the system has changed. He's playing in the new system, as anyone who cares about his policies and him being re-elected would want him to do. You've got to designated a hitter rule, guess what, you're going to the World Series, you're going to take advantage of the designated hitter rule. Just no question here.

COOPER: Dana, is this something that -- I mean, do you think this opens the president up to charges of hypocrisy?

MILBANK: Well, it certainly opens him to charges of hypocrisy. But the fact of the matter is, he may find that it's necessary to do it anyway. The president came here to change Washington and Washington has changed him. And that's really what's happened here, is he realizes that these are the rules that you have to play by.

COOPER: Dana, I mean, the White House does have a history of trying to appoint lobbyists to jobs in the administration. I mean, this isn't -- this isn't a one-off. And again, you can say that they're not lobbyists because they're not officially lobbyists, but there's plenty of people in Washington who are lobbying who are not called "lobbyists," right?

MILBANK: Exactly. And that's what typically the former elected officials are typically are not registered lobbyists. They're sort of the rainmakers for these lobbying firms. The administration has hired several lobbyists. They gave them waivers in certain cases. But in other cases, you know, a guy who lobbied for Human Rights Watch, lobbying to help torture victims was said, no, you can't have a job in this administration because you're a lobbyist. And when you say he can't but the president of a lobbying firm that worked for General Motors and Fannie Mae can, it's hard to sort of justify that and it doesn't pass the smell test.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Dana --

ROSEN: You know --

COOPER: Hilary?

ROSEN: Not a lobbyist. It doesn't meet any test and this is just made up.

COOPER: What do you mean it's made up? Again this is the Obama -- candidate Obama --

ROSEN: Because he's not a lobbyist, Anderson.

COOPER: -- attacked him when he was bundling money for Hillary Clinton, saying, Hillary Clinton is accepting bundled money from lobbyists.

ROSEN: Well -- and as I said --

COOPER: He still works for the same firm and now his brother runs that firm.

ROSEN: We are -- we're four years later and he has abided by the rules, the president's abided by the rules, the vice president has abided by the rules in picking him, and kind of end of story. You can, you can decide that he's a lobbyist, but under any existing rule, he's not. And more importantly, he knows what he's doing. And that's something that is going to benefit the American people and the White House.

MILBANK: It depends -- it depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

COOPER: Yes, exactly. We sound like -- we're in Washington speak here. We'll let viewers make up their own mind.

ROSEN: No, it's pretty clear.

COOPER: All right. Hilary, we'll let viewers make up their minds.

Hilary Rosen, thank you very much.

Dana Milbank, thanks.

ROSEN: OK.

MILBANK: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: Well, let us know what you think. We're on Twitter right now @AC360.

"Digging Deeper" now: a documentary that's gone viral. Its goal is to put the world's most wanted warlord, Uganda's Joseph Kony, behind bars in 2012 -- details on that ahead.

Also ahead, he's 82 years old, but this man will never forget what it felt like to be forcibly sterilized when he was just a boy. It's hard to believe it happened here in America. Tens of thousands of people were forcibly sterilized. It happened to him in the state of California in their eugenics program. So, why won't California make amends now?

Details on that ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Digging Deeper" tonight on a video documentary that has gone viral.

It's been repeated several million times on social networking sites, and in just -- in just four days on YouTube, it's had more than the Academy Awards got in terms of viewership.

Here's what makes that fact so remarkable. The film is about a Ugandan warlord, a man so despicablenumber the international criminal court names him its No. 1 target.

Miguel Marquez reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It is a 30- minute video. Its hope: to change the world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In order for it to work, you have to pay attention.

MARQUEZ: What the narrator and filmmaker want you to pay attention to is this man, Joseph Kony. He leads a Ugandan rebel group called the Lord's Resistance Army, and his goal is to overthrow the Ugandan government.

In his 26-year campaign, Kony has kidnapped more than 65,000 boys and girls, kids, forcing them to maim their fellow villagers and sometimes, to prove their loyalty to Kony, kill their own families.

Kony says he's doing it all to the name of God, but the children's stories paint a picture of hell on earth. CNN has covered it since the beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We were forced to bite him with our bare teeth as he screamed in pain. We continued biting until he was dead.

MARQUEZ: Russell and his charity, Invisible Children, are on a mission, because of a promise he made to a 12-year-old boy in 2003. Jacob was kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army; his brother, killed by it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After spending a few weeks with Jacob, he told me something I would never forget.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it is better when you kill us. And if possible, you can kill us, you kill us. For us, we don't want now to stay, because...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want to stay on earth?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are only two. No one is taking care of us. We are not going to school, so...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would rather die than stay on earth?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even now. How are we going to stay in our future?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He told me more about his brother and what he would say to him if he were still alive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I love you, but now I miss you, so it is better when we meet -- we are not going to meet, but we may meet in heaven, you see? So it is better -- I will not talk much, it will start something, because if I saw my brother once again, I don't...

MARQUEZ: The video has now been viewed more than 50 million times. Most of those viewing it are teenagers. And the filmmaker is betting the online buzz will have real-world effects.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are going to make Joseph Kony a household name, not to celebrate him, but to bring his crimes to the light.

MARQUEZ (on camera): Russell wants Kony, the world's No. 1 war criminal, arrested. Getting rid of Kony, say experts, is a great goal, but it is utterly naive to think that alone will end violence in Uganda. The government itself there has been accused of violence and abuse.

(voice-over) Still, Russell and his Invisible Children push ahead. On April 20 comes the real test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the day when we will meet at sundown and blanket every street in every city.

MARQUEZ: Taking a page from street artists, iconic posters of Joseph Kony to be hung around the world, making him famous, and maybe finally making him a prisoner.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Miguel Marquez joins us now.

It is amazing how quickly this campaign has gone viral. I mean, it's all over Twitter. It's all over Facebook. There have been questions that have been raised about this group, about their fund- raising, and where they spend the money.

MARQUEZ: With success comes a lot of focus. And there are claims out there that this group doesn't really live up to the 501(3c) standards, the standards of a nonprofit organization, that it only puts 32 percent of the money that it takes in toward actual stuff on the ground. Most of it going to filmmaking and administration-type stuff.

It gets a two out of four stars from some of the groups that rate nonprofit organizations.

In response, the group has put out all of their financial statements, and letting people see for themselves. It does seem to indicate that they've now had an independent auditor go through their financial statements, and it does seem to suggest that they do a lot more with their money programmatically than the critics would suggest.

COOPER: I mean, I don't know anything about this group in particular, but I do think the fact that they have been able to galvanize so many people to pay -- you know, watch a 30-minute video about Joseph Kony, who we at CNN have been following for years, we've done stories about him for years. I worked in Central Africa for years. The fact that suddenly I'm getting e-mails from school kids I know, saying, "Do you know about Joseph Kony," that's kind of an amazing accomplishment.

MARQUEZ: It is stunning that there are kids that are involved in Africa in this, and that there are kids in the U.S. that are mostly watching this video now. And good, bad, otherwise -- these people may be naive, they may be off on some of their facts about what's happening in Uganda -- but at the end of the day, it's starting a very important debate. And anybody knows how important it is to have that.

COOPER: It's a good discussion. Miguel Marquez, appreciate it, thanks.

Just ahead, a fight for justice. California once led the nation in forced sterilizations, and you might be shocked to know its eugenics program was once used as Nazi Germany as a model. Decades later, victims want California to try to make amends. We'll have that story ahead.

First, let's check in with Isha with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Syrian regime launched new attacks in opposition strongholds today. At least 62 people were killed, according to opposition groups.

Meanwhile, in Cairo, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan cautioned against outside military intervention in Syria, saying it could worsen an already precarious situation. Annan heads a special joint envoy to Syria for the United Nations and the Arab League. Here's what else he said at today's meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KOFI ANNAN, FORMER SECRETARY-GENERAL, UNITED NATIONS: People throughout the region and the world are deeply troubled by what is taking place. The level of violence is excessive and unacceptable by any standards. This cannot continue. The violence and the killing must stop and stop immediately. There is a major need for us to change course.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: A new report from the U.S. surgeon general shows the decline in teen smoking has stalled. Nearly 1 in 4 high-school seniors smokes, despite decades of anti-smoking education. The report says evidence suggests that the tobacco companies are using new product design and packaging to appeal to young people.

A New York district judge has ruled that New York City must pay as much as $128 million in back wages to minority firefighter candidates who lost out on pay or were never hired because of a racially biased entrance exam. Now, the ruling also orders the fire department to hire nearly 300 black and Latino applicants.

And this 340-ton boulder, may be the most popular rock on the planet. At two stories high, it's being moved from a quarry in Riverside, California, to a museum in L.A., where it will be part of a new exhibit. It's making 22 stops along the way, and it's drawing crowds -- Anderson.

COOPER: Serious stuff ahead. An ugly chapter in American history. A man who was forcibly sterilized, one of thousands in this country. He was just 14 years old when it happened. He wants the state of California to compensate him. He's now 82, and he's not the only one. There were a lot of other victims, lots of them. That report ahead.

Also, Iran says it's ready to talk about its nuclear program, but there are strings attached.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Tonight, more about an incredibly disturbing story that we've been following for months now. States in the United States refusing to compensate victims who were forcibly sterilized because they were deemed unfit to reproduce.

It was part of a eugenics program that operated in more than half the states in the 20th century in this country. Now, it sounds shocking; it's almost unbelievable, frankly, to imagine this, but it's the shameful truth. Tens of thousands of American citizens were sterilized without their consent. It was all public knowledge.

Now, the Supreme Court at the time actually endorsed the practice, and so did several presidents. California performed so many sterilizations -- get this -- Nazi Germany used its program as a model.

Elizabeth Cohen has part one of her report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 1945, California's Sonoma State Home. Charlie Follett, a 14-year-old ward, is singing in a field when he's ordered inside.

CHARLIE FOLLETT, PATIENT STERILIZED BY FORCE: First they shot me with some kind of medicine, supposed to deaden the nerves. Then the next thing I just heard was snip, snip, and that was it.

COHEN (on camera): Did they tell you what they were doing to you?

FOLLETT: No.

COHEN (voice-over): They didn't have to tell him. He knew. A sterilization by force.

(on camera) How did you know what it was?

FOLLETT: Well, because there's been others in there that had it before me.

COHEN (voice-over): The other boys at the home had warned him how much it would hurt.

FOLLETT: But when they done this side here, it seemed like they were pulling the whole insides out.

COHEN: The 1930s through the 1950s were the heyday of the eugenics movement in the United States. The goal: to rid the country of the feeble-minded, defectives.

And it wasn't some fringe or secretive program. It was well known and paid for by the states where it was practiced. Entire families labeled shiftless, degenerates. Sixty thousand men and women, boys and girls sterilized. Some living at home, others like Follett in state institutions. His parents were alcoholics and couldn't care for him and his sisters.

Thirty-two states had eugenics programs, but California was in a league of its own. The Golden State sterilized 20,000 people, more than twice as many as the next state, Virginia, and a full third of the nation's total. It was led by California's elite, including at the time, the president of Stanford University and the publisher of the "Los Angeles Times."

The efficiency of California's program didn't go unnoticed. In the 1930s, the Nazi Party in Germany was so impressed, it asked for advice, and Californians leading the program were only too happy to help.

(on camera) So eugenicists in California sent this book to the Nazis?

CHRISTINA COGDELL, CULTURAL HISTORIAN, UC-DAVIS: Yes, they did.

COHEN: So the Nazis used this book as a model for their sterilization program?

COGDELL: Absolutely. Germany used California's program as its chief example that this was a working, successful policy.

COHEN (voice-over): California, the leader in forced sterilizations, but decades later, not a leader in making amends to victims.

A few hundred survivors are still alive, by one scholar's estimate, but the state has offered no reparations. Follett's tried for years, but says he can't even get a politician to talk to him, not even his own state representative, who also refused an interview request from CNN.

His friend, Rudy Banlasan, a nursing student, shows me letters he's written to no avail on Follett's behalf.

(on camera) Do you think the state of California just wants to forget about this, forget it ever happened?

RUDY BANLASAN, FOLLETT'S FRIEND: Honestly, I think they're just waiting -- I mean, I hate to sound so cynical. I think they're just waiting for the victims to die and forget this whole thing ever happened.

COHEN (voice-over): Compare that chilly response to the state of North Carolina.

GOV. BEV PERDUE (D), NORTH CAROLINA: The state of North Carolina is a partner with you and trying to bring awareness...

COHEN: Governor Bev Perdue has invited sterilization victims to the capitol, heard their stories, apologized personally, set up a task force to help them, and recommended that each victim receive $50,000 in reparations.

In California, just a statement of apology by Governor Gray Davis in 2003, saying, "It was a sad and regrettable chapter in the state's history, and it is one that must never be repeated again."

(on camera) An apology from the governor, is that enough?

AREVA MARTIN, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: No. No. It's a start. But it's only a start. These people deserve to be compensated, just like any other victim that has had their rights violated.

COHEN (voice-over): Where does all this leave Follett? He's 82, recovering from lung cancer, and hoping justice will come before he dies.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You know, Elizabeth, your reporting on this has been incredible, because I really had no idea this was so widespread: 60,000 Americans forcibly sterilized. Do you know how many of those people are still alive?

COHEN: You know, it's not known, because except in North Carolina, Anderson, people aren't really reaching out and trying to keep track of how many victims there are. So, for example, as we said in California, one scholar thinks there's a few hundred who are still alive, but no one really knows for sure.

COOPER: Aside from that statement by the former governor, Gray Davis, in California, have any other officials there acknowledged what happened?

COHEN: You know, Anderson, we have spent the past few weeks calling and e-mailing politicians in California, and the silence has been astonishing.

And I actually went out there, and I flew out to Sacramento to try to get these politicians to talk to me, and the results were really quite interesting. And I'm putting that report together now for tomorrow night.

COOPER: OK. We'll have that tomorrow night on the program. Elizabeth, thanks. It's just important, I think, to keep talking about this.

Coming up, Pakistan taking legal action against some of Osama bin Laden's widows. We've got the latest on the allegations against them.

And there were warnings about how a solar storm that's going on could mess with everything from satellites to GPS systems. We have an update on that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Still ahead, "The RidicuList," but first Isha's back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha. SESAY: Anderson, a top Iranian official said today that his country is ready to talk about its nuclear program again. Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency told members at their meeting in Vienna that a new chapter is open and has insisted that other issues must be on the table, as well.

At least two of Osama bin Laden's widows, including this woman, face criminal charges in Pakistan. Officials accused them of entering the country illegally and committing forgery. The status of a third wife is not clear. Bin Laden was living in Pakistan with some of his wives when he was killed by American commandos.

Famed guitar maker Fender filed today for an initial public offering. It plans to sell $200 million worth of shares. Many musical legends play Fender instruments.

And Anderson, the solar storms that hit the Earth this morning have caused few problems so far. They had the potential to disrupt satellite systems, power grids, and GPS systems. However, some airlines that fly near them have adjusted their route, because radio communications can be interrupted.

And one scientist compares the challenge of forecasting these events to hitting a major league pitcher's fastball. I know you know what that means.

COOPER: I know what that means, but that picture we were showing, was that the sun?

SESAY: Could be put that up again?

COOPER: That's the sun, I guess?

SESAY: That's the sun.

COOPER: Is that solar flares in the U.S.? I don't know.

SESAY: No.

COOPER: I'm confused. It's the sun, I'm told. It's cool.

SESAY: It is cool.

COOPER: I shouldn't have taken a summer class. Shouldn't have slept through. I'm so bad at...

SESAY: You should have showed (ph) up that day. It has been noted. You will not be the person I call if I'm ever on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire."

COOPER: Yes, yes. Sun (ph) and math, you don't want to call me on that. History, geography, anything else.

SESAY: Anything else.

COOPER: Time now for "The Shot." You know we love dogs around here. How can we resist a video of man's best friend whose own best friend is a battery-powered mouse?

SESAY: So much joy. From something so silly.

COOPER: It's a beagle. His name is Mayno (ph). I like this.

SESAY: I love how you don't get any of the other stories tonight, but you love this.

COOPER: I get this. Solar flares, I don't understand. I like how the dog twists himself around and like falls over with excitement. Oh, I like dogs.

SESAY: At least you're happy. So easy to please.

COOPER: I'm easy to please. I'm like that dog.

Isha, thanks very much.

Coming up, how much would you pay for a three-year-old Chicken McNugget? Mmm. "The RidicuList" is next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding this Chicken McNugget. It isn't just any old Chicken McNugget. It is a very rare and very valuable Chicken McNugget, indeed. It's a Chicken McNugget that somebody saves for three years. And after three years of loving it and caring for it, that same somebody decided to sell that Chicken McNugget on eBay.

This week, the auction ended. Final bid: $8,100 for a three- year-old Chicken McNugget.

Now, you may balk at the price, but what if I tell you this Chicken McNugget looks exactly like George Washington? Yes. So it's supposedly George Washington in profile. Now, I don't quo if you can see it or not. You have to maybe use your imagination and squint your eyes.

eBay doesn't usually let people sell expired food, but they made an exception when they found out the lady was going to use the money to send kids to church camp.

But stop the press; hold onto your mechanically-separated chicken, because this just in: the bidder has backed out. So I guess save up your Benjamins because the Washington McNugget could be going back on the market.

Not to chop down anyone's cherry tree or anything, but $8,000 is a lot of money. If you have already blown this month's rotting presidential fast-food novelty budget, you could always just get some brand-new nuggets. A six-piece costs $3.29 from McDonald's on 51st and Broadway. That's right, we actually called.

And the line was busy the first few times, which is frankly kind of puzzling. Who actually calls McDonalds? Besides us, I mean? There are other options on eBay. A Chicken McNugget that supposedly looks like Santa Claus. Don't listen to that one. One that's said to resemble Mitt Romney. I really don't see that. And one that looks like Jay Leno. OK, maybe.

Now, we don't want you to feel left out if you're a vegetarian or you have wooden teeth. So how about a genuine gold nugget instead? This one is on eBay with a current bid of one penny.

Or for 99 cents, you can buy Toby Turner's single nugget in a biscuit. There's also a video on YouTube.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (singing): Nugget biscuit, nugget in a biscuit.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There's actually -- I'm perplexed. There's actually one other surprising element involving the initial discovery of the George Washington McNugget. The lady says it was left over when she took her kids to McDonald's, and she almost threw it away. Whoever heard of kids not eating Chicken McNuggets? Kids love chicken nuggets. Maybe that's only because they don't know what's in them.

Chef Jamie Oliver decided to try to change that. Let's see what happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMIE OLIVER, CHEF: All of the connective tissues. Little bits of bone marrow and stuff like that. They even add chicken skin. Now, who would still eat this?

So there you go. The whole experiment failed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: There it is. Kids love Chicken McNuggets. I love Big Macs; I love fries. I know it's not good for me.

People on eBay apparently love chicken nuggets that look presidential. To each his own, I say. P.S., I'd cross the Delaware for a Big Mac right about now. I would.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.