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Should Congress Police Itself?; Slavery Reparations?; Child Slavery in America

Aired December 1, 2010 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for watching, everyone.

Tonight: Congress says African-American farmers discriminated for decades by the U.S. government deserve payment. But one Republican congressman says the program is riddled with fraud and is really just a way to make reparations for slavery.

His remarks have set off a firestorm. Tonight, you will hear from him. Is the congressman playing fast and loose with the facts, or are his opponents? We're "Keeping Them Honest."

Also tonight: A big-name Democratic congresswoman accused of ethics violations, Maxine Waters, her hearing was supposed to begin, but now the ethics panel is in disarray, the lead investigator mysteriously taken off the case. Can Congress really police itself? Details tonight.

And later: hiding in plain sight, the child slavery business right here in America. Hard to believe. We have the evidence, though, for you to see for yourself.

We begin, as always, "Keeping Them Honest."

Tonight: the congressman who says a billion-dollar federal program for settling African-American discrimination claims is full of fraud, was pushed by what he calls a -- quote -- "very, very urban" Barack Obama, and amounts, he says, to slavery reparations.

We're talking about Steve King, Republican of Iowa. You're going to hear from him in a moment.

At issue is a program just passed in Congress to extend payments to African-American farmers who have been discriminated against by the U.S. government. Now, the government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in this case, admits they discriminated against black farmers, unfairly denying them federal loans, for instance, loans they needed, as all farmers do from time to time, to stay afloat.

The USDA also admits that, for years, they ignored or even threw away discrimination claims made by black farmers. A farmer named Pigford sued. It became a class-action suit. The government came up with a settlement and now a new settlement for farmers who missed the filing deadline of the first one.

Congressman King objects to this latest round of payments, saying there is widespread fraud. He's alleging three-quarters-of-a-billion dollars were wasted in the first round of payments. And, this week, Congressman King spoke on the House floor for an hour attacking the process and President Obama for sponsoring a bill supporting it when he was a senator.


REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: Figure this out, Madam Speaker. We have a very, very urban Senator Barack Obama who has decided to run for president, and what does he do? He introduces legislation to create a whole new Pigford claim.


COOPER: Congressman King did not point out then-Senator Obama was representing the state of Illinois, some 80 percent of which is made up of farmland.

The congressman went to equate these payments with slave reparations.


KING: We have got to stand up at some point and say, we're not going to pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress. That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood, and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees especially.

And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim.


COOPER: Well, just for the record, President Obama is on the record as opposing reparations for slavery, said it several times. I asked him even about it during a CNN/YouTube presidential debate three years ago.


COOPER: Senator Obama, your position on reparations?


SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the reparations we need right here in South Carolina is investment, for example, in our schools. That's the kind of reparations that are really going to make a difference in America right now.

COOPER: Is anyone -- is any...


COOPER: So, point one, President Obama's not for reparations. But the president's motivations aside, though, what about Congress -- Congressman King's claim that the first phase of the Pigford settlement was full of fraud?

He says 94,000 people have submitted claims, but only 18,000 African-American farmers could have qualified, and that the vast majority of those claims were fraudulent.

Here's what he said Monday night about a federal claims processor he talked to.


KING: One of those individuals -- and I have had anecdotes from several, but one of those individuals felt the burden of the corruption and the fraudulent claims that were coming forward in front of him, that he copied a box of applications, a literal box of applications, which I'm really sure that would not have been very constructive to him maintaining his job with the USDA.

But it bothered his conscience so much. And when he came back to Iowa, he wanted to make it a point to make sure that I knew that these applications that he was dealing with, were, he believed, a minimum of 75 percent fraudulent -- 75 percent fraudulent.

Now, if you just apply that to the $1.05 billion in claims that were paid out, if he's right in that number, $750 million were wasted paying people that didn't have it coming.


COOPER: Seven hundred and fifty million dollars out of $1 billion wasted, according to the congressman.

Now, if true, obviously, it's a shocking amount of fraud. But he gets that figure by extrapolating from, at most, several people. We asked the USDA. They gave us this statement.

"All allegations," they say, "were forwarded to the OIG" -- that's the Office of the Inspector General -- "who in turn referred them to the FBI." It goes on to say, "The FBI prosecuted a total of three individuals. With approximately 20,000 claimants, three prosecutions means that 0.015 percent of the claimants were determined by the FBI to be serious enough to merit prosecution."

Congressman -- Congressman King also says that there have been more than -- more claims than possible farmers. The USDA says, in a nutshell, that, in the 15 years covered by the current bill, farms changed hands. So, according to the department, the 44,000 African- American farmers in 1996 were not all the same farmers in 1981, hence the additional claims, and that many farmers were driven out of business by discrimination.

I spoke with Congressman King a few moments ago, along with John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association.


COOPER: Representative King, you liken these payments to slave reparations, but just factually speaking, how can you say that? These payments are -- are not for anyone descended from slaves. They're -- these are payments, they're -- they're not even for black farmers who were discriminated against all throughout the 1900s.

They're payments specifically for black farmers who the USDA admits were being discriminated against between 1983 and 1997. So, how are these slave reparations?

KING: Well, I have sat on the Judiciary Committee for eight years. I sat through slavery reparation hearings that were held by Chairman John Conyers, and, of course, through the hearings here on the Pigford farms claims.

And the motivation that comes From this looks to me like there's no resistance on the part of the proponents to hold back or look for fraud IN this. They just simply seem to be content with every black farmer that would apply would get what was defined as Judge Friedman and his -- in his opinion as virtually an automatic payment.

COOPER: Dr. Boyd, though, let me just ask you specifically, though, staying on this -- on this topic, Representative King has talked about a hypothetical Johnny who was born on a farm, but -- quote -- "went off to the city, became a...



COOPER: "... a drug addict, and now wants the $50,000..."

BOYD: Well, first of all...

COOPER: "... that comes from the USDA under this claim."

How strict is the vetting of these claims?

BOYD: Well, first of all, I think that -- that statement has a terrible, terrible racial undertone, and very, very offensive to our black farmers.

And -- and we need to forget here, we help feed -- we help feed the country. We help feed the world. And we paid our price to be in this country and to own land. And what the government done to -- done to black farmers is wrong.

COOPER: How strict is the vetting? I mean, Representative King is saying just about anybody who is African-American can claim to have been a farmer or...


BOYD: Oh, that's not true. That's not true.

COOPER: So, how strict is it?

BOYD: The consent decree says African-Americans who farmed or attempted to farm between 1981 and 1997.

And the reason we use that definition is because the Civil Rights Office at USDA was closed under the Reagan administration. And we went in and found -- and investigated and found thousands of black farmer civil rights cases that had never been processed. And that's what this case is about.

COOPER: Yes, Representative...

BOYD: This case is not about fraud. This case is about bringing justice and equality and fairness to a group of people who deserve it. And it's long, long overdue justice.

COOPER: Congressman -- Congressman King, it is pretty shocking when you start to look into what happened in the USDA. I mean, they were literally throwing out discrimination claims, just dumping them in the garbage in some cases.

You said -- you claim 75 percent of the claims now being made in this program by African-American farmers have been fraudulent. You say an unnamed person working for the USDA gave you that estimate.

USDA says that percentage is complete nonsense. The FBI has investigated. They say it found only three cases of fraud. Where's the proof of this 75 percent claim you made?

KING: Well, and John Boyd says that there's no fraud. The FBI -- or the USDA has reported that the FBI came up with three cases that they prosecuted.

Now, what is the level of fraud here? I have said that I had a...

BOYD: Well, I'll tell you.


KING: ... district director who was deployed to Washington, D.C., to help administer the distribution of the first $1.05 billion under Pigford.

He came back, he among others, with stacks of copies of the documents, sick at heart. And he said at least 75 percent are fraudulent. And so we can't say that there's no fraud here.

Here's what we know.

BOYD: But let me -- well, Anderson, let me jump in here.

KING: Judge Friedman put in his decision -- he wrote 40 acres and a mule in his decision. So, I'm not making this part up about reparations. That's the words -- that's the code words for reparations. And he also said...


COOPER: No, but wait.


COOPER: But wait a minute. Wait a minute.


COOPER: Sir, I have read that -- I have read that...


COOPER: I have read that decision.

And he just...


COOPER: Sir, I have read that decision, and he just used that in a -- in a recitation about the history of the interaction between African-Americans and -- and the U.S. government and the USDA. He wasn't -- he wasn't equating 40 acres and a mule to this program.

BOYD: Well, and, also...


KING: Let me say, though, Anderson, that -- that he laments that he can't fix all the wrongs of slavery and -- and segregation in one civil rights case. Now he's got a second one in front of him.


COOPER: I want -- I want Dr. Boyd to be able to respond.


COOPER: Dr. Boyd?

BOYD: Let me talk here.

The farmers deserve this restitution. It's long, long, long, long overdue for the black farmers. This is not a -- a rush to judgment. Mr. King has known about this issue. I have testified before -- before him many, many, many times before.

And this case is about African-American farmers who farmed or attempted to farm who were discriminated against by the United States Department of Agriculture. And I can tell you about discrimination, because I had a county official to spit on me and to tear my application up and throw it in the trash can.

And I begged and pleaded with the committee to have that person fired. That person was never fired. He was transferred to another county office to continue -- to continue to -- to work out his service for the United States Department of Agriculture. And they gave him a big party, a big retirement party. So, I can tell you that this discrimination is real. And I invite Mr. King to walk in my shoes and other black farmers' shoes around this country before he pass judgment and refer to them as Johnny or some -- or someone that has a drug problem.

And I will tell you that, Anderson, these farmers have proven their case, and they deserve to have their cases heard based on its merit. And Mr. King needs to stop with that kind of rhetoric and -- and -- and making racial undertones, because, when you do that...

KING: I'm not going to sit here and allow you to call...

BOYD: ... and, because, when you do that -- because, when you do that...

KING: ... me a racist or misrepresent the language or tell people how I voted.


BOYD: ... you are rolling back the clocks of justice in America.

KING: I voted for a bill that put a $100 million cap on this thing.

BOYD: That's right.

KING: And that's what the chairman of the Ag Committee says.

And either -- either -- either he misrepresented it, or you did, John.


BOYD: ... voted to bring justice...


KING: Now, which one is it?

COOPER: Let Congressman King finish.


COOPER: Sorry.


COOPER: Congressman -- Representative King, just finally, I just want to give you a chance to respond. A lot of liberals have been attacking you because you described President Obama this week as -- quote -- "very, very urban." They have said that's a euphemism referring to the president's race.

KING: You know, we had to go look this up and try to figure out anybody could hypervigilant over calling the president a very urban, actually, a very, very urban president -- or very urban senator at the time.

He comes from a very urban area. It's not something that would ever occur to anybody in my background that that would be something that would some kind of a racial pejorative. It's just simply he comes from the city. That's urban. You come from the country, you're rural. I would say John Boyd is rural.

And I would say, also, in spite of the way that he has insulted me, I still support your claim, John. I just don't support the fraudulent ones.

COOPER: Congressman King, I appreciate your time, Dr. John Boyd, as well.

Thank you very much, both of you.

BOYD: Thank you. Thank you for having...


KING: Thank you.


COOPER: Well, let us know what you think, the live chat up and running right now,

Up next: Did the Slurpee summit just turn to slush? Yesterday, Democrats and Republicans agreed to work out a deal on taxes, work better with each other. Remember, kumbaya, all that sort of stuff? Well, now the Senate Republican leader is threatening to hold up all business until he gets his way. Democrats are crying foul. Some say lawmakers are playing fast and loose with the facts to justify their positions. We're "Keeping Them Honest."

And later: amazing video. See how a boy held captive for a year escaped on a -- and picked up on a surveillance video. You see him there with shackle on his ankle, ran into a gym begging for help. We will show you more of the video ahead.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight on promises made by politicians only yesterday to try and get along better and get things done in Washington.

Well, today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid signed by all 42 GOP senators saying Republicans would block all Democratic initiatives unless they got their way on extending all the Bush tax cuts, no action, they said, on don't ask, don't tell, extending jobless benefits, none of it.

So, this was just a day after that summit at the White House, with Senator McConnell in the room, at which all sides talked about working together.


REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MINORITY WHIP: I was encouraged by the president's remarks regarding his perhaps not having reached out enough to us in -- in the last session, and that this meeting was the beginning of a series in which he hoped that we could work together in a different fashion for the benefit of the American people, given the problems that we face.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: And I agree that the president did make an important point that Eric mentioned, that -- that he hadn't spent as much time with us reaching out and talking to us, and -- and committed to do so. And, as I told the president, I think that spending more time will help us find some common ground.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that there was a sincere effort on the part of everybody involved to actually commit to work together to try to deal with these problems.

And they understand that these aren't times for us to be playing games.


COOPER: Well, a day after both sides agreed to work out a compromise on taxes, Senator McConnell sends his letter. And Minority Leader Boehner says this today on "THE SITUATION ROOM."


REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Now, I don't know what my colleagues across the aisle didn't hear during the election. You know, the American people spoke pretty loudly. They said, stop all the looming tax hikes and to cut spending.


COOPER: Well, obviously, that wasn't on "THE SITUATION ROOM." That was a press conference.

Stepping on -- stopping the tax hikes, even for the wealthy, that's what they're saying. Democrats are calling statements like that and Senator McConnell's letter today a slap in the face or an opening position in a tough negotiation.

Republicans are saying they're listening to the American people, and the priority should be on the economy.

You can decide for yourself which side you believe or support. But, "Keeping Them Honest," some of the claims being made about popular support for extending the Bush tax cuts, even for the wealthy, aren't necessarily supported by the polling data.


REP. JEB HENSARLING (R), TEXAS: No tax increases for nobody. BOEHNER: You know, the American people spoke pretty loudly.

REP. MIKE PENCE (R), INDIANA: The American people spoke in deafening terms.

HENSARLING: The American people spoke loudly and clearly.

BOEHNER: The American people spoke on election night.

REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: The message I heard this last election cycle was, we don't want anybody's taxes going up.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Americans don't think we should be raising taxes on anybody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The message was clear from the American people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should prevent a huge tax increase.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep tax rates where they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No tax increases for any American.

BOEHNER: The message they sent was, stop the tax hikes.

HENSARLING: And we heard them.

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ), MINORITY WHIP: According to a Gallup poll last week, about 80 -- well, 80 percent of the American people do not want to see taxes raised.


COOPER: Well, that's Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona saying that 80 percent of the American people do not want to see taxes rise.

In fact, it's not exactly true. According to that very poll he cited, the Gallup poll, just 40 percent of Americans want to keep all tax cuts for all incomes. Forty-four percent want to keep tax cuts, but set limits for wealthy Americans. And 13 percent want the tax cuts to expire for all Americans.

Joining me now is editor of and radio talk show host Dana Loesch and Democratic strategist and pollster Cornell Belcher.

Dana, this -- all this talk from yesterday of working together, I mean, is that all just complete hooey?

DANA LOESCH, EDITOR, BIGJOURNALISM.COM: Well, I don't think it is. I think that they -- I think both sides do need to work together. And they immediately need to start with figuring out what they're going to do with this tax rate.

It's not really so much a tax cut as it's talking about extending the current tax rate, which, when you look at our economy, you look at our unemployment, you look at where everything is, we cannot afford to pay more. We cannot afford right now to have the government take more discretionary income from people, especially the people who create jobs, and attempt to redistribute. That -- it just doesn't work that way.

COOPER: And, Dana, you -- and you support them...


COOPER: ... sending a message nothing else gets done until a decision is made on these Bush tax cuts?

LOESCH: Honestly, Anderson, I don't know how we can really act on anything else at this point, until we figure out what's going to be happening with people's bank accounts after the 1st of the year. That is supremely important.

And that's going to affect everything -- it's going to affect everything, everything, every aspect of American life.


Cornell, what...

LOESCH: And I think, once we figure that out, we can move forward.

COOPER: What about that? What about the fundamental argument that conservatives like Dana are making that the only way to fix the economy is to give more Americans more control over their money? A lot of voters like that.


I mean, before I try to go off to score just usual cheap political points, let's be -- try to be informative. I think what's happening actually right now is, you have five different parties, and they all five need to get to different places.


COOPER: What are the five different parties?

BELCHER: It's very -- Senate Democrats and Senate Republicans, House Democrats, House Republicans, and the White House.

Look, arguably, from a political -- purely political tactical standpoint, House Dems right -- right now have more in common with -- with the Senate Republicans. And look what -- because -- because, quite frankly, now you can see Mitch McConnell picking up the playbook of no, no, no, a day after saying, you know, we're going to be bipartisan, a very successful playbook.

And at the same time, you have Speaker Pelosi, you know, saying the other day that, you know, I'm -- I'm going to -- I'm not afraid to be the -- the sole voice standing out for -- for -- for the middle class, because now, all of a sudden, Boehner has to come in, and he -- and he has -- he has to govern.

Now, can Speaker Pelosi now pick up the -- the Boehner playbook and dust it off, because now she doesn't have to govern, and, from a purely political standpoint, be more in line with what you see Mitch McConnell doing right now, which isn't about governing; it's about politics?

COOPER: Dana, can't, though, members of Congress do multiple things at once? I mean, can't you have a vote on don't ask, don't tell or other issues at the same time that you're working on -- on whether or not to -- to continue these tax cuts?

LOESCH: Oh, sure, absolutely.

And I might say, I'm not -- I -- I'm just going to lay it out. I'm not BFFs with Mitch McConnell, by any stretch of the word. But, at same time, I'm a little impressed to see him get a little bit brassy, finally, and start getting tough with some of this stuff.

I agree, we have played politics for too long with American people's money, individual money. I don't understand this incessant push to have the state control the output of that -- that -- the fruits of the labor from people.

If you look back from -- you can go back so far as 1916 with Woodrow Wilson, and look at what happens when you raise taxes on folks. Look at the discretionary income be taken away, out of people's hands, and then look what happens to the revenue that comes into the government. You get more net revenue, the government does, by letting people have their own money and decide how to spend it. That's ultimately what this argument's about.

BELCHER: Look, Anderson, the truth of the matter, if these taxes -- if tax -- if these tax cuts were creating jobs, we would have jobs out of our -- out of our ear holes.

What this is fundamentally about is, is -- is, you know, we're in an economic crisis. And do the rich have an obligation to carry their fair share? I mean, the other day, you know, you...


LOESCH: They are carrying their fair share. They're paying the majority of the taxes.


COOPER: Let him finish. Let him finish.

BELCHER: No, actually -- no, actually, they're not paying the majority of the taxes.

LOESCH: Yes, actually, they are, and that's according to IRS data. Yes.


LOESCH: Yes, absolutely.

BELCHER: And if you look -- and if you -- and if -- and if you look at sort of, I mean, what -- I mean, Warren Buffett said he went to his office the other day and he saw that he was paying a higher -- that his employees were paying a higher proportion of their taxes -- in taxes than -- than he was.

And the fact of the matter is...

LOESCH: You know what, Cornell?


COOPER: Let -- let -- let him finish his thought, and then come in.


BELCHER: Can I finish my -- can I finish my point?

The fact of the matter is, look, we're in an economic downturn. We're in great debt. Why on earth would we take $1 trillion away from the middle-class children and give it to -- and give -- and give it to the wealthy under this ideal it's going to create jobs, and it hasn't created one job yet?


LOESCH: Well, yes, why don't we do that with the stimulus?

I will tell you what. If it was -- if the stimulus, that was supposed to create jobs, and it didn't do anything. If you want to pay higher taxes, you know that the Treasury Department accepts donations.

I -- why aren't -- are you donating more, Cornell, to the Treasury Department right now? You think that people should be paying higher taxes? So, I assume that you are freely and voluntarily donating to the U.S. Department of Treasury.


LOESCH: Because, if you're not, then I believe that you like the government like to come in and force people to divide up their money as they choose.

And, quite frankly, I trust my own acumen...


LOESCH: ... when it concerns my finances over that of the government, because they're not doing so hot right now. BELCHER: You know, the -- you know, the -- the heightened political rhetoric has just gotten so dumb in this country right now, that it doesn't move the argument.

LOESCH: That's not rhetoric. That's fact.

BELCHER: It doesn't -- it doesn't -- it doesn't move -- it doesn't move the argument.

COOPER: Let -- let Cornell respond.


BELCHER: It doesn't move the argument forward.

The truth of the matter is, these millionaires came out the other day saying that, you know what? We don't need more tax cuts. We want to pay -- pay our fair share.

And, quite frankly, what you're talking about doing is Robin Hood in reverse, is taking $1 trillion from middle-class families and giving them to -- and -- and giving that to the wealthy, and it's not creating jobs.


BELCHER: And, by the way, the stimulus, if you do check your statistics, it did create jobs.

LOESCH: No, it doesn't.

BELCHER: And, quite frankly, the CBO said it create jobs.

LOESCH: No, it didn't. You're moving the goalposts. You're moving the goalposts with that.

BELCHER: No, I'm not.


COOPER: We have got -- we have got -- we have got to, guys. I'm sorry.

LOESCH: That's pseudoscience.

COOPER: Guys, appreciate it.

Dana Loesch, Cornell Belcher...

LOESCH: Thanks, Anderson.

COOPER: ... thank you very much.

BELCHER: Thank you.

COOPER: Up next: "Raw Politics" -- what is going on in the ethics cases on Capitol Hill? Have you checked up on this? Two of the attorneys who are building an ethics case against Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, they have been mysteriously removed, no explanation at all, including the lead investigator on the case. Waters' hearing was canceled.

Tomorrow, Charlie Rangel faces his punishment, but you might be surprised to learn just how light that punishment is going to be. That's coming up.

Also tonight: extraordinary video released just now of a teenage boy, escaped after being held captive, tortured for a year, ran into a gym where this surveillance camera recorded him begging for help. He was basically just wearing shorts. You can see a shackle still around his leg -- details ahead.


COOPER: A lot going on tonight. That's what we're following.

Sandra Endo joins us with a 360 bulletin -- Sandra.

SANDRA ENDO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, President Obama is banning new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least seven years. The ban is a result of the April 20 BP drilling rig explosion that killed 11 people and dumped an estimated 206 million gallons of oil into the Gulf before the well was capped.

Stunning video has just been released of a teenage torture victim who escaped after being held captive for more than a year. The surveillance video was shot two years ago and shows the then-16-year- old with a shackle on his ankle going into a gym to ask for help. Thirty-one-year-old Anthony Waiters was convicted last week of torturing the teen. He will be sentenced next month.

Now for a 360 follow, a story we have been telling you about. After getting delayed and mired in politics, Congress finally passed a bill today to help more than 1,000 Haitian orphans get adopted by American families. The orphans were brought to the United States after Haiti's devastating earthquake. And the bill ensures that they will get permanent resident status.

And Yahoo! is out with its list of the most-searched terms of 2010.

Anderson, any guesses on what made the cut?

COOPER: I -- I -- well, Lady Gaga, I see there. I just saw the graphic, so...

ENDO: Oh, you're cheating. Come on.

COOPER: I would have -- I would have -- I would have guessed Lady Gaga anyway.

What else?


ENDO: Yes.

Well, shellacking and those kinds of terms didn't make it. Lady Gaga was number five on the list. Number four, Kim Kardashian.

COOPER: Are you serious? Wow.

ENDO: Number three -- yes -- Miley Cyrus.

Now, they're not all celebrities. The World Cup was the runner- up for most searched.


ENDO: And, at number one, BP oil spill.

COOPER: Oh, really? That's interesting.

ENDO: So, a pretty wide span, yes.

COOPER: Interesting stuff.

All right, thanks very much, Sandra.

Up next, "Raw Politics": two big ethics cases in the House tomorrow. Charlie Rangel facing the music, but it's probably going to be so light, the punishment will be more like Muzak. We will talk about what the House may decide his punishment should be.

And Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters, two lawyers building the case against her are suddenly and mysteriously dismissed. We will try to figure out what's going on in that case.

And an extraordinary inside look at the fight to stop child prostitution rings in Northern California -- the battle to rescue young girls and bust the pimps who abuse them, that's ahead in our series "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight.'


COOPER: "Raw Politics" tonight. When Republicans take control of the House in January, they've announced they're going to plan to eliminate a time-honored tradition that is also a giant waste of time. We're talking about all those votes on resolutions congratulating a sports team or recognizing birthdays or anniversaries or other milestones. In case you didn't realize that folks in Congress actually do this, take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A resolution expressing the sense of the Congress that there should be established a National Pet Week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Resolution supporting the goals and ideals of American Heart Month and National Wear Red Day. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A resolution honoring the contributions of Catholic schools.

REP. JOHN DINGELL (D), MICHIGAN: I have introduced a resolution today declaring that Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game and urging the MLB to overturn a mistaken safe call.


COOPER: Both Republicans and Democrats have been pushing resolutions like this for years. Some call it good politics, but others like incoming House Speaker John Boehner see them as a waste of time when there are certainly more pressing issues facing the country. That's why starting next month, under a new rule proposed in the House, they'll be scaled back.

We'll be keeping watch and make sure they're actually sticking to that promise.

More "Raw Politics" tonight. The plot is thickening for two high-profile Democratic members of Congress accused of ethics violations. Let's start first with Congresswoman Maxine Waters, a Democrat who's accused of trying to get a federal bailout for a bank in which her husband held a financial interest.

She says she did nothing wrong, that she's actually being denied due process because of this. Her hearing before the House Ethics Committee, supposed to start on Monday, got canceled because some e- mail communications were found that could affect the case. We don't know how. Waters won't say. She says the committee is just making excuses.

But today in a press release, Waters says the real reason for the delay is that on the same day her hearing was canceled, two attorneys who were building the case against her were put on administrative leave, and she wants to know exactly why they did. No explanation has been given.

Meanwhile, the case against Waters' colleague, Charlie Rangel, is nearing its final act. A full House is expected to vote tomorrow whether to censure him. The House Ethics Committee found him guilty on 11 counts of violating House rules, including not paying taxes on a vacation home in the Dominican Republic and using his office to raise money for an educational center that bears his name.

The ethics committee voted 9-1 to recommend the House censure him.

Dana Milbank is a writer for the "Washington Post." He joins us live from Washington along with Joe Johns.

So Dana, what is -- you know, most people think, OK, well, that sounds really serious against Charlie Rangel, that they're going to kick him out or he's going to get arrested. It's -- nothing happens.

DANA MILBANK, WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No. I mean, it's sort of a literally a slap on the wrist. And if he does get the censure, he'll have to stand there in the well. And the speaker of the House will say, Congressman Rangel you've been a very naughty boy, and then he'll apologize and go on about his business. He's not going to go to prison. He did lose a big prize, and that was the chairmanship of the ways and means committee.

So if they're not going to expel the guy -- and they're clearly not going to do that -- the rest is just about levels of embarrassment.

COOPER: Joe, what about these -- this thing where these two lead investigators, one of the lead investigators who's been investigating Maxine Waters suddenly has been let go and a lawyer, too. What's going on?

JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the other thing that's out there is that, when they did all this other stuff last week, they also sent all this information about Maxine Waters back to be investigated more. And now we find out that, oh, they were getting rid of the top person who was investigating.

So it's a real problem. It's chaos, and they're running out of time here in this Congress to try to handle this thing. It's looking like Maxine Waters could either find herself over in the next Congress, which would be sort of almost unprecedented handling this, or they're going to have to think about reducing charges or get rid of her. It's a real mess.

COOPER: Does that mean the case against her isn't that strong?

MILBANK: If seems that way. Nobody has really come up with evidence so far to say it's involving her husband having shares in a bank that was helped by her. But nobody's been able to demonstrate so far that she was, in particular, helping that bank, as opposed to all of these minority-owned banks.

So we don't know exactly the reasons of what's going on here, but it can't possibly be a coincidence that these two lawyers were suspended on the exact same day they punted on the trial date. So clearly this looks like Maxine Waters is going to --going to get off here.

COOPER: And you would think there would be a certain level of transparency on the ethics committee, but Joe, this is a committee which is notoriously secretive.

And Congresswoman Waters wrote in her statement tonight, she said, quote, "We don't know the specifics, but we know that the integrity of the committee and its investigative process have been compromised. The longer the committee withholds the details of its actions, the more the public's confidence in the House ethics process is eroded."

She's got a point here that, you know, this very committee which is supposed to be, you know, helping transparency is kind of firing people and not saying anything about it. JOHNS: No question. I mean, and a lot of people don't realize that this isn't a legal process. It's a political process. You know, up on Capitol Hill it's a committee with evenly-divided numbers of Democrats and Republicans.

But can you imagine, in a court of law, if the prosecutor basically got completely taken off of the case, and suddenly the defense lawyer walked in and there was somebody new? You know, it's like bells and whistles would go off. But in this process it's completely secret, and they don't have to say anything to Maxine Waters. They don't have to say anything to us.

COOPER: And Dana, you've said the thing that's actually most kind of, the greatest scandal of the ethics committee is just how much they tolerate.

MILBANK: Exactly. I mean, the whole notion of congressional ethics has become an oxymoron. So few cases are brought. We had a case of seven people on the appropriations committee. Defense contractors said they thought they were giving these guys campaign contributions in exchange for earmarks, but the ethics committee said, "Oh, nothing to see here, just move along."

Finally, they do bring a case like this one against Waters. It blows up on them. Rangel has managed to turn his case into something of a circus, so -- and now the incoming Republican majority is talking about getting rid of an independent ethics body. So I think we've pretty much got to give up on the whole thing.

COOPER: Joe, you've been revisiting some of the kind of more ridiculous moments in the history of censures.

JOHNS: Yes. I mean, the one that I found really hilarious is there's one guy who got censured way back when for telling the speaker of the House he was thinking too much about running for president. There are a couple members of Congress who got censured for caning other members of Congress, apparently out on the House floor. I mean, sure, there are serious ones, too, but it goes from the sublime to the ridiculous, quite frankly.

COOPER: All right. Joe Johns, Dana Milbank, I appreciate it. Thanks.

Up next, our series, "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight" tonight. Dan Simon takes us inside the battle to break up child prostitution rings. Young girls preyed on by pimps. It's a high- stakes world of crime and exploitation, and it's thriving under the radar, maybe in your own town.

Plus a prisoner who posts pictures of a prison party, him smoking what appears to be a bong. He posted this on his Facebook page. And yes, I didn't know that 00 either that prisoners have Facebook pages. And that's why he winds up on our RidicuList tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Over the next couple nights we're going to take you inside a crime epidemic you may not even be aware of. A lot of Americans certainly aren't, mostly because it's not something that many of us think can actually happen here in the United States. We're calling the series "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight."

We begin tonight in Northern California, where child prostitution is actually a very big business. In Oakland authorities are teaming up to rescue kids. That's where they -- that's what they are, kids, and prosecute the pimps who abuse them. Dan Simon tonight shows us how.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have undercover personnel, undercover vehicles, that go out and spot certain activities.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): We're at Oakland police headquarters as these officers prepare for a long night in front of them. We've been given rare access to see how police here are cracking down on child prostitution.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) definitely appears to be an adult.

SIMON: We hit the streets in a van just before sundown. The mood is tense as minute by minute reports come over the radio. Our focus is International Boulevard, known here as The Track, a place where prostitutes are known to linger. Underage prostitutes.

OFFICER HOLLY JOSHI, OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: The younger girls are probably being paid $100 for sex and $60 to $80 for oral sex.

SIMON: Officer Holly Joshi is our driver. Block after block we see them. Girls, some obviously very young girls, selling themselves. Also along for the ride is Sharmin Bock, a local prosecutor who runs the human exploitation and trafficking unit.

SHARMIN BOCK, PROSECUTOR: To look at them as prostitutes is a complete misnomer because they're sexually exploited children, and it's slavery.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're getting pulled over right now.

SIMON: The goal tonight? To get as many girls off the streets as possible. Officers posing as johns are to look for the youngest girls and detain them, or more to the point, free them from their pimps, the human traffickers driving this whole enterprise.

(on camera) What surprises people the most when you talk about this issue?

BOCK: That it happens in America. What surprises people the most is that it is something that occurs in America with American men exploiting American children and other Americans facilitating what in essence is modern-day slavery.

SIMON: This is the back of a strip mall. This is where police bring these young girls and interview them and process them. Right now, investigators are talking to them, trying to get some information that will hopefully lead them to their pimps.

(voice-over) Police question this 16-year-old, trying to get information about her pimp.

(on camera) How rare is it to actually get the pimp and get the girl at the same time?

JOSHI: It's fairly rare to get the girl and then within the next hour or so get the pimp. Normally, these turn into long-term investigations. You rescue the juvenile victim, and then it turns into a long-term investigation identifying who the pimp is, and figuring out where he is and getting him actually in custody.

SIMON: But on this day, nothing the girl tells them leads to her pimp.

Investigators say child prostitution is on the rise in Oakland for one reason: money. So much money that police here are seeing drug dealers turning to pimping.

BOCK: Why? Because drugs, you can only sell once. Children you can sell over and over again.

SIMON: The financial gain can be enormous. A pimp with four girls who each bring in $500 a day are taking in more than $600,000 a year, all cash, tax free. The demand is there, and so is the supply.

Prosecutors say it's no secret where these girls come from.

NANCY O'MALLEY, ALAMEDA DISTRICT ATTORNEY: About 70 percent of these kids have been in foster care or some kind of social service situation. A lot of these kids have been victims of child sexual abuse. And they live in environments where they have no self-worth. That makes them easier prey for psychopaths, which human traffickers are.

SIMON: Oakland has gained national recognition for its efforts to curb human trafficking. The Alameda district attorney's office says it has taken more than 100 pimps off the streets in the last couple years. It also fought for a law that allows California D.A.s to charge pimps with human trafficking, a felony.

Still, despite their success, authorities say child prostitution here shows no signs of slowing, as any drive down The Track will show you.

Dan Simon, CNN, Oakland.


COOPER: "American Slaves: Hiding in Plain Sight." We're going to continue tomorrow. Amber Lyon has uncovered an amazing and pretty disturbing story. Two dozen teenage girls lured to America from West Africa on false promises. They ended up as slaves working in hair- braiding salons in New Jersey, held captive literally under the eyes of their neighbors and clients.

Here's a quick preview.


AMBER LYON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you tell us about what it was like having someone else control all of your movements? Everything you did?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it was like being, you know -- being trapped, being in a cage.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's horrible. You know, like sometimes there's not enough food for us to eat.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No freedom at all.

LYON: Nicole and Zena and another 20 girls like them were brought to the U.S. from their homes in the West African nations of Ghana and Togo nearly a decade ago. Barely teens, promised an American education, they were instead enslaved in Newark, New Jersey.


COOPER: It's an incredible story. You can watch it tomorrow on "360."

Coming up, while some may find it a hassle to fly now with all the new security guidelines, this one trying to bring cheer to your flight, especially between the hours of 5 and 6. We'll explain that ahead.

And it's never the brightest idea to post pictures of yourself drinking and getting high on Facebook. An even worse idea: doing it behind bars. It's enough to land you on the RidicuList.


COOPER: A lot more happening tonight. Sandra Endo is back with a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Sandy.

ENDO: Anderson, Amazon has booted WikiLeaks from its servers. The online retail giant had been hosting the controversial whistleblower Web site since Sunday after hackers targeted WikiLeaks' own servers. Amazon came under growing pressure to drop WikiLeaks after it released thousands of classified diplomatic cables on Monday.

On this, the 22nd World AIDS Day, a red ribbon was displayed outside the White House. The U.N. says the number of new HIV infections has dropped 20 percent worldwide in the past decade. But the number of children with HIV or AIDS is up 46 percent in Asia. On Wall Street, stocks rallied, blue chips rising nearly 250 points on word of better-than-expected auto sales and stronger private sector hiring. It's the Dow's biggest one-day gain since September.

And American Airlines may have come up with the world's worst happy hour deal. Until the end of December, American is offering discounted booze on domestic flights that take off between 5 and 6 p.m., and that's for the duration of the flight.

So that little cup of wine will cost you $5 instead of $7 and, of course, there are still free drinks in first class. And Anderson, I have to say with all those TSA pat downs; maybe more people will be ordering up those drinks.

COOPER: Yes. That's the big savings? Five dollars as opposed to $7? I don't know.

ENDO: Yes. A couple bucks.

COOPER: I don't know. I think they could maybe lower the price a little bit more.

Anyway, Sandra, thanks.

Time now for the RidicuList, our nightly foray into the stuff that's just ridiculous. Tonight's edition: Justin Walker, or as he's known on Facebook, Jus N Walk. Jus N Walk.

Frankly, the only name is enough to get him on the RidicuList, in my opinion, but wait. There's more. He posted pictures on his Facebook page of him partying, drinking booze and taking bong hits, which is never the best idea to post this kind of stuff.

But wait, there's more. Justin is heavily into an altogether different bar scene, behind bars. That's right. Justin managed to post all this stuff from his prison cell. He's serving a 30-year sentence for killing an Oklahoma sheriff. A report aired on the local news about Justin's hard partying ways, hard posting hijinks, and he got transferred from medium to maximum security.

These are the pictures that he posted. He's also got his BlackBerry taken away when prison officials found it.

Oh, yes. Didn't I mention that? That he had a "BlackBerry." It's currently a felony to have a cell phone in a state prison in Oklahoma. And they also took away his weed. One of the Facebook pictures actually showed a big plastic bag of weed.

Now, it may even be longer until Jus N Walk walks out of prison. He'll probably face more charges for the contraband.

Let's just set aside for a moment how less than brilliant it was for Justin to post these prison party pictures. And look at the bigger picture here. Facebook has enough annoyances already: Farmville postings, weird status updates from people you barely remember from high school, and now we have to worry about friend requests from convicted murders?

Used to be the biggest thing you have to worry about on Facebook is when your mom finally joined. Remember the "SNL" skit?


JANE LYNCH, ACTRESS: Who's your new friend? She looks ill.

BILL HADER, CAST MEMBER, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE": Now you have to watch everything you say. Unless you get the "Damn it, my mom is on Facebook" filter. It's the only app that scans your Facebook page for stuff about drugs, alcohol, sex, references to your atheism and opinions.


COOPER: Justin Walker could have used that filter.

Facebook reportedly said it has no policy against prison inmates having Facebook pages. Our policy is clear. If you party in prison and post it on Facebook, you get a life sentence on the RidicuList.

Something a lot less ridiculous, obviously, at the top of the hour. Serious charges by a congressman that a program to pay black farmers for past discrimination is riddled with fraud. That is serious criticism from the congressman for what some are calling his racially loaded language. The two sides square off ahead tonight.