'The Body' Sounds Off on Stevens Case

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 29, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, HOST: All right. Big, big story today, Alaska's Sen. Ted Stevens is in hot water tonight, charged on seven counts in a corruption case. Stevens allegedly failing to disclose more than $250,000 in gifts from guess where? An Alaskan energy company, folks, but he is not the only powerful lawmaker who has been caught for some shady dealings, of course. There has been a list of them actually.

But now, joining me to sort of talk about the possibility of corruption in this case and in Washington, in general is the former Minnesota Governor, Jesse Ventura. He's the author of the new book "Don't Start The Revolution Without Me." All right. We won't. Welcome, good to see you.


Video: Watch Martha's interview with Jesse Ventura

MACCALLUM: So tell me a little bit - you know, the way they wrote about this Ted Stevens story. I'm always amazed when a politician - he's a six-term senator, you know, and if this is true, and he's not gone through the legal process yet, some politicians can't seem to pass up the opportunity to get some free stuff.

VENTURA: Well, you know, that's part of the problem. Number one, I believe that - believe it or not, you don't get paid enough.

MACCALLUM: That could be.

VENTURA: And that could well - and that leads to the corruption.

MACCALLUM: It's sort of - they owe me, right? Because I get a very small salary for serving the country and this is sort of the way it works.

VENTURA: Well, there is opportunity from all the special interests and all this and all that. I found it very interesting, because I took a lot of heat, because as governor, I was paid $120,000 a year, but they also deducted every meal that my family ate at the governor's residence out of my paycheck. Mileage on my vehicle was deducted from my paycheck. So by the time taxes were out, I was serving as governor for $60,000 a year. Why do you think I got in all the hot water when I did these other jobs on the weekend?

You know, I refereed a WWF thing or a WWE thing. I did the XFL on the weekend, because when all was said and done, I had a lifestyle that wasn't being supported by my salary.

MACCALLUM: And has that affected your decision to leave public life and what -

VENTURA: Somewhat.


VENTURA: Absolutely it did. Sure it did, because, you know - and so, to me, why don't we raise the salaries? If you do that, it tends to eliminate the corruption, because if you're comfortable, you're not going to look for some alternative method to get rich in there.

MACCALLUM: Yes. That's an interesting point. You know - so what is next for you? There's a hot contested election going on there between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. What's next for Jesse Ventura?

VENTURA: Well, I chose not to enter that race. I think I could have won it. I had already defeated Coleman once before. I wasn't even in the race and I passed Franken in the polls so I was second already. But six years in Washington - it just did not appeal to me. At this point in my life, because I found that when I reached age 55, time has become more important than money ...

MACCALLUM: Yes. Very interesting.

VENTURA: ... or anything like that. And so I chose not to do it, but I laugh. Gov. Pawlenty is now being touted for the vice presidency, right?


VENTURA: If I would have ran again in Minnesota, he wouldn't even be in politics today because I, at one point, had the highest approval ratings of any governor in the state's history.

MACCALLUM: So you think he's saying, "Thank you very much, Jesse Ventura (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

VENTURA: He probably should, because if I had run again, he'd be then in the private sector.

MACCALLUM: And his name would not be mentioned to the great extent that we're hearing it and becoming familiar with today.

VENTURA: You know, Barack Obama could shock the world. What if he picked me?

MACCALLUM: He could. Would you like him to?

VENTURA: Well, I would at it and I would give it serious consideration, because I think that would be a true investment to what Barack is trying to sell, and that is change. What would be better than to pick the high priest of the third party movement as Eleanor Clift called me.

MACCALLUM: The Obama-Ventura ticket. You know what? We'll see if there's any positive response to this. I'm sure they will let us know.

VENTURA: I'd say it's slim to none.

MACCALLUM: All right. Jesse, thanks for coming by.

VENTURA: My pleasure. Thanks.

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