TIME 2016 Election

Here’s the Only Photo From Jeb Bush’s Wedding

Blame Marvin Bush

Jeb Bush and his wife Columba are celebrating their 41st wedding anniversary Monday, but they’ll have more memories than photos.

The former Florida governor and presumptive GOP presidential candidate marked the occasion on social media by posting the lone photo that survived an amateur photography error committed by the groom’s brother.

“This is the only picture from our wedding,” Bush wrote on Facebook. “The photographer, my brother Marvin, accidentally rerolled from a Frank Zappa concert. Thankfully, my mom took one photo with a Kodak.”

In a letter to his sister, Doro, published in her book My Father, My President: A Personal Account of the Life of George H. W. Bush, Marvin Bush, who was in high school at the time, explained the mishap:

As the paper settled into the chemicals in the tray, I began to see the image of a guitar over a picture of my grandmother and my parents. Uhoh! lt hit me like a ton of bricks. I had rerolled previously used film that had been taken at a Frank Zappa concert at the Mosque in Richmond. Virginia. Every single photo of the Bush and Gamica families had either a photo of Frank Zappa and/or members of his band, The Mothers of Invention, superimposed onto their own images. I remember thinking to myself that a Frank Sinatra photo may have been acceptable-not Frank Zappa!

Family matriarch Barbara Bush had the good sense to take one photo on her Kodak pocket lnstamatic, Marvin writes, and that is the only photo of the day that remains.

The epilogue to the story, never previously revealed to any family members, is that I submitted a picture of the bride and groom (yes, with Zappa) in an art show at school. I called the picture something clever like “Zappas Brideand won third prize in the photography category.

TIME justice

Criminal Justice Reform is Becoming Washington’s Bipartisan Cause

But consensus may not beget success in Congress.

The need to reform the broken U.S. criminal-justice system is fast becoming the rare cause for which Washington’s warring factions will lay down their weapons and work together.

Normally fierce adversaries, a wide-ranging coalition of advocacy groups on both sides of the political spectrum announced Thursday that they are joining forces in a bid to fix the flaws of the U.S. justice system. The new group, dubbed the Coalition for Public Safety, bills itself as the nation’s largest partnership dedicated to reducing the prison population and reforming its iniquities.

The group includes some of the powerhouses in the conservative world, including Koch Industries and Americans for Tax Reform, as well as major advocacy groups on the left like the Center for American Progress and the American Civil Liberties Union. Among the groups underwriting the roughly $5 million effort are nonpartisan think tanks like the Ford Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Christine Leonard, a former associate director of legislative affairs in the Obama administration’s Office of National Drug Control Policy, will serve as the coalition’s executive director.

“There is a political sweet spot on criminal justice reform,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference Education Fund, one of the coalition’s members.

The seed of the idea was planted last October, when an array of think tanks and advocacy groups from all points on the political spectrum assembled in Washington for a spirited meeting. Finding broad agreement, they agreed to team up despite longstanding acrimony on a host of other policy issues. “Did anyone on any planet imagine these Republicans and Democrats would come together for a common cause?” asked Matt Kibbe, president of the Tea Party group FreedomWorks and another participant in the coalition.

The group’s formation is just the latest sign of the emerging bipartisan agreement about the flaws riddling the justice system. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any developed nation, with about 2.2 million people behind bars, a figure that has leaped 500% over the past three decades. It jails 25% of the world’s prisoners, 60% of whom are racial and ethnic minorities. The one-in-three Americans with a criminal record struggle to reintegrate into society because of employment, housing and voting restrictions that boost recidivism rates.

But consensus does not always mean progress. Members of the coalition cautioned that coalescing around principles is merely a first step. Several pieces of justice-reform legislation have thus far languished in Congress despite bipartisan backing. While the coalition on Thursday lauded federal efforts to reform the civil-asset forfeiture process and adjust mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines, it declined to delve into much detail nor to sketch out a strategy for threading complex legislation through a divided Congress. “This is not all going to get done quickly,” Leonard acknowledged. “It’s a challenging environment up there.”

Indeed, it wasn’t long ago that immigration reform was Capitol’s bipartisan cause, backed by powerful lawmakers and advocacy groups on both sides of the aisle. Yet comprehensive reform remains elusive, and a dispute over President Obama’s executive actions on immigration has led to the prospect of a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security later this month.

The coalition’s members were realistic about the long road ahead. The damage wrought by decades of bad policy will take “years to undo,” said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero, who cited a “unique window” to address the issue. “We finally have the wind at our backs.”

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Steps Away From His Brother’s Shadow

Former Gov. Jeb Bush provided an early preview Wednesday of how he will address the central challenge of his all-but-certain presidential campaign: defining himself outside the shadow of his family.

“I love my brother. I love my dad,” Bush told an audience of business leaders and politicos during a foreign-policy speech at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “But I am my own man—and my views are shaped by my own thinking and own experiences.”

It was no coincidence that Bush picked a foreign-policy address to start the process of sketching the differences between his approach and those of the two Bush presidencies past. If he chooses to run, the former Florida governor will be saddled with the legacy of his brother, whose presidency was marred by two unpopular wars that sullied the family name.

Bush took tentative steps toward distinguishing his own views. “There were mistakes made in Iraq,” Bush acknowledged during a question-and-answer session, saying George W. Bush’s administration should have focused on ensuring security after the fall of Saddam Hussein. But he credited his brother’s decision to launch the 2007 troop surge that stabilized the war-torn nation, and said it had descended back into chaos because of President Obama’s decision to withdraw forces after his brother left office.

Ranging onto Obama’s home turf, Bush denounced the President for diminishing the nation’s stature on the world stage. Calling for a more assertive foreign policy that he dubbed “liberty democracy,” Bush skewered Obama’s approach as too passive toward America’s enemies and too murky for U.S. allies to rely upon. “The great irony of the Obama Presidency is this: Someone who came to office promising greater engagement with the world has left America less influential in the world,” Bush said.

“America does not have the luxury of withdrawing from the world,” Bush said. “Our security, our prosperity and our values demand that we remain engaged and involved in often distant places. We have no reason to apologize for our leadership and our interest in serving the cause of global security, global peace and human freedom.”

Bush criticized Obama for his handling of his “red line” with regards to Syria’s use of chemical weapons and his early dismissal of the Islamic State. He also whacked the President for failing to combat the threats posed by Russia’s escalations in eastern Ukraine, Boko Haram’s insurgency in Nigeria, and the personal distrust between the President and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This administration talks, but the words fade. They draw red lines, then erase them,” Bush said. “With grandiosity, they announce resets and disengage. Hashtag campaigns replace actual diplomacy and engagement. Personal diplomacy and maturity is replaced by leaks and personal disparagement. The examples keep piling up. ”

But blistering Obama was the easy part of the speech. For Bush, the hard part will be drawing distinctions between his approach and that of his brother—particularly in light of the fulsome praise he has heaped on George W. Bush’s foreign policy in the past. “I’m the only Republican that was in office when he was in office as President that never disagreed with him and I’m not going to start now,” Jeb told CNN in a rare 2010 joint interview with his brother, who is seven years his senior. “I’m not going to start now. It’s just till death do us part.”

As he moves toward a presidential campaign, Bush is soliciting foreign-policy advice from a broad range of conservative thinkers, including many who advised the 43rd or 41st presidents and some who helped orchestrate his brother’s ill-fated endeavors in the war on terrorism. They include former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, former Secretary of State George Schultz, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Meghan O’Sullivan.

In a rare venture into policy specifics, Bush explicitly defended the National Security Agency’s telephone metadata program, which was exposed by leaks from Edward Snowden. “For the life of me I don’t understand the debate,” he said, calling the controversial program “hugely important.” The position pits himself against likely 2016 GOP primary opponent Rand Paul, a Kentucky Senator who has made the purported excesses of the U.S. surveillance state a cornerstone of his campaign and a rallying cry designed to attract independents and young voters.

In a question-and-answer session that followed his speech, Bush called for Obama to confront Russian leader Vladimir Putin—whom he described as a “ruthless pragmatist—and criticized Obama’s rapprochement with Cuba. “I think it was the wrong thing to do,” he said. Bush indicated that Obama should have allowed Cuba to feel the economic squeeze from falling oil prices, adding that he does not believe that Cuba’s dictatorship will make a transition to democratic government. “I don’t think it happens,” he added, “unless you negotiate the conditions for it to happen.”

As a governor, Bush lacks the day-to-day familiarity with foreign policy issues that some potential Senate rivals boast. But he sought to highlight his foreign policy bona fides by reciting his experience abroad, including trade missions conducted while he was governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007 and four annual trips to Asia in recent years.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday found that Bush’s name could be a drag among some Independent voters in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia, but most say it will not alter their decisionmaking should he face former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. A CNN survey found that 64% of Americans associate Bush with the past, compared to 33% who say he represents the future. For Clinton, 50% associated her with the future, compared to 48% with the past.

Before Bush spoke, Democrats launched a preemptive attack that derided the former Florida governor for blaming the current Oval Office occupant for problems created by his predecessor. “The Jeb Doctrine seems to be to point fingers at the wrong Administration, cheerlead go-it-alone diplomacy, and put on blinders to the failures of the past,” said Mo Elleithee, communications director for the Democratic National Committee.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Democrats Chose Philadelphia as Site of 2016 Convention

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Democrat
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Democrat of Florida, speaks at the DNC's Leadership Forum Issues Conference in Washington on Sept. 19, 2014.

The City of Brotherly Love beats out Columbus and Brooklyn

In a pick that melds political calculations and historical resonance, the Democratic Party on Thursday announced that it had selected Philadelphia as the site of its 2016 national convention.

One of three finalists to host the convention, Philadelphia edged Brooklyn and Columbus, Ohio, for the honor. In a statement, party officials pointed to the city’s status as a cradle of American democracy as well as the logistical infrastructure to pull off a massive event in which thousands converge to celebrate the official nomination of the party’s presidential candidate.

“In addition to their commitment to a seamless and safe convention, Philadelphia’s deep-rooted place in American history provides a perfect setting for this special gathering,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, the chair of the Democratic National Committee. A contract with the city to host the event was signed Thursday morning.

Party officials calculated that staging the event in Philadelphia could give Democrats a boost in a vital state that Republicans are hoping to contest in 2016. Pennsylvania is more blue than purple: Barack Obama won it twice, as did defeated nominees John Kerry and Al Gore. But with 20 electoral votes, the Keystone State is a battleground the party cannot afford to lose. And it is filled with the white middle-class voters that form a cornerstone of Democratic nomination front runner Hillary Clinton’s coalition. Democrats believe that hosting the convention in the Philadelphia media market will help showcase their message to such voters.

A walkable city with mass transit and a plethora of hotel rooms, the City of Brotherly Love boasts the amenities needed to absorb the influx of visitors. “The only three factors that we considered when deciding which was the strongest city to host our convention were logistics, security and resources,” Wasserman Schultz said on a conference call Thursday afternoon. “Extraneous issues were not a factor, whatsoever.” Yet Philadelphia lacked the potential drawbacks of its competitors.

As the capital of the vital swing state of Ohio, Columbus was an appealing option to party officials. But as the smallest city among the finalists, there were concerns about whether it had the hotels to host the event, as well as whether the Republicans’ decision to hold their 2016 convention in Cleveland would sap the state’s finite supply of cash.

A lack of accommodations in the immediate vicinity was also a concern about Brooklyn. One plan relied on transporting guests from their hotel rooms in Manhattan to the convention at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center via ferry, which seemed a sure logistical nightmare. And in recent months, says a Democrat familiar with the process, the party’s selection committee grew increasingly concerned about the tension between New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city’s police force. Selecting New York as the site of the convention would have trained a spotlight on de Blasio, a controversial liberal, during a week when the party’s prime mission is to reach the swing voters who can shape the fate of elections.

The convention will take place the week of July 25, about a month earlier than four years ago. As in 2012, it will immediately follow the Republican convention in Cleveland. The back-to-back scheduling is designed to counter the bump in the polls that parties traditionally accrue from the nationally televised spectacle.

— With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

TIME 2016 Election

The One-Man Las Vegas Presidential Primary

Chairman & CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., Sheldon Adelson speaks at the Exclusive Seminar: Keynote at the 14th Annual Global Gaming Expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Center on Oct. 1, 2014 in Las Vegas.
Denise Truscello—Getty Images for Global Gaming Expo Chairman & CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp., Sheldon Adelson speaks at the Exclusive Seminar: Keynote at the 14th Annual Global Gaming Expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Center on Oct. 1, 2014 in Las Vegas.

Even longshot candidates are lining up for billionaire Sheldon Adelson's support.

Only politicians with ambition or an agenda choose to trudge through the snows of New Hampshire in the depths of winter. George Pataki has been there five times in recent months, and he isn’t playing coy about the purpose of all these visits. “I have no doubt in my mind,” Pataki said in one of several interviews touting his interest in the presidency, “that I have the ability to run this country.”

Pataki is not likely to get the chance to prove that. Eight years out of office, the former New York governor belongs to a vanishing breed of moderate northeastern Republican. He has supported gun control and abortion rights. He has little national name recognition, less money and zero campaign infrastructure in place.

Pataki publicly flirted with a White House bid in 2008 and 2012, and it’s tempting to interpret his revived interest as a financial gambit. Parlaying the publicity of a campaign into a lucrative gig has become one of the ignominious traditions of presidential politics. But Pataki is serious about running, says spokesman David Catalfamo. And while he has little chance of contending in a crowded Republican field, he does have a connection that could make him a factor.

From 2013 until the end of last year, Pataki was a paid spokesman for a Washington-based advocacy group called the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling. The organization, formed and funded by the Las Vegas billionaire Sheldon Adelson, is part of Adelson’s hefty wager that a national online-gambling ban would benefit his brick-and-mortar casinos, which include the Venetian and the Palazzo on the Vegas strip.

For Pataki, who supported many forms of legalized gambling as governor, an alliance with Adelson could prove lucrative as well. The evolution of campaign-finance laws have created a system in which a single benefactor is capable of sustaining a lean presidential campaign for long enough to grab the national spotlight. Wyoming businessman Foster Friess kept Rick Santorum afloat for long stretches in 2012, while Adelson—the single biggest donor of that campaign—forked over enough money to let Newt Gingrich spend months traveling the country to torture Mitt Romney.

Adelson has no plans to match the $150 million or more he shelled out four years ago, according to a source close to him. But is still expected to spend in support of his signature issues. A hawkish foreign policy devoted to the security of Israel remains his chief concern. But he has also lavished cash on Republican candidates and committees amid his push for a national Internet-gambling ban.

Pataki isn’t the only surprise candidate in the Adelson primary. Take Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina who is also publicly weighing a long-shot campaign for the GOP nomination. In March, Graham introduced a bill in the Senate that would effectively impose a national Internet-gambling ban. Graham will reintroduce the same measure this Congress, says communications director Kevin Bishop.

Graham calls online gambling a threat to public safety. “I think people in the criminal world and terrorist world could get a benefit from it,” he told TIME. But pushing the ban has also paid off for the South Carolina Senator, who reaped at least $31,200 in 2013 from Adelson, his wife and two daughters, according to public data compiled by the Sunlight Foundation.

The Adelson derby isn’t just for the also-rans. Last spring, a slew of top-tier GOP presidential hopefuls, including Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Scott Walker, made pilgrimages to Las Vegas to speak at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s annual conference. It isn’t likely that Adelson will shower cash on a single favorite in 2016, as he did with Gingrich four years ago, but he’s willing to crack open his wallet to keep his issues at the forefront of the debate—and to make life difficult for candidates who don’t see eye to eye with him.

If support for Israel is Republican orthodoxy, gambling is more complicated. It is a rare issue that splits the GOP, pitting religious conservatives against states’-rights activists and libertarians. The prominent anti-tax conservative Grover Norquist told TIME in an interview that Congress should reject a national ban and let states decide the issue. “You don’t want the federal government coming in,” he says.

Adelson says he opposes online gaming on moral grounds. “ You would think the chairman of the world’s largest gaming company would pursue any aspect of gaming which could increase profits, right?” he wrote in an op-ed for Forbes in 2013. “Ordinarily that is true—but online gambling is ‘fool’s gold.’ Whether it is full casino gaming, poker only, or anything in between—this is a societal train wreck waiting to happen.”

That’s all a bit rich: from at least 2001 to 2007, Adelson’s company pursued the possibility of developing its own gaming website before abandoning the idea. And while it’s unclear whether Graham’s bill can pass Congress, Adelson is still changing the debate through donations to old allies and potential new ones. In 2014, he shelled out the individual limit of $2,600 to nearly every successful Senate Republican challenger, including Thom Tillis, Cory Gardner, Tom Cotton, Dan Sullivan, David Perdue and Bill Cassidy, according to CQ Moneyline.

And sometimes he wields his influence in unseen ways. Late last year, Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi circulated a letter to colleagues protesting Graham’s online gambling bill. Wicker, the new chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, argued a national ban would give the federal government regulatory powers that are reserved for the states. “We believe that a bill that encroaches on the long-standing authority of states to decide issues related to gaming is not the answer,” says the Dec. 3 letter, a copy of which was obtained by TIME.

The push was dropped, an aide to Wicker says, when it became clear the bill wouldn’t pass. But it also had the potential to strain relations with Adelson, who gave $13.2 million—more than any other GOP-aligned donor according to Politico—to help the party snag the Senate majority in 2014.

Pataki thinks he may have the background to whet Adelson’s appetite. The former three-term governor was running Albany during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and is “ardently opposed to the President’s leading from behind strategy on foreign policy,” says spokesman Catalfamo. And Adelson isn’t the only potential benefactor with whom he rubs elbows. “He’s very friendly and has long relationship with a lot of folks who are billionaires,” says Catalfamo, including the billionaire Koch brothers and various Wall Street titans.

“People don’t remember who I am,” Pataki presidential told the conservative website Newsmax this month, “but we can remind them.” He certainly has a friend with the money to help.

With reporting by Zeke J. Miller

TIME 2016 Election

Jeb Bush Pitches Conservatism for the Middle Class

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at a Economic Club of Detroit meeting in Detroit on Feb. 4, 2015.
Paul Sancya—AP Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush speaks at a Economic Club of Detroit meeting in Detroit on Feb. 4, 2015.

The former governor road-tests a message of upward mobility ahead of 2016

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush offered a glimpse Wednesday of the economic message at the core of his likely presidential bid, using the maiden policy speech of his unofficial 2016 campaign to sketch out how conservative policies can restore the prospect of upward mobility for the struggling American middle class.

“Far too many Americans live on the edge of economic ruin. And many more feel like they’re stuck in place, working longer and harder, even as they’re losing ground,” Bush said in Detroit. “Tens of millions of Americans no longer see a clear path to rise above their challenges. The opportunity gap is the defining issue of our time.

“I will offer a new vision. A plan of action that is different than what we have been hearing in Washington, D.C.,” Bush said. “It is a vision rooted in conservative principles and tethered to our shared belief in opportunity and the unknown possibilities of a nation given the freedom to act, to create, to dream and to rise.”

MORE: Measles Vaccinations Roil Republican Presidential Race

The address marks a new phase of campaign preparations for Bush, an early front-runner for the Republican nomination. Since announcing in mid-December that he would explore the possibility of a run for the White House, Bush has focused aggressively on locking up institutional support among the party’s elite donors and operatives. And while he has enjoyed swift success courting party bigwigs in private, the breadth of his public appeal is a question mark eight years after he left the governor’s mansion in Tallahassee.

Unlike the rest of the still gelling Republican field, Bush has eschewed candidate cattle calls in early primary states like Iowa. So his appearance here Wednesday, before more than 500 people at the Detroit Economic Club, was the first major showcase of the themes that would underpin his campaign. Standing at the front of a full ballroom nestled against the Detroit River, Bush laid out the broad strokes of a policy agenda that he argued would promote economic growth, lift the middle class and trim the size of the federal government while shifting power to the states.

“In the coming months, I intend to detail how we can get there,” he said, “with a mix of smart policies and reforms to tap our resources and capacity to innovate, whether in energy, manufacturing, health care or technology.”

Income inequality has become one of the 2016 race’s signature issues for both parties, and several of Bush’s competitors have made the theme a pillar of their pitches to voters. But the decision to road-test the message of economic mobility in the Democratic stronghold of Detroit was a signal that Bush intends to compete in the urban areas the GOP has largely ceded in recent decades as a lost cause. The Motor City has been battered in recent years by depopulation, bad governance and the cratering auto industry. “Look around this city,” Bush said. “In its history is a warning to all of us.”

“I know some in the media think conservatives don’t care about the cities. But they’re wrong,” Bush said. “We believe that every American in every community has a right to pursue happiness. They have a right to rise. So I say let’s go where our ideas can matter most. Where the failures of liberal government policies are the most obvious. Let’s deliver real conservative success.

“And you know what will happen?” he added. “We’ll create a whole lot of new conservatives.”

MORE: Mitt Romney Abandons 2016 Presidential Race

That word conservative was on his lips a lot during a 22-minute speech and a subsequent question-and-answer session. The label looms large over Bush’s efforts to reintroduce himself to voters as the Republican primary field takes shape. Though he compiled a staunchly conservative record as governor, Bush’s support for immigration reform and the Common Core education standards — both anathema to swaths of the party’s hard-right grassroots — have led conservative critics and many pundits to argue he is too moderate for a party that has drifted right in the years since he left office.

Bush mixed in jabs at liberal mismanagement and took a whack at the”reckless” cronyism of Washington. He also took a series of shots at President Obama, including criticism of his recent proposal to tax 529 college-savings plans. But the optimistic speech — “this is the greatest time to be alive as Americans,” Bush said — was aimed at center-right and swing voters rather than the fervent conservatives who are a fixture of the GOP nominating process.

A senior adviser said Bush would not pander in an attempt to appeal to narrow segments of the base, nor pull punches on issues, like his belief in immigration reform, where his views are controversial within the party. During the question-and-answer session, Bush laid out his thinking on immigration reform in greater detail than most of the rest of his prepared speech, and drew a round of applause.

He made a tentative pledge to rise above the fray when the primary campaign season turns combative. “As the old order has been disrupted, it’s been replaced by a little more of a Wild West process,” he said, adding that he hoped he had the discipline not to “get into the food fights.”

The former governor also offered a preview of his thinking about how his family’s political legacy would figure into the campaign. “My dad is the greatest man alive,” Bush said, “and I love my brother.”

Being the son and brother of Presidents is an “interesting challenge,” Bush said, noting that if he decides to run, “I would have to deal this, and turn this fact into an opportunity, to share who I am, to connect on a human level.”

TIME justice

Koch Brother Teams Up With Liberals on Criminal Justice Reform

Charles Koch
Bo Rader—Wichita Eagle/MCT via Getty Images Charles Koch, head of Koch Industries, on Feb 27, 2007.

The push for prison reform gets momentum from a conservative power player

Just days after word emerged that the billionaire Koch brothers will spend nearly a billion dollars to elect conservatives in the 2016 elections, Charles Koch sent a top adviser to Washington to urge Republicans to work with Democrats on a key issue: criminal-justice reform.

Justice reform is not a cause for which the Kochs are normally in the news. The billionaire brothers are known for their lavish giving to conservative candidates and causes, for which they are celebrated on the right and reviled by the left. But for more than a decade, the Kochs have quietly pumped several million dollars into efforts to fix a criminal-justice system that many on both sides of the aisle believe is broken.

Last month, Charles Koch co-authored an op-ed for Politico decrying the “overcriminalization of America.” Now the Kochs are teaming up with some unlikely allies on the left in hopes of rectifying the problem. And their presence in the emerging bipartisan coalition for justice reform underscores the issue’s rare—perhaps unique—status as a cause that has united liberals and conservatives in an era of bitter partisanship.

“There’s just so much movement here,” Mark Holden, senior vice president and general counsel at Koch Industries, tells TIME. “It’s sweeping in a lot of unusual, non-traditional allies, and I think it’s a good thing.”

Holden was standing on Wednesday under the glittering chandeliers and Corinthian columns of a caucus room in the Russell Senate building, where he had just wrapped up a prison-reform discussion organized by The Constitution Project. The event offered the rare tableau where a bipartisan group of activists gathered in Washington to agree on policy, rather than fling accusations.

The motley panel included liberal and conservative senators and congressmen, activists and commentators, who warmly complimented one another’s leadership. Holden was seated next to Van Jones, a former Obama environmental adviser who once accused the Kochs of running a “plantation.” The oddball pair seemed bemused at the strange alliance. “Dogs and cats sleeping together,” Holden joked.

It’s easy to see why the issue attracts both sides. The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration of any industrialized country in the world (second overall, behind the tiny Seychelles). It has 2.2 million total inmates—more than any other nation, and an increase of 500% over the past three decades. There are some 4,500 federal criminal laws on the books. More than half of the federal prison population consists of nonviolent drug offenders.

“Conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans alike, have come to the conclusion that the system that has developed over the course of the last few decades in this country isn’t working,” said David Keene, a longtime conservative activist. “We’ve come to the conclusion that we have to work together.”

Activists on the left have long been vocal opponents of the justice system’s failings, which disproportionately affect minority groups and the poor. But their right-leaning counterparts have also fought hard to combat the pipeline to prison, for reasons ranging from the big-government bloat to the waste of taxpayer dollars to the dehumanizing conditions that strip individual liberties.

“Most people assume that conservatives are motivated to reform by economics,” says Pat Nolan, the director of the Center for Criminal Justice Reform at the American Conservation Union Foundation. “My experience is not that. It’s the moral issues…There’s no form of government domination greater than imprisonment.”

Holden has been interested in criminal justice since his days working as a jail guard in his hometown of Worcester, Mass. He was in high school and college at the time, and some of the inmates were former classmates. He witnessed the ways the system can suck people in. “These were the kids who were always in trouble,” Holden recalls. “I’ve always kind of been around these issues.”

The Kochs’ commitment in criminal-justice reform dates to the mid-1990s, when the company became embroiled in a court case related to alleged environmental crimes at a a refinery in Corpus Christi, Tex. In 2001, a subsidiary of the company pleaded guilty to concealing environmental violations at the refinery; a multitude of other charges were dropped, but the company paid a $20 million fine to settle the matter. The owners believed they had been victimized by overzealous prosecutors and unclear statutes. “Our view was if we, a large company with many resources, were treated this way, what’s happening to the average American?” Holden says.

The Kochs began donating money to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) to combat prosecutorial abuses. “Once we got involved,” says Holden, “we couldn’t stop.” Since 2004, the Kochs have made annual donations (in the “significant six figures,” according to Holden) to the NACDL. The money is designed to address a broad range of justice issues, from mandatory minimums for drug crimes to the right to competent representation and sentencing disparities for the disadvantaged.

Last month, Holden and Koch laid out a five-point reform plan to change the criminal justice system. It includes ensuring that indigent defendants receive adequate legal counsel, reducing criminal liabilities for inadvertent violations, and restoring rights to youthful and non-violent offenders to help them re-enter the job market after their release. Such beliefs have led the Kochs to team up with liberal organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union to combat issues like harsh sentencing and Sixth Amendment rights. “It’s very, very rare where we have a moment that the stars have aligned in this way,” said Jones.

Progress looks possible at the federal level. Several justice-reform bills have been introduced in Congress. They’re often the product of strange partnerships: one Senate effort, which would adjust mandatory sentencing guidelines, was sponsored by Dick Durbin of Illinois, a leading liberal, and Utah Senator Mike Lee, a Tea Party darling. Another sweeping Senate bill, introduced by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul and New Jersey Democrat Cory Booker, would seal and expunge juvenile records for nonviolent offenders and restrict the use of solitary confinement. But so far the legislation has languished.

The Kochs have the power to change that. Their clout on the right could help sway more conservatives to support criminal justice efforts. Most of the likely 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls have supported some kind of criminal-justice reforms. Given the Kochs’ commitment to the issue, candidates might be wise to make issues like curbing the prison population a larger campaign theme.

Holden says the Kochs won’t make criminal justice a political litmus test, in the way that they have focused attention on issues like health-care reform or environmental regulations. At the same time, “to the extent that there are candidates that are working on these issues we care about,” Holden says, “we’re probably going to want to support candidates who are in favor of helping people, helping the disadvantaged with their policies.”

Compared to their spending on elections, the money the Kochs are funneling toward justice reform is modest. Their network plans to fork out nearly $900 million in advance of the 2016 election, according to reports—nearly as much as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney corralled in 2016 to support their campaigns. And Holden says there are no plans at the moment to increase the financial support for justice reform or form a new nonprofit devoted to the issue, although he wouldn’t rule it out. “It depends on what the opportunities are. If we see coalitions building and real change coming, and it’s consistent with our values and beliefs,” Holden says, “we’ll be all over it. We don’t necessarily start out saying we’re going to spend this much this year.”

And the momentum is building. “It’s not a left-right issue,” Holden says. “It’s all about what’s right for the country. There’s so much that everyone fights about, and there’s a commonality here.”

TIME 2016 Election

The Invisible Presidential Campaign Kicks Off in Earnest

Iowa Freedom Summit Features GOP Presidential  Hopefuls
Scott Olson—Getty Images Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks to guests at the Iowa Freedom Summit on Jan. 24, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Presidential candidates-to-be, and a passel of well-known clingers on, converged in Iowa this weekend with all the flash and fun the nation has come to expect of the Grand Old Party.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina managed substantive introductions, alongside businessman Donald Trump, who declared there is “nobody like Trump,” and Sarah Palin, who struggled with diction and metaphor, offering phrases like “We don’t sit on our thumbs this next time when one of our own is being crucified.”

The real action, however, lay elsewhere, off the stage and out of sight, in an invisible primary taking place behind closed doors in states not known for their place in the nominating calendar. Candidates have been crisscrossing the nation and working the phones, dialing for dollars and loyalty in a contest that may prove far more consequential than speech that can be given before any crowd at this point.

The goal is not to win votes, but to win the support of Republicans like Bobbie Kilberg, who hosted an off-the-record event in Virginia for Christie last week with 96 corporate technology leaders. In recent months, she has taken not one, but two calls from Mitt Romney informing her of her thinking, as he edges toward another campaign. And having worked for the administrations of both Presidents Bush, she feels a special affinity for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose son, George P. Bush, she recently supported in his race for Texas land commissioner.

“I have three wonderful friends in this race,” said Kilberg, who runs the Northern Virginia Technology Council, but supports candidates only in a personal capacity. “My expectation is that all three of them will run.”

But the physics of political fundraising does not allow for her fealty to be equally divided for long. Connecters like Kilberg now face enormous pressure to decide on a single candidate to benefit from their vast Rolodexes. “I think there is enough donor bandwidth for all three of them in the center right lane,” Kilberg explains of the three candidates. “The finite group are the bundlers.”

Securing the 2012 nomination cost Romney $76.6 million, raised in increments up to the legal limit of $2,500. His super PAC, Restore Our Future, which could accept unlimited contributions, added nearly $50 million to the tally.

Operatives affiliated with multiple campaigns say candidates will need at least $50 million to win the nomination this time around, but predict more of the spending will tilt toward the outside groups.

Bush, Romney and Christie are especially squeezed by the fundraising pressures, as their candidacies are set to rely heavily on their predicted ability to match Hillary Clinton’s formidable potential. The early start to the race — candidates are traveling the country earlier and more frequently than ever on the Republican side — adds strain across the board. Complicating matters further are changes to the nominating calendar with fewer debate opportunities and a compressed timeline that favor well-funded candidates once voters get to the polls.

Kilberg and her husband Bill, a prominent Washington lawyer, helped bundle together more than $100,000 in checks of less than $2,000 in 2004 for George W. Bush. In 2012, she helped lead Mitt Romney’s fundraising in Virginia, bringing in a reported $322,000 at just one event at her home. The Tuesday event Kilberg had with Christie and northern Virginia technology executives was not a fundraiser, she said, but a get-to-know-you session.

At almost the same time the event was happening, Bush was meeting in the offices of Dirk Van Dongen, a Republican fundraiser who runs the National Association of Wholesalers. Dongen, a Washington fundraiser for another White House aspirant, Marco Rubio, plans to support Jeb Bush this time, if he runs.

The Bush events were not fundraisers either, though forms were distributed inviting donors to begin bundling for Bush’s new political action committee, Right to Rise. The main purpose, as with the Virginia events, was to win over the networkers who traditionally hold the purse strings of presidential politics. According to people who attended, Bush spoke broadly about his views of the country and the best way to approach the presidential race. He said a winning candidate would have to connect with middle-class anxiety by walking in the shoes of regular people, said one attendee.

“The contrast was obvious,” the attendee said, explaining how Bush appeared to be contrasting himself with Romney’s 2012 campaign. “That’s 100 degrees from the 47% comment.”

Romney, meanwhile, has been reactivating his own donor base, having chosen a donor event in New York early in the month to formally announce his decision to begin pursuing a third presidential campaign. The former private-equity executive has been working the phones since then, telling donors he is serious about considering another bid.

Senator Marco Rubio, meanwhile, held his annual retreat for his top donors in Miami over the weekend, a move designed to keep his loyalists close while he considers his options. He later joined fellow Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul on stage in Palm Springs at the winter meeting of the Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, a spending vehicle for the billionaire GOP megadonor Koch brothers and their allies. Also in attendance, after a well-received appearance in Iowa, was Walker, who was making the first stop on a multi-day West Coast fundraising swing for his new fundraising committee, which will be announced as soon as Monday.

While Republican voters have more than a year to decide on the candidate they want to take on Democrats in 2016, the donors clock is ticking. Quarterly fundraising totals, which will come out early this summer and again in the fall, will help shape the race, determining which candidates have the money to mount serious contests, with the grassroots organizing ability and television firepower to withstand the early contests.

“It’s really what we would call in the business a pre-sell,” says a senior Republican strategist about Bush’s visit to Washington this week. “They’ll come back in the next 60 days and do some big fundraising, and they’ll hope to get a lot of those same people to be on their committee.”

For those keeping score, the results of such appeals will be the ones that count, not the applause of activist crowds. In this democratic process, the voices of the people only matter after the first waves of money have been counted.

TIME justice

Obama’s Police Task Force Faces Uphill Battle

Barack Obama Policing Task Force Charles Ramsey Laurie Robinson
Mandel Ngan—AFP/Getty Images US President Barack Obama speaks after a meeting on building trust in communities following Ferguson unrest, with Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey (L) and George Mason University professor of Criminology, Law and Society Laurie Robinson, who were appointed by Obama to chair a task force on policing, at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington on Dec. 1, 2014.

Can a panel launched after Ferguson actually bring real change?

In the politician’s arsenal, a task force is a dull yet indispensable weapon: a way to address a problem that isn’t easy to solve.

Over the course of his presidency, Barack Obama has created panels to study issues ranging from climate change to gun control to childhood obesity. Task forces are the place where hard-working people go to produce important work that winds up moldering on a shelf.

Obama is determined to avoid this fate for his new White House panel on 21st century policing. “This is not going to be an endless report that ends up collecting dust,” the President pledged when he formed the task force in December after grand juries in New York and Ferguson, Mo., declined to charge two white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men. The 11-member group is tasked with identifying concrete ways to mend the ruptured relationship between police and the communities they serve. It must present a draft report to Obama on March 2, recommending methods to strengthen public trust while reducing crime.

Ron Davis, executive director of the task force and the director of the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), says he is “extremely confident” the committee will live up to its promise. Davis told a panel held by the U.S. Conference of Mayors Thursday that the task force, which will hold a series of listening sessions, panel discussions and open forums over the next few weeks, had an opportunity to “redefine policing in a democratic society.”

The mandate to do so comes from the top. Attorney General Eric Holder has seized police reform as a legacy issue. At Tuesday’s State of the Union address, Obama said he believes there is broad consensus to repair the rift between police forces and minority communities.

“We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed,” the President said. “Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.”

But channeling modest consensus into real change is a tall order—one made trickier by a grim drumbeat of bad feelings and worse news. The killing of two New York City police officers in late December sparked an ugly public dispute between the nation’s largest police force and its liberal mayor and may have led to a huge plummet in arrests. On Wednesday, new reports indicated federal authorities investigating the Aug. 9 death of Michael Brown have concluded there is insufficient evidence to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting. A broader Department of Justice probe into the practices of the entire Ferguson police force is ongoing.

“I’m realistic about what a task force is actually capable of,” says a person with knowledge of the task force proceedings, who asked for anonymity to speak candidly about the committee’s challenges. “The task force can be very useful, but we are now in a place politically where actually creating legislation out of things will be an uphill battle.”

There are small signs of progress. In December, Congress passed a law requiring police departments to report the death of a person in police custody to the Justice Department. Obama has asked for $263 million in funding for new body cameras and training for police departments. He also ordered a review of a federal program that supplies millions of dollars of military equipment to municipal police departments.

Several prominent Republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have called for the party to address criminal-justice policies that harm minority communities. Billionaire industrialist Charles Koch, a top conservative donor, is redoubling his efforts to enact criminal-justice reforms. The growing number of elected Republicans calling for justice reform has brightened the prospect of legislative action.

On Thursday the Conference of Mayors released a report to help local law enforcement and politicians address the issue. “There’s a growing gulf of mistrust between police and communities they serve,” says Kevin Johnson, the mayor of Sacramento, Calif., and the chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. The report outlined six areas of focus, from building trust between cops and communities to addressing racial and economic disparities. Karen Freeman-Wilson, the mayor of Gary, Ind., and the chair of the mayoral working group that produced the report, argued the groundswell of anger in the aftermath of Ferguson offered a chance to address long-simmering tensions. “With every tragedy comes opportunity,” she says.

The report is full of sensible ideas, but short on concrete detail. And some of its specific suggestions drew immediate opposition. David Berger, the mayor of Lima, Ohio, bristled at the recommendation that police departments hand over responsibility for investigating officer-involved deaths to an independent official as a way to “increase public confidence.” Berger noted that Lima did just that in 2008, when police in that city shot a young mother to death and wounded her infant child after arriving at her home to arrest a companion on suspicion of drug dealing. The decision, he says, left the city unable to provide basic information about a case roiling the community, compounding the “dramatic trauma” caused by the incident.

Davis said he couldn’t comment on the recommendations of the task force until its work wraps up in early March. Brittany Packnett, a St. Louis educator who was appointed to serve on the task force for her work organizing the Ferguson protests, said in an interview that she was optimistic about the panel and would focus on ensuring the street protests that followed Brown’s death led to concrete action. “I just don’t see us making progress if disruptive change and systemic change don’t go hand in hand,” she says. “I am trying to make sure the connection is fruitful.”

TIME 2016 Election

Steyer Won’t Run for California Senate Seat

Tom Steyer is on the TIME 100
Harry E. Walker/MCT via Getty Images Steyer is one of several TIME 100 honorees fighting for the planet

The Democrats' top donor takes a pass on the race to succeed Barbara Boxer

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer announced Thursday that he won’t run for the California Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Barbara Boxer.

“Given the imperative of electing a Democratic president — along with my passion for our state — I believe my work right now should not be in our nation’s capitol but here at home in California, and in states around the country where we can make a difference,” Steyer wrote in an op-ed published in the Huffington Post.

The decision will cheer Democrats. The former hedge-fund manager emerged as the party’s counterweight to the billionaire Koch Brothers in the 2014 midterms, spending some $75 million through his political-action committee, NextGen Climate. His flirtation with a Senate bid spooked party operatives, who feared Steyer could plow his fortune into self-funding his own campaign rather than those of other Democrats.

Privately, many Democrats have been urging Steyer not to run, arguing his efforts and money would be better spent outside a deep-blue state where the party has several strong candidates capable of holding the seat.

“This was a very hard decision,” Steyer said. “The U.S. Senate offers a unique opportunity to serve, but I also know that we will have excellent candidates. I applaud and respect those running, and am confident that Californians will choose a representative who will serve them well.”

California Attorney General Kamala Harris declared her candidacy last week after Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would not seek the seat as he prepares to run for governor in 2018. Harris has already secured endorsements from progressive Democrats such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has expressed interest in the seat, but has not made a decision yet.

Republicans, meanwhile, are struggling to identify a candidate willing to mount a longshot campaign in such an expensive state. California’s jungle primary system pits the top two finishers against each other in the general election regardless of party.

Steyer said he would “redouble my efforts working with partners and fellow citizens to push for change. The road we take may be less traveled and less well-marked, but I am very determined. The journey is far from over — in fact, it has just begun.”

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