TIME 2014 Election

Meet Dave Brat, The Giant Slayer Who Beat Eric Cantor

David Brat
Seventh District US Congressional Republican candidate David Brat at a press conference in Richmond, Va., May 28, 2014. Brat, a relative unknown, defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a GOP primary, June 10, 2014. Steve Helber—AP

The conservative economics professor topples the House Majority Leader in a stunning upset

The bespectacled college professor who toppled House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a Republican primary Tuesday earned a masters of divinity from Princeton with a thesis on the philosophical doctrine of logical positivism. He was a rare breed of giant slayer: the kind that nobody saw coming.

“God acted through people on my behalf,” Dave Brat told Fox News after his win. “The issue is the Republican Party has been paying too much attention to Wall Street, and not enough attention to Main Street.”

When the votes were counted, he had racked up 56% of the vote in Virginia’s Seventh District, besting the No. 2 House Republican by about 7,000 votes. A former economic consultant at the World Bank with a Ph.D from American University, Brat also worked at the accountancy Arthur Andersen in Detroit and Chicago. He has chaired the Randolph-Macon Department of Economics and Business in sleepy Ashland, Va., since 1995.

Whatever the issue, it was a stunning victory. Brat’s candidacy wasn’t championed by powerful national conservative groups. His thin political resume is limited to civic activity in Henrico County, the Richmond-area suburbs that form Cantor’s base. He raised just $206,000, a mere fraction of Cantor’s $4.7 million haul. Scant polling had Brat trailing by double digits; in the waning stages of the contest, Cantor’s veteran campaign team touted an internal survey that showed the powerful incumbent’s lead hovering around 30 points.

But Brat was able to channel the grassroots frustration with Republican leadership. Much of his campaign was built on shopworn conservative boilerplate: cutting taxes, shredding Obamacare, enacting term limits and protecting the Second Amendment from looming threats. He cast Cantor as a weak-kneed leader who capitulated to Democrats and flagged in the battle to repeal the President’s health-care reform law. A photo on Brat’s website—which boasts an aesthetic reminiscent of the early-aughts—showed the incumbent with his hand over his heart, in conversation with a smiling Barack Obama.

The message was clear: Cantor had been in Washington too long, was too cozy with Democratic rivals, and had forsaken his conservative district to further his national ambitions. “Dave Brat is a smart dude,” marveled David “Mudcat” Saunders, a veteran Democratic consultant in the state. “It was a shoe leather campaign. It was the greatest of the grassroots. He knocked on doors, he got out there, he told his story. They just did a hell of a job.”

Brat also tried to paint Cantor, who is considered a cautious supporter of immigration reform, as an advocate of “amnesty.” The No. 2 House Republican vociferously rejected the label, and in fact had rejected Democratic pleas to bring up comprehensive immigration reform for a vote.

Tea Party groups, who have struggled in this year’s intramural skirmishes against mainline conservatives, touted the victory as a sign of the movement’s enduring strength. “The fact that an underfunded candidate like Dave Brat has upset the sitting Majority Leader in a primary is not only a statement that the Tea Party is alive and well,” said Daniel Horowitz of the conservative Madison Project, but also “a mandate for leadership reform, and a shot across the bow for the rest of the Republicans.”

Early signs suggest the state’s GOP leadership will coalesce around the unlikely victor. Pat Mullins, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, lauded Brat as “highly-qualified, dedicated, and committed to the Commonwealth of Virginia and her people.”

Cantor, who can still opt to mount a write-in campaign, is only the second House Republican incumbent to lose a GOP primary this year. It was a defeat that nobody saw coming—except perhaps the little-known figure who authored the upset. “I think I’m peaking at the right time,” Brat said recently. And he turned out to be right.

-With reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke J Miller

TIME States

Colorado’s New Pot Banking Law Won’t Solve Cash Problems

Over 400 Marijuana Stores Ordered To Close As City Regulates Industry
Tim Blakeley, manager of Sunset Junction medical marijuana dispensary, shows marijuana plant buds on May 11, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian—Getty Images

A new law signed by the governor offers a symbolic fix to a serious problem

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a bill Friday designed to create the world’s first state-level banking system for legal cannabis companies, which have complained that their lack of access to basic banking services creates difficult and dangerous risks.

But the financial industry quickly cast doubt on whether the legislation will address issues faced by marijuana businesses in the state, where recreational pot became legal this year. Asked what it would accomplish, Colorado Bankers Association CEO Don Childears said: “Basically, absolutely nothing.”

“We don’t think it can be effective, and it can never get off the ground,” he said.

The bill allows legal marijuana shops to create a makeshift financial network that would help them gain access to credit and merchant services. A lack of access to banking has been the single biggest problem for Colorado’s recreational weed merchants, which have been legally operating in the state since Jan. 1. Forced to operate million-dollar businesses in cash, marijuana companies run the risk of robbery and face myriad logistical difficulties.

The problem with the bill is that it does nothing to change the reality that blocked pot shops from banks in the first place. Marijuana, which is classified as a Schedule I drug, remains illegal under federal law. As a result, financial institutions are wary of taking on cannabis companies as clients, even in states where some form of the drug is legal.

The legislation signed Friday allows pot businesses to petition the Federal Reserve for clearance. But even industry advocates acknowledge that the chances of obtaining a green light are slim. “It’s probably not going to work, but we’re trying,” said Mike Elliott, executive director of the Medical Marijuana Industry Group.

The point of the effort is simply to demonstrate that. The industry believes that the banking conundrum can only be solved in Washington—either by Congressional action, or by rescheduling marijuana as more and more states adopt permissive laws. The law signed Friday is an effort to show federal authorities whom Colorado officials have been petitioning for a solution that the state has done everything it can to resolve the issue.

“I don’t see anything coming out of it; it’s more symbolic than anything,” said Elan Nelson, who works in business development for Medicine Man, a legal retail shop in north Denver. “I think this starts the conversation. And if, for some reason, it works—great. We need this desperately.”

TIME Economy

One Ohio City’s Growth Strategy? Immigrants

Dayton puts out the welcome mats

In old North Dayton, It’s easy to spot the newcomers. Over the past few years, about 3,000 Turkish refugees have settled here and set about rebuilding this blighted neighborhood. Decaying houses with weed-choked lawns are giving way to tidy dwellings with colorful paint jobs. As his minivan winds through the streets, businessman Islom Shakhbandarov points out the white picket fences the Turks favor–a sign that they have achieved the American Dream. “This,” he says from the front seat, “is the Ellis Island of our region.”

Southwest Ohio has never been much of a melting pot. Even now, Dayton’s proportion of foreign-born residents is among the lowest of any large U.S. city. But economic decline is the mother of reinvention. Dayton’s population has plunged 40% since 1960, as the loss of manufacturing jobs hollowed out its middle class. “We were hit really hard,” says city manager Tim Riordan. And so in 2009, Dayton began plotting an unlikely path to renewal–growing its economy by courting immigrants.

Two years later, the city adopted a series of policies designed to lure new residents: tutoring for foreign students, support networks to help entrepreneurs clear complex bureaucratic hurdles, and translation services to help immigrants integrate into the community. Libraries began stocking books in new languages. Police officers were directed not to check the immigration status of victims or witnesses of crimes, or of people suspected of minor offenses.

The push to repopulate the city by wooing foreigners was an unusual move at a moment when states from Alabama to Arizona were requiring cops to detain suspected undocumented immigrants. City officials braced for an outcry against the proposal, but few residents balked. (The only pushback at public meetings came from nonresidents who warned that the city could become a magnet for the undocumented.) The initiative, known as Welcome Dayton, won unanimous support from the city commission. “We made a policy decision to be open,” says Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. “This is a city that will welcome you.”

Word of mouth helped. A handful of Ahiska Turks, a stateless ethnic minority that was granted refugee status to escape persecution in Russia, resettled in Dayton in 2006, lured by cheap housing and solid jobs. They told friends that neighbors were tolerant of their Muslim faith. Now the Turkish community’s leaders have become some of Dayton’s best boosters, working to court foreign investment and pumping their own cash into the local economy through new trucking, logistics and real estate businesses.

Dayton is also home to robust communities of Central Africans, Indians and Hispanics, many of whom have started businesses or cultural agencies of their own. City officials have sought to stitch them into the cultural fabric with celebrations of diversity like a new annual parade to commemorate the Mexican Day of the Dead. And the lenient approach to law enforcement has soothed nerves. “They’re not chasing people or trying to focus on their legal status,” says Gabriela Pickett, an art-gallery owner and Mexican immigrant who has lived in Dayton since 2001. “That’s a battle they don’t want.”

None of this has required much money, and the economic gains have been relatively modest. But the new approach is paying off. In the year after enacting the policy, Dayton’s immigration rate grew by 40%, nearly six times the state average. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce lauded Dayton as one of seven “enterprising cities.” And Dayton has plans to expand its approach by recruiting immigrant entrepreneurs, using a visa program that offers green cards to foreigners who invest in rural or cash-strapped areas.

Dayton’s model is attracting copycats elsewhere in the Midwest. And the experiment has “changed the culture and the way people perceive immigrants,” says Tony Ortiz, vice president of Dayton’s Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the head of Latino Affairs at nearby Wright State University. “Instead of a burden, they see these folks as potential taxpayers and contributing members to the area. Instead of chasing them away, all we have to do is make them feel welcome.”

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TIME Tea Party

Why the Tea Party Forgives Reagan’s Sins

Michael Evans/Zuma Press

On the 10th anniversary of his death, a look at the president whose name has become synonymous with 'conservative'

When David Knittle decided to form a local Tea Party group in 2009, he knew exactly what to call it. Like many conservatives, he describes himself as a Reagan Republican. “Ronald Reagan represents to me all that is great about America,” he says. To Knittle, a Los Angeles–area health-care worker in his mid-50s, the Tea Party embodied the same set of values that Reagan espoused: sound economic policy, lower taxes, smaller government and more individual freedom. And so he dubbed the group Reagan’s Regiments—a title coined by Reagan himself, who bequeathed it to his army of supporters in his 1989 farewell address.

The homage was hardly surprising. Ten years after his death, Ronald Reagan remains the closest thing the Republican Party has to a secular saint. As the GOP struggles to chart a course back to the White House, Reagan is its lodestar, one of the few leaders on whose greatness the party’s fractious factions can agree. That view is shared in the Tea Party movement, a constellation of grassroots organizations that tend to regard most elected Republicans as only marginally better than Democrats. When the movement began brewing in 2009, Reagan’s name, image and famous adages about the evils of big government became as ubiquitous at Tea Party rallies as tricorn hats and Gadsden flags.

“He was the Tea Party of his time,” Michael Reagan, one of the president’s sons, declared in 2010. “He would have been at the forefront of the Tea Party movement, urging it on and devoting every last ounce of his energy to its progress in restoring America.”

Perhaps, but if Reagan were to take the measure of the Tea Party in 2014, he might conceivably turn and flee. Conversely, the Tea Party’s continuing idolatry of Reagan is somewhat curious. At one time or another, the 40th president smashed nearly every commandment the conservative movement regards as sacred. A closer look at Reagan’s time in office would suggest that he is a less-than-ideal fit for a sometimes rigid political movement that is willing to allow the government to shut down when its demands aren’t met.

Consider Reagan’s record on what the Tea Party holds most dear. He proposed the largest tax hike by any governor in the history of the United States. As president, he raised taxes 11 times, never submitted a balanced-budget request, hiked the debt ceiling 18 times and bemoaned the congressional brinkmanship that “consistently brings the government to the edge of default before facing its responsibility.” Plus, the federal deficit nearly tripled.

The apostasies aren’t just fiscal. Reagan was a onetime union leader who extolled the virtues of collective bargaining. As governor of California, he championed environmental legislation and signed a bill making it easier to get an abortion. The only U.S. president to divorce, he incensed the Christian right by nominating a socially moderate judge, the future swing vote Sandra Day O’Connor, to serve on the Supreme Court. He cut sweeping deals with liberal legislators like Tip O’Neill, the Democratic speaker of the House. He signed a major overhaul of the U.S. immigration system that ultimately granted amnesty to some 3 million undocumented immigrants.

All these moves are anathema to the Tea Party movement. “There’s a kind of delusional quality in the Tea Party’s affinity for Reagan,” says Matthew Dallek, author of the 2000 book The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan’s First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics. “Certainly Reagan governed in a way that the Tea Party, to the extent they’re true to their beliefs, would probably find abhorrent.”

Even some Tea Party members who came of age under Reagan and consider him a great president are puzzled by the way he’s worshipped. “There’s an irony in the idolization of Reagan,” admits Ned Ryun, a conservative strategist and the president of American Majority, a group that trains Tea Party activists how to run for local office. “He would be considered today a very, very soft conservative—if not a moderate.”

That’s a far cry from Reagan’s reputation during his rise to power, when he was regarded by many as an archconservative ideologue. But the party has lurched rightward during Barack Obama’s presidency. Today, in a modern Republican nominating contest dominated by activists who prize purity and punish compromise, Reagan’s record might work against him. One marker of the GOP’s evolution came during a Republican presidential debate in 2011, when the eight candidates arrayed onstage were asked whether they would accept a deal of $10 in spending cuts for every dollar of tax increases. Each vowed to turn it down. The crowd erupted in applause.

So why does the Tea Party venerate Reagan, who violated so many of its values? Part of it, say Tea Party activists, was his matchless ability to market conservatism to the masses. He was an unabashed believer in the tenets of American exceptionalism, individual initiative and the free market—and enumerated their merits with the fervor of the converted. Nor, supporters say, would he back away from his beliefs. After Barry Goldwater’s drubbing in 1964, most political observers pronounced conservatism dead. Reagan built a coalition out of its ashes.

“That’s the kind of stuff that makes Reagan such an icon for the Tea Party movement,” says Jeff Reynolds, a Republican political consultant and chairman of the Portland-based Oregon Tea Party. “He talked passionately and eloquently about conservatism and the values that make America great. If you’re looking for somebody who espouses the conservative ideal and articulates why more government is a bad thing, there’s virtually nobody better.”

Reagan is admired for many qualities, one of which is simply that the public loves a winner, and he piled up plenty of impressive, and even historic, victories. In 1980 and 1984, he authored two electoral blowouts. He is also credited with winning the Cold War, the epic struggle of the second half of the 20th century, without firing a shot. At a moment of dwindling national morale, he toppled a seemingly ascendant communist threat.

“President Reagan understood that weakness is an invitation to war,” says Republican senator Ted Cruz. The Texan, part of a new generation of Tea Party icons, might find fault with some of Reagan’s domestic accomplishments, but he says he patterns his own foreign policy after the 40th president’s “peace through strength” credo. “The surest way to avoid war is to be strong enough to defend yourself,” Cruz says. “And by rebuilding our defense and speaking the truth, Reagan accomplished, in concert with Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, the most extraordinary victory for peace in centuries.”

During the early phases of his career, the Republican establishment derided Reagan as a dangerous extremist. A former actor from outside the party’s clubby confines, he was widely viewed as inexperienced. In 1976 he had the temerity to challenge a sitting president from his own party, running to the right of incumbent Gerald Ford. He lost, but in the process proved that the country had a taste for his flavor of conservatism. And there is no question that the Tea Party sees in Reagan’s career a narrative arc it would like to repeat. “Members of the Tea Party would love to see themselves as rebels who are reviled by the mainstream,” says Dallek, the historian, “but who herald the American future.”

Tea Partyers who take a textured view of Reagan’s shortcomings are willing to give him a pass. They note that his deficit spending came during the military buildup of the Cold War, and at a time when the national debt was smaller; that his tax hikes were offset by cuts; that compromise is a necessary part of divided government. “You don’t get everything you want as a president,” says Knittle, the founder of Reagan’s Regiments.

“His record is not as conservative as it could have been, and there are certainly issues on which we disagree,” says Reynolds. “But you always want to look at the big picture instead of nitpicking over issues. Reagan wasn’t afraid to be conservative on the stump. He didn’t moderate his views. He didn’t sell out his ideals. He found a way to express conservative principles in a way that won people over.”

And that includes members of the Tea Party, who have demonstrated that they hold those who refuse to sell out in the highest regard and will likely remain loyal to Reagan’s memory—at least until a more strident conservative ascends to the White House.

This essay originally appeared in Reagan: His Political Life and Lasting Legacy.

TIME 2014 Election

Primaries Pit Parties’ Old Guard Against New

Thad Cochran Primary Election
U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Mississippi, greets supporters at a pre-election day rally at the Mississippi Agriculture and Forestry Museum in Jackson, Miss., on June 2, 2014. Joe Ellis—AP

The headlines scream of surreptitious videos, nasty intramural spats and Silicon Valley influence peddlers. But among the eight states holding primary elections on Tuesday, the two marquee contests can be distilled to a simple choice: whether Republican and Democratic primary voters decide to jettison the old guard for a taste of the future.

In Mississippi’s Republican Senate primary, incumbent Thad Cochran’s seat is the Tea Party’s best remaining shot this year to topple an incumbent. A six-term incumbent with a patrician’s manner and a taste for pork-barrel spending, Cochran, 76, can seem like a relic of a different era. He has served Mississippi in the Senate since the Carter administration, and his skill at securing federal dollars for this cash-strapped state is borne out by the facilities across it that bear his name. He has said he doesn’t “really know a lot” about the Tea Party movement that has been shaking up the GOP for five years running now.

In normal times, Cochran’s earmarking prowess and Washington clout might have made him a model senator. This year it makes him big game for RINO-hunting groups across the GOP’s right wing. And if Cochran is an icon of the party’s past, his insurgent challenger is an emblem of the party’s new regime. Chris McDaniel, a 41-year-old state senator, disdains earmarks and has skirted some questions about whether he would have voted for a relief bill that ameliorated the damages of Hurricane Katrina. He presents himself as a pure conservative, and makes clear that he would eschew the federal dollars on which Cochran—the ranking member on the Senate appropriations committee—has partially staked his re-election. “I’m not going to do anything for you,” McDaniel told a local audience recently. “I’m going to get the government off your back, then I’m gonna let you do it for yourself.”

While the personalities and the politics are different, the juxtaposition between old and new is equally stark in Tuesday’s primary in California’s 17th Congressional District. Since 2001, the Bay Area region has been represented by Democrat Mike Honda. Like Cochran, Honda is a popular septuagenarian with support from his party’s traditional base. As such, he also became the target of a hostile takeover attempt from a group that may represent the party’s next generation.

The 17th district encompasses swaths of Silicon Valley, and tech titans like Sean Parker, Marissa Mayer and Sheryl Sandberg have plowed cash into the campaign account of a challenger they hope will better represent the industry’s interests. That candidate, 37-year-old Ro Khanna, has drafted some of the same bundlers and data whizzes who powered President Barack Obama to reelection. An Ivy league-educated intellectual property lawyer, Khanna is the kind of centrist technocrat that Silicon Valley—and the Democratic Party that increasingly relies on its largesse—has come to prize.

Honda has the edge in name recognition, the support of labor unions and a long record that resonates in the district. But if Khanna survives Tuesday’s “jungle” primary—in which the top two vote-getters regardless of party move to the general election—he could prove a disruptive political force come November.

TIME 2014 Election

These Are the Dirtiest Campaign Tricks of the 2014 Elections… So Far

The midterm elections are still six months away, but political operatives are already getting down in the muck with phony robocalls, misleading ads, and other sordid tactics

Campaigns are a business for high-minded people willing to do terrible things to promote the public good. The best political operatives are cheerful killers, happy to savage their foes for a few morsels of earned media. Candidates need a thick hide to survive the character assassination that comes with running for office; they know their words will be distorted, their pasts cracked open and rearranged in seamy packaging. This is how the game works, and it isn’t changing.

But every campaign season is marked by a few incidents that are beneath the standard recriminations, so deep in the muck they smell sulfurous. This year has been no different. Here are five of the sleaziest tricks of the 2014 cycle:

5) The taping of Mitch McConnell

As the Senate Republican leader geared up for re-election, a bumbling Democratic super PAC called Progress Kentucky tried to take him down. Activists with the group were accused last spring of surreptitiously taping a campaign strategy meeting from the hallway outside McConnell’s Louisville headquarters. The gambit backfired, leaving the group (which also attacked the ethnicity of McConnell’s Chinese-American wife) in legal trouble and allowing McConnell to play the victim while he was launching a relentlessly negative campaign of his own.

4) The war on Wehby

The knives came out for Monica Wehby after the little-known Oregon doctor seized a lead in the GOP Senate primary. First came reports that Wehby, a pediatric neurosurgeon, was linked to a child-abuse case involving a mother accused of harming her children by having them undergo allegedly unnecessary surgeries. Although Wehby performed some of those surgeries, she was not accused of any wrongdoing. Then came word this week that she was accused last year of “stalking” an ex-boyfriend, as well as reports of physical altercations between the doctor and her ex-husband. At least one of these skeletons was excavated by Oregon Democrats, who worry that a Wehby primary win on Tuesday could jeopardize the seat held by Senator Jeff Merkley.

3) A phony outing

At the 11th hour of a state house race in conservative Cobb County, Ga., a robocall went out this week, allegedly from a gay rights organization. The record touted a phony “endorsement” of one of the candidates, whom the message suggested was gay. The candidate told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he is heterosexual.

2) Shades of Willie Horton

In March, a Democratic primary for an Illinois House seat in Northwest Chicago got ugly. Voters in the district began receiving mailers alleging that Will Guzzardi, a candidate challenging an incumbent backed by the state’s Democratic machine, favored lax restrictions on sex offenders. The ad’s sordid racial overtones apparently didn’t sit well with the district’s voters; Guzzardi won the primary by under 2,000 votes.

IMG_1682

1) The nursing home break-in

Tea Party conservatives are waging a furious battle to unseat Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran in the state’s Republican primary. At least one of them crossed the line. On May 16, a Mississippi blogger named Clayton Kelly was arrested on suspicion of unlawfully entering a nursing home to photograph Cochran’s bedridden wife, who suffers from dementia. According to the allegations, Kelly then posted an anti-Cochran video featuring the image. Cochran’s camp has raised questions about whether the plot was connected to the campaign of Chris McDaniel, the senator’s opponent in the June 3 primary.

TIME 2014 Election

Big Money Powers Big Business in GOP Primaries

Incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson speaks at a televised debate for the upcoming Republican primary election at the studios of Idaho Public Television in Boise, Idaho May 11, 2014.
Incumbent Congressman Mike Simpson speaks at a televised debate for the upcoming Republican primary election at the studios of Idaho Public Television in Boise, Idaho May 11, 2014. Patrick Sweeney—Reuters

The Republican Establishment is winning primaries across the country by investing money in races while the Tea Party stays home

Some residents of eastern Idaho began finding unusual political leaflets in their mailboxes in recent weeks. They were pop-up books with three-dimensional flaps, printed on fancy paper stock. Paid for by the National Association of Realtors, the leaflets plugged Representative Mike Simpson, the eight-term incumbent in Idaho’s Second District, as the best choice in Tuesday’s Republican primary.

Simpson’s primary race in sleepy Idaho is one of this year’s premier proxy fights between the insurgent and Establishment factions fighting for control of the Republican Party. Simpson has the support of the GOP’s powerful business lobbies, while attorney Bryan Smith earned the endorsements and backing of national conservative groups like the Club for Growth. The glitzy mailers, part of the realtors’ $300,000 campaign to boost Simpson, were a symbol of why he appears set to prevail, just like many other Establishment candidates on Tuesday and throughout the 2014 primary cycle.

Money talks in elections. And the GOP’s grandees are spending lots of it. A massive fundraising push is the biggest factor in the early success of the Establishment’s primary campaign, which aims to prop up vulnerable incumbents and defeat volatile insurgents who might jeopardize the party’s chances in November.

The Idaho contest is a case in point. A pragmatic ally of House Speaker John Boehner, Simpson came into the crosshairs of Tea Party groups for his votes to bail out the banks and increase the debt limit. The Club, the Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) and a host of other Tea Party–aligned groups vowed to unseat Simpson, casting him as too liberal for the deep-red district. “In Idaho terms, it’s been a really heated race,” says Trevor Thorpe, executive director of the Idaho GOP.

But when it came time to back up the war cries with cash, the business lobbies followed through on their promises, while the Tea Party groups were mostly absent.

Simpson outraised Smith $1.9 million to $781,000, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. Outside groups backed Simpson by an even bigger margin, plowing $2.2 million into ads enumerating his merits. Defending Main Street Super PAC, a moderate Republican group dedicated to supporting more mainstream Republicans, spent nearly half a million dollars. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which outlined plans to secure Simpson’s nomination last fall, spent $725,000, held four events on the ground to tout Simpson and helped organize a robust coalition of business groups behind his candidacy. At least five other associations and business lobbies spent six figures to back Simpson, including the NRA. The incumbent also benefited from the endorsement of former presidential nominee Mitt Romney, an influential figure in a district with a high concentration of Mormons.

In contrast, the Club for Growth was the lone national conservative group to put major money behind Smith. The group’s PAC spent about $500,000 before pulling out of the race in late April. The decision was a tacit recognition that its money could be better spent in other contests, like the Nebraska Senate primary that its favored candidate, Ben Sasse, won last week. “We’re in a constant state of assessing and reassessing our races, moving resources in and out — depends on the day or week,” says Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club.

The same fundraising advantage is expected to power Establishment candidates to victory in several primaries around the country on Tuesday. In Kentucky, Republican Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is expected to coast to victory over conservative challenger Matt Bevin, thanks largely to his fundraising muscle. McConnell, the top Tea Party target this cycle, hauled in a jaw-dropping $21.7 million, dwarfing Bevin’s $3.7 million.

In Georgia’s Republican Senate primary, the GOP’s bundlers and business lobbies plowed money into the coffers of Establishment candidates, hoping to neutralize two Tea Party candidates whose record of inflammatory rhetoric gave Republican officials unpleasant flashbacks to Todd Akin’s 2012 musings on rape. Representative Jack Kingston, who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, led the pack by raising $5.6 million, while businessman David Perdue netted $4.6 million. The two self-described Tea Party Congressmen, Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun, raised $1.8 million and $1.6 million, respectively. Kingston, Perdue and former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel are the three leading contenders in a primary that is expected to yield a July runoff.

And in Oregon, physician Monica Wehby leads conservative state legislator Jason Conger in GOP primary polls, thanks in part to a fundraising advantage. Business-friendly Republicans believe Wehby, considered the more moderate of the two candidates, would ease the party’s deficit with female voters.

“We think we’re going to have a good one tomorrow night in Idaho, in Kentucky and in Oregon,” says Scott Reed, chief strategist for the Chamber of Commerce. One of the main reasons, Reed says, is that apart from the Club, most of the groups that raise money by touting themselves as Tea Party champions often pocket the cash instead of spending it on candidates. “Most of the other groups are frauds. They’re moneymaking schemes for a handful of consultants,” Reed says. “We’re at a point where it’s a fault line in the party. They’ve left a lot of guys on the field.”

The anemic Tea Party fundraising has exposed an unseemly truth: an endorsement often benefits the group that makes it more than the candidate receiving it. Heralding candidates as the next conservative savior helps Tea Party organizations rake in bundles of money, which they often reinvest in more fundraising appeals instead of winning elections. “A lot of these groups are raising money, but they’re not spending it on campaigns,” says a conservative Republican strategist who requested anonymity to avoid offending allies. “Sooner or later these outside groups have to decide whether or not they want the Club and SCF to carry the entire load in these races.”

Tea Party organizations argue that even when they lose elections, they are shaping the party’s future by forcing candidates to hew more closely to conservative doctrine. “We’ve already changed the narrative, and the Republican Party is running on the principle of limited government,” Matt Kibbe, CEO of the conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks, told the Associated Press.

Yet changing the narrative is easier when your candidates win. FreedomWorks threw its support behind Smith in Idaho’s Second District last September, slamming Simpson as an “insider” who’s been “on the wrong side of all the major fiscal issues.” But in the end, it put less than $32,000 behind the campaign to beat him.

TIME Military

Shinseki: VA Allegations Make Me ‘Mad As Hell’

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 15, 2014, before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to examine the state of Veterans Affairs health care.
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on May 15, 2014, before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing to examine the state of Veterans Affairs health care. Cliff Owen—AP

Eric Shinseki, the Veterans Administration chief and a retired four-star general, testified on Capitol Hill about the Veterans Administration's 'secret' wait-list mess, but said very little about accusations that lengthy wait times led to preventable deaths

Eric Shinseki, the embattled Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, pledged during a Senate hearing Thursday to investigate allegations that dozens of service members died while awaiting medical treatment in the U.S.

“Any allegation about any adverse incident like this makes me mad as hell. I could use stronger language here, Mr. Chairman, but in deference to the committee, I won’t,” Shinseki told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee in Washington.

Shinseki has been under mounting pressure in the wake of a report that at least 40 veterans had died while awaiting appointments at a VA hospital in Phoenix. The report, which alleged that local department officials maintained a secret list to hide lengthy wait times that led to preventable deaths, is part of a pattern of problems for the beleaguered agency, which serves more than 200,000 veterans each day.

Shinseki said little about the allegations, but promised to act “if any of these allegations are true, with regard to scheduling in Phoenix or elsewhere.”

The scandal has shaken the White House, where President Barack Obama has directed Shinseki, a retired Army general who has led the VA since 2009, to undertake a review of VA practices. Obama has also tapped top aide Rob Nabors to lead an Administration probe into the allegations of misconduct within the department. “While we get to the bottom of what happened in Phoenix, it’s clear the VA needs to do more to ensure quality care for our veterans,” Obama said in a statement.

Democrats and Republicans alike battered Shinseki for the department’s struggles on his watch. “Clearly this problem has gone on for far too long,” said Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington. “It is unfortunate that these leadership failures have dramatically shaken many veterans’ confidence in the system. Secretary Shinseki, I continue to believe that you take this seriously and want to do the right thing. But we have come to the point where we need more than good intentions.”

As Congressional Republicans demand Shinseki’s resignation, some senators cautioned angry observers to wait for the results of the investigation. “What happened in Phoenix?” said Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont who chairs the Senate panel overseeing the VA. “Well, the truth is we don’t know. But we are going to find out.”

TIME 2014 Election

Nebraska Senate Race Bridges Republican Divide

Nebraska Election Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn, Sid Dinsdale
This combo picture contains photos of Nebraska Senate candidates in the May 13, 2014 primary election. From left: Ben Sasse, Shane Osborn, Sid Dinsdale. Nati Harnik—AP

Both the frontrunners may fall in Nebraska, one of 2014's most competitive GOP primaries

The most interesting Republican primary of 2014 culminates Tuesday night in tiny Nebraska, where three candidates have a shot at winning a race that upends every tidy narrative about the party’s divisions.

Until recently, the contest to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Mike Johanns seemed like a two-man race between Ben Sasse and Shane Osborn. Sasse was cast as the Tea Party candidate after winning endorsements from a raft of national conservative groups and major elected officials. Osborn, a former Navy pilot and state treasurer, has support from influential party figures linked to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. As a result, the race has often been framed as a battle between the party’s Tea Party and establishment factions.

The reality is more complicated.

Tea Party groups are desperate for a Sasse victory. The movement’s chosen candidates are struggling to gain traction in a spate of high-profile races this year, and the youthful president of Nebraska’s Midland University might be the best chance for national groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund to score a win. But this is not your typical proxy fight between the GOP’s grassroots and grandees.

Some Nebraska conservatives actually prefer Osborn. Many of the same establishment strategists vying to squash Tea Party candidates elsewhere love Sasse. And while Sasse has worn the Tea Party mantle and cut soft ads emphasizing his Nebraska roots, his resume includes a stint in the Bush Administration and posts at Yale, Oxford and McKinsey. The national support for Sasse’s candidacy actually seems to have made Nebraskans suspicious. “That does rile a few people,” Faron Hines, an activist with the York County Tea Party, told TIME recently, after the conservative group FreedomWorks revoked its endorsement for Osborn and gave it to Sasse. “Who is he going to represent when he gets to Washington?”

Enter Sid Dinsdale. The snowy-haired president of a local bank has lagged behind Sasse and Osborn for months. But as the frontrunners trained their fire on each other, Dinsdale quietly consolidated support. Polls suggest a late surge. National groups like the Club for Growth were concerned enough to go up on air with ads blasting Dinsdale, suggesting that Sasse—one of the few candidates this year who bridges the party’s internal divides—could lose.

For proof that such an upset is possible, one need only look to the state’s junior Republican senator. In 2012, Deb Fischer pulled off an upset victory in a crowded Republican primary, coming from behind in the race’s final weeks in a race against two well-funded statewide officials. As the better-known frontrunners battered one another, Fischer slipped between them and sprinted to victory.

Dinsdale has tried to replicate that path. While he may lack Fischer’s folksy appeal to the state’s conservative base, he was able to pump $1 million of his own fortune into the race, enough to fund plenty of TV ads in a state with cheap media markets and less than two million people. The banker also drew a coveted endorsement from the Omaha World-Herald. “As Nebraska as they come,” the paper declared, in a pointed jab at the out-of-state money and muscle marshaled by his opponents.

All these swirling factors portend an exciting finish for one of the year’s best primary contests.

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