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.

TIME 2014 Election

GOP Establishment Faces First 2014 Primary Tests

Thom Tillis
Republican senatorial candidate Thom Tillis speaks during a live televised debate at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle Park, N.C., Monday, April 28, 2014. AP

Republican voters head to the polls in North Carolina and Ohio on Tuesday for the first major 2014 contests pitting the GOP's business-friendly moderates against its Tea Party faction, which one political strategist described as a party marked by "all talk and very little action"

Seven months after the government shutdown deepened divisions within the Republican Party, GOP voters head to the polls Tuesday for the first major 2014 contests between the party’s feuding factions.

The marquee matchup is in North Carolina, where state house speaker Thom Tillis needs to nab 40% of the GOP primary vote to avoid a painful and prolonged runoff for the party’s Senate nomination. Tillis is hovering around that threshold, according to a survey published Monday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling. If he fails to garner 40%, the top two candidates will go to a runoff in July.

That would be a boon for Democrats’ hopes of holding the Senate. The incumbent Senator, North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan, is considered to be among the most vulnerable this cycle, and an additional three months of internecine warfare would hamper the eventual GOP nominee.

But the race isn’t just an opening skirmish in the battle for the Senate. It’s also an early test for mainstream Republican grandees, who decided last fall to mount an unprecedented effort to defend vulnerable Republican incumbents and defeat shaky right-wing candidates who could jeopardize their chances of retaking the upper chamber in November.

Tillis, who is facing a Tea Party-backed libertarian and a Baptist pastor in Tuesday’s primary, has been buoyed by a tide of television ads run by establishment groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Karl Rove-founded super PAC American Crossroads. The Chamber and other Republican-leaning business groups have also spent heavily to defend Ohio GOP Rep. David Joyce, who faces a primary challenge Tuesday from a conservative state legislator in his northeast Ohio district.

These two races are the first of many 2014 contests that pit the GOP’s business-friendly moderates against a Tea Party faction that has alternately empowered and infuriated party elders since rising to prominence in 2010. Over the next month, primary voters across about 20 states are set to cast ballots that may help determine which wing of the party will prevail.

Among the most competitive races are the May 20 primary in Idaho’s Second Congressional District, where Republican Mike Simpson is facing a tough test from attorney Bryan Smith, and the June 3 GOP Senate primary in Mississippi, which sets six-term incumbent Thad Cochran against state senator Chris McDaniel. In both races, the incumbents have benefited from expensive ad campaigns by the Chamber of Commerce, while the challengers are getting big boosts from national conservative groups such as the Club for Growth and the Senate Conservatives Fund.

But apart from select races such as these, Tea Party outfits have struggled in their quest to unseat the cycle’s most vulnerable incumbents in some of the nation’s most conservative states.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell appears to be coasting toward victory in his primary fight against conservative challenger Matt Bevin. McConnell’s top lieutenant, Sen. John Cornyn, sailed to victory in Texas, and Tennessee’s Sen. Lamar Alexander looks set to do the same. Support for the Senate’s immigration bill hasn’t eaten into Sen. Lindsey Graham’s yawning lead in South Carolina. Revelations about Sen. Pat Roberts’ tenuous claims to residency in Kansas don’t seem to have ruined his quest for a fourth term. And in Georgia, two arch-conservative Tea Partiers are lagging behind the rest of the pack in a messy five-way Senate primary.

“They’ve run weaker candidates,” Scott Reed, chief political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, says of the Tea Party groups. “They’ve been all talk and very little action.” If the GOP Establishment wins the first wave of primaries Tuesday, it will be a sign that the GOP’s grandees are the favorites in the Republican civil war of 2014.

TIME States

The Nevada Ranch Rebellion Takes a Racist Turn

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014.
Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

Cliven Bundy became an overnight icon for his refusal to pay the government to graze his cattle herd on public land in Nevada, but that stance lauded by some conservative media is becoming overshadowed by his recent pro-slavery comments

It doesn’t take much to mint an icon in this political climate. Cliven Bundy became one nearly overnight. The story of Bundy’s battle against federal bureaucrats fit neatly into a resonant narrative: the defiant land-owner taking a stand against government overreach.

As word of Bundy’s refusal to pay the federal government to graze his herd on public land spread, more than 1,000 armed sympathizers descended on his Nevada ranch in the desert outside of Las Vegas. When the U.S. Bureau of Land Management abandoned its effort to seize Bundy’s cattle, the rancher, 68, was celebrated as a hero in certain right-wing circles. Supporters compared the Battle of Bunkerville, Nev., to the American Revolution; there was even a hashtag, #AmericanSpring. With his ten-gallon hat and gruff rhetoric, Bundy was an irresistible symbol of a certain frontier ideal.

The reality was much different. Bundy’s herd of cattle has been illegally grazing on federal land for more than 20 years. He owes the government more than $1 million, which he refuses to pay because, he says, he does not recognize federal authority to collect it. While some conservative media outlets rushed to canonize Bundy, the vast majority of elected Republicans steered clear of the standoff, perhaps because the facts suggested Bundy was less a patriot than a deadbeat.

Or worse. Speaking to supporters on Saturday, Bundy digressed into a discussion of race. “I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy said, according to Adam Nagourney of the New York Times:

Mr. Bundy recalled driving past a public-housing project in North Las Vegas, “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do. They didn’t have nothing for their kids to do. They didn’t have nothing for their young girls to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do?” he asked. “They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom. They got less freedom.”

These remarks will surely dim Bundy’s spotlight. The few national politicians who flocked to his cause have already denounced the remarks. Nevada Senator Dean Heller, who had praised Bundy’s supporters as “patriots,” released a statement Thursday morning calling his views on race “appalling.” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who said Bundy’s case raised a “legitimate constitutional question” about federal authority, called his remarks offensive. “I wholeheartedly disagree with him,” Paul said.

Conservative media and political outfits which had promoted Bundy’s cause fell silent. Fox News ignored the remarks, though journalist Greta Van Susteren, who has featured the story, released a statement condemning Bundy’s remarks. Americans for Prosperity’s Nevada branch, which also latched onto the ranch rebellion, condemned Bundy’s comments in a statement to TIME. “I think most people would agree that spending over a million dollars to chase ‘trespass cattle’ in the Nevada desert is a poor use of tax dollars,” says spokesman Zachary Moyle. “It’s important to note that our opposition to wasteful government spending in no way lends support to offensive remarks made by Mr. Bundy or anyone else.”

Calls to Bundy’s ranch and to a mobile phone belonging to his family went unanswered Thursday. Craig Leff, a spokesman for the BLM, told TIME the agency will “continue to pursue this matter administratively and judicially.” The Battle of Bunkerville is over. Now the backlash has begun.

This story was updated at 5:35 p.m. on April 24 to include comments from Americans for Prosperity

TIME Immigration

Immigration Activists Try to Ramp up Pressure on Obama Again

U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks from the Brady Press Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2014.
President Barack Obama delivers remarks from the Brady Press Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on April 17, 2014. Jim Watson—AFP/Getty Images

With 10 months passed since the Senate passed comprehensive immigration reform, with the House unlikely to follow before midterm elections, activists are calling on President Obama to exercise executive authority on deportations

For months now, the pattern has been the same. Immigration activists, frustrated with inaction, latch onto some small glimmer of hope: a new campaign to pressure the powerful, or an approving remark by someone who can break the legislative stalemate. Each time the prospect of progress fades as quickly as it appeared.

In the 10 months since the Senate passed a comprehensive reform of U.S. immigration law, it has become abundantly clear that the GOP-controlled House won’t follow suit before November’s midterm elections. A report last week that House Speaker John Boehner was “hellbent” on passing an immigration overhaul in 2014 was swiftly shot down by his spokesman. “Nothing has changed,” said the spokesman, Brendan Buck.

With reform stalled in the House, immigration reformers have once again ratcheted up pressure on President Barack Obama. They hope to convince Obama to take executive action to slow the tide of deportations.

A memo released Monday by the AFL-CIO outlines the steps it believes the Obama Administration can take to ease the impact of immigration enforcement on immigrant families. The memo comes as Jeh Johnson, Obama’s new secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, conducts a review of the Administration’s enforcement policies. The document calls for DHS to take four concrete steps: granting work permits to certain undocumented immigrants; reclaiming federal authority over enforcement policy from the states; reforming the removal process; and protecting undocumented workers who file workplace grievances. (Read the full memo here.)

Obama has repeatedly resisted calls for him to use executive authority. He says he lacks the discretion to make the changes activists have sought—an argument that many top Democrats reject. “The only way to truly fix it is through congressional action. We have already tried to take as many administrative steps as we could,” Obama said in a news conference last week.

But with House Republicans refusing to budge, proponents of reform on both sides of the aisle have warned that Obama will act if Congress won’t. Exercising executive authority to ease deportations, the top concern of Hispanic groups, could help mend fraying ties with Latino voters and nudge them toward the polls before November elections that look grim for Democrats. Obama has made a similar move in the past: In the summer of 2012, with his reelection hanging in the balance, Obama signed an order that granted relief from deportations for certain young adults who had been brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

“I’m convinced that if we don’t get it done by the August break, the president, who is feeling a lot of pressure from having not done anything on immigration reform, will feel that he has to act through executive action,” Florida Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart told the Washington Post last week.

Obama is staying coy about his intentions. “We’re going to review it one more time,” Obama said last week of the DHS review, “to see if there’s more that we can do to make it more consistent with common sense and more consistent with I think the attitudes of the American people, which is we shouldn’t be in the business necessarily of tearing families apart who otherwise are law-abiding.”

For activists still searching for signs of hope, the answer seemed to contain a warning to Republicans: Help fix the broken immigration system, or the President will do it without you.

TIME 2016 Election

Inside Ben Carson’s Conservative Marketing Machine

Dr. Ben Carson, professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting in National Harbor, Md., on March 8, 2014.
Dr. Ben Carson, professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting in National Harbor, Md., on March 8, 2014. Susan Walsh—AP

The group encouraging a retired surgeon to run for president is raking in cash

A little-known group devoted to drafting a retired doctor into the 2016 presidential race is raking in millions.

The National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee raised $2.4 million over the past three months, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission, outpacing far more prominent rivals. Carson, a 62-year-old retired neurosurgeon and political commentator, has never run for elected office. And there are few signs the fundraising boomlet has changed his mind. Running for office “has never been something that I have a desire to do,” Carson told TIME last month. The draft committee has no affiliation with the prospective candidate himself.

So how is a political neophyte with little campaign infrastructure, scant interest in the presidency and no real chance of winning helping raise all that cash?

As Michael Scherer and I explained in a feature story last month, Carson’s acolytes have tapped into the lucrative world of conservative direct marketing. His money-making machine has followed a well-honed formula: renting and expanding email lists, beseeching supporters for cash through email and the postal service, and then reinvesting big chunks of the proceeds in ever more appeals to activists. Once it cranks into gear, the machine is tough to stop. And its methods can be successful whether or not the cause is viable.

The hub of Carson’s fundraising drive is in an office park in northern Virginia, where the direct-mail wizard Bruce Eberle oversees a constellation of companies that raise money for clients. Eberle, an old lion of the conservative marketing world, has had decades of success connecting GOP activists and causes. It has sent more than two million pieces of mail on behalf of Carson, Tammy Cali, the president of Eberle Associates, told TIME last month. The response has exceeded anybody’s expectations.

Some conservatives have qualms about these tactics, noting they siphon cash and energy from activists’ limited supply. But there is no question that direct mail is working wonders for Carson’s political profile. Part of that is due to the appeal of the surgeon from Baltimore, who became famous for pioneering a method to successfully separate the heads of conjoined twins—and whose bootstrap tale and searing rhetoric delights conservatives. The Draft Carson committee likes to tell supporters that the African-American doctor is the only prospective GOP candidate who can win enough black votes to retake the White House.

But a large part of the success is due to the Eberle machine, which is filling its own coffers as it touts Carson’s chances. And the push to draft the doctor will only intensify. By the end of 2014, the Draft Carson committee expects to raise up to $8 million from 150,000 donors, director Vernon Robinson told TIME last month.

You can read the full story on Carson’s conservative fundraising machine works here.

TIME 2014 Election

Romney Plugs Establishment Candidate in Key GOP Primary

The former GOP presidential nominee touts Rep. Mike Simpson in a hotly contested Idaho primary

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has launched an unprecedented effort to defend vulnerable pro-business incumbents in Republican primaries this year, is enlisting a big gun to boost its favored candidate in Idaho.

In a new Chamber ad, former presidential nominee Mitt Romney touts his support of Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, an establishment Republican facing a difficult May 20 primary.

Romney endorsed Simpson last year, but this is his first foray into television ads in the 2014 cycle. “You can take it from me,” Romney says in the spot. “The conservative choice for Congress is Mike Simpson.” While the former Massachusetts governor wouldn’t normally be the ideal arbiter of conservatism is a red-state primary, Romney has special cachet in the eastern Idaho district, which has a high concentration of Mormons.

This is the third ad the Chamber has cut on behalf of Simpson. The incumbent is trying to fend off a challenge from Bryan Smith, an attorney who boasts the backing of the antitax Club for Growth. The Club is also spending heavily in the race—earlier this week, it released an ad of its own, slamming Simpson for backing the Wall Street bailout.

The district has long been viewed as ground zero for the national battle playing out between big business and the Tea Party in this year’s GOP primaries.

TIME States

The Armed Rebellion on a Nevada Cattle Ranch Could Be Just the Start

Protesters gathered at the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle that were seized from rancher Cliven Bundy was being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014.
Protesters gathered at the Bureau of Land Management's base camp, where cattle seized from rancher Cliven Bundy was being held, near Bunkerville, Nevada, April 12, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

The Feds may have set a troubling precedent by allowing a Nevada rancher and his band of armed followers to win a standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The rancher refused to pay more than $1 million in fines for letting his cows graze on government land

It could have been a catastrophe. For several days last week, hundreds of angry protesters faced off with federal workers on an arid ranch near Bunkerville, Nev. Militiamen squatted among the sagebrush and crouched on a highway overpass, cradling guns and issuing barely veiled threats at the government officials massed behind makeshift barricades. The specter of a violent standoff hung over the high desert.

The hair-trigger tension seemed at odds with the arcane origins of the dispute. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided to clear privately owned cattle off this patch of public land to protect the endangered Mojave Desert tortoise. Dozens of ranchers left. Cliven Bundy stayed.

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014.
Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

Bundy, 68, has refused to recognize federal authority over the land, or to pay the feds for allowing his cattle to graze there. Those accumulated fees and fines now total more than $1 million, according to the government. Armed with fresh court orders, the government moved last week to impound a few hundred of the rancher’s cows.

Bundy balked, and the far right-wing media sounded a clarion call for his cause, casting the standoff as a flashpoint in a broader struggle against federal oppression. A cavalry of patriots arrived, bearing weapons and a seemingly bottomless grudge against the government.

On April 12, BLM retreated, abandoning the round-up amid “serious concerns” over the safety of federal employees. The cattle “gather is over,” BLM spokesman Craig Leff says. No shots were fired; no blood was spilled. Bundy declared victory in the Battle of Bunkerville. His supporters festooned a nearby bridge with a hand-lettered sign reading: “The West Has Now Been Won!”

For the government, it is not yet clear what was lost. The decision to de-escalate the situation was a wise one, according to officials familiar with the perils posed by such confrontation. “There was no need to have a Ruby Ridge,” says Patrick Shea, a Utah lawyer and former national director of BLM, invoking the bloody 1992 siege at a remote Idaho cabin, which became a rallying cry for the far right. Shea praises BLM’s new director, Neil Kornze, for defusing the conflict and skirting the specter of violence. There are plenty of ways for the government to recoup the money Bundy owes, Shea says, from placing liens on his property to collecting proceeds when the cattle go to slaughter. When you have been waiting a generation to resolve a dispute, what’s another few weeks?

But prudence may also set a dangerous precedent. Having backed down from one recalcitrant rancher, what does BLM do the next time another refuses to abide by the law? “After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million,” Kornze said in a statement. “The bureau will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.” A BLM spokesman would not say what those remedies might be, and declined to make officials available to explain how the agency may treat similar situations in the future.

The government’s legal case against Bundy is strong. It has been winning courtroom battles against the rancher since 1998, and over the past two years has obtained court orders requiring Bundy to remove his cattle from public lands. This month’s roundup was a long-threatened last resort, and Bundy’s success in spurning it could spark copycat rebellions.

“I’m very concerned about that, as I’m sure others are,” says Bob Abbey, a former BLM director and state director for Nevada. Nearly all ranchers whose animals graze on public land are in compliance with federal statutes, Abbey says. But “there always is a chance that someone else may look at what happened with Mr. Bundy and decided to take a similar route.”

Especially since Bundy has become something of a folk hero for people who resent federal control of the old American frontier. The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of land, including about 60% of the territory across a swath of 12 Western states. About 85% of the land in Nevada is managed by the feds.

Bundy, whose ancestors have inhabited the disputed land since the 19th century, rejects this arrangement. The rancher, whose family did not respond to multiple interview requests from TIME, says he does not recognize federal authority over Nevada’s public land. “I abide by all state laws,” he said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But I abide by almost zero federal laws.” He has warned that the impoundment of his cattle would spark a “range war,” and said in a court deposition that he would attempt to block a federal incursion, using “whatever it takes.”

Likeminded libertarians in the West have resurrected the spirit of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a 1970s-era movement to transfer control of federal lands to the states. Demar Dahl, an Elko County, Nev., commissioner and longtime friend of Bundy, says the rancher is willing to pay the back fees he owes (though both dispute the amount) to the county or to the state, but not the federal government. “He says the federal government doesn’t have the authority to collect the fees,” Dahl says. “You can call him bullheaded. He’s a strong and moral person. He decides what needs to be done and how, and where he stands.”

To Bundy’s supporters, the legal proceedings are nothing but a land grab. And some of them believe government invoked the protection of the desert tortoise as a pretext. This line of thinking holds that Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader whose former aide, Kornze, now runs the BLM, wants to requisition the land so that his son and Chinese investors can build a lucrative solar farm. At the same time, the left sees in the resistance the ubiquitous hand of the Koch brothers, whose main political outfit, Americans for Prosperity, has rallied support for Bundy.

While the protesters have mostly dispersed, the standoff “isn’t over,” Reid declared Monday. And local officials know just how close they crept to a cataclysmic incident. “That was as close to a catastrophe as I think we’re ever going to see happen,” Dahl says.

The high drama seemed to stoke a sense of theatrics in the protesters. At a press conference on April 14, they invoked battles against the British and shouted quotes from the Scottish revolutionary William Wallace, memorialized in the Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart. The men who rode to Bundy’s defense got to play the hero in the movies of their minds; the threat is that the next climax doesn’t have a peaceful ending.

Bundy “would probably rather be a martyr than a profitable rancher,” says Shea, the former BLM director. “Eventually, you have to draw the line. We go through these sad episodes where fanaticism has to be brought under legal control. And inevitably, somebody is killed.”

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