TIME

The Incredible Rise in Campaign Spending

The cost of running for Congress has increased more than 500 percent since 1984. Here's an interactive look at how campaign expenditures have outrun inflation, health care, and even the rising cost of college

The NBC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa, added an hour to its nightly newscast this year to profit from all the political ads ahead of the Nov. 4 midterm elections, but demand was still too great. “There is only so much inventory I have,” explains WHO-TV station manager Dale Woods. It is the same in tight races all across the country. Nearly bottomless campaign and super-PAC bank accounts have been unloaded on airtime, mailings and get-out-the-vote efforts. And in recent years, the spending growth has accelerated.

Since the mid-1980s, the amount dumped on elections by campaigns and outside groups, as measured by the Federal Election Commission, has grown 555 percent—faster than even the alarming increases in the costs of health care and private college tuition. The reasons, say political scientists, include growth in the national economy, the razor-thin margin determining congressional control and changes to campaign-finance rules. Expect the trend to continue. Senate races in North Carolina and Kentucky this year could cost more than $100 million, and the estimated spending on TV ads in Alaska and Iowa already tops $11 per eligible voter.

Methodology

Sources for interactive: Federal Election Commission summary files; Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; U.S. Census Bureau; St. Louis Fed; National Center for Education Statistics. Outside spending data for the years 2006-2012, which are missing from FEC summary reports, are courtesy of the Center for Responsive Politics.

The total value of an election is calculated in two parts: Campaign spending and outside spending. Campaign spending consists of all expenditures except authorized transfers of funds to other committees, as well as party-coordinated spending, and includes primary elections. Outside Spending encompasses third-party expenditures that are made without the knowledge or consent of the candidates, but only includes transactions that are explicitly used to advocate for or against a candidate.

TIME 2014 Election

On the Road with Rand Paul

Can he fix what ails the GOP?

The tattooed and pierced longhairs never showed up to see Senator Rand Paul speak with students at the University of South Carolina in Columbia last month. Those in attendance drew instead from the preppy set, with brushed bangs, blue blazers and proper hemlines, some wearing sunglasses on neck straps like jock jewelry. They mostly hailed from college Republican circles, and the room where they gathered, a wood-stained memorial to the state’s old power structure, was named for the politician who led the fight to protect school segregation in the 1960s.

You could call them activists, even rebels in their way. But this was not a gathering of losers and outcasts. Paul knew this. And that was the whole point…

Read the full story here.

TIME 2016 Election

Rand Paul Visits Ferguson Ahead of Fresh Protests

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) while speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speaks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, Sept. 26, 2014. Doug Mills—The New York Times/Redux

Paul is the first potential 2016 contender to visit the city

Sen. Rand Paul met with civil rights leaders Friday in Ferguson, Missouri, the city torn apart by racial unrest following the August shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer. During his visit, the Republican Senator, who is seen as a likely presidential candidate, stated his concerns about long prison sentences for nonviolent crimes, the loss of voting rights for felons and military programs to give unused equipment to local police departments.

“I wanted to find out what we could do to make the situation better,” Paul said of his visit Friday.

“Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them,” Paul wrote in an opinion piece for TIME this summer.

The meeting came just days after another young black man was shot by police in nearby St. Louis, after allegedly firing a stolen handgun at an officer. And it came on the eve of a weekend series of protests organized to keep national attention on the state’s issues.

Paul joined the leaders in the conference room of a real estate office across the street from an art installation Friday, where residents had tied ribbons to a metal fence with messages commemorating the protests that began in August after the shooting of 18-year-old African-American student Michael Brown. Paul arrived in town Thursday for a round table discussion at the Show Me Institute, a conservative think tank in St. Louis. That event, like the discussion with local and civil rights leaders in Ferguson, was not open to the press.

Friday’s discussion was free-ranging, less a speech than a question and answer session. People at the event said that they remained concerned about the GOP’s opposition to federal funding for job training and education and other social programs. Paul said that he would support increases in federal spending for job training in urban communities that could be paid for with cuts to the costs of incarceration. “I think there would be money for job training if you greatly lessened criminal sentencing,” he said.

“They are also frustrated that things aren’t happening fast enough,” Paul said after the meeting, which was organized by the NAACP.

Paul’s trip to Ferguson—the first by a 2016 candidate—is a reminder of how his position on criminal justice reform can make a Republican more palatable to the African-American community. As riots turned violent in Ferguson, Paul distinguished himself among Republicans by striking a more forceful tone in addressing the root of the protesters’ anger and putting forth potential solutions.

“He is stumping like he should be trying to stump if he wants to run for President,” said John Gaskin II, who participated in Friday’s event.

The fatal police shooting of Brown on August 9 revealed a deeper crisis of trust between the authorities and Ferguson community and sparked a discussion about race relations in America. While the armored trucks are gone and the air free from tear gas, this weekend demonstrators are expected to continue calling for the arrest of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who has remained free but silent since killing Brown.

TIME 2016 Election

A Study in Contrasts for Rand Paul and Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator Cruz delivers remarks at Values Voter Summit in Washington
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers his remarks at the morning plenary session of the Values Voter Summit in Washington on Sept. 26, 2014. Gary Cameron—Reuters

Two potential presidential candidates come to a conservative Christian cattle call

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, two Tea Party senators in the hunt for the White House, find themselves in a nearly identical position these days. Both sons of celebrated conservative leaders, they regularly speak at the same events, criticize the same Democratic President with a similar message of back-to-basics constitutionalism, and poll nationally at about 10% among Republicans in the way-too-early 2016 polls.

But on Friday, as conservative Christians gathered in Washington for the Values Voter Summit, their differences were far more apparent than their similarities. Paul stood behind the podium in blue jeans, quoting the Founding Fathers and modern authors off a teleprompter, ever the iconoclastic intellect. Cruz roamed the stage in a boxy suit, preaching a passage from Psalms again and again in a call for spiritual rebirth.

Both cast the political crisis now facing the country as a crises of the spirit, but from there they began to diverge. While they both boasted of anti-abortion credentials, only Cruz raised the issues of gay marriage and Iran, building his nearly hour-long address around Psalm 30:5, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” The night, he said, was the current rule of a Harry Reid in the Senate and Barack Obama in the White House, and dawn would come in two stages, in this year’s midterm elections and in 2016, with twin Democratic defeats.

“How do we turn this country around? We offer a choice not an echo,” Cruz said, offering himself as a sort of condensed Republican, without the fluff of the others. “We defend the values that are American values. We stand for life. We stand for marriage. We stand for Israel.”

Paul was introduced to the stage with a different sort of branding. “He is on the edge, he has an edge and it gives him and edge,” went the sales pitch, and he did his best to cast himself as a non-conformist over the course of about 17 minutes. At multiple points, he noted that both political parties had failed to adhere to the proper path, which he described as faith in God and close adherence to the Constitution. “What America needs is not just another politician or promises,” he said. “What America really needs is a revival.”

It was a neat recasting of the revolution metaphor that has accompanied his—and his father Ron Paul’s—rapid political rises over the last decade. Unlike Cruz, who limited his foreign policy criticism to the President and the lack of effort to make Christian persecution a priority in diplomatic relations, Paul called for a shift in the way the nation approaches intervention, arguing that even detestable secular dictatorships in the Middle Sast were preferable to the chaos following their toppling. “It’s time to put a stop to this madness,” Paul said, “And take a good heard look at what our foreign policy has done.”

Paul has generally been more supportive than Cruz of efforts to negotiate a resolution to the nuclear stand-off with Iran, and chose not to raise the issue specifically before the Christian, Zionist audience. Cruz, by contrast, joked of U.S. diplomats “swilling chardonnay in New York City” with their Iranian counterparts.

Cruz spoke at length about his pastor father, Rafael, his journey to the United States from Cuba and his Christian faith. Paul made no mention of his father, who won delegates for both the 2008 and 2012 Republican National conventions.

Judging from the noise of the applause, at the Omni Shoreham ballroom, Cruz’s presentation was received with somewhat more enthusiasm, though both were rewarded at the end with standing ovations. But the two men had come to the room with different missions. For a Cruz campaign, Christian conservative support will have to be core pillar of support. For Paul, the focus in on assuaging Christian conservative doubts as he focuses on building out new parts of the electorate from more libertarian leaning Americans.

“Where the spirit of the lord is there is liberty,” Paul said in conclusion, quoting from Corinthians 3:17. Then he said the opposite was also true. “Where there is liberty, there is always space for God.”

The message: The conservative Christian community, long an anchor of the Republican Party, has nothing to fear from the new edgy candidate in their midst.

TIME justice

Eric Holder Will Leave a Legacy of Civil Rights Activism

Barack Obama, Eric Holder
President Barack Obama, accompanied by Attorney General Eric Holder, speaks in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014, to announce Holder is resigning. Evan Vucci—AP

Holder used the bully pulpit to highlight racial injustices he saw around him

Attorney General Eric Holder showed in his second week in office that he planned to approach the job of top law enforcement officer differently.

“In things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” he said, in prepared remarks to Justice Department staff on Feb. 18, 2009. “Through its work and through its example this Department of Justice, as long as I am here, must—and will—lead the nation to the ‘new birth of freedom’ so long ago promised by our greatest President.”

The remarks earned a backlash from the West Wing staff around President Barack Obama, but Holder’s attitude never changed, nor did his determination to use his office to highlight the injustices that continued to exist under his tenure. “We’ve got to have the guts to say that these are issues that need to be fixed,” he told a group of black journalists during a meeting at the White House last year.

As news broke Thursday of Holder’s decision to retire after almost six years in the job as the first black leader of the Justice Department, civil rights activists were quick to praise him. “No attorney general has demonstrated a civil rights record that is similar to Eric Holder’s,” Al Sharpton, the head of the National Action Network, told reporters in Washington.

“Attorney General Holder never shied away from the issues that greatly affect us all,” Myrlie Evers-Williams, the widow of slain activist Medgar Evers, said in a statement.

Through his tenure, Holder often referred to the portrait of his predecessor Robert F. Kennedy, which hangs in his office, as a guiding light for him. Like Kennedy’s efforts to address civil rights issues in the 1960s, Holder’s department made criminal justice reform a priority, and has worked aggressively to continue to challenge limits on voting rights after the Supreme Court overturned parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Holder has also launched a number of high profile investigations of the conduct of local police departments in about 20 cities, often obtaining consent agreements that change police conduct.

In a major address to the American Bar Association in August of 2013, Holder did not just lay out a set of reforms to reduce prison terms and improve rehabilitation efforts, but he also challenged the country for what he saw as moral failures. “One deeply troubling report… indicates that in recent years black male offenders have received sentences nearly 20 percent longer than those imposed on white males convicted of similar crimes,” he said. “This isn’t just unacceptable—it is shameful. It’s unworthy of our great country, and our great legal tradition.”

Before speaking those words, he had given a draft of his remarks to Obama during a vacation on Martha’s Vineyard. In an interview with TIME earlier this year, Holder recalled Obama’s reaction. “It’s a gutsy speech,” the President told him, encouraging him to deliver the speech.

Holder also spoke multiple times about the discrimination he believed he had experienced as a black man. “I am the attorney general of the United States, but I am also a black man,” he said during a visit to a community meeting in Ferguson, Mo., this year, where he recounted his anger at being stopped by police while running down the street in Washington, D.C., and while driving on the New Jersey turnpike. “I remember how humiliating that was and how angry I was and the impact it had on me.”

Like many other efforts, he spoke these words not just as a cabinet secretary but as a social activist, urging the country to be better. “The same kid who got stopped on the New Jersey freeway is now the Attorney General of the United States,” he said in Ferguson. “This country is capable of change. But change doesn’t happen by itself.”

TIME Supreme Court

Justice Ginsburg Suggests Senate Republicans Are Keeping Her At Her Job

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes remarks during a forum at the Newseum to mark the 30th anniversary of the first female Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's first term on the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, April 11, 2012.
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes remarks during a forum at the Newseum to mark the 30th anniversary of the first female Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's first term on the Supreme Court in Washington, DC, April 11, 2012. Mike Theiler—REUTERS

A revealing interview to a women's magazine shows how politics is impacting the court

Correction appended Wednesday, 9/24

The dysfunctions and passions of modern partisan politics is not supposed to influence the behavior of the nation’s highest court, but for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the circus taking place across U.S. Capitol Plaza seems to be having an impact.

This week, Elle magazine asked Ginsburg the question on everyone’s mind: Why not step down from the court now, with a Democratic President, to ensure another left-leaning replacement? Her answer was telling, for an 81-year-old justice who was confirmed to the Supreme Court in 1993 with only three Republican senators voting against her.

“Who do you think President Obama could appoint at this very day, given the boundaries that we have?” she said. “If I resign any time this year, he could not successfully appoint anyone I would like to see in the court. [The Senate Democrats] took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments, but it remains for this court. So anybody who thinks that if I step down, Obama could appoint someone like me, they’re misguided.”

The implication of this is that she must wait for cooler heads and the 2016 election, when either Republicans might move to the middle or Democrats could win a larger majority in the upper chamber. It was also remarkably frank admission of something Supreme Court justices often try to avoid doing publically: Connecting the whims of Democracy to the wisdom of their collective deliberations.

Under the constitution, the political process officially has an impact on the court at two points: When the Senate confirms justices for the court in the first place, and when Justices decide to leave the court at the end of their career. In 1929, shortly after the stock market crash, Chief Justice William Howard Taft declared in a letter to his brother, “I must stay on the court in order to prevent the Bolsheviki from getting control.” Chief Justice Warren Burger famously sped his retirement out of fear that Republicans would lose control of the Senate in 1986. Justice Harry Blackmun famously scribbled notes to himself the day after President Clinton was elected in 1992, debating when he should now retire.

In recent years, Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointee, has made a point of trying to build unity in the court amid the growing national division outside the building’s walls. In the last term, 60% of the cases were decided unanimously, the highest percentage in decades. But on the biggest issues, from union dues to Obamacare to religious freedom, divisions are still deep and wide.

From Ginsburg’s view, the recent rightward drift of the court will end, if not reverse itself, with time. On the question of abortion, she told Elle, the court has gotten “about as conservative as it will get.” But when asked about the pendulum swinging left again on the larger issues of women’s rights, she pointed to the same body that she suggests is keeping her in the job. “I think it will,” she said, “when we have a more functioning Congress.”

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the group Ginsberg said took off the filibuster for lower federal court appointments. They are the Senate Democrats.

TIME White House

A President in Prime-Time Command After 2 Years of Frustration

As with past painful conflicts, there is no end date, and no clear metric on which to declare victory

The central message of Wednesday night’s prime-time reveal of a new U.S. war in the Middle East came a few minutes in. President Barack Obama squared to the camera, slowed his delivery and filled each syllable with all the gravity he had. “I know many Americans are concerned about these threats,” he said, pausing briefly between sentences. “Tonight, I want you to know that the United States of America is meeting them with strength and resolve.”

That was the takeaway, the thing he wanted his country to remember after the 15-minute interruption of the America’s Got Talent ended: I got this. Americans may be getting their throats cut in distant deserts. Iraq may again be falling into tribal chaos. Islamist extremism may be rearing its head under a new black flag. But the situation is under control.

If he delivered the sentiment with remarkable presence of mind, it may only be because he hasn’t had many other opportunities over the past two years. Wars are presidential acts in the American system, whatever Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution says. He chooses the bombs to drop, and where they hit. He makes the phone calls to get other countries on board. He reviews the intelligence on the homeland threat each day, weighing the risks of spilled blood at home and abroad.

War is also one of the last things of import he has control over in his second term. Just a few days earlier, he found himself in another room of the White House trying to explain to NBC’s Chuck Todd why Americans should care if Democrats keep the Senate in November, given all the evident powerlessness of anyone to do anything in Washington. The best he could come up with was that Democrats would have a better rhetorical position. “Having a Democratic Senate … means that we are debating the right things for the country,” he managed.

In other words, the status quo, a situation so untenable that his communications shop made his escape from it a selling point. “The bear is loose,” White House aides would tweet, when he walked down the street, bought ice cream or a hamburger on some Midwestern Main Street. The Oval Office, in other words, is a cage. His attempts to deal with gun violence had fallen flat after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. His bipartisan dinners to craft tax reform and deficit reduction had been cleared away. His signature legislative achievement had almost come crashing down with a website. Even his bold plan to take unilateral action this summer on the immigration crisis got waylaid by polls showing voters on the brink of outrage.

But this problem in Iraq and Syria, a few thousand jihadists belonging to a group with a name that no one can agree on — that was something he could handle. “Tonight, with a new Iraqi government in place, and following consultations with allies abroad and Congress at home, I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat,” he said.

It was a good moment for his presidency. But it was also the easy part. Polls show Americans favor intervention by about the same margin that they opposed bombing Syria last year. Chances are good the U.S. will win the military fight, and the spooks seem optimistic at the moment about preventing another homeland attack in retribution. But there will also be a cost.

Another goal of his second term was to wind down the eternal conflict his predecessor called the “war on terror.” Now that won’t happen anytime soon. The war against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, which Obama described as neither Islamic nor a state, will be a long one. As with past painful conflicts, there is no end date, and no clear metric on which to declare victory. He said he will “degrade and ultimately destroy” the threat. But the destroy part could very well come years after he leaves office.

For now, however, everything is under control. The nation that can’t agree on anything is taking definitive action. “As Americans, we welcome our responsibility to lead,” Obama said Wednesday night.

The same can be said for the President who leads us.

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