TIME Hillary Clinton

How Hillary and Bill Clinton Raised $1.4 Billion

Together, the Clintons have become two of the most impressive fundraisers in American history. Use the interactive graphic to see the many ways their supporters' money has been collected over the years.

There are great American political fundraisers. And then there are Hillary and Bill Clinton, the first couple of American political fundraising. Few in American history have collected and benefited from so much money in so many ways over such a long period of time. Since they arrived on the national political scene 32 years ago, the Clintons have attracted at least $1.4 billion in contributions, according to a review of public records by TIME and the Center for Responsive Politics.

That sum helps illustrate Hillary Clinton’s enormous advantage should she decide to run for President in 2016. Much of the money, raised through two Senate and three Presidential campaigns, was gathered together in small checks by an extensive network of donors and fundraisers. Other donations came in the form of six-figure “soft money” donations from wealthy individuals during Bill Clinton’s presidency. A third category includes money the couple has raised for the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global non-profit, through speaking engagements for Bill Clinton, and through outside political spending that benefitted the Clinton efforts.

The records also show a select group of top donors who have given in multiple ways to the Clintons over the years. Many of these same donors, including people like S. Daniel Abraham, founder of diet supplement company Slim Fast, and Susie Tompkins Buell, founding of the clothing company Espirit, have formed personal friendships with the Clintons, even as they have continued to pursue public policy campaigns around issues like U.S. relations with Israel and the Keystone XL pipeline.

Through the years, the Clintons have adjusted over time to the changing rules that govern political contributions. Craig Smith, a longtime adviser to the Clintons who is now helping to organize the Ready for Hillary PAC, estimates that a Hillary 2016 candidacy could cost as much as $1.7 billion, including the money raised and spent on her behalf by outside groups. That would make the effort about 150% more expensive than the 2012 Obama effort, an increase in line with historical norms.

[See profiles of the top donors.]

The data for this analysis is drawn from three broad categories.

Campaign contributions: Direct giving to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s campaigns for the Senate and the Presidency going back to 1992, as reported to the Federal Election Commission. It includes both individual contributions and money from other PACs given to either the leadership committees or joint fundraising committees of the Clintons. These figures also include “soft money” contributions to the Democratic National Committee during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign and his presidency. Those donations were later eliminated by the 2002 campaign finance reform law.

Non-political contributions: Speaking fees collected by Bill Clinton up to 2008, and contributions to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Figures for Bill Clinton’s speaking fees are based on filings from Hillary Clinton’s tenure in the Senate. The foundation has only released a list of donors grouped by the contribution ranges, so in all cases the interactive assumes that each donor gave the smallest amount possible in that category. The range of contribution, from all foundation donors, as reported by the foundation, could go as high as $1.3 billion.

Outside spending: Independent expenditures on behalf of the Clintons, as well as contributions to Ready for Hillary PAC, an independent super PAC created to support Clinton in 2016, which she has told friends she grateful to have organized on her behalf.

Additional reporting by Becca Stanek.

TIME 2016 Election

5 Reasons to Be Delighted and Worried About a GOP Convention in Cleveland

Johnny Manziel gestures on stage after being selected as the number twenty-two overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft to the Cleveland Browns at Radio City Music Hall Adam Hunger—USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

What the GOP can look forward to for its quadrennial confab

Correction appended, July, 9, 2014.

Randy Newman sang it best, more than 40 years before Republicans chose Cleveland on Tuesday to host their 2016 convention.

There’s a red moon rising
On the Cuyahoga River
Rolling into Cleveland to the lake

That’s right. The Republicans are coming, and they will be camping out for a week in one of the most Democratic parts of the nation’s most crucial swing state. It’s a blessing and a curse, a wonderful choice and problematic one all the same. Here’s a quick five-point guide to America’s North Coast, the place Newman called the “city of light, city of magic”—and what Republicans should expect.

1. Ohio is perhaps the key state in presidential elections. No Republican has won the White House without Ohio since Abraham Lincoln in 1860, and the last candidate in either party to win without Ohio was Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960. But there is nothing too swingy about Cleveland. In Cuyahoga County, there are an estimated 345,000 Democratic voters and 126,000 Republicans.

2. Exactly because it is such a hotbed of Democratic activism, Republicans have a lot to gain, just as Barack Obama did in 2008 by holding the Democratic convention in the once-red state of Colorado. Since 1856, Cuyahoga has voted Republican 19 times and Democratic 21 times in presidential elections. But, says Mike Dawson, the founder of Ohioelectionresults.com, “if you look at the last 10 elections, Cuyahoga County has voted 10 times for the Democrat and never for the Republican.” Dawson, a Republican consultant, argues that the Cleveland convention should boost Republican turnout in the highly-populated Cleveland area, as well as the rest of the key swing state. “It’s not just a boon for the county or the region,” he says. “It’s gonna have a benefit for the whole state.”

3. The last time the Republicans had a convention in Cleveland, in 1936, they nominated Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, who was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt in a landslide. But the party of Lincoln need not fear a curse. Before that, Cleveland was the site of the 1924 convention that renominated the victorious Calvin Coolidge. (Just try to forget that Grover Cleveland was a Democrat.)

4. The city of magic has a long history of catering to the peculiar needs of the political class. Back in 1924, during the dark days of prohibition, the great scribe H.L. Mencken reported on the extraordinary steps Cleveland took to satisfy the Republican Party. “My agents in Cleveland report that elaborate preparations are under way there to slack the thirst of the visitors, which is always powerful at national conventions,” he wrote. “The town is very well supplied with bootleggers, and regular lines of rum ships run into it from Canadian ports. Ohio has a State Volstead act and a large force of spies and snoopers, many of them former jail-birds. These agent of the Only True Christianity, no doubt, will all concentrate in Cleveland, and dispute with the national Prohibition blacklegs for the graft. I venture the guess that bad Scotch will sell for $15 a bottle in the hotels and at the convention hall, and that more than one delegate will go home in the baggage car, a victim of methyl alcohol.” Would that it be so again, without the alcohol poisoning, of course.

5. Two words: Johnny Manziel. They have a ring to them that “Reince Priebus” will never match. There is also the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The inductees may be overwhelmingly liberal, but Kid Rock is always down for a show.

-Additional reporting by Becca Stanek/Washington

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the outcome of the 2010 election in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Republican Governor John Kasich did not win the county.

TIME Immigration

Obama in Political Bind Over Unaccompanied Immigrant Minors

Unaccompanied minors ride atop the wagon of a freight train, known as La Bestia (The Beast) in Ixtepec, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca on June 18, 2014.
Unaccompanied minors ride atop the wagon of a freight train, known as La Bestia (The Beast) in Ixtepec, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca on June 18, 2014. Jose de Jesus Cortes—Reuters

A request for funding could lead Republicans to demand concessions

President Barack Obama asked Congress for $3.7 billion Tuesday to handle the thousands of child migrants on the southern border, and he’d like lawmakers to treat the emergency request as a simple matter of human compassion.

“Our hope and expectation consistent with the incoming we have received from both parties is that this will be treated as the urgent humanitarian situation that it is,” said a White House official who briefed reporters about the request.

But nothing is quite so simple in Washington these days. By sending the request to Congress, Republicans, who are outraged over Obama’s immigration policies, will now have an opportunity to express their fury in must-sign legislation, possibly attaching policy riders or demanding budget cuts elsewhere.

“The Appropriations Committee and other Members, including the working group on the border crisis led by Rep. Kay Granger, will review the White House proposal,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, said in a statement. “The Speaker still supports deploying the National Guard to provide humanitarian support in the affected areas—which this proposal does not address.”

And liberals are organizing to block the White House efforts to rewrite laws to make the deportation of child migrants from Central America less cumbersome.

Under current law, unaccompanied minors from Central America are automatically referred to the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, which works to place them with family members already residing in the United States while they await a court date. Unaccompanied minors from Mexico, however, are treated differently, and can be screened for immediate return to their home country by U.S. Border Patrol if they do not present human trafficking or refugee concerns. “There isn’t really a policy rationale for treating them differently,”a second White House official said Tuesday, arguing that the current system is allowing too many children to stay in the U.S. for extended periods of time. “The number of kids removed is not large enough. That is why we are seeking to make this process more efficient.”

But immigrants’ rights advocates argue that the conditions in Central America and the length of the journey justify temporary placement in American homes and schools, even when there are no immediate signs of suspected criminal trafficking or refugee claims. Leslie Holman, the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, has condemned the White House proposal to expedited removal of Central American children. “That is simply unconscionable,” she said Monday in a statement. “No matter what you call it, rapid deportations without any meaningful hearing for children who are rightly afraid of the violence and turmoil from which they fled is wrong, and contradicts the fundamental values of this nation.”

The White House request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding for 2014 is also significantly higher than the “more than $2 billion” estimates senior Administration officials offered reporters last week. It includes $1.6 billion for enhanced deterrence and enforcement on the border, $1.8 billion for Health and Human Service programs for the youth, and $300 million for international programs to aid Central America. The Administration is also bundling the request with an additional $615 million in emergency funds to fight wildfires in the West, a move that is likely to attract the votes of a number of members of Congress.

TIME Lobbying

Ukrainian Employer of Joe Biden’s Son Hires a D.C. Lobbyist

Hunter Biden
Hunter Biden waits for the start of the his father's, Vice President Joe Biden's, debate at Centre College in Danville, Ky. on Oct. 11, 2012. Pablo Martinez Monsivais—AP

An obscure private Ukrainian natural gas company has been hiring friends and family of Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden, while seeking to influence Congress

When Vice President Joe Biden’s son, R. Hunter Biden, joined the board of a private Ukrainian oil and natural gas company this spring, he explained his new job as a legal one, disconnected from any effort to influence the Obama Administration. In a press release, the younger Biden boasted of his abilities on issues like improving corporate transparency.

But the company, Burisma Holdings, did not disclose at the time the scope of their plans for influencing the U.S. government. Recently released documents show that Biden’s hiring coincided with the launch of a new effort to lobby members of Congress about the role of the company in Ukraine and the country’s quest for energy independence.

David Leiter, a former Senate chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry, signed on to work as a lobbyist for Burisma on May 20, 2014, about a week after Biden announced he was joining the company, according to lobbying disclosures filed this month.

Leiter’s involvement in the firm rounds out a power-packed team of politically-connected Americans that also includes a second new board member, Devon Archer, a Democratic bundler and former adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign. Both Archer and Hunter Biden have worked as business partners with Kerry’s son-in-law, Christopher Heinz, the founding partner of Rosemont Capital, a private-equity company.

Biden’s office referred questions to a Burisma spokesman, who says Biden has not been involved in contacting members of Congress or the Obama Administration about the company. “His role, like all board members, is to provide strategic guidance to Burisma,” said Lawrence Pacheco, who works in Washington D.C. for FTI Consulting, a communications firm that is also employed by Burisma.

But Burisma is contacting officials in Washington through Leiter’s lobbying firm, ML Strategies. “ML Strategies is working with Burisma to educate U.S. officials about the company and its role in creating a stable and secure energy future for Ukraine, not any specific policy or legislation,” Pacheco said. “Burisma supports energy independence, economic growth, national sovereignty and regional stability and will engage as needed to encourage efforts to further these goals.”

Some Democratic senators, meanwhile, have been working to secure more U.S. funding, either directly or through entities like the Export-Import Bank, to improve Ukraine’s domestic energy production potential. On June 27, Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, wrote President Obama a letter with three other Democratic senators calling for increased aid. “We should leverage the full resources and expertise of the U.S. government to assist Ukraine in improving its energy efficiency, increasing its domestic production, and reforming its energy markets,” wrote Markey, who has also proposed legislation with about $40 million in additional aide for Ukranian energy development.

Markey’s letter was trumpeted by Burisma Holdings as a commendable move towards securing the future security of Ukraine. “Burisma Holdings today applauded the range of U.S. legislative support for development of Ukraine’s broad and untapped resources and an increase in transparency and good governance,” the company said in a statement on the day the letter was released.

An aide in Markey’s office told TIME that Leiter, Biden and Archer were not part of discussions that led to the drafting of the letter or the legislation. Staff for the other senators who signed the letter, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Christopher Murphy of Connecticut, also said they did not have contact with Leiter, who could not be reached for comment.

Burisma Holdings is owned by a Cypriot holding firm, Brociti Investments Limited, which is controlled Nikolai Zlochevskyi, a former Ukranian government minister, according to Cypriot records. It controls government development licenses in three regions of Ukraine, and sells to industrial customers in the country, according to the company.

By taking a job with Burisma, the younger Biden has put himself in the middle of a struggle between the United States and Russia, which currently provides the bulk of the natural gas supplies to Ukraine. Both the White House and European nations have recently emphasized the strategic interest in making Ukraine less dependent on Russia.

Since Hunter Biden took the new job, his father, Vice President Joe Biden, has continued to serve as the Obama Administration’s point person on Ukraine, traveling to the country as recently as June for the inauguration of President Petro Poroshenko and talking to Poroshenko by phone at least five times in the last month.

“I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the last two months in Ukraine,” the elder Biden said on June 19. “You see what the Russians are doing relative to using gas as a foreign policy tool to try to alter behavior. And so it’s — around the world in varying degrees it’s of significant consequence in terms of security, both economic and political security of a nation.”

There is no legal barrier to prohibit Hunter Biden from working with a company that can be impacted by the policy decisions of his father, and the White House has maintained that the Vice President has not been influenced by his son’s employment. “The Vice President does not endorse any particular company and has no involvement with this company,” said his spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff.

But Hunter Biden’s new job, along with the association with Burisma of other politically-connected businessmen, has raised concerns among some Ukraine watchers. “It’s unhelpful when we are trying to get across to the Ukrainians to clean up corruption and special deals for special folks,” said Ed Chow, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a U.S. think tank. “It maybe sends the wrong message that Westerners are just hypocritical.”

Additional reporting by Alex Rogers and Zeke Miller/Washington

TIME Courts

Supreme Court Rules Government Can’t Make Some Employers Cover Contraception

Pro-life supporter Michael Hichborn with American Life League prays outside the US Supreme Court where the nine justices are expected to issue their ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, which challenges the Affordable Care ActÕs mandate that employee health plans include pregnancy preventive services, in Washington on June 30, 2014.
Pro-life supporter Michael Hichborn with American Life League prays outside the US Supreme Court where the nine justices are expected to issue their ruling on the Hobby Lobby case, which challenges the Affordable Care ActÕs mandate that employee health plans include pregnancy preventive services, in Washington on June 30, 2014. Jim Lo Scalzo—EPA

In setback for Obama health law

Private corporations that are so-called “closely held” have a right to religious freedom under U.S. law just like individual citizens, the Supreme Court ruled Monday, in a divided opinion that will allow religious for-profit companies to refuse to pay for the employee contraceptive coverage required by President Barack Obama’s health care reform law.

The 5 to 4 decision, written by Justice Samuel Alito, found that the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act violates a 1993 law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RCPA) in the case of two for-profit businesses, the arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby of Oklahoma City and the cabinetry maker Conestoga Wood Specialties of Pennsylvania. The owners of both stores argued that certain forms of covered contraception, including Plan B, ella and intrauterine devices, had the potential to work after conception, violating their religious values. The ruling applies to “closely held” corporations that are controlled by just a few people.

Congress passed the RCPA in 1993 to mandate that the government use the “least restrictive means” of furthering its interests in situations that infringed on the religious freedoms. Alito ruled that the contraception mandate did not meet that test, which he said must be applied even in case of objections by closely held corporations. “Any suggestion that for-profit corporations are incapable of exercising religion because their purpose is simply to make money flies in the face of modern corporate law,” Alito wrote in his opinion.

But Alito also limited the scope of his opinion in response to concerns from liberal justices. “This decision concerns only the contraceptive mandate and should not be understood to hold that all insurance-coverage mandates, e.g. for vaccinations or blood transfusions, must necessarily fall if they conflict with an employer’s religious beliefs,” Alito wrote. “Nor does it provide a shield for employers who might cloak illegal discrimination as a religious practice.” Alito also wrote that the case may not apply directly to large publicly traded companies, where the beliefs of the shareholders are more difficult to discern.

Alito was joined in the majority ruling by Justices John Roberts, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.

The cases asked the court to weigh the rights of closely held for-profit corporations to follow the religious beliefs of their owners against the rights of employees to get health insurance coverage for a broad range of contraception.

Political reaction to the ruling was swift. White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the decision “jeopardizes the health of women” employed by affected companies.

“The Supreme Court ruled today that some bosses can now withhold contraceptive care from their employees’ health coverage based on their own religious views that their employees may not even share,” he said. “President Obama believes that women should make personal health care decisions for themselves rather than their bosses deciding for them.”

Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz described the decision as an assault on women’s access to health care. “This decision takes money out of the pockets of women and their families and allows for-profit employers to deny access to certain health care benefits based on their personal beliefs,” she said in a statement.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus countered that the decision was a victory for religious freedom. “We’re grateful the Court ruled on the side of liberty,” he said in a statement. “The central issue of this case was whether the federal government can coerce Americans to violate their deeply held religious beliefs.”

The Obama Administration has previously given waivers on the contraception mandate to certain non-profit religious organizations, like churches and mosques. Other non-profits with religious affiliations, like the University of Notre Dame, are pursuing separate lawsuits against the mandate, which could reach the Supreme Court in the next term.

In a concurring opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote that employees of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties may be able to still get full contraceptive coverage with a government workaround that has been offered to employees of religious non-profits. “The accommodation works by requiring insurance companies to cover, without cost sharing, contraception coverage for female employees who wish it,” Kennedy wrote.

The dissent in the case, led by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, decried the majority ruling, calling it “a decision of startling breadth” that would allow commercial enterprises to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, Ginsburg went on to argue that corporations, even those controlled by a single family, do not have free exercise rights for religion. “[T]he exercise of religion is characteristic of natural persons,” she wrote, “not artificial legal entities.”

TIME Campaign Finance

Scott Walker’s Legal Battle Could Change Federal Elections

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker makes a stop at the Republican Party of Wisconsin Appleton Headquarters Saturday, June 21, 2014 in Appleton, Wis.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker makes a stop at the Republican Party of Wisconsin Appleton Headquarters Saturday, June 21, 2014 in Appleton, Wis. Sharon Cekada—AP

A case in Wisconsin has national implications

Wisconsin has hosted perhaps the nation’s best political circus in recent years, full of recall elections, lawmakers crossing state lines to avoid votes, and angry mobs of protesters occupying the capitol. But the latest attraction contains the seeds of a legal argument that could reverberate far beyond Madison.

Local prosecutors been building a case around the possibility that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was part of a “criminal scheme” to illegally coordinate spending with conservative groups that helped him survive those recall attempts. Walker has not yet been charged, and he may never be. In recent months, the conservative groups have fought back by arguing in court that the prosecutors are politically-motivated and basing their case on a flawed reading of the law. A state and a federal judge have so far agreed, stopping the investigation as appellate courts review the matter.

What comes next could have big consequences for how candidates behave in the rest of the country. That’s because in his May 6 decision blocking the probe, federal judge Rudolph Randa ruled that the U.S. Constitution gives candidates and outside groups a First Amendment right to coordinate spending on advertising, unless the money is used to expressly advocate for the election or defeat of a candidate. “Only limited intrusions into the First Amendment are permitted to advance the government’s narrow interest in preventing quid pro quo corruption and then only as it relates to express advocacy speech,” Randa wrote. “As other histories tell us, attempts to purify the public square lead to places like the Guillotine and the Gulag.”

This constitutional argument could have big implications for federal campaign finance law, which currently does not follow Randa’s reading of the constitution. The Federal Election Commission currently bans coordination between candidates and outside groups on ads that just mention candidates in the weeks before election, even if the ads do not explicitly call for their election or defeat. This is the reason why President Barack Obama did not coordinate his advertising with labor unions or Super PACs backed by wealthy liberals in the last campaign, and why Mitt Romney did not huddle with Sheldon Adelson during his campaign to discuss strategy.

“There is the potential here for the 7th Circuit to confront what is federal coordination,” says election law attorney Trevor Potter, who is critical of the Randa decision. “That sounds like a Supreme Court case.”

And the Supreme Court has not been kind to campaign finance restrictions in recent years. The justices have tossed individual contribution limits and undone rules limiting the political spending of corporations, unions and the wealthy. Should the court take up the Wisconsin case, the next step could be allowing lawmakers to plan campaign strategy with the Sierra Club or the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. No middleman required.

For many conservative campaign finance experts, this is an obvious next step, given the current direction of Constitutional law. They argue that the current FEC regulations, which arise out of 2002 campaign finance reform legislation, will not withstand constitutional scrutiny. “They can try to enforce that,” says Hans van Spakovsky, a former FEC commissioner who supports the Randa ruling. “But if they end up in court they are going to lose that case.”

Coordination cases in campaign finance law are rare, since they require clear evidence of discussions that happen in back rooms. The case in Wisconsin is further complicated by the fact that state law is far less precise than federal law when it comes to what kinds of coordination are allowed.

But the 7th Circuit now clearly has an opportunity to test the federal law. And candidates for federal office, who increasingly rely on outside groups they cannot strategize with directly to get them elected, have reason to hope that the rules will someday change.

TIME Foreign Policy

The Importance of a Conservative’s Flame War Against the New York Times

Why there is no need to ask for a newspaper correction when you can rally the troops instead

Here is a story of a powerful institution, an aggrieved advocate, recent technologies and a battle for the truth. It is also, I believe, a window into the dire nature of our current political and journalistic predicament.

Once upon a time, on Thursday in fact, a reporter for the New York Times wrote a story about John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador, who has recently been back in the news attacking President Barack Obama for his policy toward Iraq. In the middle of the story, there was a surprising aside.

Mr. Bolton’s spokesman, Richard Grenell, said Mr. Bolton would not agree to be interviewed for this article unless the reporter had a Republican lawmaker email on her behalf.

This is not, typically, how business is conducted in journalism. We reporters tend to expect answers without supporting documents from the ideological allies of our sources. Upon reading the story, I tweeted the quote as something worth highlighting, linking to Grenell’s Twitter account.

Therewith, a battle began. Grenell, a Republican foreign policy aide and accomplished pugilist on Twitter, fired back a couple personal attacks, aiming to question my own journalistic methods for having tweeted the New York Times quote.

As a rule, I do not re-report everything I tweet, though I have a great interest in not misleading my Twitter followers. So I asked Grenell over Twitter, and later via an email, for his side of the story. Grenell did not respond immediately. Soon other reporters, notably Politico’s Dylan Byers and Buzzfeed’s McKay Coppins, fell into similar beefs with Grenell.

Coppins and Byers also asked Grenell for his side of the story. Grenell then announced on Twitter that he would not tell his side of the story to anyone who had quoted the Times.

So we waited. But in the meantime, the hornets nest had been riled. Twitter followers of Grenell fumed at how far respectable journalism had fallen, and Grenell echoed their complaints, while he placed a story with his side of the story on his own terms.

That story appeared on The Daily Caller, a conservative news website, on Friday morning, via a link from an alarming headline on the site’s homepage:

Screen Shot 2014-06-20 at 1.18.51 PM

Since lying is probably the most serious sin in journalism, the story soon buzzed around conservative social media, feeding the daily need for outrage that fuels the online political discussion. In the story, Grenell gave his account of events. He said he had told the author of the Times story, Jennifer Steinhauer, that he did not know her, and would not “help recommending her to my former boss and friend John Bolton.”

In the course of her trying to make the case that she was a fair journalist, she said that there were ‘many Republicans that would vouch for my fairness.’ I responded, ‘then tell them to email Bolton and tell him. Maybe it will help.’ She said she could easily do it. I never heard anything else about it. It was a 15 second exchange,” Grenell said. “The idea that my comment was later characterized by Steinhauer as a condition is A) laughable and B) ridiculous given she knew I didn’t work for Bolton and wasn’t his spokesman

There were three claims here: First, Grenell says he was led into saying what the Times reported him saying—context that was omitted from the story. Second, he claims he was misidentified as a spokesman, when he is a former spokesman. Third, he argues that the Times story suggested Bolton demanded a Republican lawmaker voucher, when the comment has been offered only as a suggestion by a former staffer.

Steinhauer’s version of events were not included in the story. (The Daily Caller author, Patrick Howley, said he sent her an email asking for her side, but she says she found no record of receiving the email.) So on Friday, I began an email exchange with Steinhauer, who said Grenell was the one to raise the idea of having a lawmaker email Bolton to vouch for her. Here is her version:

RG and I had several emails and a few phone calls over the course of about six weeks as I requested over and over to get an interview with Mr. Bolton. In our final call, he ended by telling me if a GOP lawmaker emailed Mr. Bolton on my behalf perhaps he would consider giving me an interview. I declined to avail myself of that and gave up. That’s really it.

I will leave it to the New York Times editors to determine whether a correction is in order. What interests me more is the path the dispute took. Rather than take up his case with the New York Times or publicly decry it with a different set of facts, as would have happened in the past, Grenell created a far more interesting and combative media event that played out in a space entirely divorced from the Times and its readers. Until a reporter for Talking Points Memo and I contacted Steinhauer, there had been no dialog, even dialog intermediated by a third party, between the two. In place of an effort to establish the facts, there was enormous opportunity for outrage, at the D.C. press corps, at the New York Times and at anyone who deigned to quote something that had been printed in the New York Times. This seems to have suited most of the players just fine.

In that way, Grenell can probably be credited with a success more valuable than a simple New York Times correction. An old German philosopher is famous for saying, “War is merely the continuation of politics by other means.” In the modern online age, however, the difference between the two is often impossible to distinguish. People are the preferred targets, not ideas, and each side has an army in waiting, consuming propaganda filtered through self-selecting social threads, waiting to pounce. Figuring out what is actually going on, or finding a way to agree on the facts, is increasingly an afterthought.

So it goes.

As an addendum to the tale, let me make a final personal disclosure. One of Grenell’s other gripes about the New York Times piece was its mention of Bolton’s appearance, which Grenell considers out of bounds. I agree that in most cases critiques of the appearance of politicians, especially women, must first overcome a high bar of relevancy to the story itself. But I also once made the case, as far back as 2006, that Bolton’s appearance is key to understanding his role in foreign policy. You can read that story here.

TIME States

‘Criminal Scheme’ Will Haunt Scott Walker

The campaign finance rules are complicated, the political reality isn't

+ READ ARTICLE

Correction appended, June 20

There’s one thing not under dispute in the case of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who now lies in the political equivalent of critical condition after disclosure of his alleged involvement in a “criminal scheme” to evade campaign finance laws: On May 4, 2011, Walker wrote an email to Karl Rove, the former White House aide and Republican strategist.

In that email, Walker boasted about the abilities of one of his political consultants, R.J. Johnson. “R.J. helps keep in place a team that is wildly successful in Wisconsin. We are running 9 recall elections and it will be like 9 congressional markets in every market in the state,” Walker wrote.

The email matters because at the time Johnson was wearing a number of hats: He was a Walker advisor and a consultant to Walker’s own campaign, but he was also involved, sometimes with his wife, in other outside groups, like the Wisconsin Club For Growth and Citizens for a Strong America, which were supporting Walker. Another email obtained by prosecutors, which had been sent to Walker, described Johnson as having “coordinated spending through 12 different groups.”

From a distance, this looks bad. America’s campaign finance system is built upon a shaky assumption that there are two types of political spending: Spending controlled by candidates, which is heavily regulated, and spending that candidates do not control, which is far less regulated. In principle, the two pots of money must be kept separate, but in practice, those distinctions break down. Candidates intentionally send signals to direct the spending of outside groups, and donors make clear to candidates all they have given to help get them elected through third parties.

In the Walker case, there is an even further complicating factor: the meaning of what constitutes “political purposes” when it comes to coordination is contested. State prosecutors, according to their filings, have no doubt. They claim to have “established a concerted effort to circumvent Wisconsin’s campaign finance contribution prohibitions, limitations and disclosure requirements.” Under a state law allowing secret investigations, a state judge, who has since recused herself, issued subpoenas allowing the prosecutors to move forward with the case.

One federal judge, Ruldolph Randa, has since ruled that the coordination the prosecutors uncovered was not illegal since the outside groups only engaged in so-called issue advocacy—they did not expressly advocate Walker’s victory or defeat even though they clearly supported his efforts. Another state judge, Gregory Peterson, has made a similar ruling. But Peterson’s ruling is on appeal, leaving the law in doubt, and Randa’s ruling is now before a federal appeals court.

The same can be said for Walker, who will face reelection this fall, and is positioning himself for a 2016 presidential campaign. Elections, after all, rarely hinge on legal technicalities. They are about voter impressions, and “criminal scheme” is quite a phrase to overcome in a contested primary. Even if he skates criminal charges, he will now face the enormous task of explaining the byzantine technicalities of campaign finance law to the American public, which is predisposed, polls suggest, to believe that most candidates at all levels are bought and paid for by donors.

“This is nothing more than a partisan investigation with no basis in state law,” Walker said in a statement Thursday. “It’s time for the prosecutors to acknowledge both judge’s orders to end this investigation.”

The fate of the credibility of the nation’s campaign finance system is a different question altogether. The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that there is virtually no risk of corrupting lawmakers as long as money is delivered to outside groups supporting the lawmakers, and not the lawmakers themselves. As the emails make clear, Walker was quite proud and deeply involved in monitoring the money being spent on his behalf by outside groups. The money helped his cause, and was directed by a close aide. Will Americans choose to believe that politicians in his position cannot be influenced by the donors who paid the bills?

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly described the nature of a federal appeals court ruling on a lawsuit seeking to block a state investigation into Scott Walker’s fundraising. It also incorrectly described the decisions by courts that have ruled on the issue of whether it is illegal for a candidate to coordinate with outside groups engaged only in issue advocacy.

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