TIME 2014 Election

These 6 States Could Expand Medicaid After the Elections

Governor Rick Scott And Challenger Charlie Crist Hold Second Debate
Former Florida governor and Democratic candidate for governor Charlie Crist speaks during a televised debate at Broward College in Davie, Fla., on Oct. 15, 2014 in Davie Joe Raedle—Getty Images

New governors in Maine, Florida, Wisconsin, Kansas, Alaska and Georgia could give new life to the Medicaid expansion

The 2014 midterms have been called the “Seinfeld election” and the “meh midterms” — because they’re supposedly about nothing and nobody cares. But while congressional races have failed to capture voters’ imaginations, the campaigns for governor may have a major effect on at least one group of Americans.

Depending on who wins next Tuesday, hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans could get access to health insurance under the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act.

When the Supreme Court made the Medicaid expansion optional in 2012, many Republican governors and legislators opted out. Today, 27 states and D.C. have accepted the federal money, including a handful led by Republicans, but 21 states are not currently making an effort to do so.

That could change after next week’s elections. There are more than a dozen gubernatorial races considered toss-ups going into the final days of the campaign, and in at least half a switch from Republican control of the governor’s mansion could give new life to the debate over taking the Medicaid money.

In Florida, Alaska, Maine, Wisconsin, Kansas and Georgia—all of which have previously rejected an expansion of Medicaid—Republican incumbents are facing Democratic (and in Alaska’s case, Independent) challengers whose prospects look promising just five days out from Election Day.

In each of those six states, the challengers have openly mulled passing an expansion of Medicaid if they were to win. And the move would generally be popular with voters. According to a recent poll by the Morning Consult, more than 6 in 10 voters—and 62% of all voters in states that have not expanded Medicaid—think that all states should expand coverage to low-income people who are currently ineligible.

Still, roadblocks remain.

“The problem is that there are states where it’s not just a question of what the governor wants,” says Stan Dorn, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute. “Even if the governor’s office changes hands in Georgia the legislature has to agree.”

Apart from the turnover due to elections, governors in a number of states, including Utah and Tennessee, are considering expanding Medicaid over the next year as well.

Here’s a look at the six states where the issue is in question next week.

Florida

The background: Republican Gov. Rick Scott initially opposed the Affordable Care Act flat out, but he later changed his tune slightly and came out in support of the Medicaid expansion “if it did not cost Florida taxpayers.” The state legislature, however, remains staunchly against it.

What could happen: Democrat Charlie Crist has said he’ll go over lawmakers’ heads and approve it with an executive order.

Where does the race stand: A recent Quinnipiac University poll has Crist leading Scott by 3 points.

How many people would be eligible: An estimated 800,000 to 1 million Floridians would gain coverage.

Alaska

The background: Republican Gov. Sean Parnell opted against expanding Medicaid in his state in 2013 and he remains opposed to it today.

What could happen: Independent candidate Bill Walker said in a recent interview with KTUU, “why would we not when it helps up to 40,000 Alaskans, creates up to 4,000 new jobs in Alaska, brings down overall health care. I just can’t say no.”

Where does the race stand: Walker has a slight lead over Parnell, according to Real Clear Politics.

How many people would be eligible: An estimated 43,000 Alaskans.

Maine

The background: Republican Gov. Paul LePage has said expanding Medicaid coverage in Maine could be “ruinous” and vetoed five previous expansion attempts. His challenger, Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, has vowed to accept the expansion.

What could happen: Because the legislature remains on board with the idea, it’s likely that Maine would accept the federal money if Michaud wins.

Where does the race stand: LePage is up by nearly 2 percentage points, according to a Real Clear Politics analysis of recent polls.

How many people would be eligible: An estimated 70,000 Maine residents.

Wisconsin

The background: Republican Gov. Scott Walker also turned down the Medicaid expansion, opting instead to push more low-income residents into the insurance marketplaces.

What could happen: Democrat Mary Burke has made a forceful push for the state to expand.

Where does the race stand: The final Marquette University Law School poll has Walker leading Burke among both registered and likely voters.

How many people would be eligible: FamiliesUSA estimates about 274,000 people would benefit from expansion.

Kansas

The background: Republican Gov. Sam Brownback didn’t just reject the expansion, he also signed a law revoking any future governor’s authority to act alone on the Medicaid question.

What could happen: Even if Democrat Paul Davis were to unseat Brownback, though, he’d still have to persuade the Republican-controlled legislature to change its mind.

Where does the race stand: A Real Clear Politics average of polls has Davis ahead by one percentage point.

How many people would be eligible: About 170,000 people, according to the Center on Budget Policies and Priorities.

Georgia

The background: Republican Gov. Nathan Deal also rejected the expansion and signed a law making it harder for his successor to accept it.

What could happen: Even if Democratic challenger Jason Carter were to win, he’d have to win over a Republican-controlled legislature.

Where does the race stand: Deal currently leads Carter by over 2 percentage points, according to an average of polls.

How many people would be eligible: Over 600,000 lower-income Georgians would be eligible.

TIME 2014 Election

Obama Campaigns in Maine, Away From the Spotlight

President Obama at Portland Expo
President Barack Obama and Mike Michaud raise their hands at a campaign rally for the Democratic candidate for governor at the Portland Expo on Oct. 30, 2014 Portland Press Herald—Press Herald via Getty Images

Rally for gubernatorial candidate is a far cry from campaign moments of yesteryear

Five days before voters go to the polls to determine the outcome of the Senate, President Barack Obama was in the 41st most populated state wading into a contentious three-way race for governor. But even before he left, the modest nature of the trip on behalf of Democrats was readily apparent.

The airport was small, so Obama was relegated to a comparatively teeny modified Boeing-757 serving as Air Force One.

If any campaign swing captured the sorry state of the president before next week’s election, it was his five-hour exile to Maine Thursday afternoon.

Obama’s first event was a private fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee at a remote mansion accessible only by a 10-minute drive down a one-lane gravel road. Inside 25 donors paid at least $16,200 to meet with Obama away from the scrutiny of the media. It was a familiar scene for the president who has devoted most of the year to raising money in private.

He followed it with a rally in a stuffy Portland gymnasium for Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud, who is neck-and-neck in his challenge of Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

Obama told the crowd he was “a little wistful” because “this is the last election cycle in which I’m involved as president, because I do like campaigning. It’s fun.”

The event was a far cry from the Obama campaigns of yesteryear, where his soaring rhetoric and voter enthusiasm combined to cinematic effect. There were no stops for ice cream or coffee with candidates, or impromptu visits to local landmarks. Instead he delivered a rote speech highlighting his economic record and lambasting Republicans for failing to compromise. The message clashed with that of Michaud, who devoted his remarks introducing Obama to criticizing the state’s economy under LePage.

It was just Obama’s fourth rally for Democrats this cycle, with only a handful more planned before polls close on Tuesday.

“He has done everything we’ve asked,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Executive Director Guy Cecil said of the president Thursday. They just haven’t asked for much other than to get out of the way.

From delaying promised executive action on immigration reform under pressure from vulnerable Senate Democrats to holding off on nominating a replacement to Attorney General Eric Holder, Obama has spent much of the past several months trying to avoid saddling members of his party with more baggage.

Earlier in October Obama unwittingly did just that, declaring “I am not on the ballot this fall. Michelle’s pretty happy about that. But make no mistake: these policies are on the ballot. Every single one of them.” The line, uttered about Democrats’ policy proposals, not specifically his, quickly became campaign fodder for Republicans.

Obama has been essentially sidelined to a dual role of brining in donations and turning out a less-than-enthusiastic Democratic base, as his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Vice President Joe Biden have vigorously stumped for candidates.

His only event on behalf of a Democratic Senate candidate this cycle will be this weekend in Michigan for front-runner Rep. Gary Peters.

With reporting by Alex Altman/Washington.

TIME 2014 Election

2014 Election: Four Things to Watch

Kay Hagan, Thom Tills
Sen. Kay Hagan, left, D-N.C., and North Carolina Republican Senate candidate Thom Tillis greet prior to a live televised debate at UNC-TV studios in Research Triangle Park, N.C. Gerry Broome—AP

The keys to Tuesday's Senate elections, according to the two parties' top strategists

Millions of votes have been cast, the last ads have been cut, and there’s barely a household that remains blessedly untouched by the fight for the U.S. Senate. At some point, there is nothing left to do but wait. So with Election Night days away, the two parties’ top Senate strategists gathered Thursday in Washington to preview the drama that will unfold.

Much of the sparring between Rob Collins, executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Guy Cecil, his counterpart at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, involved the ritual scramble to manage expectations. (Yes, we know both sides are optimistic about their chances—at least publicly, anyway.) But some big-picture themes emerged from the spin session between two parties’ top strategists. Here are four takeaways:

A tale of two frames

If Republicans retake the Senate, they have Barack Obama to thank. The GOP’s strategy in the battleground states was to make each election a referendum on the President, tying vulnerable Democratic incumbents to the policies of a chief executive whose approval ratings have sagged into the low 40s. “We have framed it through the prism of a group of incumbents voting with the President more than 90% of the time,” Collins said.

In contrast, Democrats have sought to localize these races, framing the contests as a choice between two candidates. “It’s clear the Republicans want to nationalize” the elections, Cecil said. “And it’s clear the Democrats want to make it about the two people on the ballot.”

Candidates matter

Inside the party committees and out, Republicans are gushing about their slate of Senate candidates this cycle. For the first time since 2008, no incumbent GOP Senator was toppled in a primary this year. That means no Todd Akins, no Sharron Angles—no challengers whose verbal missteps or outré positions dented party candidates up and down the ballot. “This is the best recruiting class in 30 years,” Collins said. Democrats are enthused by some of their recruits as well, especially Georgia’s Michelle Nunn, whom Cecil cited as the cycle’s best candidate.

And then there are the duds. Cecil called Nunn’s opponent, Republican businessman David Perdue, perhaps this year’s worst Republican candidate. Perdue’s competition for the ignominious title is Sen. Pat Roberts, the three-term GOP incumbent whose listless campaign cracked open the door for an unknown independent in blood-red Kansas. As for weak Democrats, Collins cited North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan as a candidate whose shortcomings were “hidden behind a big pile of money.”

The bellwethers say plenty about each side’s path to victory

On Election Night, Collins said, the GOP will be looking at North Carolina and New Hampshire as harbingers. Both are close states where the Democratic incumbents—Hagan and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, respectively—have led the whole way, only to see Republican challengers surge at the finish line. In contrast, Democrats are watching states like Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and Georgia. Democrats are even or behind in all of those contests, and just one—the Peach State—is a pickup opportunity for the President’s party. The bellwethers underscore just how much the map favors the GOP this year.

The money involved is massive

The two parties and their allied outside groups have carpet-bombed North Carolina, forking over more than $100 million on the Tar Heel State’s Senate contest. More than $55 million has been dropped on Alaska, a staggering sum in a state with cheap media markets and just 735,000 residents. And if Louisiana and Georgia go to runoffs? Expect the two sides to shell out another $35 million to $45 million apiece, Cecil predicted, if control of the Senate hangs in the balance. The DSCC has already reserved $10 million in television time in Louisiana. Which means the ad blitz may not let up until January after all.

TIME Israel

Sen. Ted Cruz: Obama’s Unprecedented Attack on Israel

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Oct. 13, 2014.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks during a press conference in Jerusalem, Oct. 13, 2014. Menahem Kahana—EPA

Cruz is the junior U.S. Senator from Texas.

Voters should challenge the administration's views on Election Day

This week, the world was treated to yet another embarrassing display of the Obama administration’s incompetent foreign policy.

According to The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, various anonymous officials referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as both “a chicken****” and “a coward.” While these indefensible comments have received the lion’s share of media attention, the substantive remarks about Iran were even more troubling. Goldberg wrote that another senior official claimed that due to their pressure on Netanyahu, it is now “too late” for Israel to stop Iran from amassing an “atomic arsenal.”

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told the White House press corps on Tuesday that the President likely does not know who did this, and there is no effort underway to find out. Other officials have signaled that these persons may be disciplined in ways that are have not been disclosed. But, regardless, they will continue to serve at the pleasure of the President because, as Earnest said, such things happen almost every day in this administration.

In other words, this is no big deal.

With all due respect, this is a very big deal. This is an unprecedented attack on a critical ally of the United States at a moment of international crisis. It is a de facto admission to the mullahs in Tehran that the Obama administration thinks it is too late to prevent them from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is an inexcusable betrayal of the national security of the American people.

Do the Democrats agree with what Obama administration officials are saying about Israel and its leaders? Do they also concede that a nuclear Iran is inevitable? If not, will they call on the President to identify and fire the persons making these assertions? These questions should be asked—and answered—before Americans head to the polls next Tuesday.

It is my hope that Congress can unite to reverse this administration’s approach by defending our allies and standing up to hostile actors in the world. When the White House acts recklessly, Congress should swiftly act to defend our nation. We will not be able to do so if the Senate is led by Harry Reid acting as a rubber stamp for President Obama. Either the Democrats should denounce the Obama Administration’s dangerous policies or the voters should send them home in November.

As disgraceful as these comments were, at least they bring crystal clarity to the choice we face as a nation on November 4th. Choose wisely.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME golf

Michael Jordan Doesn’t Think Much of President Obama’s Golf Skills

Milwaukee Bucks v Charlotte Hornets
Michael Jordan, owner of the Charlotte Hornets, watches on during their game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Time Warner Cable Arena on October 29, 2014 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Streeter Lecka—Getty Images

His Airness thinks he would destroy Obama on the green

Basketball great Michael Jordan has never played golf with President Barack Obama — but if he ever does, he thinks it would be a walk in the park.

“I’d take him out,” Jordan said Thursday, in a video interview with sportscaster Ahmad Rashad. “He’s a hack. It would be all day playing with him.”

When asked if he could play golf with anyone in the world, Jordan chose golfing great Arnold Palmer and the President. Though he’d likely struggle against Palmer, he had no such worries about Obama. “I never said he wasn’t a great politician,” Jordan went on to say. “I’m just saying he’s a s*** golfer.”

Those are some bold words about POTUS. But the 14-time NBA All-Star is known for his hyper-competitive streak on and off the golf course. Sports Illustrated‘s Rick Reilly once reported that after Jordan lost a game of golf to U.S. Olympic coach Chuck Daly, he got up the next morning and pounded on Daly’s hotel room door until the Dream Team coach agreed to a rematch. Jordan won.

TIME Election 2014

These Hail Mary Ads Show What Desperate Candidates Will Try

When candidates are headed for defeat, they put out some desperate ads

There’s a certain type of campaign ad that candidates hope they’ll never have to run. It typically airs in the final days before the elections, when the polls aren’t looking good and they decide to try for a Hail Mary pass to shake things up.

With the midterm elections just days away, these ads are surfacing now. Here’s a look at four long balls thrown by despairing candidates.

As the Texas gubernatorial race has slipped through her fingers, Democrat Wendy Davis reached for a new attack against Republican Greg Abbott. In a move that caused voters and pundits alike to shake their heads, she decided to criticize Abbott — who has used a wheelchair since a 1984 accident left him paralyzed — for not supporting the disabled.

Tom Corbett, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania, has long been the most likely incumbent to go down to defeat on Tuesday. So with the sense of a man with nothing to lose, he released an ad attacking Democrat Tom Wolf for supporting a hike in the income tax. That’s a pretty standard hit, but the visuals — chainsaws, demonic twins and evil clowns — are anything but routine.

In Virginia, Republican Ed Gillespie may have taken the Hail Mary metaphor literally. In a recent ad, he linked Democratic Senator Mark Warner to a recent push to force the Washington Redskins football team to change its name. The real chutzpah of the ad, though, comes when Gillespie argues that the fight, which Warner has mostly sat out, is a distraction from the real issues.

Not every Hail Mary ad is thrown by a candidate. In the Colorado Senate race between Democratic Senator Mark Udall and Republican Cory Gardner, NARAL Pro-Choice America tried a last-minute turnaround by arguing that a Gardner win would lead to the outlawing of birth control and a run on condoms.

And then there’s whatever the opposite of a Hail Mary pass is. (A screen pass?) Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is clearly feeling like he’s going to defeat Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes on Tuesday or he wouldn’t have spent valuable ad money and time on a goofy ad where he giggles and plays with puppies.

TIME Congress

No Good Options for GOP on Obama’s Immigration Move

Immigration Reform Rally / Protest in Tacoma, Washington
With reform stalled in Congress, activists are urging Obama to act on his own. Jason Redmond—REUTERS

Republicans may sue the president, but it's not likely to get far in the courts

When President Obama signs an executive order giving temporary deportation relief and work authorization for millions of undocumented immigrants, Republicans across the country and on Capitol Hill will blow up. But there’s not much they can do about it that will make a difference.

All Republican options have fatal flaws. Pass a bill to overrule the executive action? Obama will veto it. Try to override the veto? Not enough votes in the Senate, even if Republicans control it. Attach a rider to a government funding bill? End up with another unpopular government shutdown. Sue the president? Spend lots of taxpayer money and wait months if not years only to get rejected by a judge.

Still, the last option on the list may be the one Republicans go with.

While they are keeping their options open before the President shows his hand—as my colleague Alex Altman reports, it’s still unclear how big he will go—some have coalesced in favor of a lawsuit as the bare minimum response to what they think will be a monumental case in executive overreach.

This week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said on Fox that his recommendation to the Republican congressional leadership is to “immediately bring suit and seek an injunction restraining the president,” adding that he and his staff have been in “considerable communication” with House Speaker John Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy about how to respond to the President’s actions.

Other Republicans have advocated for a lawsuit, including Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who would “absolutely” support litigation to prevent the President’s executive action, according to spokesman Mike Reynard. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) have supported it in the past. And on Wednesday, House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul implied that he would too.

“Our Constitution requires the President to work with Congress to enact laws, not ignore Congress or the will of the people,” said McCaul in an emailed statement. “If the President decides to once again go it alone and grant amnesty through executive order by the end of the year, my colleagues and I will have no choice but to do everything in our power to stop him.”

Over the summer, the House passed a Blackburn-sponsored bill designed to freeze the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—limiting the number of children granted deferred deportation and work permits—and bar the President from taking future executive actions to expand efforts to postpone deportations. But the bill went nowhere in the Democratic-majority Senate and even under a Republican Senate it would face an Obama veto.

A senior House Republican aide familiar with the issue says that expanding the litigation the House authorized in July over the Affordable Care Act is “certainly one option,” although no decisions have been made by the party conference. All that would need to happen to sue the president over his executive order is for the House to take another vote. (One reason, perhaps, why the previous suit has not yet been filed—first pointed out by Washington Monthly—is that the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service agreed with legal experts in that the claim had no legal merit.) “We’ll continue to consult with our members and make a decision if and when the president acts,” says the aide.

The Republicans’ response could very well depend on what the President does, “if and when” that occurs. Expanding DACA to include some family members of those already eligible could provoke a different reaction than smaller measures, such as expanding work permits for those in the agricultural or high-skilled tech sector, which business groups have pushed. Immigration advocates counter that Obama might as well go big—affecting the lives of several million undocumented immigrants instead of around a million—because the GOP response is going to hold the same shrieking tenor no matter what.

A lawsuit may have little merit besides making some noise. Last month, the National Immigration Law Center and the American Immigration Council distributed a letter sent to the White House signed by 136 immigration law experts claiming that the President has the authority to use prosecutorial discretion in preventing large numbers of undocumented immigrants from being deported. In July, one of those experts, Stephen Yale-Loehr of Cornell University Law School, told TIME that the President has “wide discretion when it comes to immigration,” adding that expanding DACA falls “within the president’s inherent immigration authority.” In a one-word statement, distinguished Harvard constitutional law professor Laurence H. Tribe told TIME that the GOP claim was “unlikely” to have standing.

Of course, the legal merit of the lawsuit may not be all that important—simply announcing one could keep GOP Congressmen content with a ready response to constituent and reporter questioning in the immediate term. If and when the conservative backlash dies down, the party will be fully focused on 2016, when the GOP can undo Obama’s legacy by repainting the Oval Office red.

TIME People

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino Dies at 71

Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino
Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino W. Marc Bernsau—Boston Business Journal

Menino was the city's longest-serving mayor, who led for more than two decades

Thomas M. Menino, the beloved former mayor of Boston who led the city for more than two decades, died Thursday. He was 71, and his passing was confirmed in a statement on his Facebook page.

Menino, who served five terms in office to become the city’s longest-serving mayor, was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer soon after stepping down earlier this year. Last week, Menino announced that he would stop chemotherapy treatment — and suspend a tour to promote his book Mayor for a New America — to spend more time with his family and friends.

“At just after 9:00am this morning the Honorable Thomas M. Menino passed into eternal rest after a courageous battle with cancer,” the statement said. “He was surrounded by his devoted wife Angela, loving family and friends. Mayor Menino, the longest serving Mayor of the City of Boston, led our city through a transformation of neighborhood resurgence and historic growth — leaving the job he loved, serving the city and people he loved this past January. We ask that you respect the families’ privacy during this time and arrangements for services will be announced soon.”

Menino is credited with overseeing the ascent of Boston’s skyline and leading the city through economic downturns to become a hub for business and technology. The city’s first mayor of Italian descent, according to the Boston Globe, Menino’s old-school political style won him the support of the city, leaving office with an approval rating of nearly 80%. A 2008 Globe poll found that more than half of the Boston respondents said they had met him personally.

Read TIME’s 2013 profile of Menino here: The Last of the Big-City Bosses

TIME 2014 Election

Mega-Donors Give Big in State Elections

Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner exits the polling place after voting in Winnetka, Ill.
Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner exits the polling place after voting in Winnetka, Ill., March 18, 2014. Andrew Nelles—AP

Donors gave millions in races for governor, especially when they were the ones running

At least 29 donors have given $1 million or more to state-level campaigns so far this election, with a dozen of the big givers made up of self-funding candidates, according to an analysis of campaign finance data.

The other big donors to state campaigns in the 2014 election include billionaires, corporate giants, unions and nonprofit political groups. Each donor has shelled out more than 19 times the country’s median household income.

According to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state records collected by the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics, top donors include:

  • Illinois Republican candidate Bruce Rauner, who has given more than $14 million (* see below), mostly to fund his own campaign for governor;
  • Pennsylvania Democrat Tom Wolf, who has used $10 million of his own money in an attempt to unseat unpopular incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican;
  • The Republican Governors Association, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that has given at least $9.6 million to gubernatorial candidates in at least six states;
  • Arizona gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones, who gave more than $5.3 million, nearly all to fund her own campaign, only to lose in the Republican primary;
  • And Chicago-based hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who has given more than $4.7 million, mostly to Rauner in Illinois.

The analysis is preliminary — the totals will only go up as more contribution reports are filed in the states. In addition, the National Institute is still processing reports that have already come in. Less than 80 percent of those reports have been processed thus far this election cycle. Rauner (*) alone, for example, has given at least $12 million more for a total of $26 million, state records show.

Despite those limitations, the Center still identified at least 29 of these million-dollar donors who have given more than $84 million out of the more than $1 billion in the two-year, 2014 election cycle. The Center looked at reports processed by the National Institute through Oct. 29.

While the race for U.S. Senate has grabbed most of the national election headlines this year, much of the action is at the state level. Thirty-six governorships are on the ballot in addition to more than 200 other statewide races and thousands of statehouse contests.

And unlike at the federal level, some states allow unlimited contributions to candidates. In addition, several states also allow direct contributions from the treasuries of corporations and unions.

Seeding their own chances

Rauner, Wolf and Jones are just three of at least 12 candidates for state-level office who have poured at least $1 million into their own campaigns.

States can limit contributions to candidates, but there are no such limitations on how much a candidate can give to his or her own campaign. That gives wealthy individuals with political aspirations an advantage over less wealthy opponents, said Bill Rosenberg, a political science professor at Drexel University.

“If an individual wants to run for public office, and they can be self-financed and the parties view them as reasonable candidates,” Rosenberg said, “a lot of times the party will just step out of the way because they can take those financial resources and put them into other races.”

In the case of Rauner, his early contributions to his campaign may have helped him attract even more cash to his joint campaign with running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti, including at least $4.5 million from Griffin and $7 million from the Republican Governors Association.

“The millions reassured prospective donors that the Republican Party wasn’t going to have a flash in the pan here, that he was going to be in until the end, that he wasn’t going to get outspent,” said Brian Gaines, a political science professor at the University of Illinois.

Limitations on influence

But other donors who give directly to candidates often face strict limits.

In 21 states, corporations cannot give money to candidates’ campaigns, and 16 states ban unions from giving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. (Unions and corporations can give through their political action committees, though contributions may be limited.)

Thirty-eight states cap the amount a person or group can give to a single candidate.

And until recently, donors in more than a dozen states were limited in how much money they could give overall in an election cycle. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down aggregate limits at the federal level in April, with its ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. States such as Connecticut and Wisconsin have pledged to not enforce the limits in state elections this year.

It’s not yet clear how far-reaching the impact of the decision may be on this election. Still, the existing contribution limits largely shape the way money pours into elections.

The two states seeing the highest number of donations to candidates from the mega-donors so far are Texas, where individuals and political action committees can give candidates as much as they want, and Illinois, whose governor’s race allows unlimited contributions this cycle.

Six-figure donations are the norm in marquee races in Texas.

This cycle, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican running for governor, received at least $900,000 from Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who died in December 2013. Energy tycoon Kelcy Warren has given Abbott at least $450,000, while telecommunications executive Kenny Troutt along with his wife, Lisa, has given him at least $350,000.

Such large-scale giving does not carry a stigma in Texas of trying to buy access, according to Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. Instead, he said, it is “simply par for the course” in the Lone Star State.

“Large donations have little to no political blowback,” Jones said.

Under Illinois rules, if a candidate for statewide office contributes more than $250,000 to his or her own campaign, or if an outside group spends that amount supporting a candidate in the race, caps for contributions to a single candidate are thrown out in that race.

At first Rauner, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, avoided giving his opponent the chance for limitless fundraising by injecting $249,000, just below the threshold, into his campaign in March 2013.

But before the end of that year, Rauner gave his campaign another $1 million, pulling the plug on caps in the race. By now, the Republican nominee has contributed more than $26 million of his own money to his campaign, according to Illinois campaign finance records.

Rauner’s campaign did not respond to the Center’s request for comment.

His self-funding also cleared the path for incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and his running mate to accept more than $3.6 million from the Democratic Governors Association, more than $755,000 from Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner and millions from unions, including more than $1.2 million from a branch of the Service Employees International Union.

Getting around the limits

Even in states with contribution restrictions, well-heeled donors have found ways to give generously — and legally — to the candidates they favor.

In Pennsylvania, for example, corporations and unions can’t give directly to candidates, but they can give unlimited amounts of money if they establish a political action committee in the organization’s name. That’s how the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a state teachers union, gave $500,000 to Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign.

In New York, wealthy individuals can donate through multiple limited liability corporations to dodge the state’s $60,800 per cycle contribution limit for such businesses. Real estate magnate Leonard Litwin, for example, has given at least $1 million to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo using this method, according to a recent report by the New York Public Interest Research Group. The original sources of such contributions, though, are not reflected in the National Institute on Money in State Politics’ data.

A representative for Litwin did not respond to requests for comment.

Sometimes the best way around the rules is to avoid them altogether by giving to independent groups instead of candidate campaigns. Thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and subsequent rulings, there is no limit to what a person, corporation or union can give to independently acting political organizations.

The tactic is widespread this election. Roughly a fifth of the television ads airing in state-level races this cycle were paid for by groups that operate independently from candidates’ official campaigns, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

But many donors this cycle have given directly to candidates and helped fund outside political efforts beyond state-level races.

Eychaner, for example, may not make a list of million-dollar donors to candidates for state-level office this election. He has so far given at least $755,000 to Quinn in Illinois. But he has also given about $8 million to federal super PACs this year, according to the Federal Election Commission. In 2012, he was the largest Democratic donor to independent spending groups, having given $14 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A representative for Eychaner declined to comment.

On the other side, Griffin was one of the five largest donors to the Washington, D.C.-based Republican Governors Association in the first nine months of this year, according to the group’s latest tax filing.

A representative for Griffin declined to comment.

Why do they give?

For individual donors, there are several likely reasons why they may give to candidates’ campaigns, said Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt.

For some, political ideology is a motivating factor, Levitt said. For others, large contributions are a way for donors to thrust themselves into the public consciousness. Still others are looking to gain favor with the people who could end up regulating their business interests. Sometimes, it’s a combination of the three.

Though some corporations are ideologically motivated, most businesses’ political donations are effectively “bet hedging,” he said.

Cable television giant Comcast Corp. parceled out at least $1.2 million in donations to candidates for state-level office in 36 states, often with as little as $100 given to the campaign of a legislative candidate.

“We believe that it’s important to be involved in the political process,” said Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice. “There are probably thousands of bills and regulatory state actions every year that affect the company.”

Fitzmaurice said the company tends to give across party lines and mostly to incumbents.

The company gave to Democrats in 28 states, Republicans in 31 states and at least one independent in Alabama, the Center’s analysis shows.

Where the company directs its political donations could depend on factors such as whether an election could shift party control of a state legislature or whether a state is considering regulatory action, Fitzmaurice said.

“For a corporation, making a donation may well be laying a bed of good will for legislators or regulators down the line, either to prevent unfavorable legislation or to try and get favorable legislation,” Levitt said. “It’s not uncommon at all for legislators, at least, to do a mental check of whether they’ve received a contribution before they decide exactly how badly they want to schedule a particular meeting.”

Liz Essley Whyte contributed to this report.

TIME 2016 Election

Obama Political Guru Secretly Advised Hillary Clinton on 2016

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers the keynote address at the Dreamforce convention Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, in San Francisco.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers the keynote address at the Dreamforce convention Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014, in San Francisco. Ben Margot—AP

Much of the President's team is already backing Clinton for 2016

A longtime top political adviser to President Barack Obama secretly met with Hillary Clinton recently to offer up his advice for how to avoid another presidential campaign loss if she runs again in 2016, according to a new report.

Politico, citing unnamed sources, reports that David Plouffe, the architect of Obama’s 2008 defeat of Clinton, met with the former Secretary of State in September. Clinton is widely expected to run again, and much of Obama’s political brain trust is already backing her. Plouffe reportedly advised Clinton to make better use of advanced data analytics, define a coherent rationale for her candidacy and stick to a defined message throughout a campaign.

The report details Republican efforts to develop a strategy to block Clinton from winning the White House in 2016—efforts that have yet to yield a clear answer.

“Everybody’s looking for a silver bullet, but in the absence of that we’re finding a lot of lead,” GOP strategist Michael Goldfarb said.

Read more at Politico

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser