TIME 2016 Election

Jindal Joins Democrats in Criticizing Christie Outburst

Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana speaks during an address to delegates at the Conservative Political Action Conference, National Harbor, Maryland, March 6, 2014.
Governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana speaks during an address to delegates at the Conservative Political Action Conference, National Harbor, Maryland, March 6, 2014. Trevor Collens—Alamy

Little love lost between the two 2016 Republican contenders

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “bully” image is coming under bipartisan attack this week, as the likely 2016 hopeful is crisscrossing the nation this weekend in a final campaign to help elect Republican governors before Tuesday’s midterm elections.

An incident Wednesday when the outspoken governor told a protester to “sit down and shut up” at an event marking the anniversary of Hurricane Sandy quickly became cable news fodder and fed into Democratic attacks. But it has also exposed a gap on his right flank, with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal distancing himself from Christie on Fox News Friday. “I do things differently,” Jindal, another likely presidential candidate said. “Look here in the South we do things maybe a little differently.”

As host Neil Cavuto pressed, Jindal continued his critique. “Chris can explain his own words,” he said. “I did say after the last presidential election, if we want voters to like us, we have got to like them first.”

There is little love lost between the two ambitious governors, who clashed over the chairmanship of the Republican Governors Association, and Christie’s brash persona has been essential to his political identity on the national stage. His clashes with public employees as he pushed through pension reform legislation in his first term made him a household name across the country.

Meanwhile, Democratic opposition research group American Bridge released a video Thursday collecting many of Christie’s outbursts.

TIME isis

Why the U.S. Can’t Beat an Army the Size of a Junior College

National Insecurity
National Insecurity

David Rothkopf is the CEO and editor of the FP Group, which is publisher of Foreign Policy Magazine, ForeignPolicy.com, and presenter of FP Events.

A fight against ISIS requires strategy and willpower—and endurance that can outlast Obama's presidency

The Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) is a pernicious, brutal organization that directly threatens the stability of the Middle East, and ultimately, nations worldwide. It is also roughly the size of a small American state university, fielding no more than 30,000. It doesn’t have an air force, a navy, a reliable tax base, or any of the other resources found in even the smallest and most fragile of nations.

The U.S. needed only three and a half years to defeat the Axis in World War II. During that war Germany alone was able to field more than 20 million soldiers. So why, when U.S. Admiral John Kirby, the spokesperson for the most powerful military force the world has ever known, was asked how long it might take to defeat the modest threat posed by ISIS, did he say that it could take five years, six years or even more?

While it’s well known that fighting insurgencies is challenging— witness the 13-year war against the Taliban— that’s not the whole answer. Unlike Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, ISIS isn’t fighting purely guerilla-style, fading in and out of the background. ISIS is seeking to claim and hold territory, build and maintain supply chains, protect illicit oil shipments—all in the effort to construct a state. ISIS is a hybrid force—part insurgency and part traditional army—and the U.S. should have no trouble defeating a traditional army.

But to do that, you need to rely on more than just air strikes. Ground forces are required to seize and hold territory where ISIS has been weakened. While those troops needn’t be entirely or even primarily American, if Washington is leading a coalition against ISIS—and it is—then the U.S. must be on the ground as well. There is no other way.

That leadership can’t be left up to the rest of the U.S. coalition. Most of the participants have really only signed up for secondary duty, far from the battles on the ground. Virtually none have made meaningful commitments to field the troops and take the risks needed not only to degrade ISIS, but to defeat it. With some—like Turkey or Qatar—it can be hard to tell whose side they’re actually on.

The coalition and the U.S. have repeatedly shown they lack the two things needed to ensure a decisive victory. The first is will. That means the will to commit the right forces in the right numbers, with the associated risks—and the will to work allies to ensure they do their part as well. Turkey, for instance, needs to know that failure to be a dependable partner against ISIS will call their NATO membership into question.

The second issue is a question of strategy. When President Obama admitted in August that “we don’t have a strategy yet” on ISIS, he lived up the old Washington maxim that a gaffe is just a politician accidentally telling the truth. But his later assurance that the U.S. did indeed have a strategy was unconvincing. Absent the will to win, there is no strategy that will work.

Even if the U.S. manages to defeat ISIS militarily in Iraq or Syria, there is no clear plan to fill the political, economic and social void that will be created by its elimination. In Syria victory over ISIS might end up empowering the brutal regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is already responsible for a war that’s produced 200,000 deaths and a massive humanitarian catastrophe. In Iraq, if the only result is a Shiite-led regime in Baghdad that acts much like the last one, it won’t be long before Sunni unrest invites the rise of a new insurgency. We’ve seen that movie once before.

We need a broader strategy to curb the alarming spread of violent extremism, which currently takes the form of dozens of groups from West Africa to Asia Insiders call it “squeezing the balloon”—getting rid of the problem in one place only to see it burst forth in another. It’s not enough, as the President recently suggested, to simply see this as a “generational problem.”

And that’s the rub. One can’t help but look at the current ad hoc, half-hearted effort against ISIS without thinking that the goal isn’t really beating ISIS, but beating back bad press. It’s a policy built around keeping a lid on public criticism—at least until the President has cleaned out his desk in the Oval Office.

David Rothkopf is the CEO and editor of the FP Group, which is publisher of Foreign Policy Magazine, ForeignPolicy.com, and presenter of FP Events. He is also president and CEO of Garten Rothkopf, an international advisory firm. He is a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, where he chairs the Bernard L. Schwartz Program in Competitiveness and Growth Policies. He is the author of Power, Inc.: The Epic Rivalry Between Big Business and Government and the Reckoning that Lies Ahead; Superclass: The Global Power Elite and the World They’re Making; and Running the World: The Inside Story of the National Security Council and the Architects of American Power. His new book, National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear, is out this week.

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 2014 elections

Democrats, Republicans Call Off Election Night Parties In DC

Welcome to the era of Citizens United

Cancel the confetti cannons. Roll up the bunting. Democrats and Republicans won’t be partying on Tuesday like it’s 2006.

Election night in Washington D.C. traditionally features two big hotel ballroom parties on different sides of Capitol Hill. Organized by the congressional committees, Democrats and Republicans gather staffers, donors and volunteers to watch returns come in and celebrate together various victories.

Journalists come along for the ride, with cameras capturing the crowds’ reactions. Of course, some parties are less fun than others: John Boehner’s party in 2006 was markedly quiet, while Nancy Pelosi hosted a blowout bash. The roles were reversed as the returns came back in 2010.

But this year, the parties are off. Pelosi will do an event with donors and a press availability after the returns come in. “We’re welcoming volunteers and supporters into our office to make calls to turnout voters all over the country and we’ll be calling into the West Coast until late in the evening,” said Emily Bittner, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s spokeswoman

The staff at the National Republican Campaign Committee, which helps elect Republicans to the House, “will be working all night,” says spokeswoman Andrea Bozek.

Neither committee on the Senate side will be doing parties, either, sources say.

That said, Magnum Entertainment, a private company, will be holding a party for Republicans at Union Station, a little birdie tells TIME. A message left for Magnum asking who is funding the party went unanswered. But such an event would seem appropriate in an election where outside spending has already topped $770 million.

 

TIME 2014 Election

Early Vote Totals in North Carolina, Iowa Favor Democrats

Early Voting North Carolina Supporters of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) outside of a polling place in Asheville.
Supporters of Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) outside of a polling place in Asheville, N.C., Oct. 28, 2014. Mike Belleme—The New York Times/Redux

Early vote totals show Democrats in some key states hitting the polls early at higher rates than Republicans

For more than 13 million Americans, Election Day has already come and gone. And that means control of the Senate may already have been partially decided, as a little more than three million of those voters were from key swing states, according to data from the United States Election Project.

So who’s winning? Early vote returns won’t tell us who is ahead in some of the country’s most closely-watched races, but they can give us an idea of where things stand heading into Election Day. And for now, both sides have evidence they can point to that shows they’re doing well.

For Democrats, North Carolina looks particularly promising. So far in the Tar Heel state, where voting rights advocates worried a shortened early voting period would have an adverse impact on the election, over 800,000 votes have been cast so far in the election and 47% were cast by registered Democrats. Registered Republicans account for about 32% of North Carolina’s early votes.

According to North Carolina political science professor Michael Bitzer who runs a blog tracking voting and politics, at least 130,000 more votes have been cast in 2014 compared to the same period in 2010, even though there were seven additional days of early voting that year. Also, more unaffiliated voters and black voters who did not participate in 2010 are hitting the polls this election.

Early vote totals in North Carolina could signal good news for incumbent Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan, who is facing a tough challenge from Republican state Rep. Thom Tillis, but Election Day will show whether the flood of early votes from registered Democrats will surpass the expected Republican turnout at the polls.

For Republicans, the best evidence comes from Colorado, which is hosting its first election using all mail-in ballots. Out of the 1,149,745 votes that were cast as of Friday, about 41.3% were from registered Republicans. About 32.2% of votes thus far are from Democrats in the state. A recent report by Colorado Public Radio, however, suggests both parties are working the ground in the final days of the election to ensure voters get their ballots in the mail. The last-ditch effort could help in the state, where the latest round of polling has incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger Cory Cardner tied.

It must be noted, too, that a couple days out from the election, the most telling results are coming from two states that took two very different approaches to altering the voting process. In an attempt at expanding the voting pool, Colorado sent ballots to voters instead of waiting for them to show up at the polls, while North Carolina enacted what has been called the most restrictive voting law changes in recent history.

And then, there’s Iowa where a recent Reuters poll has Senate hopefuls Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst neck-in-neck. There, Democratic voters have returned more absentee ballots than Republicans—but just barely. Out of the 391, 772 votes returned, 39% are from registered Republicans and about 41% are from registered Democrats.

TIME 2014 Election

Washington Votes on Dueling Gun Control Measures 11 Days After Deadly School Shooting

Washington Marysville Shooting Gun Violence
Students grieve beside a makeshift memorial at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Wash. David Ryder—Getty Images

Gun control is a charged topic in any election, but the issue has taken on extra weight in Washington as voters are being asked to decide on two competing firearms measures on the Nov. 4 ballot just 11 days after a school shooting in the rural city of Marysville left three teenagers dead and three others wounded.

Initiative 594 would expand the state’s background check requirements to cover gun transfers or sales, including those that take place at gun shows or online. The other, Initiative 591, is backed by gun rights advocates and would prohibit the state from requiring background checks that are stricter than those imposed by the federal government. Far more money is behind the measure expanding background checks, and polls show it has more support. Aided by six-figure donations from Bill and Melinda Gates and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the committees dedicated to passing the expanded background checks initiative have spent more than $10 million promoting it, dwarfing the nearly $2 million spent by groups opposing the measure or pushing the competing one.

A poll conducted by the nonpartisan Elway Research group in early October found that 60 percent of registered voters backed I-594, down from 72 percent in April, while support for the competing measure fell during the same period from 55 percent in April to 39 percent in October. Elway pollsters attributed the declines to voters learning more about the proposals, pointing out that in April 40 percent said they would vote for both measures, which fell to 22 percent in October. (In the unlikely event that both measures pass, effectively canceling each other out, courts would likely decide the final outcome.)

No polls measuring public opinion on the initiatives have been released since the Oct. 24 shooting, but University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the Marysville incident might erode support for the measure that would limit background checks..“The spate of unconscionable school shootings across the country, and now here in Marysville, has left voters ready to take responsible action on gun issues,” Barreto said. “We saw the same thing in 2012-2013 following the Newtown killings.”

Recent high-profile shooting incidents have not always led to tighter gun laws. If anything, getting permission to carry guns in more public spaces is easier than it has been in decades. President Obama’s attempt to harness outrage over the 2012 Newtown, Conn. school massacre into a federal ban on assault weapons went nowhere. States adopted 109 new gun measures in the year after Newtown, according to Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control organization. Seventy of these laws loosened restrictions on guns and gun ownership, in some cases extending the right to carry to school grounds. Such measures were adopted on the belief that more guns in public might prevent future school shootings.

In Washington, supporters of the background check measure acknowledge that the Marysville shooting would likely have happened even if the proposal had been law. Police said the shooter, a 14-year-old high school freshman, used a gun that was legally registered to a family member. But advocates believe that it can help their cause. School shootings, says Zach Silk, the campaign manager for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, “are very crystalizing for voters. They focus peoples’ minds.”

If so, it’s not clear how many voters will actually be swayed. Residents cast ballots by mail in Washington and many already sent theirs in before the Marysville shooting. “I’m not sure just how much that will have an influence,” says Dave Workman, a spokesman for a citizen’s committee working for the anti-background check measure. “I think we’re just going to see how it shakes out Tuesday night when the ballots come in.”

TIME

#AskTIME Subscriber Q and A

Welcome to TIME Subscriber Q&A, with TIME political columnist, Joe Klein. This week he has written about 5 things to watch for in the midterm elections.

To read the full post, you need to be a subscriber. It’s not too late to sign up. ($30 a year or 8 cents a day for the magazine and all digital content.) Once you’re signed up, you can log in to the site with a username and password.

DonQuixotic asks, Joe, assuming Republicans make gains in Congress (which in all likelihood they will), do you think their 2016 candidate will be harmed by the tone they set for the next two years? A tone we can almost certainly guess will be one of continued legislative gridlock?

Yes, if they continue down the same path. But they might be more clever and submit bills that look like progress—an immigration bill with money for more security and more visas for entrepreneurs (but nothing for the undocumented already here)–but really aren’t. Remember, they cooperated with Clinton in his second term, gave him constant little-noticed concessions in programs for the working poor, produced budget surpluses…and won the election in 2000.

sacredh asks, Joe, if you had to pick one senate race that you think is going to be an upset, which one would it be?

I don’t make predictions.These are especially hard to call. But I wouldn’t count out Michelle Nunn in Georgia and I especially like the fact that many of her campaign rallies were service projects.

DonQuixotic asks, Joe, since outreach to women seems to be important (or at the very least, necessary) to the Republican agenda, how long do you think it will take them to run a serious female candidate for President to show that it means something to them? One that genuinely has a shot at being on their ticket?

You mean, Sarah Palin wasn’t serious?

nflfoghorn asks, Awright, we got Joe back!!! Anyway, if pundits are correct and Republicans do take the Senate, can you point out any areas where they think they can actually pass laws (i.e., work with the president to a degree) versus blocking every nominee he can possibly throw up between 2015 and January 2017? And do they honestly think they can repeal anything at all under Obamacare?

As I mentioned above, they might pass hollowed out version of an immigration bill. They’ll also give (corporate) tax reform a try and I wouldn’t be surprised if they proposed a significant infrastructure. And no, they have NEVER honestly believed that they could repeal Obamacare…

MrObvious asks, Joe, When you talk to regular folks, do you get the feeling that they understand the moving parts of how things work politically and as a country or do you feel that they seem uninformed about how things work and what’s done in their names?

Sadly, no. In fact, most people who think they know how things work don’t really know. My antidote for this: everyone should do government work for a couple of years. That way the public would learn how difficult it is to get anything accomplished after 200 years of regulations and interest group influence.

deconstructive asks, A change of pace from election / post-election Senate Armageddon q’s. –

Joe, we always see debates over generational viewpoints, like today’s Millennials vs. Everyone Else, the 50’s / 60’s teens vs. parents, and so forth. Since you’ve worked with many younger reporters at TIME (like Katy Steinmetz) and witnessed younger reporters on the beat compared to seasoned veterans, what generational differences do you see among reporters today? As a comparison, at Michael Scherer’s last Q+A, I asked him what were the differences between working at larger TIME vs. smaller Mother Jones, and he said the work is the same. No doubt younger and older journalists do the same work, but I suspect differences exist, which are ________?

I’m really impressed with the young reporters I’ve worked with at TIME. They’re really smart, well-educated and enthusiastic. Which is all you need—except institutional memory, which is why they let a few old guys like me hang around. Reporting is the key. I don’t know how many stories, and issues, I’ve covered where reality on the ground has modified views that I had coming into the story.

yogi asks, JK, ISIS was deemed a the greatest threat ever that must be dealt with because of some nebulous idea that the fall of Iraq would bring the destruction of the US or something, it still was never really made clear to me. War should be a major issue that shouldn’t be treated as simply as deciding what to eat for dinner, yet Congress has passed the buck again with funding to allow the President to bomb however much he wants right before they ran off to campaign. Why doesn’t Congress believe they should debate whether the US goes to war anymore and how we pay for those wars?

Absolutely agree. We should never go to war without passing a war tax to pay the costs. Veterans have told me that it would be a sign that the public and government had their backs—and also a brake on mission creep, if the government was pursuing the wrong course.

yogi asks, JK, one of the narratives I’ve heard from various news sources is the general electorate still says that the economy is one of their main issues that plan base their vote on. Given that the GOP looks to make gains and control in both the House and Senate and only a year ago they shutdown the federal government that hurt the economy, this raises the questions: 1. Why hasn’t the electorate held the GOP accountable for this shutdown? and/or 2. Have they simply forgotten because the media has decided they don’t want to raise this issue?

The shutdown had a minuscule impact on the economy. And Obama’s disastrous health care launch took it off the table before it could be fully digested. The real problem here is that economics is counterintuitive. People simply don’t understand why government spending money—the Obama stimulus, for example—can be a boon in bad times. And despite years of media exposition and criticism, a lot of people still believe that massive tax cuts can boost the economy.

DonQuixotic asks, Joe, do you believe we may be seeing the very first American generation that is truly left off with worse opportunities than their parents due to our government’s inability to function, our economy, crippling personal debt, declining environment, and emerging global superpowers competing with our own interests?

It’s not impossible. We baby boomers have been an embarrassment when it comes to preparing for the future…but I don’t bet against the creativity of Americans.

hivemanster asks, Joe, do you ever feel bad that you’re embedded in a “media”, and I use that term loosely, that roughly resembles the tabloids of yesteryear? Enquiring minds want to know..

Yes. In some ways, it’s worse. There’s more competition now for a less interested audience and so the race to the bottom, using scare tactics and conspiracy theories, is on full throttle.

Sue_N asks, Joe, in your “5 Things to Watch” column you wrote:

But Republicans found in 1998 that compromising with a Democratic President could produce odd results, like balanced budgets and a Republican presidential victory in 2000.

Do you honestly, in your heart of hearts, believe that today’s Tea Party GOP, which has turned obstructionism and vitriol into performance art, has any notion whatsoever of compromising with Obama? The TPGOP (and, let’s face it, that is the maniacal id that controls the GOP now) has shut down the government, made noises about suing Obama simply for doing his job, voted 50+ times to repeal the ACA, insulted his commitment to this nation and accused him of aiding and comforting terrorists, made the idea of nullification an actual part of political discourse, talked up impeachment and so on. Do you honestly, seriously expect these people now to turn to Obama and say, “Heh, only joking, let’s be friends now”?

And do you honestly, seriously, expect a party that has made its bones by saying “government is the enemy, government is the problem, government shouldn’t be doing anything” to suddenly believe in actually doing anything?

At what point will the media, and you, give up on the “but they’ll govern when they’re in power, really” nonsense and just admit that when the GOP takes over the Senate, we’re going to see two years of ugliness that will make the past four seem like a party?

You’re probably right, but the business community killed a lot of Tea Party candidates for Senate this year—and we might find that the business-friendlies will want to get some business-friendly stuff done. The Chamber of Commerce favors immigration reform, infrastructure spending…and corporate tax reform, which could be a good thing, if properly negotiated.

MementoMori asks, – Voting officials in 27 states, almost all of them Republicans, have launched what is threatening to become a massive purge of black, Hispanic, and Asian-American voters

- The Republican Sec of State in GA has “lost” tens of thousands of Dem leaning voter registrations.

- Republican controlled states have reduced hours and days when you can vote, which adversely affect minorities and the poor.

- Republican controlled states have enacted Voter ID laws that accept a concealed carry gun license, but refuse a student ID. Again, targeting left-leaning voters, while facilitating right-leaning voters.

There is an increasingly long list of Republican efforts to keep people from voting. It’s not about “preventing fraud”. It’s not about “protecting the will of the people”. This is a bold-faced attempt to subvert the electoral process and there is no equivalent effort from Dems to prevent or limit people from voting.

The Question: At what point does the Republican effort to subvert the electoral process warrant a critical response from the media?

It’s already been criticized. And much of it, especially the limitations on early voting, is despicable. But I do believe you should have to provide some sort of I.d. in order to vote.

TIME Education

Think You Can Cheat on the SAT? The College Board Says Think Again

Security measures include air gaps, fake test takers, alarm doors, photo verification and handwriting samples

The SAT is never uploaded to the Internet. Test questions are never emailed. And even the computers that test creators use to write and edit the questions are never, ever connected to the web.

“The idea is that you can’t hack something that isn’t there,” said Ray Nicosia, the director of the Office of Testing Integrity at the Educational Testing Service (ETS), which oversees the security of the College Board’s SAT and SAT II subject area tests. Every year, those tests are administered at 25,000 test centers in 192 countries around the world.

Earlier this week, the College Board sent emails to all students living in China or Korea who had taken the SAT on October 11, informing them that their test scores would be reviewed and delayed for up to a month because of allegations of widespread cheating. It’s the latest in a long line of alleged and full-blown cheating scandals in the last few years that have involved not only the SATs, but nearly every other widely-administered standardized test, including Advance Placement tests, the ACTs, and English language qualifying exams.

“They’re always going to be people trying to challenge the system,” Nicosia said. “We stop a lot but there’s always someone trying new a way.” The advent of cell phones, tiny cameras and nearly undetectable recording devices, for example, has required his team to up their game, he said.

A quick search on YouTube reveals dozens of innovative cheating ideas, like scanning answers onto soft drink wrappers or printing formulas onto fabric, each complete with instructions on how to pull it off. One company sells an eraser that doubles as a microphone, designed to help sneaky individuals communicate with “helpers” up to 3,000 feet away.

In 2007, two students in China used tiny, wireless listening devices in their ear canals to cheat on an English exam; they were later hospitalized when the devices got stuck, according to China Daily. But, Nicosia said, those “James Bond tactics” are not as common as other, more run-of-the-mill cheating gambits. For example, in 2011, twenty students were arrested on Long Island, New York, for hiring other students—for a cool $3,600 bucks—to impersonate them in the SAT exam room.

Nicosia would not speak specifically about the allegations of cheating in the Oct. 11 test. But early speculation has focused on the possibility that the same test administered overseas on Oct. 11 had been administered previously in the U.S. ETS spokesman Thomas Ewing confirmed that ETS does reuse tests in different locations, though he would not comment on the Oct. 11 test.

Parke Muth, who volunteers as a consultant and advisor to Chinese students said he’s heard that test preparation companies will offer to pay test takers to memorize a half-dozen or so questions from a given test and write them down after they’ve left the testing area. “They do that a hundred times and they have the full test,” Muth said. He said he also heard allegations of students ripping out individual pages of a test booklet and smuggling it out of the test center.

Ewing didn’t seem too surprised by these suggestions. “The costs of test security have been steadily escalating over the years and ETS spends literally millions and millions of dollars in this area,” he said, adding that the Office of Testing Integrity, which Ray Nicosia has overseen since the mid-‘90s, has grown substantially. It now monitors every stage in the SAT and SAT II test-making and test-taking process—from the moment questions are written to the moment that students sit down to take the exam.

It’s a big job, made slightly easier by the fact that, unlike the ACT, which can now be taken on a computer in some locations, neither the SAT or the SAT II is available on any computer or digital device. Those exams must be taken instead with a good old-fashioned pencil and a paper booklet.

Still, Nicosia said, his oversight process doesn’t cut any corners. It begins in the College Board’s secure offices, which are patrolled by security guards who monitor suspicious vehicles in the area. Employees dealing directly with the test questions are required to use computers that are not, and never have been, connected to the Internet, and no part of the test, perhaps needless to say, is ever stored on the cloud. Test writers themselves are subject to background and criminal checks, and can have their briefcases and bags searched upon exiting the building to ensure that they are not transporting a thumb drive or other device containing information about the test’s content.

Once the test is written, it is moved in “a secure carrier,” Nicosia said, declining to elaborate, to a print shop that uses security protocols similar to companies that print casino vouchers, which can be exchanged for cash. “All our printers have alarm doors and security cameras and whole list of other things we mandate,” Nicosia said. “You don’t have a print shop employee just walking outside for a cigarette break.” At the end of the printing process, the SAT test booklets are “packaged in a certain way” so that tampering with the booklets themselves is either impossible or immediately obvious, he said.

From there, the test booklets are delivered to pre-vetted test administrators and school principals, who have gone thorough an ETS training and who must, in turn, provide ETS with assurance that the tests will be kept in a locked and secured location. In some instances, ETS has arranged to have the test booklets hand-delivered by a ETS employee on the day of the test.

On test day, a host of precautions are also in place. For example, ETS requires test takers to upload a photo of themselves when they register for the exam and then provide on test day a photo ID that matches both their registration photograph and their appearance. Test takers are also required to provide a handwriting sample that can be used should any subsequent investigation be necessary.

In most locations, ETS does not search students for cell phones or other digital devices, but if a proctor sees or hears a digital device, the student is immediately dismissed from the test, his scores are canceled, and a review is launched. In areas where cheating is suspected, ETS also sometimes deploys undercover investigators—employees in their late teens or early twenties who pretend to be test-takers—in order to “get the birds’ eye view of what’s going on without raising any eyebrows,” Nicosia said. At the end of tests, students are required to leave all testing materials behind.

All told, while the extent of cheating efforts is probably “extremely overblown in people’s imaginations,” Nicosia said his team takes every tip, allegation or rumor “very, very seriously.” “Whatever challenge is next, we’re looking for it,” he said.

TIME White House

Obama Dashes Adult Hopes on Halloween for Presidential M&Ms

President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I. on Oct. 31, 2014.
President Barack Obama speaks about the economy at Rhode Island College in Providence, R.I. on Oct. 31, 2014. Evan Vucci—AP

Rhode Island college students disappointed, but the candy is not for them

President Barack Obama violated the first rule of Halloween Friday: If you bring candy, bring enough for the entire class.

Speaking at Rhode Island College at an event highlighting Democratic priorities for women, Obama referenced Friday evening’s annual trick-or-treat at the White House. “A good thing about being president is we never run out of presidential M&Ms,” Obama said, referencing the customized candy boxes handed out at the White House and aboard Air Force One bearing the president’s signature. “And so we’re going to be giving those out.”

When a member of the audience shouted that she wanted some candy, Obama was forced to dash her hopes. “You want some, is that what you said?” Obama asked as the crowd roared. “Only to kids,” he added to laughter.

In practice, the Presidential chocolate candies are a perk for VIPs, young and old, who visit the White House or ride on Air Force One. Sometimes even members of the White House press corps, who pay to travel with the President, are offered a box. The boxes have been known to end up for resale on online auction sites like Ebay.

Obama spoke wistfully of when his daughters were younger, saying Malia and Sasha are now too old to dress up for Halloween.

“That’s so sad. You know, I used to be – we’d dress them up, and we still have the pictures, and they’ll resent them later. But at the time, they were fine with it. They were so cute.”

Aside from the candy, children visiting the White House Friday night will also receive the Michelle Obama-approved dried fruit mix.

TIME Military

Fissure Opens Between Pentagon and White House Over Assad’s Fate

WASHINGTON (Oct. 30, 2014) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel holds a press briefing with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey at the Pentagon Oct. 30, 2014. DoD Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Sean Hurt/Released.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday that internal Administration debate over what to do in Syria must be "honest" and "direct." DoD Photo / Sean Hurt

Hagel told Rice a lack of clarity is complicating U.S. efforts to combat ISIS

President Barack Obama declared in August 2011 that Syrian leader Bashar Assad must “step aside” for the good of his country after his forces had killed nearly 2,000 fellow citizens. More than three years later, with Assad still in power, the Syrian civil war has killed some 200,000 people and given Islamic extremists territory to occupy. That has led Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to warn the White House that the U.S. has to stop ignoring the Syrian dictator.

In a two-page memo to National Security Adviser Susan Rice two weeks ago, Hagel said the lack of clarity is complicating U.S. efforts to combat the militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria, Pentagon officials say. The memo’s existence was first reported in the New York Times on Thursday.

It’s no secret that there’s much teeth-gnashing inside the Pentagon because of a belief that U.S.-led air strikes against ISIS have transformed the U.S. military into a Syrian air force, of sorts. And after more than three years of increasing violence—including Assad’s brazen use of chemical weapons against his own people that Obama vainly warned was a “red line” that he’d better not cross—frustration is mounting among the U.S. military.

They say plans to train 5,000 “moderate”—i.e., non-ISIS—Syrian rebels annually to fight the militants is complicated by the civil war inside Syria, even if much of the training is slated to take place outside the country. So long as Assad remains in power, they fear the moderate rebels’ attention could be diverted from fighting ISIS to battling Assad.

Hagel wouldn’t say much about his concerns. “This is a complicated issue,” he told reporters Thursday. “We are constantly assessing and reassessing and adapting to the realities of what is the best approach.”

Such internal debates are the “responsibility of any leader,” he added. “And because we are a significant element of this issue, we owe the President and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this. And it has to be honest and it has to be direct.”

Unsurprisingly, a White House spokesman agreed. “The President wants the unvarnished opinion of every member of his national-security team,” Josh Earnest told CNN on Friday. “That’s the way he thinks we are going to reach the best outcomes.”

TIME 2014 Election

Straw Into Gold: Candidates Trade Leadership PAC Dollars for Campaign Cash

Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., right, joined by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., left, urges funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the agency is on track to run out of disaster relief funds after responding to a spate of natural disasters this year, most recently Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011.
Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., right, joined by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., left, urges funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency as the agency is on track to run out of disaster relief funds after responding to a spate of natural disasters this year, most recently Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. J. Scott Applewhite—AP

Senate contenders find mutual benefit by shuffling money back and forth between accounts

With just a few days remaining in the first quarter of 2014, Mary Landrieu did something generous: The embattled Democratic senator from Louisiana, herself in the midst of an exceedingly tough re-election race, used her leadership PAC to give $5,000 to the campaign of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who at the time expected a competitive race of his own and had won in 2008 by just 312 votes.

The contribution from Landrieu’s Jazz PAC came on March 28, three days before the Federal Election Commission’s filing deadline for candidate campaign finance reports, and plumped up Franken’s fundraising numbers — figures that would be seen as an indication of the former Saturday Night Live star’s ability to attract the money he needed to win.

Landrieu’s action looks less altruistic, though, considering what happened next: Franken’s leadership PAC, Midwest Values PAC, gave $5,000 to Landrieu’s campaign on March 31 — the very last day of the reporting cycle. As with Franken’s, Landrieu’s fundraising numbers were goosed just a bit as a result.

The trade appears to have been no coincidence. Landrieu engaged in 21 such exchanges through Sept. 30 of this midterm election cycle, giving $96,000 from Jazz PAC to other candidates’ campaigns. Within seven days before or after each donation, she received exactly the same amount back from the leadership PACs of those same candidates. Most of the activity occurred shortly before an FEC reporting deadline. Some of the trades happened within the very same day.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) has boosted her campaign account by nearly $100,000 using an increasingly popular maneuver involving leadership PACs.

And she’s not the only one. Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.), Kay Hagan (N.C.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) also all had at least 20 such swaps, each of which took a week or less to complete. All are in squeaker elections. Other Democrats who had more than 10 transactions: Sens. Franken, Chris Coons (Del.), Jack Reed (R.I.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Mark Begich (Alaska), Tom Udall (N.M.), Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Mark Warner (Va.), and Reps. Bruce Braley (Iowa) and Gary Peters (Mich.), both of whom are running for Senate seats.

On the Republican side, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky engaged in 14 of these exchanges, transferring $70,000 out of his Bluegrass Committee PAC to other GOP candidates who then used their PACs to donate $67,500 to his campaign, all within seven days. Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) did the same thing 11 times in this cycle using his Preserving America’s Traditions PAC.

In an era of multimillon-dollar donations to outside spending groups, the sums involved here may seem like small potatoes. But for candidates forced to gather contributions under hard-money limits — they can take no more than $2,600 per election from individual donors — every little bit counts. And if the contributions are the larger sums that PACs can give, so much the better. For an indication of how anxious candidates are to scoop up every dollar, look no farther than the desperate emailed fundraising appeals they send out as, each quarter, reporting deadlines approach.

“The totals aren’t huge, but this is an example of the ‘leave no stone unturned’ principle of campaign finance,” said Bob Biersack, senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics and a 30-year veteran of the FEC. “This is going to pretty amazing lengths.”

And some think the swaps are little more than an attempt to evade legal limits, since leadership PACs can give no more than $5,000 per election to their own sponsor’s campaign.

leadership shuffle

“What you’re looking at clearly strikes me as an abuse of leadership PACs that undermines the integrity of basic contribution limits,” said Paul S. Ryan, senior counsel at the Campaign Legal Center. The transactions — even though they don’t involve exactly the same dollars circling back to the original donor — could be considered a form of money laundering, he added.

Said another campaign finance lawyer who asked not to be named: “This appears not to be happening by spontaneous combustion.”

Landrieu and the others have also used their leadership PACs to support candidates who did not partner with them in quick-turnaround reciprocal contributions. Her Jazz PAC has given a total of $266,500 to House and Senate Democratic candidates, for example. But a substantial portion of that has come back to her in the form of contributions from the leadership PACs of the recipients of her donations.

Neither Landrieu’s campaign press office nor the campaign’s attorney responded to multiple requests for comment.

These are the top 2014 cycle practitioners of exchanges within one week, through Sept. 30:

DonatedVsReceived

 

Building goodwill — and more

Leadership PACs date back to the late 1970s, when Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) set one up, with a nod from the FEC, and used it to win the chairmanship of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health by giving out tens of thousands of dollars to his committee colleagues. This cycle, with Waxman retiring, two lawmakers who want to fill his slot as the top-ranking Democrat on Energy and Commerce are using their PACs to woo support from other members of the panel.

And supporting endangered members of their own party is certainly another way that lawmakers use these structures. Landrieu has hauled in more leadership PAC money than any other candidate this cycle, receiving a total of $446,500. Also among the top 10 are Pryor, Hagan, Warner, Shaheen and Mark Udall — all Senate Democrats whose re-election bids are no walk in the park. Below are the top 10 recipients of leadership PAC funds this cycle:

 

Viveca Novak

The win-friends-and-influence-people model of the leadership PAC isn’t always the one that’s followed, though. In fact, there are few restrictions on how a leadership PAC’s sponsor can spend its cash. Sometimes they’re used as little more than slush funds, taking in contributions of up to $5,000 per year from lobbyists and special interests who have already maxed out to a lawmaker’s campaign committee and spending the money on travel, greens fees or nice meals for that same lawmaker – at times in the company of the very interests that donated the loot in the first place.

Most leadership PACs don’t donate to their own sponsor’s campaigns. That may be because, even though they may do so within the limits, the FEC hasn’t made the rules easy to discern. Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) is one of the few senators to have done so in the 2014 cycle, and he did it big, giving his campaign the maximum $5,000 permitted for each of his races: primary, general and — a special circumstance — his primary runoff contest. He sent another $5,000 to his legal fund to help fight his primary opponent’s challenge to Cochran’s victory.

Other than those outright, strictly limited donations, though, campaign activities can’t be paid for by a candidate’s PAC. According to the FEC, a leadership PAC financed and controlled by a candidate or officeholder is “neither an authorized [campaign] committee nor affiliated with the candidate’s authorized committee.”

But the swaps appear to be a way to work around the limits. “The net effect is to turn leadership PAC money into campaign money, campaign finance lawyer Kenneth Gross, a former head of the FEC’s enforcement division.

More money each cycle

In this election cycle, 531 leadership PACs — most of them associated with current lawmakers but some linked to former members or candidates — have raised a total of $144.7 million, giving about 36 percent of it, or $52.4 million, to candidates and party committees.

As leadership PAC wealth has grown with every election cycle, so has the rate of short-term exchanges between candidates. During the 2008 cycle, 32 candidates made a total of 71 trades that were completed within seven days. So far this cycle 170 of them have occurred among 56 candidates.

The amount of money changing hands has increased sharply over the past four elections cycles as well — growing from $674,400 in 2008 to $1.28 million so far this cycle. The 2014 number expands to $1.7 million when the lens is widened to look at exchanges within 30 days, rather than seven. But the overwhelming number of such round trips — 75 percent of the ones that occurred within 30 days — have happened within a week.

While more candidates, 92, conducted these exchanges during the 2012 cycle, this cycle’s top traders appear to have perfected the process. Prior to the 2014 races, no candidate made such an exchange more than 14 times. There’s also more money involved this time; the 2012 total was $1.07 million.

Senate Democrats seem to have dominated the practice this cycle, but during the 2010 midterms it was GOP Senate candidates making the majority of short-term exchanges. Sens. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Johnny Isakson (Ga.), Richard Burr (N.C.) and John Thune (S.D.) topped the list as the Republicans picked up six seats in that election.

Same-day turnarounds

Democrat Coons is not in a competitive race, but he has been party to 18 transactions with a round trip time of less than seven days during this cycle — shelling out $55,000 from his Blue Hen PAC and receiving $58,000 in return.

When reached for comment, Coons’ campaign dismissed the possibility of quid pro quo.

“Senator Coons has supported Democratic candidates, including a number of his colleagues in the Senate, through his campaign account and leadership PAC,” campaign spokesman Jesse Chadderdon said in an email. “Many of his colleagues have been supportive of his re-election campaign as well. Whether or not another candidate has supported him or will support him down the road just isn’t part of the evaluation process. It’s about helping the best people win difficult elections.”

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire has the most single-day turnarounds of leadership PAC exchanges.

Even though it’s not surprising to see candidates showing good will for their party colleagues by way of their checkbooks, this explanation seems to fall short of clarifying exchanges made between candidates in the same 24 hour span.

During the 2014 election cycle, candidates have traded leadership PAC funds for campaign cash on the same day 37 times using this mechanism; 28 of them involved the exact same amount coming and going. The sum exchanged most frequently was the maximum allowable $5,000, though lesser amounts that nevertheless matched up also went back and forth.

Shaheen is the leader in this category, sending money from her A New Direction PAC to colleagues’ campaign coffers and receiving leadership PAC checks in her campaign account on the same day on eight occasions. On June 24 of this year alone, Shaheen managed to complete this cycle twice — with Coons and Reed.

Her campaign did not respond to OpenSecrets Blog’s request for a comment or explanation of the acitvity. Nor did more than a dozen other campaigns that were called and emailed.

Several campaign finance experts we asked about the pattern of activity mentioned former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas) conviction for taking corporate contributions raised by a state-level PAC and sending them through the Republican National Committee, which then contributed to state candidates named on a list that was given to the national group along with the money; Texas law prohibits corporate money from going to candidates, and the GOP leader was charged with money laundering. His conviction was ultimately overturned.

While the leadership PAC exchanges differ in many ways from the activity DeLay orchestrated, the transactions similarly feature attempts to replicate the peculiar talents of the fairy-tale Rumpelstiltskin.

“Moving money around to try to change it from cash that isn’t useful, into cash that is, has always been part of the fundraising game,” said Biersack. But the leadership PAC-to-campaign committee swaps, he said, are “an illustration of how to game the system in every conceivable way.”

Center for Responsive Politics researcher Andrew Mayersohn contributed to this story. To read more from the center, click here.

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