TIME 2016 Election

Chris Christie Battered By His GOP Rivals on Governors’ Circuit

Republican Governors
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, South Carolina Gov. Nikki R. Haley and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie listen as Indiana Gov. Mike Pence speaks during a press conference at the Republican Governors Association's quarterly meeting on Wednesday May 21, 2014 in New York. Bebeto Matthews—AP

On paper, New Jersey's Chris Christie leads the nation's Republican governors. In practice, he is becoming a favored target of his peers.

Forget, for the moment, about the cornfields and the straw polls, the live-free-or-die gun shops of Manchester and the sticky-sweet BBQ pits of South Carolina. There is a point in the 2016 presidential campaign, when the action that matters most is more likely to happen under gilded ceilings of Manhattan’s toniest restaurants than where voters actually live. Which is why New Jersey Governor Chris Christie found himself supping at Cipriani on May 18, seated between the billionaire who might fund his way to the White House and a rival governor who wants the job himself. It was a test meal, in its way, and Christie fumbled it.

Organizers had told the press to attend to hear Christie give a muscular address on his foreign policy vision. But the real audience was his table-mate, Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who dumped more than $100 million to elect Republicans in 2012 and was promising even more. Just weeks earlier, Christie had flown to Vegas with three other current and former Republican governors to meet with Adelson at his Venetian casino under the banner of the Republican Jewish Coalition. There Christie had botched his message, speaking of Israel’s “occupied territories,” a term that the Zionist Adelson does not favor. Christie later apologized during his few private minutes with the GOP kingmaker. Now he was back for what organizers called a “Major Speech on Israel and the Middle East.” And something went wrong again. He didn’t mention Israel once in his 18-minute address. In the midst of a political rehabilitation tour, his tablemate Texas Gov. Rick Perry saw a clear opportunity. When he rose to speak minutes later, Perry shoehorned three references to Israel within 90 seconds.

As the head of the Republican Governors Association, Christie is the charismatic captain of a club composed of formal partners but tacit rivals. And that rivalry has only gotten stronger in recent months. Despite surface-level niceties and some degree of symbiotic friendship, many want to see him and his presidential ambitions go up in flames. On Thursday, the tensions broke into view as Republican state leaders broke with Christie, who has refused to publicly appear with Rob Astorino, a long-shot candidates hoping to replace Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “Glad to be with my buddy @RobAstorino in Aspen,” tweeted Perry, a few days after Christie told reporters he did not believe that the Republican Astorino had a chance of winning. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have all since expressed support for Astorino.

This follows several other thinly veiled slights in recent months. Just last week Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal implicitly criticized Christie’s habit of picking and choosing issues to engage on, saying the GOP must offer ideas not style. “The next big elections can’t be ones about personalities or just about slogans,” he told TIME, after a question about Christie. After Christie became ensnared in a scandal over lane closures on the George Washington Bridge, Jindal had told reporters, “No one governor’s more important than the other.” In February, Scott Walker used Christie’s scandal to sidestep questions about an investigation into improper political activities by his former aides. “He addressed it early on, but obviously he’s not out of the woods yet,” Walker told TIME, saying unlike his, Christie’s troubles were “just beginning.” And when Christie was nearly down-for-the-count in the immediate aftermath of the bridge scandal, Perry fanned the flames. “Is a conservative in New Jersey a conservative in the rest of the country?” Perry asked in February on ABC’s This Week.

As the Republican Party looks to its governors for leadership after years of chaos and infighting in Washington, Christie is no longer a cut above the rest, even as he travels the country as the official leader of Republican governors. Christie is routinely on the road meeting donors and reporters, and by the nature of the job working to defend the 20 Republican-held governorships up for re-election this year. Christie allies said the group was close, despite occasional disagreements. “First and foremost, they’re friends, so they want to be able to help each other,” says RGA Executive Director Phil Cox. Like any club, behind the pretense there are tense personal relationships, but the stakes are unusually high. Perry, Walker, and Jindal are just some of the governors competing in 2016’s proto-primary alongside John Kasich of Ohio, and Mike Pence of Indiana.

The Jindal-Christie relationship is the most fraught, stemming from a bitter leadership battle for the high-profile helm of the RGA in 2012. Christie won out, securing enough votes to force Jindal to accept the number two spot. And with Perry, Christie’s conversations frequently could not be described as civil, people familiar with the exchanges said. With Christie’s fortunes soured, his opponents hurriedly planned trips to New York to meet with the donor class he once seemed to have a lock on. Jindal and Perry have been there as much as twice a month since the beginning of the year, while Walker has made at least four trips as he raises money for his own re-election. Meanwhile, top donors are once again clamoring for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to enter the race.

“It’s like your fiancé cheated on you,” said a person close to one of the ambitious governors, explaining why no other governor has yet emerged as a new favorite. “You don’t propose to the next girl you meet. You take your time to have some fun and meet everyone else.” Meanwhile many of the governors Christie is working to re-elect have tried to place some distance between themselves and Christie, with fewer joint events open to reporters. The calls from New York financiers for Christie to run have become less frequent as they take stock of the field. Christie’s core argument to his party and Wall Street has been his electability, and he is still struggling to show he can win despite the setbacks. More importantly to donors, the question is whether he has learned from the experience. “He’s still surrounded by the same guys,” said one top Republican bundler who was previously committed to Christie. “Where’s the growth? I’m not seeing it yet.”

But it is Christie’s economic record that is emerging as a concrete boot to his likely campaign. His state’s finances are in shambles, with Christie forced to rollback a signature effort to begin paying down the state’s skyrocketing unfunded pension liabilities after overestimating state revenues by nearly $1 billion for each of the next two years. Christie’s state lags most of his GOP colleagues on annual rankings of the best state to do business, while its unemployment rate puts New Jersey in the bottom third of states. Where Christie talks up the successes of all GOP governors, Perry and Jindal travel the country referring to the governors as “competitors” for jobs, not-so-subtly highlighting their states’ relative successes.

The bridge scandal has also revealed the insularity of Christie’s team, centered around strategist Mike DuHaime and former law partner and political fixer Bill Palatucci. The former Giuliani for President campaign manager and Republican National Committee member, are the hard-charging pair behind the harder-charging would-be-candidate. Todd Christie, the governor’s brother, rounds out the inner circle that once included Bill Stepien, his former campaign manager who was poised to take on a role with the RGA and was forced to resign in the wake of his involvement in the bridge scandal.

Where Jindal, Perry and Walker all maintain national donor lists thanks to political action committees, Christie’s political network is largely confined to New Jersey. “He’ll start out at a disadvantage,” said on GOP digital operative familiar with the potential candidates’ operations.

At the Law Vegas gathering of Republican Jewish donors in March, Scott Walker tried to steal some of Chris Christie’s thunder. He sonorously told of lighting a “menorah candle” around Hanukah and that his son Matthew’s name is derived from the Hebrew for ‘Gift from God.’ Walker sidestepped his lack of foreign policy experience by telling of Ronald Reagan’s showdown with air traffic controllers that “sent a message around the world,” and highlighted his ability to win over Latino voters around Milwaukee. Each of these anecdotes were staples of Christie’s now-familiar pitch to donors and party activists.

Thankfully for Christie, he’s still the more dynamic speaker. Following 45 minutes after Walker, Christie told the same stories—but this time, the crowd was brought to their feet for applause.

Correction: The story has been changed to properly describe the people who had characterized the New York event as a “Major Speech on Israel and the Middle East.” They were event organizers.

TIME Congress

Hispanic Caucus To Push Deportation Relief in White House Meeting

The meeting will focus on a list of executive action recommendations the caucus sent to Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in April

Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus plan to meet with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and White House counsel Neil Eggleston at the White House on Friday morning, Jasmine Mora, a spokesperson for Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Texas), told TIME. Hinojosa is the Chairman of the CHC.

The meeting will focus on a memo the caucus sent to Johnson in April on administrative deportation relief and humane enforcement practices, Mora told TIME. “The intent of the meeting tomorrow is to talk about what administrative actions the President can take under the law,” she wrote in an email.

One of the CHC recommendations—to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to parents and siblings—is the “most clear opportunity” to provide temporary deportation relief, another congressional aide told TIME. If DACA were extended to children’s family members, illegal immigrant families would be able to stay together in the U.S. for at least two years without fear of deportation. In the memo, CHC writes that nearly 205,000 parents of U.S. born children were deported in between July 2010 and September 2012.

In June, President Obama announced that he had asked Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to seek out additional executive actions on immigration that he could announce before the end of the summer. “If Congress will not do their job, at least we can do ours,” Obama said.

The White House declined to comment for this story.

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: July 24

Capitol
The early morning sun rises behind the US Capitol Building in Washington, DC. Mark Wilson—Getty Images

In the news: Gaza war; Two Ukrainian fighter jets shot down; Air Algerie flight missing; How Hillary and Bill Clinton raised $1.4 billion; Report of Sen. John Walsh plagarism; The execution of Joseph Wood; What's prettier in print

  • New Push to Lure Hamas Into Truce [WSJ]
    • Civilians as Human Shields? Gaza War Intensifies Debate [NYT]
    • Obama wants Israel to limit casualties in Gaza. But he won’t say how. [TIME]
    • FAA lifts its ban on flights to Israel [TIME]
  • “Two Ukrainian fighter jets were shot down Wednesday over separatist-held territory not far from the site of the Malaysia Airlines crash as international outrage over the tragedy has done little to slow the fierce fighting in eastern Ukraine.” [WSJ]
  • “Authorities have lost contact with an Air Algerie flight en route from Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso to Algiers with 110 passengers on board…” [Reuters]
  • How Hillary and Bill Clinton Raised $1.4 billion [TIME]
  • “It’s becoming increasingly clear that Congress won’t address the border crisis until sometime after its upcoming August recess.” [TIME]
  • Senator’s Thesis Turns Out to Be Remix of Others’ Works, Uncited [NYT]
  • Inside the Efforts to Halt Arizona’s Two-Hour Execution of Joseph Wood [TIME]
  • Prettier in Print

A brief message from Michael Scherer, TIME Washington D.C. bureau chief:

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TIME Hillary Clinton

How Hillary and Bill Clinton Raised $1.4 Billion

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

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

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

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

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

[See profiles of the top donors.]

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

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

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

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

Additional reporting by Becca Stanek.

TIME energy

Obama Approves Sonic Cannons to Map Atlantic for Offshore Oil and Gas

Offshore drilling in the Atlantic is up for debate
The Atlantic offshore territory has been off limits to U.S. oil drilling, but that could change Brasil2 via Getty Images

Over environmental objections, the Obama Administration moves forward with exploration that could yield new domestic oil and gas sources

The Obama administration reopened part of the Eastern seaboard Friday to offshore oil and gas exploration, promising to boost job creation in the energy sector while at the same time fueling the fears of environmental groups.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimates that 4.72 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 37.51 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas lies beneath the coast from Florida to Maine. The recent decision allows exploration from Florida to Delaware and could create thousands of new jobs supporting expanded energy infrastructure along the East Coast.

“Offshore energy exploration and production in the Atlantic could bring new jobs and higher revenues to states and local communities, while adding to our country’s capabilities as an energy superpower,” American Petroleum Institute upstream director Erik Milito said in a statement.

Environmentalists worry about damage to shorelines, and to the tourist industry. They also worry about the safety of ocean wildlife. The exploration will initially be conducted via seismic surveys that use sonic cannons to locate oil and gas deposits beneath the ocean floor. The cannons emit sound waves louder than a jet engine every ten seconds for weeks at a time.

“We’re definitely concerned,” Hamilton Davis, energy and climate change director for the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, told TIME. “The exploration activities lead in the direction of actual development of oil and gas, and from our perspective as a coastal organization that worries about our environmental ecological landscape as well as our [tourism] economy, the oil and gas industry certainly doesn’t seem to fit into that equation. Just the impacts from exploration activities on marine wildlife I think would give most people pause… You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of animals that will be negatively impacted as a consequence of these activities.”

BOEM said it approved the seismic surveys with the environment in mind. “After thoroughly reviewing the analysis, coordinating with Federal agencies and considering extensive public input, the bureau has identified a path forward that addresses the need to update the nearly four-decade-old data in the region while protecting marine life and cultural sites,” said Acting BOEM Director Walter D. Cruickshank in a statement.

Sonic cannons are already used in the western Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska, but many constituents and elected officials in the newly opened East Coast territory have expressed their concerns about the testing and eventual drilling. Congressional officials from Florida, including Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Orlando, and Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, signed a letter to President Obama opposing the decision.

“Expanding unnecessary drilling offshore simply puts too much at risk. Florida has more coastline than any other state in the continental United States and its beaches and marine resources support the local economy across the state,” the letter states.

The area to be mapped is in federal waters, not under the jurisdiction of state law. Energy companies will apply for drilling leases in 2018, when current congressional limits expire.

 

TIME justice

Execution Gone Awry Prompts Concern Over Dubious Lethal-Injection Drugs

Arizona Execution Drugs
With the state prison in the background, about a dozen death-penalty opponents pray as they await the execution of Joseph Wood in Florence, Ariz., on July 23, 2014 Associated Press

Many states won't disclose how they obtain the chemicals used in lethal injections, bringing into question the constitutionality of recent executions

There are just over 3,000 prisoners on death row in the U.S., and 32 states where their execution remains a legal course of action. The decision to implement capital punishment in these states is generally accepted as constitutional, so long as its procedure is in line with the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of cruel-and-unusual punishment.

The execution of Arizona inmate Joseph R. Wood III on Wednesday took nearly two hours to complete, over much of which Wood “gasped and struggled to breathe,” according to a statement released by his defense team. Of the 26 state-sponsored executions committed in the U.S. so far this year, Wood’s was the third to seemingly go awry due to the use of largely experimental lethal chemicals, prompting outrage from those who cite these incidents as evidence that capital punishment is not constitutionally viable given the apparent suffering of its recipients.

“His two-hour struggle to death goes beyond cruel and unusual. It’s torment. It’s something you’d see in third-world and uncivilized societies,” Arizona state senator Ed Ableser told TIME on Wednesday night. “It’s embarrassing to see that our state once again is in the news for everything that is wrong that happens in our government.”

The execution should have lasted no more than 15 minutes; when it became clear to witnesses that Wood’s death would be prolonged, his attorneys unsuccessfully filed an emergency appeal to end the proceedings, the final of several attempts to save his life. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court had approved the execution after a lower court ruled that Arizona, in refusing to declare how it had obtained the lethal chemicals to be used in the injection, may have violated Wood’s First Amendment rights.

In Woods’ execution, the state used a combination of the sedative midazolam and the painkiller hydromorphone — the same cocktail used by the state of Ohio in the execution of Dennis McGuire in January, in which the inmate floundered and wheezed on a gurney for nearly half an hour before the state pronounced him dead.

In a statement released after Wood’s death, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer said she was “concerned by the length of time” it took for the injection to kill him, and that she has instructed the state’s Department of Corrections to investigate the matter thoroughly.

It’s still not certain whether Woods indeed suffered pain — state officials have insisted that he was comatose throughout the process — but in any case, his prolonged death draws further attention to the efficacy of the lethal chemicals used for capital punishment in the U.S., one of the world’s last developed nations to still punish its worst criminals with death.

States have been struggling to devise new lethal chemicals to be used in capital punishment since 2011, when U.S. and European pharmaceutical companies ceased to manufacture and sell sodium thiopental, an anesthetic compound that has traditionally been essential to America’s execution cocktails. It has been a process of trial and error, of learning from mistakes. The mistakes are those execution attempts that do not transpire according to plan — typically marked by a death that comes more slowly and viscerally than anticipated.

In recent months, the hesitation of certain states to disclose information about the new chemicals has fueled a public skepticism over the exact physiological effects of these drugs on those to whom they’re administered.

“It’s time for Arizona and the other states still using lethal injection to admit that this experiment with unreliable drugs is a failure,” Cassandra Stubbs, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Capital Punishment Project, said in a statement released after Wood’s death. “Instead of hiding lethal injection under layers of foolish secrecy, these states need to show us where the drugs are coming from. Until they can give assurances that the drugs will work as intended, they must stop future executions.”

Nearly a third of all executions involving the sedative used to kill Wood “have had extremely troubling problems,” according to a report released last month by the Death Penalty Information Center.

“Arizona appears to have joined several other states who have been responsible for an entirely preventable horror — a bungled execution,” defense attorney Dale Baich told the press. “The public should hold its officials responsible and demand to make this process more transparent.”

TIME Campaign Finance

Janelle Monae Has a Secret Video of Barack Obama Dancing

Janelle Monae
Janelle Monae attends The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute benefit gala celebrating "Charles James: Beyond Fashion" on Monday, May 5, 2014, in New York. Charles Sykes—Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

"She can blackmail me at any time," Obama says

If R&B artist Janelle Monae scores a Cabinet post before President Barack Obama leaves office, we’ll know why.

Obama’s three-day West-coast fundraising tour for Democratic candidates took him to the Los Angeles home of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy creator Shonda Rhimes Wednesday, where he hobnobbed with the likes of Monae and Kerry Washington.

At the 450-person fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee — to which tickets started at $1,000 a head — Obama revealed that Monae was in possession of a top secret video of presidential dancing.

“Janelle has performed at the White House, like, 15 times,” Obama told the audience. “There’s going to be an official Janelle Monae room in the White House. We love her. Michelle and I love Janelle. We love her energy. We love her talent. But we most of all love her character. And anybody who gets a chance to talk to her, this is just a remarkable, strong, smart young lady.

“And I have to say nice things about her because she may be the only person in possession of a video in which I try to keep up with her and Usher on the dance floor,” Obama continued. “Now, this is top secret. She has promised that this will never be released. But she can blackmail me at any time.”

Monae called out “I love you!” to the Commander-in-Chief, to which he replied with his trademark “I love you back,” adding, “You do have that video, though, don’t you?”

Monae said she did, prompting the president to ask her to “testify” to his skills. “Now, tell the truth, though, Janelle — I wasn’t bad, though, was I? I’m just saying. Go ahead, testify just a little bit…Let me say I did not drop in splits. But I did bust a move. That I did do.”

Obama then recognized Washington, one of the earliest celebrities to back his 2008 candidacy, for being on his side when many Americans couldn’t pronounce his name correctly. “She pushed when the wagon was stuck in the mud — she was out there,” Obama said. “And she’s just been a great friend. Plus she showed me her baby pictures, and that is one cute baby.”

The West Coast swing has proven to be a controversial one for Obama, both for its timing amid multiple foreign policy crises and the secrecy surrounding fundraising events for two Democratic super PACs. White House officials defended Obama’s decision to continue with the trip despite the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the ongoing conflict in Gaza, saying that the president’s ability to manage the situations would not be impaired by keeping his schedule. While on the trip, Obama called Secretary of State John Kerry Wednesday to discuss efforts to bring about a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The White House did not make public the list of attendees at the two super PAC fundraisers, one each House Majority PAC and Senate Majority PAC, or what they had contributed to gain access to the president. Reporters were not allowed to attend either session. “Without a doubt, I think we’ve done more to achieve the President’s commitment to transparency than any other previous administration,” said White House principal deputy press secretary Eric Schultz.

Obama returns to Washington late Thursday after another fundraiser for the DNC and delivering a speech on the economy.

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