TIME Congress

Schock Reimburses Government for Private Travel to Football Game

His team will continue a thorough review of his office procedures

(WASHINGTON) — Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock reimbursed the U.S. government for more than $1,200 in travel expenses for attending a Chicago Bears football game last November, his office said Monday. He previously had charged taxpayers for the trip.

The reimbursement comes amid new congressional reports detailing $14,000 in private air travel incurred by Schock last fall, which included plane travel around Illinois and to Washington. Schock used his taxpayer-funded account to pay those bills. His office said it was reviewing whether other charges might have been inappropriate.

Schock’s recent travel adds to the list of more than a dozen flights worth $40,000 — expensed under his congressional account or campaign funds — aboard planes owned by donors. That led to a formal ethics complaint.

Schock, a 33-year-old, rising Republican star, has been under scrutiny for using congressional funds to redecorate his Capitol Hill office in the style of the TV show “Downton Abbey.” Last week, his office said he made good on his promise of personally reimbursing those costs.

Congressional rules updated two years ago generally allow the use of private aircraft as long as trips are fairly compensated. But the latest revelations about Schock’s travel expenses raise questions about why taxpayers were billed for a trip to Chicago when he represents the Peoria and Springfield areas at least 150 miles away.

A spokesman said Schock wrote a check to the U.S. Treasury on Monday for the Chicago trip.

Newly released House records showed $10,802 incurred last November for “commercial transportation” to Keith Siilats, a New York-based pilot who flew Schock to Chicago. Siilats told the AP he flew the congressman between Washington and Peoria for a series of meetings, and attended the Bears game with Schock.

That trip was first reported Sunday by the Chicago Sun-Times. It was not immediately clear how Schock paid for his game tickets.

The records also show Schock’s office spent about $2,270 with Peoria-based Byerly Aviation, as well as $1,590 with Lobair LLC. Both were previously paid for Schock’s travel on aircraft owned by his financial contributors, records show.

The new Byerly expense aligns with a same-day journey on a plane owned by Springfield businessman Todd Green between Peoria and Quincy, Illinois, on Dec. 12, 2014. Schock toured a local dam that he said needed repairs that same day in Quincy.

Byerly was previously paid $11,433 from Schock’s office account for four days in November 2013. The AP found Green’s plane traveled to and from Washington and Peoria during that same period— and hours before Schock posted a photo about his “Schocktoberfest” fundraising event in his district.

A spokesman said Monday his team will continue a thorough review of his office procedures. Schock previously told the AP he travels frequently throughout his district to stay connected with his constituents.

The AP last week detailed those travel expenses, including Schock’s use of private planes and incurring of pricey entertainment charges. The review identified at least a dozen flights on donors’ planes since mid-2011, tracking his reliance on the aircraft partly through pictures uploaded to his Instagram account.

During one period, Green’s plane traveled to at least eight cities last October in the Midwest and East Coast — cities where Schock met with political candidates ahead of the midterm elections. Green runs car dealerships in Schock’s district with his brother, Jeff, a pilot who Todd Green said is good friends with Schock.

Lobair was previously paid $6,000 for four trips on a plane owned by Michael J. Miller, another Peoria auto dealer, and by Vonachen Services Inc., a janitorial and service firm headed by Peoria businessman Matthew Vonachen. Vonachen donated at least $11,000 to Schock’s political career, federal campaign records show.

Schock’s other official and expenses included concert tickets and mileage reimbursements, including a sold-out Katy Perry concert last June.

The House updated its ethics rules in January 2013. Earlier rules prohibited lawmakers from using office accounts to pay for flights on private aircraft, allowing payments only for federally licensed charter and commercial flights.

A liberal-leaning group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had requested an investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics, an outside panel that reviews ethics complaints against House members.

Schock recently brought on board a team of campaign finance lawyers and public relations experts to address the controversy about his expenses.

___

Associated Press writers Stephen Braun, Jeff Horwitz and Ronnie Greene contributed to this report.

TIME Foreign Policy

‘America’s Rabbi’ Apologizes for Ad That Called White House Aide Blind to Genocide

National Security Adviser Susan Rice speaks at the Brookings Institution to outline President Barack Obama's foreign policy priorities on Feb. 6, 2015, in Washington.
J. Scott Applewhite—AP National Security Adviser Susan Rice speaks at the Brookings Institution to outline President Barack Obama's foreign policy priorities on Feb. 6, 2015, in Washington.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who calls himself “America’s Rabbi,” apologized for his organization’s ad claiming that White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice is complicit in genocide.

“Susan Rice has a blind spot: Genocide,” says the ad, which ran a full page in the New York Times Saturday. The ad says she “stood by” as genocide ravaged Rwanda in 1994 when Rice was a member of President Bill Clinton’s national security team and cites an article written by Samantha Powers, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

“I personally want to offer an apology to anyone who was offended by our organization’s ad about National Security Advisor Susan Rice,” said Boteach Monday before an event on preventing a nuclear Iran with Elie Wiesel and Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz. “Our disagreement with Ms. Rice is strictly over policy. It was construed by some as a personal attack that is certainly and absolutely not its intent.”

Boteach defended his ad just yesterday in an interview with CNN and his website still has a link to the ad on its homepage.

“We all have a blind spot when it comes to genocide,” said Boteach on CNN, listing those in Rwanda and Cambodia among others. “But she’s a public official … Now Iran is threatening the annihilation of the Jewish people. It is perverse that these negotiations are taking place without a demand that Iran first totally renounce their genocidal intent against the Jews.”

The back-and-forth comes as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the United States.

Rice said last week that Netanyahu’s scheduled address to Congress Tuesday is “destructive” to U.S.-Israel relations. House Speaker John Boehner invited Netanyahu to speak without first notifying the White House, and critics see Netanyahu’s speech two weeks before his election as a partisan ploy meant to undermine nuclear negotiations with Iran.

“Ms. Rice may be blind to the issue of genocide, but she should treat our ally with at least as much diplomatic courtesy as she does the committed enemy of both of our nations,” says the ad, which was paid for by Boteach’s This World: The Values Network.

The ad has been roundly condemned by Jewish organizations. The Anti-Defamation League called it an “incendiary personal attack” without justification. The American Jewish Committee called it “revolting.” The Jewish Federations of North America called it “outrageous.” After California Democrat Rep. Brad Sherman backed out of Monday’s event over “abhorrent” ad, Cruz bashed Democrats for their lack of participation.

“There is a simple reality right now which is that in Congress the number of congressional Democrats willing to stand up to this Administration on Iran is vanishingly small,” said Cruz. “For this gathering today, to be here with a Nobel laureate and morals hero like Elie Wiesel, we invited over a dozen Democrats.”

“There’s not a congressional Democrat sitting here being part of this discussion and that was not for lack of invitation, it was because the answer was no,” he added to boos from the crowd.

“We’re not here to boo anyone,” interjected Boteach, who later noted that there are “countless” Democrats who “strongly support” Israel.

Morton A. Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, said he was with Sherman in his office today and said the Congressman was indeed “unhappy” about the ad. But Klein defended Boteach when asked about the ad’s intent linking Rice to genocide.

“Someone told me it made it seem that way,” said Klein. “Of course he didn’t mean that. That’s insane. So I don’t know. I didn’t read it but I’m very careful with my ads. Maybe he’s less careful.”

TIME White House

President Defends No Obamacare Backup Plan Ahead of Court Case

U.S. President Obama speaks during an interview with Reuters at the White House in Washington
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during an exclusive interview with Reuters in the Library of the White House in Washington March 2, 2015.

"If they rule against us, we'll have to take a look at what our options are"

In an interview Monday, President Barack Obama defended his administration not having a backup plan ready to go if the Supreme Court rules against a key part of his signature health care law.

The Court is set to hear oral arguments in the case of King v. Burwell this week, which challenges whether people who sign up for health insurance through federal exchanges are eligible for tax subsidies. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell recently acknowledged there was no contingency plan if the Court rules against the Affordable Care Act this session, meaning millions of Americans could lose their insurance.

The case should be “a pretty straightforward case of statutory interpretation,” Obama told Reuters, despite Republicans jumping on the prospect of the law being struck down. “There is, in our view, not a plausible legal basis for striking it down,” he sadded. “If they rule against us, we’ll have to take a look at what our options are. But I’m not going to anticipate that. I’m not going to anticipate bad law.”

Read more at Reuters.

TIME Foreign Policy

Why Bibi and Barack Can’t Get Along

Obama Meets with PM Netanyahu of Israel
Olivier Douliery—picture-alliance/dpa/AP President Barack Obama holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in the Oval Office of the White House on Oct. 1, 2014 in Washington, DC.

It would be easy but for the deep differences in policy, politics and personality.

The messy relationship between Benjamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama began, appropriately enough, in a janitor’s office at Reagan National Airport in March 2007. U.S. and Israeli diplomats have been cleaning up ever since, as the two men have left a path littered with personal slights and policy differences.

But their confrontation over Netanyahu’s politically tinged speech to Congress Tuesday could end up being their messiest yet, affecting the outcome of U.S.-Iran nuclear talks, the upcoming election in Israel and the future of the Middle East.

Bibi and Barack’s hastily arranged first meeting was, in fact, cordial and respectful, according to those who were there. Obama was returning to Washington from the primary campaign trail. Netanyahu was headed back to Israel where he was the opposition leader in the Knesset. Both knew they might soon be in power, and both recognized it would be work to reconcile their differences.

For starters, they came from very different backgrounds. As TIME wrote in 2010, Netanyahu’s father, Benzion, was among the intellectual leaders of what is known as revisionist Zionism while his older brother became a national hero after leading, and dying in, the 1976 raid on Entebbe.

Obama for his part is the Christian son of an atheist father who had been raised a Muslim. The future president spent formative childhood years in a Jakarta house that had no refrigerator and no flushing toilet, and he still bears on his arm a scar from a playing-field cut perfunctorily stitched up in a Jakarta hospital.

But the real challenge the two have faced is their different policies in the Middle East. Obama came to office reaching out to Iran and pushing for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Netanyahu opposed warming ties with the militantly anti-Israel theocrats in Tehran and refused in early meetings with Obama publicly to embrace the possibility of a Palestinian state.

The two men have endeavored to put a positive face on their differences, and at times it wasn’t hard since they and their countries often had common interests. The two countries have collaborated on anti-Iran measures, and senior officials say the security relationship between the two countries has never been closer.

But as often as not, the combination of personal and policy differences, fueled by distrustful staffers, gave way to friction between the two men. There was the time Israel announced a massive expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem just as Vice President Joe Biden arrived there for talks—a traditional Israeli greeting for peace-process pushing U.S. diplomats that dates back at least to Secretary of State James Baker. Then there was “the Snub” —Obama’s 2010 decision to leave Netanyahu negotiating with aides in the West Wing while he went for dinner with his family.

The outcome of their latest confrontation remains to be seen. Netanyahu faces a tough election this month and the White House’s increasingly public criticism may well show their desire for a change in leadership. Netanyahu’s effort to encourage anti-Obama members of Congress to push new sanctions could help scupper the already tenuous U.S.-Iranian talks.

But even if nothing much comes of their latest confrontation, few imagine the men will ever be inclined to patch up their differences. As Netanyahu’s sometime political nemesis Avram Burg told TIME in 2010, the two men may simply be irreconcilable. “You cannot stitch together the world visions of Obama and Netanyahu,” Burg said. “This is a clash of the psychological infrastructure.”

TIME justice

White House Task Force Calls for Better Data on Police Shootings

Barack Obama
Jacquelyn Martin—AP President Barack Obama, flanked by former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, left, and Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, speaks during a meeting with members of the Task Force on 21st Century Policing

Group calls for minimizing the use of military level equipment during demonstrations, but shies away from suggesting more body cameras

A task force established by President Obama after high-profile shootings of black men by police is calling for the federal government to keep better records on officer-involved shootings.

After 90 days of hearings and meetings with a wide range of civil rights groups and local police agencies, the Task Force on 21st Century Policing included the recommendation in its first report Monday.

It notes that a 1994 law requires the Department of Justice to gather data about excessive force by police officers and publish an annual summary but notes that has never been done in a “serious and sustained” way.

The report also suggests that local agencies adopt more of a community policing approach, minimize the use of military equipment at protests and rallies and have outside investigators look into police shootings. But it stopped short of endorsing widespread adoption of body cameras, an idea which first came up after a shooting in Ferguson, Mo.

Task force members said that body cameras could be helpful but that privacy concerns need to be considered first.

“Any technology we apply, we need to understand its usefulness,” said Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, the co-chair of the task force, on a call with reporters Monday. “But we also need to make sure we’re working within a constitutional framework.”

“Today we’re talking about body cameras, but tomorrow it will be something else,” Ramsey added.

Marc Morial, president of the civil rights organization National Urban League, which called for more body cameras in testimony to the task force, praised the recommendations for independent investigators, but said that not coming down hard in favor of body and dashboard cameras a “missed opportunity.”

“Privacy concerns that might be there are not enough to put the breaks on an idea whose time has come,” Morial tells TIME.

Aside from the specific recommendations, the report stresses the need for police to establish trust and demonstrate transparency to the communities they serve.

The task force makes some evergreen calls to action like engaging with community members and better addressing prejudice, while also calling on the federal government to take a hard look at criminal justice policies such as sentencing and reentry and societal issues like poverty and education that can further exacerbate police distrust.

Many of the federal task force’s recommendations align with similar calls made by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, which released a report on community-police relations in January. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson of Gary, Ind., says that the report rightfully acknowledges that the federal government’s role in improving police-community relations is limited.

“It acknowledges that while there can be guidance and training and technical assistance that can be provided at the federal level, there really has to be a local approach and a local commitment to addressing those concerns,” she said.

Gene Voegtlin, a spokesman for the International Association of Chiefs of Police says, “This is more than just a police issue,” says “It’s a criminal justice system issue, and honestly probably a societal issue.”

TIME house of cards

This Federal Agency Gave the New Season of House of Cards a Bad Review

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David Giesbrecht—Netflix Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood in Season 3 of House of Cards

A key plot twist prompted FEMA to separate fact from fiction

There’s nothing new about Washington-based shows being a tad unrealistic (Hello, Scandal!) but the latest twist in House of Cards pushed one federal agency to clear the air.

In the Netflix show’s third season, released last week, President Frank Underwood decides to (spoiler alert!) twist the meaning of the Stafford Act, a real-life law that deals with disaster relief efforts.

So, yeah, pushing someone in front of a Metro train, it’s not. But the plot arc is a way of looking at how modern presidents push the limits of their executive authority. (If you’re a Democrat, think George W. Bush on torture. If you’re a Republican, think Barack Obama on immigration.)

That’s because, rather than use the law to address victims of hurricanes and tornadoes, Underwood decides that “unemployment” is a national emergency and (spoiler alert!) reappropriates money slated for natural disasters to a jobs program.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which handles disaster relief, took to Twitter on Monday to make clear that this is a Hollywood idea and not something it’d be down with:

FEMA might be forgiven for being a little skittish. Only a few years ago, talk-show host Glenn Beck was telling his listeners that the agency was building internment camps.

TIME White House

Bill Clinton’s Portrait Includes Symbolic Nod to Lewinsky Affair

Former President Bill Clinton gestures after the portraits of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton and him, were revealed on April 24, 2006 at the Smithsonian Castle Building in Washington D.C.
Haraz N. Ghanbari—AP Former President Bill Clinton gestures after the portraits of his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton and him, were revealed on April 24, 2006 at the Smithsonian Castle Building in Washington D.C.

The artist who created the portrait of President Clinton that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery admitted he snuck a subtle reference to the Lewinsky scandal into the background of the painting. The shadow is "a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held"

The artist who created the portrait of President Bill Clinton that hangs in the National Portrait Gallery has admitted he snuck a subtle reference to the Lewinsky scandal into the background of the painting.

Painter Nelson Shanks told the Philadelphia Daily News on Friday that a shadow in the 2006 painting, which can be seen falling on the mantle of the Oval Office fireplace, was more than it appeared:

“It actually literally represents a shadow from a blue dress that I had on a mannequin, that I had there while I was painting it, but not when he was there,” Shanks said. “It is also a bit of a metaphor in that it represents a shadow on the office he held, or on him.”

Shanks claimed that the Clintons “hate” the painting and have lobbied for its removal from the National Portrait Gallery, a claim the museum’s spokesperson denied.

Read more at the Philadelphia Daily News.

Read next: Here’s How Much the Home of the Next President Is Worth

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME politics

Here’s What Barbara Mikulski Told People Who Said She Didn’t Look Like a Senator

Barbara A. Mikulski
Terry Ashe—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski speaking during a Senate Labor Committee hearing in 1987

In her winning 1986 campaign, the Maryland Democrat spoke out against 'code words' that held people back

When Barbara Mikulski — the 78-year-old Maryland Democrat and longest serving woman in Congress, who announced Monday that she will retire in 2016 — ran for Senate in 1986, some people told her she didn’t look like a Senator.

Though she had already spent a decade in Congress, and though she had gotten her start as a community organizer and councilwoman in Baltimore, and though her run for Senate was one of three national contests that year in which both major candidates were women, gender and appearance still played into coverage of the race.

But, as Mikulski made clear, conversation about whether she or any of the other female candidates looked like voters’ ideas of what a politician should be was just a way to keep that image from changing. As TIME wrote then:

In Maryland, Mikulski and [Republican nominee Linda Chavez] are waging tough, no-holds-barred campaigns. Although both women come from ethnic, working-class backgrounds, “we are as different as two people can be,” says Chavez, 39, a cool Hispanic American who is married and makes much of being the mother of three sons. Mikulski, 50, is single, a self-styled scrapper with the sturdy perseverance of a tugboat. She sharply turns aside comments that she does not “look senatorial.” Says the candidate: “A lot of Americans, black or white or female, are always told that they don’t look the part. It’s one of the oldest code words.”

Mikulski won and became the first female Democrat to hold a seat in the Senate not previously held by her husband. As TIME put it back then, she had abandoned “petticoat politics” — an appropriate tactic for the woman who brought the pantsuit to the Senate.

Read the full 1986 story, here in the TIME Vault: No More Petticoat Politics

Read next: How Barb Mikulski Paved the Way for Hillary Clinton’s Pantsuits

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Congress

How Barb Mikulski Paved the Way for Hillary Clinton’s Pantsuits

FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Dinner
Paul Morigi—Getty Images U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) make a few remarks at FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Dinner at U.S Department Of State's Benjamin Franklin Diplomatic Room on April 30, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

The retiring Maryland Democrat was one of the first women to wear pants in the Senate.

The legislative legacy of six-term Sen. Barb Mikulski, who announced Monday she would retire in 2016, is long. The longest-serving woman in Congress, the Maryland Democrat has had a hand in everything from health care to the budget, sponsored the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and helped bring female senators to work together.

But one of her signature achievements is also so mundane today that it’s hard to appreciate: Thanks to Mikulski and former Republican Sen. Nancy Kassebaum, women can wear pants in the Senate.

Here’s how it unfolded, according to a 2011 story from Capitol Hill publication Roll Call:

On weekends, men would often wear more casual togs, like khakis and blazers, yet still, women were expected to don skirts (and the requisite hosiery that go with them). The chamber’s two women at the time, Sens. Nancy Kassebaum (R-Kan.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), finally devised a protest of sorts. They planned to wear trousers one weekend and told all the female staffers who might come to the floor to do the same.

No man said a word about it, and since then, pantsuits for women are as much a staple of Senate life (see Clinton, Hillary Rodham) as quorum calls and cloture votes.

Mikulski later told CNN that the pants-wearing was a “seismographic event.”

“The Senate parliamentarian had looked at the rules to see if it was OK,” she recalled. “So, I walk on that day and you would have thought I was walking on the moon. It caused a big stir.”

These days, when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is able to joke about her “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuit,” it’s hard to appreciate the importance of Mikulski’s rebellion. But as Clinton herself noted testily once, male politicians are rarely asked which fashion designers they wear.

Pantsuits are practical, they’re apolitical and they save time and mental energy. President Obama once told Vanity Fair that he only wears either blue or gray suits so that he can save his decision-making for weightier matters.

The pantsuit leveled the playing field for Clinton and other female politicians, and they can thank Mikulski for it.

TIME 2016 Election

Netanyahu Speech Becomes Applause Line for 2016 Republicans

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Travels To United States
Amos Ben Gershom—GPO/Getty Images In this handout photo provided by the Israeli Government Press Office, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah leave Tel Aviv on their way to Washington DC, on March 1, 2015.

Republican presidential candidates are using Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress as a cudgel against the White House.

The presidential candidates who are in Congress are all attending the speech, unlike Vice President Joe Biden and some Democratic lawmakers. Those who aren’t in Congress aren’t changing up their schedules to attend as private citizens but say they will watch it on television.

Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress just two weeks before the Israeli election has caused a partisan rift, with the Republicans lawmakers who invited Netanyahu on one side, and the White House and many allied Democrats on the other. Netanyahu, a vocal critic of the ongoing P5+1 Iran nuclear talks, is expected to warn against the emerging agreement.

Meanwhile neither President Obama nor Secretary of State John Kerry will meet with the Israeli leader on his visit to the U.S., as National Security Advisor Susan Rice condemned the visit as “destructive.”

At the Conservative Political Action Conference outside of Washington last week, speaker after speaker criticized the White House approach to Netanyahu.

“We need a leader who understands that when the Prime Minister and leader of our longtime ally asks to come to Congress to share his concerns about Iran, we should show him and his country our respect,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said. On Monday, Walker penned an op-ed accused Obama of making the visit a “political football.”

Last month, in a foreign policy address in Chicago, Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed the Netanyahu address, earning a thank-you tweet from Netanyahu. In an interview with an Israeli newspaper last week, he called Obama’s behavior toward Israel “completely inappropriate.”

And over the weekend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Netanyahu’s treatment a “national disgrace.”

Aides to Walker, Bush, Christie, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum said their bosses have out-of-town commitments and cannot attend the address, but will watch Netanyahu’s remarks on television. Aides to other candidates not currently serving in Congress did not respond to a request for comment about their bosses’ plans.

“I will be there in the front row,” South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday. Sens. Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who are also likely running for president, will also attend.

Attendance at the speech became a partisan lightning rod as Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is set to receive an award from EMILY’s List Tuesday night in Washington, came under attack this weekend in an ad from the conservative Emergency Committee For Israel questioning her commitment to the American ally.

“Does she support the boycotters, or is she too afraid to stand up to them?” the ad states, asking whether she will attend. Clinton’s plan for the speech are not yet clear.

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