TIME iran nuclear deal

Iran Nuclear Deal Reaches Key Number of Senate Supporters

A major foreign policy victory for President Obama

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland announced this morning that she will support President Obama’s nuclear agreement with Iran, giving the administration sufficient support in the Senate to ensure a major foreign policy victory for the president in his final 18 months in office.

“No deal is perfect, especially one negotiated with the Iranian regime,” Mikulski said in a statement released mid-morning in Washington. “I have concluded that this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is the best option available to block Iran from having a nuclear bomb. For these reasons, I will vote in favor of this deal.”

Mikulski’s support caps a summer of lobbying by the White House and the State Department in the face of resolute opposition to the deal by Republicans, many of whom criticized negotiations to begin with and argued the deal would empower Iran’s regional ambitions and ultimately enable Tehran to get nuclear weapons.

In weeks of testimony, briefings, letters and phone calls, Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, and other senior administration officials argued the deal would constrain Iran’s nuclear program, open the door for further diplomatic progress and delay any decisions about a military confrontation with the mullahs for at least a decade.

Mikulski became the 34th Senator supporting the deal, hardly a resounding victory for the administration’s position—it is the bare minimum number of Senators Obama needs to ensure he can deliver on his end of the deal with Iran. If Obama cannot win another seven fence-sitting Democrats before a vote on disapproving the deal later this month he will have to veto that resolution and rely on the Democrats to prevent being overridden by Congress.

But after nearly three years of intense, sometimes secret negotiations that delivered on Obama’s 2008 campaign pledge to try diplomacy instead of military force in the confrontation with Iran, the Senate milestone guarantees him a key legacy victory for his second term, and his presidency.

The administration began its lobbying immediately after inking the deal in July. Secretary of State John Kerry made multiple appearances on Capitol Hill in front of House and Senate committees defending the deal, along with Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. President Obama engaged Jewish groups in an attempt to convince them the deal would not endanger Israel. And he and Kerry personally responded to written and other questions from lawmakers in both chambers of Congress.

Republicans came out hard against the deal from the outset. Influential leaders like Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee expressed early skepticism about the deal’s ability to constrain Iran. But the issue quickly took on a political cast for Republicans, as presidential candidates turned it into a campaign talking-point. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said the deal “will make the Obama administration the leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism” because it would lift sanctions on Tehran. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee compared the deal to the Holocaust, saying Obama would “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”

That rhetoric may have been more effective as a way of attracting attention on the campaign trail than in convincing Democrats who were genuinely debating the merits of the deal. While Senators Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez came out against the deal, in recent weeks centrists like Chris Coons and Bob Casey came out in favor, laying out detailed arguments for their support. The administration likewise won over Democratic House members from heavily Jewish districts in New York and Florida as the summer wore on.

Administration officials say the Republicans ended up undercutting themselves. “It became clear early on that a lot of Republicans were going to oppose the deal without even reading it or understanding the details,” says a senior administration official. “And a lot of the Republican opposition was offensive and truly partisan in nature,” the official says.

The administration framed the debate as a choice between war or diplomacy, with military options still on the table if Iran broke its commitments and tried to go nuclear. The White House argued that the deal was simply a responsible diplomatic effort that put off a war for at least a decade. That argument gained traction with Mikulski, who said Wednesday that “The military option is always on the table for the United States. We are not afraid to use it. But military action should be the last resort.”

In the case of Mikulski, the administration also had an inside line. Before she became a Senator her chief of staff in the House was Wendy Sherman, who was the lead U.S. negotiator for the administration on the Iran deal. Sherman ran Mikulski’s campaign for the Senate. And the current State department liaison to Capitol Hill is also a former Mikulski staffer who traveled to Vienna last month with the Senator for discussions with nuclear arms inspectors over implementation of the deal.

TIME Iran

Democrats Have the Votes to Keep Iran Deal Alive

Barack Obama
Andrew Harnik—AP President Barack Obama participates in a roundtable with Alaska natives at Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center on Aug. 31, 2015, in Anchorage.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the crucial 34th vote

(WASHINGTON) — Senate Democrats have rallied the 34 votes they need to keep the Iran nuclear deal alive in Congress, handing President Barack Obama a major foreign policy victory.

Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland became the crucial 34th vote Wednesday morning, declaring the agreement is the best way to curb Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Congress is to vote later this month on a resolution disapproving the deal, which is unanimously opposed by Republicans, who call it a dangerous giveaway to Iran.

Obama has vowed to veto the resolution if it passes. It would take 34 votes to uphold his veto, and Democrats now have those in hand.

The agreement — signed by Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers — seeks to dismantle Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for billions of dollars in relief from sanctions.

President Barack Obama is just one Senate vote shy of being able to declare success on the Iran nuclear deal and cement a foreign policy legacy.

Senate support for the deal now stands at 33 votes, thanks to announcements Tuesday from Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Chris Coons of Delaware.

Once supporters reach 34 votes, they would be able to uphold Obama’s expected veto of GOP legislation aimed at blocking the Iran deal. That disapproval resolution is set for a vote later this month.

Secretary of State John Kerry is sending a letter to all members of Congress outlining U.S. security commitments to Israel and the Gulf Arab states in light of the nuclear deal. The letter comes as Kerry prepares to deliver a major policy speech Wednesday in Philadelphia that focuses on how the international agreement makes the U.S. and its allies safer and how the deal is being mischaracterized by some opponents.

“I really believe the fastest way to a genuine arms race in the Middle East is to not have this agreement,” Kerry said in a nationally broadcast interview Wednesday. “Because if you don’t have this agreement, Iran has already made clear what its direction is.”

With opposition to the agreement failing to get traction on the Democratic side, supporters may even be able to muster the 41 votes needed to block the resolution from passing in the first place, sparing Obama from having to use his veto pen. That would require eight of the 11 remaining undeclared senators to decide in favor of the deal.

“This agreement will substantially constrain the Iranian nuclear program for its duration, and compared with all realistic alternatives, it is the best option available to us at this time,” Casey said in a statement. In remarks at the University of Delaware, Coons said: “I will support this agreement despite its flaws because it is the better strategy for the United States to lead a coalesced global community in containing the spread of nuclear weapons.”

Republicans in Congress and running for president unanimously oppose the deal, which aims to curb Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from economic sanctions. The Israeli government is vehemently against it, contending that concessions made to Iran could empower that country, which has sworn to destroy Israel. But critics have failed to use Congress’ summer recess to turn the tide against the agreement, despite a multimillion-dollar lobbying campaign funded by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC.

Only two Democratic senators have come out against the deal — Chuck Schumer of New York and Robert Menendez of New Jersey — while in recent weeks undeclared Democratic senators, even from red states, have broken in favor one after another.

Even if Congress were able to pass the disapproval resolution, it can’t stop the deal, which was agreed to among Iran, the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. In July, the U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed the nuclear deal, approving a resolution that would lift the international sanctions on Iran in 90 days.

Interviewed on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program Wednesday, Kerry said that the absence of an agreement is what could lead to a nuclear arms race in the region. Putting the deal in place, he said, will keep other nations “from chasing a weapon on their own.”

Kerry also said that if the U.S. rejects the deal, it would confirm the fears of Iran’s leaders “that you can’t deal with the West, that you can’t trust the West.”

TIME

Morning Must Reads: September 2

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

Carly Fiorina appears certain to make this month’s second GOP debate after CNN amended its rules Tuesday following more than a week of complaints from the former HP CEO and her allies. Fiorina’s team complained that since the CNN rules would average all polls since July 16, and there have been so few polls (three so far) since the Fox debate on Aug. 6, her bump after her well-regarded performance could never overcome her relatively paltry showing in the nine polls prior to the debate. Republican officials and CNN began discussing modifying the rules in earnest last Wednesday, once it became clear that there would be so few polls before the Sept. 16 contest. “No one had any clue,” an official involved with the discussions said of the lack of polling in August. According to the network, there will be only five polls between the two debates, and CNN will include any candidate—and Fiorina appears to be the lone beneficiary—who polls in the top 10 in those polls, but didn’t meet the early criteria. After considering an array of potential rules changes, CNN and the RNC settled on expanding the number of participants in the debate to at least 11, to include Fiorina. The result is that the so-called “happy hour” debate of those who don’t make the cut for the primetime contest is now even less relevant—and may not continue at the third GOP debate in Colorado in October, when CNBC and the RNC may seek to more formally winnow the field.

Jeb Bush is escalating his attacks against Donald Trump has he seeks to reverse a slide in the polls and reassure donors that he has a plan to turn his campaign around. A new social ad campaign Wednesday seeks to highlight Bush’s conservative record at Trump’s expense, and even mocks Trump’s germophobia. Hillary Clinton faces new questions after emails she personally sent on her private server have now been marked classified after the fact. And Rick Perry can’t stop the bleeding.

Here are your must-reads:

Must Reads

Clinton, Using Private Server, Wrote and Sent E-Mails Now Deemed Classified
Latest wrinkle for Clinton in unfolding email saga [Washington Post]

Democrats Scrutinize Jeb Bush’s Record on Florida River
TIME’s Philip Elliot explores Bush’s environmental record

Obama Nears Needed Votes on Iran Nuclear Deal
One vote needed, and it appears within reach [New York Times]

CNN Amends Republican Debate Rules to Include Carly Fiorina
Let the winnowing begin [TIME]

Sound Off

“How’s this? Beats being in the office.” — President Obama to reporters Tuesday as he examined a glacier at Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska

“It doesn’t sound like a campaign speech, because I hope it’s something bigger. It’s about rekindling the flame.” — Ohio Gov. John Kasich making an impassioned case for a renewed focus on citizenship at a New Hampshire house party on Tuesday

Bits and Bites

Bush Gets Personal With ‘Germophobe’ Attack on Trump [TIME]

Why the Undercover Clinton Video Doesn’t Sting Much [TIME]

Hillary Clinton’s Image Is Struggling, But She’s no Donald Trump or Jeb Bush [Washington Post]

The Pentagon’s Dubious Dogfight [TIME]

Why Jeb Bush Is Taking a Right Hook to Donald Trump [TIME]

Rick Perry loses New Hampshire political director to Kasich [CBS News]

Santorum Is First to All 99 Counties, Still Stuck at 1% [Des Moines Register]

Baiting a Hook in Minneapolis, Bernie Sanders Was Torn Between Herring and Bagels [New York Times]

New Christie Ad Focuses on Need to ‘Save Lives’ From Drug Abuse [WMUR]

Hillary Clinton’s Gefilte Fish Email, Explained [Tablet]

John Kasich Takes Presidential Campaign to Snapchat with Bacon Filter Ad [TIME]

TIME ballot initiatives

9 Surprising Times Corporations Backed Ballot Measures

A building on the Microsoft Headquarters campus is pictured July 17, 2014 in Redmond, Washington.
Stephen Brashear—Getty Images A building on the Microsoft Headquarters campus is pictured July 17, 2014 in Redmond, Washington.

When corporations give money to get a ballot issue passed, the issue often affects their bottom lines.

A gambling company gives millions to allow the opening of a new casino; an agricultural giant spends huge sums to block mandatory labeling on genetically modified foods; or an electric company finances a measure to make it harder for municipalities to create their own power companies.

But occasionally, the corporate interest — and the shareholder interest — is a bit harder to identify.

In 2014, athletic-wear giant Nike Inc. put $50,000 toward an Oregon measure that would have eliminated separate party primaries in elections and $3,300 toward another issue that promised equal rights for women. In 2012, the company spent $5,000 to support gay marriage in a referendum in Washington, according to data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

The Center for Public Integrity reviewed 55 publicly traded companies and top corporate givers to ballot measures and found nine instances of curious positions — positions taken even when the companies’ policies emphasize their business interests as the overriding criteria in doling out political contributions.

The areas of interest were fairly diverse, but most seemed to focus on social issues or were aimed at fundamental changes to how state government operates.

Playing politics

When spending is aimed at playing politics, rather than business, it raises concerns with activists and shareholders, said Bruce Freed, president of the Center for Political Accountability, a nonprofit that advocates for transparency in corporate political spending.

“Companies need clear policies, and they need to follow those policies,” he said. “I think there is significant shareholder concern.”

What interest Nike had in the Oregon initiative on primaries remains a matter of speculation, as the company did not give a specific explanation when asked. A spokesman said the company gives based on “the merits of the ballot initiative, including the potential direct or indirect impact to our business.”

Nike policy states that political contributions are “to protect or enhance shareholder value.”

Corporate giving to politics has come under more scrutiny since the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission opened the door for corporations and unions to spend more advocating for or against candidates.

But even before that ruling, business interests have been generous givers to ballot measure campaigns, unhampered by limitations since a 1978 Supreme Court ruling.

In 2014 alone, business interests accounted for more than three-quarters of the $266 million given by top donors to statewide ballot measures.

Courting decision-makers

Some of the contributions that don’t line up with company policy appear to be aimed at building corporate political clout in the states.

Companies are keen to make governors and legislatures as friendly as possible to business, according to Paul Kelly, a board member of the Association of Government Relations Professionals, which represents lobbyists.

Sometimes that means contributing to issues that control how those politicians are elected.

Exxon Mobil Corp. opposed public funding of political campaigns and stricter contribution limits in California in 2006.

Companies may also win friends by giving to ballot measures backed by powerful state leaders.

AT&T Inc. and Altria Group Inc., for example, gave to a pair of California government finance initiatives championed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014. In Maine, AT&T, Waste Management Inc. and Coca-Cola Co. were among more than a dozen companies that helped fight the repeal of a governor-backed school consolidation plan in 2009.

“That, too, can be an effective tactic,” Kelly said. “It goes on to some degree in order to be involved and help people that you have to work with.”

Coca-Cola’s policy says that it gives politically to benefit the “long-term, sustainable growth of our global beverage business.”

Coca-Cola spokesman Kent Landers said that the company opposed the Maine repeal measure because the company supports education. “Education is one of the keys to socioeconomic development in the communities in which we operate,” he wrote in an email.

Waste Management said the Maine school plan helped stabilize the state’s budget, which aided the company’s local business interests; Altria and Exxon Mobil did not say specifically how their contributions fit with their policies.

AT&T did not respond to requests for comment.

Risk or reward?

Experts are divided over whether using contributions to create political allies can actually help a company’s bottom line. Robert J. Shapiro, a senior fellow at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy who has written on this issue, said corporate political activity generally boosts business.

“Companies spend this kind of money because it produces a return,” he said. “Corporations are not irrational actors.”

Not all shareholders agree. Critics of corporate political giving warn of risks to a company’s reputation, citing protests outside retailing giant Target Corp.’s doors in 2010 after the company gave to a pro-business political action committee that backed a candidate who opposed gay marriage.

Since 2014, shareholders have sponsored at least 58 proposals about political spending at annual meetings of Fortune 250 companies, according to an analysis of the Proxy Monitor database, which is sponsored by the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Legal Policy. None passed.

Zevin Asset Management, a Boston firm that calls itself a pioneer in socially responsible investing, helped craft one unsuccessful shareholder resolution in 2013 that asked Exxon Mobil to study whether it should stop political giving.

“We still think there’s reason for concern and risk to shareholder value by companies using funds to influence elections,” said Zevin President Sonia Kowal. “The returns are unclear.” Click here for more stories in this series

All or nothing

Some public companies, such as Accenture PLC, make it a policy not to give to ballot measures.

Still others give widely with no concrete policies or explanations — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., for example, gave at least $100,000 to support the 2014 California government finance measures but has said in documents that sharing the “business rationale” behind political contributions “would place our company at a competitive disadvantage by revealing our long-term business strategies.”

Other firms have policies explicitly saying they give to a wide range of ballot measures as a form of community involvement. These broader policies are intended to benefit not just stockholders but “stakeholders,” including employees, customers and more.

Microsoft Corp. has a global public policy agenda that takes stances on the environment, education and other issues. In 2012, it gave $99,500 to support gay marriage in its home state of Washington and earlier this year published a blog post defending its contribution.

“Diversity and inclusion help drive our business and our bottom line,” the company wrote. “Our customers literally are as diverse as the people of the world. To create technology that empowers the world, we need a workforce that reflects the diversity of the world.”

This story is from The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative media organization in Washington, D.C. Read more of its investigations on the influence of money in politics or follow it on Twitter.

TIME jeb bush

Bush Gets Personal With ‘Germophobe’ Attack on Trump

Jeb Bush
Rainier Ehrhardt—AP Republican presidential candidate former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush speaks during a town hall meeting on Aug. 17, 2015, in Columbia, S.C.

It's part of an interactive attack ad

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is escalating his all-out campaign against GOP front-runner Donald Trump with a new ad campaign and quiz on social media designed to highlight Bush’s conservative credentials in contrast with the businessman’s past embrace of the Democratic Party.

Branded “Which candidate are you?” the quiz notes that Trump once said he thought Hillary Clinton would negotiate a strong deal with Iran, backed an assault weapons ban and expressed support for single-payer healthcare, while highlighting Bush’s opposition on all those fronts.

In a strikingly personal attack, the quiz asks voters whether they would prefer a candidate who “is a germophobe when it comes to shaking hands,” a reference to Trump’s documented phobia, Bush, meanwhile is cast as a candidate who “strives to shake every hand everywhere.”

After collecting users’ email addresses and zip codes, the quiz presents its results. “You have clear Democratic tendencies,” it spits out if too many Trump items are selected. “You’re looking for the candidate who proposed record new tax hikes, supported single-payer health care, and supported an assault weapons ban. You’ve found your man in Donald Trump.”

Meanwhile, those who select pro-Bush options are presented with, “Jeb Bush is a conservative reformer for President who will actually get results. Like you, he supports cutting taxes, reducing spending, and limiting the role of the federal government in your life.”

The quiz follows a biting video from the Bush campaign Tuesday noting Trump’s past support for Democratic principles. Trump fired back with an Instagram video showing Bush presenting Clinton with an award for her career in public service, and calling for an end to Bushes and Clintons in the White House.

The escalation comes as the Bush campaign has determined they believe there is a strategic benefit in attacking Trump, potentially helping their candidate shore up support on his vulnerable right flank. The campaign had previously hoped to ignore Trump’s rise throughout the summer.

The Bush campaign is promoting the quiz on Facebook, targeting people “who have expressed an interest in or like pages related to Donald Trump” in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, the campaign said.

TIME 2016 Election

John Kasich Takes Presidential Campaign to Snapchat with Bacon Filter Ad

U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at the New Hampshire Education Summit in Londonderry
Brian Snyder—Reuters U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at the New Hampshire Education Summit in Londonderry, New Hampshire Aug. 19, 2015

"Who doesn't love bacon?"

Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s presidential campaign is pioneering a new form of ad on Snapchat, wishing New Hampshire residents a good morning with a bacon-laced filter on the photo and video sharing app.

The ad, which features Kasich’s campaign logo as strips of bacon, is the first Snapchat geofilter ever to be offered by a specific time-of-day, with users from the Granite State seeing the ad from 6 a.m. to noon Wednesday. It is also the first time a campaign has purchased a geofilter ad, the company confirmed. A similar ad by a group opposed to the Iran deal that was ran in Ohio received 2.6 million views last month.

The filter is the latest reflection both of Snapchat’s growing penetration into political advertising, as well as Republican candidates’ efforts to reach out to younger voters who have traditionally spurned the GOP and make up much of the company’s user base.

Scott Milburn, a Kaisch campaign spokesman said in a statement to TIME, “Budget pork isn’t our taste but who doesn’t love bacon and, of course, who doesn’t love Snapchat? You’ve got to have some fun with it all, right?”

Kasich for America
TIME Hillary Clinton

Why the Undercover Clinton Video Doesn’t Sting Much

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Democratic National Committee summer meeting on August 28, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Adam Bettcher—Getty Images Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the Democratic National Committee summer meeting on August 28, 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The latest sting video from conservative provocateur James O’Keefe centers on a pretty small get: $75 spent on some Hillary Clinton swag at her campaign launch.

In an undercover video by O’Keefe’s sting group Project Veritas, an activist for the conservative organization is seen allegedly playing the role of middleman for a foreign donation to the Clinton campaign.

O’Keefe alleges that the money came from a Canadian citizen who, in effect, passed money to the Clinton campaign in violation of federal law. To the Clinton camp, the video shows nothing more than its staff following the law despite an attempt at entrapment.

At least one campaign finance expert said that if the money is indeed the Canadian’s, the video shows wrongdoing by the Clinton camp.

“If the Clinton staffer knew it was the Canadian donor’s money, then the Clinton staffer (and, consequently, the Clinton campaign) also violated the federal law ban on knowingly accepting a contribution in the name of another and accepting a contribution from a foreign national,” Paul Ryan, senior counsel for the Campaign Legal Center said.

Regardless, given the deadlock at the FEC between commissioners and the tiny size of the donation, the case would be unlikely to ever be pursued. Instead, it’s another political Rorschach test, which shows different things to Clinton’s detractors and her supporters.

The sting is the latest move by O’Keefe, who has yet to match the success he had in getting the liberal group ACORN dismantled with videos that appeared to show the group giving advice on avoiding taxes. O’Keefe’s latest undercover sting operations have attempted to catch Clinton staff skirting the rules on camera, including one that O’Keefe claims to show Clinton staff selectively registering only supporters to vote.

Clinton’s staffers “know the ins and outs of the election code, and we’ve shown you, they’re willing to break the law,” O’Keefe says in the latest video, promising more to come. “Next up, we go even deeper inside the Hillary campaign, to show you how election laws and rules are ignored at every level. Stay tuned, Hillary, and check your email.”

The Clinton campaign brushed O’Keefe off as an annoyance who hasn’t proved anything except that they followed the law.

O’Keefe is a longtime political provocateur who has faced legal challenges for his investigations and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for entering then-Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu’s office with two allies disguised as repairmen. Critics argue he misrepresents his subjects by heavily editing his videos.

The latest video segment, which plays a little like a camp 60 Minutes expose, begins with a Montreal resident attempting to buy campaign swag. Citing federal law that prohibits donations from foreign nationals, a Clinton campaign official clearly declines the Canadian’s money.

“So, we can’t take contributions from anyone that is not a citizen of the United States,” Erin Tibe, the Clinton campaign compliance manager says in the video. “It’s not my rule; I’m very sorry.”

The Canadian national insists she wants to buy Clinton swag. Then, apparently referring to the Project Veritas employee, the Canadian asks the Clinton staffers, “Can I give her the money? She’s an American citizen, she can buy it for me?” Molly Barker, the Clinton campaign’s director of marketing, appears to respond, “She could make a donation.” The Project Veritas staffer then appears to buy $75 of Clinton campaign swag for the Canadian.

Federal election law prohibits giving and accepting donations by foreign nationals, but it’s unclear from the video whether the $75 belonged to the Canadian or the Project Veritas journalist.

It is legal for an American citizen to buy campaign paraphernalia and give it to a foreign national. But if the money belonged to the Canadian, then Project Veritas could make the case that the Clinton campaign had indirectly accepted a donation from a foreign national, a breach of campaign finance law.

Dan Pollack, a spokesman for Project Veritas, insisted the video shows the Canadian handing money to the Project Veritas employee.

“If you freeze it at the 2:50 mark you can see the cash on the screen being passed over,” Pollack told TIME. “Without question the Canadian passed the money to the Project Veritas journalist.”

The Clinton campaign adamantly denies any wrongdoing. “This video shows a Project Veritas operative yet again unsuccessfully trying to entrap campaigns staffers who very clearly rejected any foreign donation. Our staffers understand and follow the law, as demonstrated even in their selectively edited video,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign.

If the money did belong to the Canadian woman, Project Veritas could be guilty of breaking the same campaign finance law as the Clinton campaign. According to the law, “it shall be unlawful for a foreign national, directly or indirectly, to make a contribution or donation” in connection with any election, and for “a person to solicit, accept, or receive” such donations.

Clinton’s campaign accused Project Veritas of seeking to act illegally to entrap campaign officials while also breaking the law itself on occasion.

“Project Veritas … has been caught trying to commit fraud, falsify identities and break campaign finance law—not surprising, given that their founder has already been convicted for efforts like this,” Ferguson added.

TIME Military

The Pentagon’s Dubious Dogfight

USAF The Pentagon plans to test the A-10, left, against the F-35 in 2018.

Test pitting new F-35 against venerable A-10 comes too late to matter

The good news is the Pentagon is finally pitting its tried-and-true A-10 Warthog against its brand-new F-35 Lightning II to see which one is better when it comes to helping out troops on the ground. The bad news is such testing won’t start for another three years, when the military will be too invested in the F-35 to do much about it.

In other words, the test will come too late to make much difference—for either the grunts on the ground, or the taxpayers footing the $400 billion bill for 2,457 of the planes Lockheed Martin is building for the Air Force, Marines and Navy.

“This is the endgame of a premeditated strategy that has led to this totally absurd situation,” says Chuck Spinney, a retired Pentagon warplane analyst. “It brings into sharp relief the whole way we buy our weapons.”

While some are cheering the aerial duel as a necessary sizing up of the two warplanes the Pentagon is counting on to keep American troops safe on 21st century battlefields, that misses a key point by a mile: the tardy testing highlights the second half of a two-act Pentagon play designed to make the F-35 a fait accompli:

• The opening act began with what’s known in the weapons-building trade as “concurrency”—letting something be designed and produced at the same time. Over the past decade, concurrency allowed production contracts to be spread around the country (45 of 50 states are building parts of the F-35) and, indeed, the world (11 nations are helping the U.S. build the plane). That has given it momentum on Capitol Hill.

• In the closing act, concurrency has delayed testing of the aircraft for years—including against the A-10—ensuring its production no matter what the belated testing might uncover.

Or, as they sometimes say at the Pentagon: too early to tell, too late to stop.

Concurrency’s cost could be seen late Tuesday, when the Pentagon announced a $311 million contract award to Lockheed for “retrofit modification hardware,” a common result of trying to build weapons when their blueprints remain in flux.

The A-10, with its single mission of protecting the grunts on the ground with its fierce 30mm cannon, has long been the favorite of soldiers and Marines who find themselves pinned down by enemy forces. But it’s that very attribute—that the heavily-armored A-10 is dedicated to a single mission—that has made the `hog vulnerable in an increasingly tight budgetary environment. Scrapping it, as the Air Force proposes, would save $4 billion over five years, the service estimates.

The F-35, on the other hand, is a Swiss-army-knife kind of warplane. The Air Force, Marines and Navy all had to compromise to come up with a design they could share. Outfitted to perform several missions—it can fly off aircraft carriers, drop bombs and shoot at other airplanes—it can’t excel at any of them. “The idea that we could produce a committee design that is good for everybody is fundamentally wrong,” declares retired general Merrill McPeak, a fighter pilot who served as Air Force chief of staff as the F-35’s development got underway in the early 1990s.

The Pentagon’s operational testing office issued a grim assessment of the most-costly weapons system in history in its latest annual report earlier this year. “Overall suitability continues to be less than desired by the Services, and relies heavily on contractor support and unacceptable workarounds,” it said, “but has shown some improvement.”

Michael Gilmore, director of the testing office, said last week that his office will send out separate formations of each plane to conduct what the military calls “close air support” missions. Such testing will highlight “capability gaps” between the F-35 and A-10. “It’s really not wise to guess,” he said. “You have to go out and get data and do a thorough and rigorous evaluation.”

That’s the only way, Air Force officials say, to know where to spend more money on the F-35 to make up for any shortcomings it might have compared to the 40-year-old A-10.

TIME Debates

CNN Amends Republican Debate Rules To Include Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina
John Minchillo—AP Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina speaks during a pre-debate forum on Aug. 6, 2015, in Cleveland.

A surprise late change to the polling criteria

Carly Fiorina won’t be excluded from the main stage at this month’s CNN debate after all.

In a victory for the former HP CEO, the cable network announced Tuesday that it is amending its rules for qualifying for the Sept. 16 debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library to include all candidates who are polling on average in the top 10 in surveys conducted after the Aug. 6 Fox News debate.

“We learned this week that there will likely be only two more polls by the deadline of September 10th,” the network said in a statement. “In a world where we expected there to be at least 15 national polls, based on historic precedent, it appears there will be only five. As a result, we now believe we should adjust the criteria to ensure the next debate best reflects the most current state of the national race.”

All those who average in the top 10 on surveys from July 16—the original threshold—with also be included, according to the network.

Fiorina, who has surged in polling after a well-regarded performance in the “happy hour” debate last month, was unlikely to meet the original qualifications because there have been fewer polls meeting CNN’s standards since the Fox News debate than there were before it. Fiorina’s campaign has aggressively lobbied both the network and the Republican National Committee to amend the rules to allow her on stage, frustrating officials at both organizations who said the candidate should have raised objection in May when the qualifications were first set.

But amid mounting pressure from conservative groups and Fiorina supporters, CNN reversed course on its commitment to stand by the initial rules. Instead, 11 candidates will appear in the primetime debate, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul—each at risk of falling out of the top 10—remaining on stage as well.

Fiorina deputy campaign manager Sarah Isgur Flores, tweeted a statement thanking activists for their help securing a spot for Fiorina.

“I applaud CNN for recognizing the historic nature of this debate and fully support the network’s decision to amend their criteria,” said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement.

TIME jeb bush

Democrats Scrutinize Jeb Bush’s Record on Florida River

Former Florida Governor and GOP Presidential candidate Jeb Bush at a town hall meeting at the VFW Post 9644 August 25, 2015.
Andy Cross—Copyright - 2015 The Denver Post, MediaNews Group. Former Florida Governor and GOP Presidential candidate Jeb Bush at a town hall meeting at the VFW Post 9644 August 25, 2015.

But the case against Bush is as murky as the waters

In a 30-second television ad, the images will be powerful: soupy green algae overtaking a river, dead fish floating in brown water elsewhere downstream, a factory’s pipeline spewing millions of gallons of wastewater each day in Florida’s poorest county. It’s an ugly sight, for sure, and one that could worry even voters who are jaded about environmental protections.

Such is the scene from time to time along Florida’s St. Johns River, a 310 mile-long waterway that has struggled for years to accommodate the wastewater coming from nearby factories, water treatment plants and manicured lawns. And that river is poised to get a national close-up as voters consider former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s campaign for the White House.

“As he sells himself as an environmentalist, we’ll remind folks that his record doesn’t match that,” said Scott Arceneaux, executive director of the Florida Democratic Party. “He’s going to run on his record here (in Florida) why he should be President. We’re going to remind folks about all the things he didn’t do.”

The Bush campaign declined multiple requests for comment about his environmental record.

Yet while the images of the river look bad, the details of its pollution are less damning. In fact, the pollution spewing forth has declined since Bush first encountered the issue during his first days in in office in 1999.

Georgia Pacific treats wood pulp with harsh chemicals that make its final products such as Brawny paper towels, Dixie Cups and Angel Soft toilet paper sparkling white. But that process, used across the industry, leads to millions of gallons of wastewater every day.

At Georgia Pacific’s plant in Palatka, Florida, the wastewater for the longest time went into Rice Creek. But when that small stream became too polluted, the company and other paper producers in the area started to look for an alternative. What if they could just pump their pollutants further downriver, to a bigger body of water where their waste would have less of an impact?

As Bush took office, environmental groups and state agencies were watching pollutant levels in Rice Creek climb to potentially unsafe levels, especially when the creek was barely moving or had dried up. The pollution transformed the waterway into a river of green sludge, a place where algae thrived and fish died.

Only a fraction of the pollutants can be traced to the Georgia Pacific plant; one half of one percent of the nutrient material going into the St. Johns River comes from the company. Three dozen water treatment plants, along with lawn chemicals from golf courses and gated communities, were also adding to the levels of pollutants in the waterways, so it is impossible to pinpoint specific culprits.

Looking at these reports and realizing the trouble they faced, Georgia Pacific, Champion International and Buckeye Florida asked the newly-sworn-in Governor for permission to build a pipeline that would ship their waste further downstream, into the St. Johns River. There, they argued, the pollutants could be diluted to safe levels. Companies all over the country were doing similar things and continue to this day.

The thinking is this: these chemicals, in small amounts, are fine. Tap water in many places, for instance, contains trace amounts of chlorine. It is not harmful if it’s diluted in a city’s water supply, but no one would suggest you pour yourself a tall glass of Clorox bleach.

Bush gave the companies provisional permission to build the proposed pipeline if the waters in the creek fell outside of acceptable environmental levels. In other words, if the pollutant levels became unsafe, the companies could build a pipeline to pump their waste into a bigger body of water where it wouldn’t be so bad. In one email, Bush, who kept close tabs on the project, said of the pipeline solution: “it is a win, win.”

As expected, the creek’s waters grew more troubled, so Bush’s state Department of Environmental Protections stepped in and said the companies could build the pipeline.

Legal fights immediately ensued. Environmental groups said the pipe did not address the pollutants or their long-term impact. The companies said they were doing more than was required under the Bush-approved permit. Jeb Bush’s state environmental regulators clashed with President George W. Bush’s Environmental Protection Agency. It was a tangle of conflicting rulings that left the pipeline in limbo when Jeb Bush left office in 2007.

In the middle of all of this, Koch Industries bought Georgia Pacific in late 2005. That’s when the lobbying of the Governor got serious—and Democrats started paying closer attention. Charles and David Koch, after all, are some of the most generous patrons to conservative political and advocacy groups in the country.

The Kochs’ role is partially why the non-profit Bridge Project, a Democrat-backed research group that is focused on conservatives’ records, point to the river as a weak spot for Bush.

During Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s winning re-election in 2014, critics also tried to blame him for the river’s problems and suggested Scott backed the pipeline as payback to the Kochs. Now, with Bush running for President, his Democratic critics are ready pick up again on that criticism in the coming weeks and try again.

But the case against Bush is shaky. While he gave approval to the pipeline, he left office without the pipeline being constructed, and fights continue to this day on how to fix the St. Johns. A joint University of North Florida-Jacksonville University study found fish in the river were not considered toxic, but added that residents should not eat more than two meals a week that included fish caught in the waters.

“You definitely don’t want to drink it or swim it regularly,” said Lisa Rinaman, a former top aide the Jacksonville Mayor who now serves as St. Johns Riverkeeper, an environmental defense position. “There’s some metallic taste you get in your mouth out there.” While she said there are not overt visible signs of environmental damage such as fish kills on the surface, data shows there are negative impacts resulting from the Georgia Pacific pipeline.

MORE: 7 Things We Learned Writing a Cover Story About Jeb Bush

As for the Kochs, their plant continues to churn out paper products with much improved environmental standards. “These improvements have not only turned the mill’s pulp washing and bleaching system into a state-of-the-art operation, but they have also had a significant impact on restoring and improving water quality in Rice Creek and the St. Johns River,” Georgia Pacific said in a statement to TIME.

In all, the company has spent $250 million on environmental upgrades to the facility. Pollutants are down, and the St. Johns River is coming back. For instance, Georgia Pacific’s plant along the St. Johns has reduced its water use by 40 percent, its phosphorous discharges by 75 percent and its nitrogen discharges by 59 percent, according to company records.

“The record is very clear that not only were we held firmly to meet standards set by state and federal government officials involved, we went above and beyond the installation of manufacturing process improvements before being authorized to construct the pipeline,” the company said in its statement.

Critics are quick to point out that the plant has still be found in non-compliance with the Clean Water Act in 10 of the last 12 quarters, according to the EPA’s report on the Palatka plant.

Yet, even without upgrades, it might not have mattered. Georgia Pacific is the largest employer in Putnam County, and that county remains the poorest in all of Florida. While the river has improved, it’s still fighting the churn of wastewater that makes its way there every day. Environmental groups continue to criticize the pipeline project. Those groups, however, aren’t getting much help from the people the pipeline most directly impacts; those families want the jobs Georgia Pacific provides.

Bush himself, meantime, has bragged about his environmental record. “When I was Governor, I think most people in Florida, they would say—whether they liked me or not—they would say I had a pretty darned good environmental record,” Bush told an audience of the 450 of the most influential conservative donors in the country recently. They were meeting at a private summit convened by none other than network of think tanks, nonprofits and political groups backed by the Koch brothers.

During Bush’s time as Governor, Florida did make strides on its environment. Bush invested $2 billion into the Everglades, backed marine sanctuary projects in the Florida Keys and opposed offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. “I protected Wild Florida; that we cleaned the water,” Bush told the audience. “We started to focus on Everglades restoration.”

But his role in the St. Johns Pipeline is one Democrats plan to hammer in the coming week. But Bush can easily say he was working to keep an industry—and jobs—in Florida. As environmentalist Rinaman acknowledges: “There’s no market for brown paper towels.”

UPDATE: This story has been changed to clarify that Lisa Rinaman, an critic of Georgia Pacific’s environmental record, does not support Bush or the pipeline.

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