TIME 2014 Election

Mega-Donors Give Big in State Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seeding their own chances

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

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

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

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

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

Limitations on influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting around the limits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A representative for Eychaner declined to comment.

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

A representative for Griffin declined to comment.

Why do they give?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liz Essley Whyte contributed to this report.

TIME 2016 Election

Obama Political Guru Secretly Advised Hillary Clinton on 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at Politico

TIME Morning Must Reads

Morning Must Reads: October 30

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

Giants Tower Over Royals

Madison Bumgarner pitched five innings of near-perfect relief on short rest and the San Francisco Giants held off the Kansas City Royals 3-2 Wednesday night in Game 7 of the World Series for their third championship in five seasons

How Press Gets the Pope Wrong

The “Pope Francis supports evolution” story is just the latest example of the press getting the Catholic Church completely wrong

Cheating Fears Rock SAT

All students in China and South Korea who took the SAT on Oct. 11 will have their test scores reviewed due to allegations of cheating

Ebola Brings Another Fear: Xenophobia

The arrival of Ebola in the U.S. has sparked backlash against some Africans in the country, from violence to subtler forms of discrimination. Among the recent instances is the bullying in the Bronx of two school boys from Senegal, which is Ebola-free

U.S. Conceals Afghan Military Capabilities

The American-led military command in Afghanistan has suddenly made information about the country’s military capabilities a secret, according to a congressional watchdog, just as the U.S. prepares to withdraw most of its 34,000 troops still there

Terminally Ill Woman May Not End Her Life, After All

A terminally ill 29-year-old woman who has said she plans to commit physician-assisted suicide on Nov. 1 implies in a heart-wrenching new video that she may not go through with it in the end

Lava Flows Near Hawaii Main Road

A breakout of the lava flow was about 100 ft. from a Pahoa residence — about the length of a basketball court — said Hawaii County civil-defense director Darryl Oliveira. Dozens of homes, business and other structures are within the area

Jennifer Lopez ‘Felt Abused’ in Past Relationships

The singer and actress says in her upcoming book True Love that she has “felt abused” in past relationships, even if she’s never been physically harmed like other women. “I’ve never gotten a black eye or a busted lip,” she writes

Uber Allowed to Roll on in Las Vegas

Ride-sharing app Uber received a minor breakthrough in Nevada on Wednesday when a Clark County judge ruled that the company will be able to continue operating in the Las Vegas area. The service launched on Friday in the gambling hub despite state opposition

Dissident Says He Was Tortured for Challenging Putin

From London to Berlin, exiled opponents of Russia are increasingly fearing for their safety. Not since the Cold War have Russian operatives been accused of such violence and intimidation abroad. The story of one man who says he was tortured for challenging Putin

Sweden Says It Recognizes Palestinian State

The Swedish government became the first E.U. member to officially recognize a Palestinian state on Thursday. Newly elected Prime Minister Stefan Lofven first announced the move at his swearing-in ceremony on Oct. 3, but he was not expected to follow through so soon

IBM, Twitter Sign Pact to Turn Tweets Into Business Decisions

Computing goliath IBM has signed a deal with Twitter to use tweets to make smarter business decisions. The agreement will let IBM’s 10,000 consultants access the some 500 million tweets the social-media company sees each day

We will hold an #AskTIME subscriber Q&A this Friday, October 31, at 1 p.m., with TIME political columnist, Joe Klein. This week he has written about 5 things to watch for in the midterm elections.

You can submit your questions beforehand on Twitter using the #AskTIME hashtag or in the comments of this post. We depend on smart, interesting questions from readers.

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TIME

5 Things to Watch for in the Midterm Elections

Will Mitch McConnell’s Republicans gain control of the Senate?

Walter V. Robinson of the Boston Globe is an old-time investigative reporter. He was at the heart of the Globe’s historic coverage of the Roman Catholic pedophile scandal. He also likes to check out the résumés of military veterans running for political office; more than a few have had the mysterious habit of trying to pad their combat records. So Seth Moulton, a former Marine captain running for Congress in Boston’s northern suburbs, seemed a natural target for Robinson’s inquiries.

What Robinson found was shocking. Moulton had received two medals for bravery under fire that he’d never mentioned publicly. He hadn’t even told his parents. He asked the Globe not to describe him as a hero. “Look,” he said, “we served our country, and we served the guys next to us. And it’s not something to brag about.”

Moulton’s taut New England sense of honor is notable in a time of Styrofoam braggadocio. He stands in contrast to Greg Orman, an independent running for Senate in Kansas, who refuses to tell voters whether he’d caucus as a Republican or a Democrat–no small thing, since his first vote may determine which party controls the Senate. This has been a craven, silly campaign on all sides. It has been a boom year for incompetent candidates, accompanied by the long-term decline of those with anything interesting to say. The advertising was, as always, atrocious, but it seemed more influential than ever because of the prevailing vacuity. Important issues were raised, but there was precious little actual discussion of them. Republicans wanted to talk about the perils of illegal immigration, but Democrats, by and large, refused to make the strong moral and practical argument in favor of reform–an argument embodied in a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate with significant Republican support. And when Democrats raised the no-brainer issue of equal pay for equal work, the Republicans simply refused to engage.

On a recent trip through the South, I asked several dozen politicians of both parties to name the one big thing they wanted to accomplish in Washington. They fled specificity for the safer precincts of banality–“balance the budget” for Republicans, “work across the aisle” for Democrats. No one had the courage to cite a specific idea: Here are six anachronistic weapons systems I’d like to cut; or, We should exempt small banks from the onerous Dodd-Frank regulations. They had been schooled well. You don’t want to take a specific stand on anything you don’t have to. People might not like your position. Popular democracy always bumbles toward the trivial, but the dullness of this year’s campaign has been paralytic.

And yet there are important matters at stake on Nov. 4–not least of which is whether Mitch McConnell’s Republicans will gain control of the Senate. A week out, it was still an open question. But even if the Republicans stumble, the results could yield some hints about the immediate future of American politics. Here’s what I’ll be looking at:

1. Democrats And Women

Chris Matthews once called the Democrats the “mommy” party. They were the meta-mommy party in this campaign. The heart of the matter was four female Democrats in hot Southern Senate races: Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky, Michelle Nunn in Georgia and the incumbents Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mary Landrieu in Louisiana. Each emphasized women’s issues–equal pay, parental leave, abortion rights–in the hope of luring undecided, independent women to the fold. This has been page 1 in the Democratic playbook for at least 40 years. (Page 2 is scaring people about the loss of old-age entitlements.) It has been effective and still may be–but it has never before carried the electoral burden that it does this year. The alleged toxicity of Barack Obama has made it unsafe for Democrats to discuss much else.

The party was boosted by the failed Bush wars in 2006, 2008 and 2012, but Democrats have been boggled by what to say about ISIS in 2014. They’ve had no significant new ideas, foreign or domestic, on offer. And they’ve been too afraid to tout Obama’s complicated successes–the stimulus package that prevented a depression, the health care plan that may actually be working, and relative order at the border (a result of many years of security enhancements and a diminished flow of illegals during recent rough economic times). The argument on women’s economic issues is strong. It remains to be seen whether baby boomers who boast remarkable three-month, 3-D sonograms of their grandchildren will be quite so militant about abortion rights in the future. The fate of women’s issues, in the South and elsewhere, will have an impact on whether the party has to start rethinking its message going forward. It may not be able to count on Republicans’ continuing their boorish ways. Unless, of course, the conservatives win and overread the results this year.

2. Republicans And Purple States

Iowa and New Hampshire are mythic presidential-primary states; Colorado is a crucial, purple general-election state. All three have been trending toward the Democrats in recent campaigns. All three are senatorial toss-ups this year. In Iowa, the Republicans are boosted by an energetic candidate, Joni Ernst, facing a dreadful Democrat, Bruce Braley–who opened the campaign with a lawyerly slur against Chuck Grassley, the other U.S. Senator from Iowa. Grassley isn’t a lawyer–he’s well known and beloved as an Iowa farmer–and he’ll chair the Judiciary Committee if the Republicans win the Senate. This would be a big problem, Braley warned, as if lawyers weren’t considered more toxic than farmers by most Iowa voters. But there’s no excuse for the tight races that estimable Democrats Jeanne Shaheen and Mark Udall find themselves struggling through in New Hampshire and Colorado. Actually, there’s one excuse: Obama. He has been the Republicans’ one and only issue across the country, and it might well work. But what if it doesn’t? What if Obama–like women’s issues for the Democrats–is being overplayed?

This goes to the question of the Republicans’ strategy if they do win the Senate. Will they decide to make the Oval Office a veto factory by passing conservative wish-list bills, like repealing Obamacare, and sending them on to the White House? Or will they seek deals on immigration, infrastructure improvement and maybe even health care? Recent history suggests continued warfare. But that supposes that all of the American people despise the President as much as the Republican base does. The past six years have been a juvenile, name-calling fiesta for the likes of Rush Limbaugh, who prospers when Republicans are out of power. It is very tempting for the party to stay that course. I wouldn’t bet against it. But Republicans found in 1998 that compromising with a Democratic President could produce odd results, like balanced budgets and a Republican presidential victory in 2000.

3. Kansas Rejoins The Mainstream

The Senate race between the aforementioned independent, Greg Orman, and Republican stalwart Pat Roberts is curious. But the plight of the current governor, Sam Brownback, may be historic. Brownback has pitched his tent atop the quicksand of voodoo economics. The results are the same as when Ronald Reagan tried massive tax cuts in 1981: they have blown a giant hole in tax revenue. Unsustainable budget cuts–in education, in everything–have resulted. Brownback points out that the economy eventually revived under Reagan. True enough, but only after Reagan agreed to several huge tax increases and the tight-money magic of Paul Volcker’s Federal Reserve wrung inflation out of the system. Brownback’s Kansas disaster has caused the local Chamber of Commerce to rise up and support his Democratic opponent, Paul Davis, and this may have long-term consequences for Republicans.

The Chamber and other business groups have always opposed higher taxes and tighter regulations; their tacit support helped launch the Tea Party. But what if business groups, large and small, decide that fiscal responsibility is more important than tax cuts? Traditionally, business has also supported spending on education and infrastructure. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the high-tech community support immigration reform. What if the national business community follows the Kansas example and reshuffles its priorities? The Republican Party may well have to reshuffle its priorities too, and the myth of extreme supply-side economics might finally be put to rest.

4. The Quiet Jungle

Last spring I wrote about the new electoral possibilities in California, given its system of open primaries–also called jungle primaries. This allows the two top vote getters in the primary to compete in the general election, regardless of party. The aim was to rouse more centrist candidates. The mammoth 53-seat California congressional delegation has yielded only two same-party finals in 2014. In District 17, a moderate Democrat named Ro Khanna is challenging the traditional Democratic incumbent Mike Honda; in District 4, the Tea Party incumbent Tom McClintock is facing a more moderate Republican challenger, a West Point graduate named Art Moore. If the moderates win, it may encourage other centrists to try next time. But the incumbents seem to have a slight edge in both races.

5. The Omniscient Pollster

In 2012, Nate Silver of the FiveThirtyEight website correctly predicted the presidential results in every state. Consequently–and since the politicians aren’t having very many rallies anymore–the press has paid even more than its usual excessive attention to polling in the 2014 campaign. Very elaborate compilations by different sources have given the Republicans a monumental advantage in taking the Senate this year. But there’s a problem: the Republicans don’t have a monumental advantage in any of the key toss-up states. The polling has most of those races within the margin of error. And polling on down-ballot races is notoriously less accurate than it is on the presidential level. I won’t be surprised if the Republicans win the election, but it is possible they won’t.

It may be too much to ask that we journalists stop trying to do what we do worst–predicting the outcomes of races–and start doing what we should do best: hounding the candidates into specific answers on difficult questions. My sense this year has been that most politicians now assume that the vexing need to deal with journalists is pretty much over, unless they commit a mouth misdemeanor or something unseemly emerges about their past. They may be right. The media aren’t as powerful as they used to be. Budgets are tighter. There aren’t as many Walter Robinsons around to unearth the last thing that the public has come to expect: the shocking positive story.

TIME Military

The Capabilities of the Afghan Military Are Suddenly a Secret

Enduring Freedom
Recruits get ready to become members of the Afghan National Police force in Kandahar province. DoD photo / TSgt Adrienne Brammer

Watchdog says U.S. taxpayers can’t know if investment is paying off

For years, American taxpayers have been able to chart how well the Afghanistan security forces they’re funding are faring, because “capability assessments” detailing their progress have been routinely released.

Not anymore.

As the U.S. military prepares to withdraw most of its 34,000 troops still in Afghanistan by the end of this year, the American-led command there has suddenly made such information secret.

Classifying the data “deprives the American people of an essential tool to measure the success or failure of the single most costly feature of the Afghanistan reconstruction effort,” John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, says in Thursday’s quarterly report to Congress. “SIGAR and Congress can of course request classified briefings on this information, but its inexplicable classification now and its disappearance from public view does a disservice to the interest of informed national discussion.”

A U.S. Army spokesman says the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan decided to classify the capability ratings as part of its “responsibility to protect data that could jeopardize the operational security of our Afghan partners” as they assume “full security responsibility” for their country’s defense.

U.S. taxpayers have spent more than $50 billion training and outfitting Afghan security forces. In the prior quarterly report, issued in July, the IG used the then-available-but-now-classified data to report that 92% of Afghan army units, and 67% of Afghan national police units, were “capable” or “fully capable” of carrying out their missions.

Capability ratings like these from July are now classified. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction

“The Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF] capability assessments prepared by the [U.S. and NATO-led] International Security Assistance Force Joint Command have recently been classified, leaving the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction without a critical tool to publicly report on development of the ANSF,” the report says. “This is a significant change.”

The capabilities of Afghan forces become more important as the U.S. and its allies pull out, leaving local troops to battle the Taliban largely on their own. There are reports that Taliban forces are gaining ground in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, vacated earlier this week by U.S. Marines and British troops, and in the northern part of the country.

Past SIGAR reports have used summary data about major Afghan units’ readiness, sustainability and other measurements to trace their progress. More detailed reporting on smaller units has always been classified to keep the Taliban and other insurgents ignorant of Afghan military weaknesses. “It is not clear what security purpose is served by denying the American public even high-level information,” the report says.

“SIGAR has routinely reported on assessments of the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police as indicators of the effectiveness of U.S. and Coalition efforts to build, train, equip, and sustain the ANSF,” the report says. “These assessments provide both U.S. and Afghan stakeholders—including the American taxpayers who pay the costs of recruiting, training, feeding, housing, equipping, and supplying Afghan soldiers—with updates on the status of these forces as transition continues and Afghanistan assumes responsibility for its own security.”

ISAF made the change an after August review “to address potential concerns about operational security,” Army Lieut. Colonel Chris Belcher said in an email from Afghanistan. He said that such information “could provide adversaries critical intelligence that could be exploited, endangering the lives of our Afghan partners and the coalition forces serving alongside them.” He added that ISAF “will continue to provide SIGAR access to the information necessary to enable the organization to carry out its Congressionally mandated duties.”

TIME 2014 Election

Maine’s Independent Senator Switches Endorsement for Governor

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, left, joins Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., at a forum about student financial aid applications at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 24, 2014.
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, left, joins Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., at a forum about student financial aid applications at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., on Oct. 24, 2014. Erik Schelzig—AP

Sen. Angus King now backs the Democrat, saying the independent candidate can't win

Maine’s independent voters are being urged by two of their own to support the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in order to stave off the re-election of the state’s conservative Republican governor.

Independent Sen. Angus King switched his endorsement from independent Eliot Cutler to Democratic Rep. Mike Michaud in the state’s three-way race for the governor’s mansion. The announcement followed a Cutler press conference Wednesday in which he said Mainers should “vote their conscience” in the Nov. 4 election, a seeming admission that he can’t win.

King, who served two terms as governor, said he still likes Cutler, but he cited realpolitik as the reason for his switch.

“My feelings about Eliot on these matters have not changed since I endorsed his candidacy four years ago and again this past August,” said King. “But, like Eliot, I too am a realist. After many months considering the issues and getting to know the candidates, it is clear that the voters of Maine are not prepared to elect Eliot in 2014.”

King said that he had worked with Michaud for 20 years and that he has “what it takes to be Maine’s next governor.”

The moves Wednesday will likely shore up support for Michaud even though Cutler has not dropped out of the race. On Tuesday, the Republican Governor’s Association released an ad reminding voters that King didn’t endorse Michaud. LePage has struggled in his bid for reelection and is in a neck and neck race with Michaud. Cutler, who lost to LePage by less than two points in another three-way race four years ago, has done even worse, polling recently between seven and 16 percent, according to Real Clear Politics.

“This was not an easy decision, but I think the circumstances require that those of us who have supported Eliot look realistically at the options before us at this critical moment in Maine history,” said King.

The race is not the only one in the nation where the top two candidates have been trying to edge out a potential spoiler. Chad Taylor, the Kansas Democrat running for Senate, announced last month that he would withdraw from the race, boosting independent Greg Orman’s bid to unseat Republican Sen. Pat Roberts. And in South Dakota, Democrat Rick Weiland complained this week that national party members failed him in focusing their attacks on Republican Mike Rounds—giving Independent Larry Pressler a reprieve—instead of fueling his own candidacy.

TIME #TheBrief

#TheBrief: Ebola Quarantines Get Political

While the federal government works to contain Ebola in the U.S., states are taking matters into their own hands—and butting heads with the White House and the CDC in the process.

The attempt to contain the spread of Ebola in the United States is becoming political, with governors imposing varying, stringent, and sometimes unclear quarantine rules that are hard to enforce across state lines.

President Barack Obama spoke out against these policies Wednesday, saying, “We don’t want to discourage our health care workers from going to the front lines. They are doing God’s work over there, and they are doing it to keep us safe.”

Here’s your brief on the science and politics of Ebola.

TIME Television

You’ll Never Guess What Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert Are Calling Their Election Night Coverage

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reacts to host Jon Stewart during a taping of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in New York. Frank Franklin II—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Both of their shows will broadcast and livestream on Election Night

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are not only broadcasting live episodes of their shows on Election Day, but the specials have—hands down—the best names.

CNN’s “Election Night in America” sounds downright boring when compared to The Daily Show’s “Democalypse 2014: America Remembers It Forgot to Vote” and The Colbert Report’s “Midterms ‘014: Detour to Gridlock: An Exciting Thing That I Am Totally Interested In—Wait! Don’t Change the Channel. Look at this Video of a Duckling Following a Cat Dressed Like a Shark Riding a Roomba! ‘014!”

No, seriously. That’s what it’s called.

The coverage will air back-to-back on election night on Comedy Central. Viewers can also stream coverage on Comedy Central’s website and mobile app. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is scheduled to appear on The Daily Show.

TIME 2014 Election

Iowa Senate Hopeful Accused of Plagiarism

Joni Ernst
State Sen. Joni Ernst waves to supporters at a primary election night rally after winning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, Tuesday, June 3, 2014, in Des Moines, Iowa. The 43-year-old Ernst won the nomination over five candidates. Charlie Neibergall—ASSOCIATED PRESS

Campaign says "there is no scandal here”

The Republican Senate candidate in Iowa copied-and-pasted large portions of her op-eds in local newspapers from other sources, according to a new report.

BuzzFeed, citing side-by-side comparisons of the offending articles and source material, reports that many of the op-eds Joni Ernst wrote for local papers as a state Senator contained large swaths of text from summaries sent to many state legislators. Some of Ernst’s work also reportedly contains lines from speeches and news releases by Gov. Terry Brandstand. BuzzFeed presents several of the passages containing nearly identical text for comparison.

The Ernst campaign told BuzzFeed these instances are taken from pieces created “for the express purpose of reproduction” and they are “no different than what virtually every state lawmaker in the nation does, including Iowa Democrats.”

“Despite BuzzFeed’s every effort, there is no scandal here,” the campaign said.

Ernst, who’s facing Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley in a tight Senate race in the state, is just the latest politician to be caught up in allegations of plagiarism. In recent years at least three politicians have been accused of lifting other people’s words and calling them their own, including Republican Sen. Rand Paul. Earlier in October, Democratic Sen. John Walsh had his master’s degree revoked after the U.S. Army War College found he plagiarized an important academic paper.

[BuzzFeed]

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