TIME 2016 Election

GOP Seeks Pledge to Avert Trump Third-Party Run

Donald Trump
Richard Shiro—AP Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump greets supporters after speaking at the TD Convention Center in Greenville, S.C., on Aug. 27, 2015

Candidates asked to pledge "that I will not seek to run as an independent"

(WASHINGTON) — Seeking to avert a 2016 disaster, the Republican National Committee on Wednesday challenged every GOP presidential candidate to sign a pledge not to undertake a third-party bid under any circumstances.

The challenge, confirmed by multiple campaigns, is aimed squarely at Donald Trump. And the timing of the pledge suggests an agreement has been reached.

While he is leading the packed Republican field in early polls, the billionaire businessman last month repeatedly threatened to launch a third-party bid — leaving open the possibility even at the GOP’s first presidential debate last month — should he fail to claim the Republican presidential nomination. Such a decision would make it all but impossible for the Republican Party to win the White House in 2016.

RNC officials have been working privately with Trump’s campaign for several weeks to avert such a scenario.

While neither side would publicly confirm late Wednesday that an agreement had been reached, Trump has hinted in recent days the GOP lobbying was beginning to work.

The Trump campaign did not respond to questions about the pledge late Wednesday. RNC Chairman Reince Priebus is set to meet privately with Trump at his campaign headquarters in New York City shortly before Trump is scheduled to address reporters. The meeting was confirmed by two RNC officials who weren’t authorized to discuss the plan publicly and requested anonymity.

In recent days, Trump has suggested he would soon decide whether to rule out a third-party bid.

“I think a lot of people are going to be very happy,” he said Saturday in Nashville.

Several candidates contacted late Wednesday confirmed that they would sign the pledge, among them Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, although few doubted the intentions of the vast majority of the GOP’s 17 presidential contenders.

The Republican National Committee’s pledge asks candidates to promise to “endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.”

Further, it asks them to pledge “that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate, nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.”

An RNC spokesman declined to comment.

TIME john kasich

John Kasich’s Pep Talk for America

Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (C) talks with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) (R-IA) as he tours the Iowa State Fair on August 18, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Justin Sullivan—2015 Getty Images Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Gov. John Kasich (C) talks with U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R) (R-IA) as he tours the Iowa State Fair on August 18, 2015 in Des Moines, Iowa.

In a Republican primary filled with notes of fear and anger, John Kasich is heading in the other direction.

“We’re spending too much time being negative about our lives, and I don’t think that’s very healthy,” Kasich says, warning of a nationwide morale problem, “because when we are positive we come together to solve our problems.”

On the campaign trail, the Ohio governor is sounding more like a self-help guru than presidential candidate, preaching optimism and the importance of rebuilding community. He tells college-aged kids to keep “reaching for the stars,” and seniors to focus on positivity.

“You have to be a person who represents a place of justice and healing,” he tells the several dozen students among the crowd at his town hall at New England College in this quaint New Hampshire town. “Changing the world doesn’t mean becoming president, changing the world means that you do something special for somebody else, living outside of yourself.”

As the Republican presidential field has devolved into a contest to see who can best display and capture the angst and anger of the GOP electorate, especially as candidates like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush takes on front-runner Donald Trump, Kasich is trying a radically different course, encouraging the country to “count its blessings.”

“We’re constantly pummeled with all the bad things that go on in our country, but where else would we want to live,” he said at a town hall Wednesday in New London.

Kasich says he was called to the new message because of all the negativity he’s seen from voters and his fellow candidates.

“I just get a little tired of everybody running around moping about how terrible everything is,” he tells TIME.

“There are some real issues, but if you keep hearing about how bad everything is all the time, you start getting negative,” he adds, comparing it to a football coach who only points out his players’ faults. “Pretty soon you have a morale problem on the team.”

Kasich, who has a reputation as a prickly executive but has effectively masked it on the trail, said he decided to emphasize a more positive message in recent days after realizing the magnitude of the negativity. His tone is more reminiscent of the “joyful tortoise” campaign Bush set out to run, but has now abandoned as he goes toe-to-toe with Trump.

On Wednesday morning, Kasich bristled at a reporter who questioned this strategy, turning it into a new stump speech line. Following an event in Hookset at the historic Robie’s Country Store, Kasich was asked by a reporter whether he was “angry enough” to win the presidency.

“If it takes mean and angry, count me out,” he says later, referencing the question in his subsequent events, “I’m going to remember that for a very long time.”

“If it takes determination, if it takes a degree of toughness count me in,” he continues. “But we’ve got too much to be thankful for in this country to be waking up in a bad mood. Don’t let them get you down.”

It was that problem, he says, that contributed to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012, particularly when the then-GOP nominee campaigned in Ohio, warning of economic collapse when the state’s economy was recovering. “I don’t think that was the right message,” he says, adding it’s “ancient history.”

Kasich has taken to using his stump speech to encourage a rebuilding of community, telling the story of his childhood neighbor calling his parents to tell them he was sledding into traffic in the street.

“We need to start sticking our noses into other people’s business and start rebuilding and re-strengthening our communities,” Kasich said in Hookset, a line that drew titters from Democrats and questions from fellow Republican candidates for appearing to support the notion of big government.

Kasich, who has come under fire from many Republicans for his decision to expand Medicaid in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act, defended the comments.

“I think it’s a very conservative and Republican line, because if neighbors are helping neighbors, then government doesn’t have to do as much,” Kasich tells TIME. “I think rebuilding communities is a part of rebuilding America.”

TIME Television

Stephen Colbert Mocks Jeb Bush Fundraiser With His Own Contest

For $3, supporters will be entered to win tickets to the taping of 'The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.'

Jeb Bush will be one of the first guests on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and the Republican presidential candidate has already capitalized on his slated appearance by sending out an email to supporters asking for a $3 minimum donation for the chance to attend a VIP ticket for a taping on Tuesday.

The contest includes dinner with the Bush campaign’s national finance co-chair, Woody Johnson.

Colbert called out Bush’s strategy in a “pre-show web video,” where the comedian smirked, “If you can’t afford $3, you’re probably not voting for Jeb Bush.”

“I think the contest is a great idea,” he continued. “But here’s the thing: No one from Jeb’s campaign asked if this was okay with me to raise money off my first show. Where’s my cut of that sweet three bucks, Governor? Huh?”

So Colbert is launching his own contest—“Jeb Bush on the Stephen Colbert Late Show Raffle!”: a minimum $3 donation to the Yellow Ribbon Fund gives you the chance to win two tickets to the first Late Show taping. Another perk? Colbert will ask Bush a “non-obscene question of your choice.” The comedian even throws in a dinner with his lead production accountant, Jason Block.

Seems like Colbert and Bush will have lots to talk about on the show, which premieres Tuesday.

TIME Hillary Clinton

A Voter Question Helped Inspire Hillary Clinton’s New Drug Abuse Plan

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.

Hillary Clinton’s $10 billion plan to combat drug and alcohol addiction announced Wednesday came about in part due to a simple question from a voter at an early New Hampshire event.

Clinton was doing the second roundtable of her then-new campaign on April 20 when she heard from Pam Livengood, an employee at a local furniture factory. Livengood noted that her grandson’s mother had run into trouble with drugs.

“We need to see more for substance abuse help in our area,” she said. “There’s very limited resources here. We’d like to see something in that respect. Do you have any further ideas?”

Clinton responded that she was “really concerned” about the issue, a standard line from a candidate on the stump. But her campaign then developed a plan to fight drug addiction, announced Wednesday on on Instagram, Facebook, in a New Hampshire op-ed and a white paper, which the Clinton campaign says was largely spurred by questions from voters.

“In state after state, this issue came up again and again — from so many people, from all walks of life, in small towns and big cities,” Clinton wrote Tuesday in an op-ed in the New Hampshire Union-Leader. “It’s time we recognize as a nation that for too long, we have had a quiet epidemic on our hands.”

Experts say the problem is not just anecdotal. Prescription painkiller overdoses more than quadrupled in the U.S. from 1999 to 2011, according to figures by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while heroin doses more than doubled. With an average of 110 deaths from drug overdoses (about 40,000 a year), deaths from drug abuse outnumber those caused by car accidents. Small towns and rural areas across the country have been particularly hard-hit.

Clinton is not alone in becoming concerned about the issue, either. A bipartisan bill introduced in January by Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse would expand prevention and treatment programs and widen the use anti-overdose medication called naloxone.

“This issue is not a partisan issue. Both sides of the aisle in Congress are very interested in this because its killing people back home,” said Nick Motu, vice president at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s Institute for Recovery Advocacy. “We’ve seen this huge rapid spike in opioid deaths and heroin deaths. What you’re seeing from Clinton and what you’re seeing from others is that they’ve got to address addiction.”

Clinton’s plan is not a particularly controversial one and it hews to a familiar pattern for her campaign so far of announcing crowd-pleasing policy proposals that are likely to pass in Congress.

Her plan will include a $7.5 billion fund that rewards states with federal dollars for comprehensive plans state plans. States would draw up their own plans for drug education drug programs like after-school activities and mentorship programs as part of prevention efforts, as well as proposals for community-based health centers and greater investment in hospitals and other methods of treating addiction.

Clinton’s plan would also ask states to divert money from the criminal justice system to local treatment programs and to restrict the prescription of opioid painkillers. The federal government would provide $4 for every $1 spent by the state.

At the federal level, Clinton would increase grants for substance abuse treatment by $2.5 billion over 10 years and enforce federal laws that require insurers to provide treatment for addicts.

In the presidential race, several candidates have also raised the issue of addressing drug abuse. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has also called for wider use of naloxone, and Republican contenders Carly Fiorina, Jeb Bush and John Kasich have also said they would make addressing drug abuse a priority.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has set a goal of reducing deaths from drug overdoses by 25% by 2020, pointing to his record in Annapolis of increasing drug abuse services and expanding the use of naloxone.

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

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