TIME politics

How a Scandal Made Dennis Hastert the Speaker of the House

US Representative Dennis Hastert (C), R-IL, speaks
Stephen Jaffe—AFP/Getty Images Representative Dennis Hastert (C), R-IL, speaks to the media after receiving the nomination for Speaker of the House of Representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, in January of 1999

The politician now faces charges for money misconduct

Prosecutors announced on Thursday that former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was charged with crimes related to bank-transaction reporting and with lying to the FBI. It’s an ignominious turn in the politician’s story, but not his first brush with scandal.

In fact, it was a scandal—one of a very different sort, involving a different person, but a scandal nonetheless—that got him into the Speaker’s seat in the first place.

Hastert officially became speaker at the beginning of 1999, following the tenure of Newt Gingrich. But Hastert was not the first choice to do so. Rather, Bob Livingston, a veteran Congressman from Louisiana who had been a visible figure in 1998’s House preoccupation with the scandal involving President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, had been chosen by his colleagues for that seat.

At the same time, Hustler publisher Larry Flynt issued a challenge: seeing as Congress was so upset about the President’s personal life, he placed an ad in the Washington Post offering $1 million to any woman who presented evidence that she had had an affair with a high-ranking government official. When several people came forward about Livingston, the Speaker-elect in December 1998 made an announcement to the world: “I have on occasion strayed from my marriage.”

“Livingston gave no details, which left Hustler publisher Larry Flynt to spread around whatever he pleased,” TIME reported. “With no sign of proof, Flynt claimed four women had told his staff about past liaisons with Livingston. Flynt said he has a tape of Newt Gingrich’s erstwhile successor engaging in ‘raunchy’ phone sex.”

Hastert, somewhat reluctantly, stepped up.”[Before] he had even decided he wanted the post, Hastert was already the front runner,” TIME reported. “Outgoing speaker Gingrich, whom Livingston had informed the night before, was buttonholing members on the floor. [Majority Whip Tom] DeLay was harnessing his network of 64 vote counters on behalf of Hastert, who happens to be his chief deputy. Within five hours of Livingston’s announcement, the race was won. ‘It’s over,’ said a senior Republican aide. ‘Denny was the hardest one to convince.'”

Hastert ended up serving in that position until 2007.

Read the full story from 1998, here in the TIME Vault: The Speaker Who Never Was

TIME Congress

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert Indicted on Bank-Related Charges

He's also accused of lying to the FBI

(CHICAGO)—Federal prosecutors announced bank-related charges against former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday, accusing the 73-year-old Illinois Republican of structuring the withdrawal of $952,000 in cash in order to evade the requirement that banks report cash transactions over $10,000. He’s also accused of lying to the FBI.

Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago.

From 2010 to 2014, Hastert withdrew a total of approximately $1.7 million in cash from various bank accounts and provided it to a person identified only as Individual A, according to the indictment.

In December last year, “Hastert falsely stated that he was keeping the cash” when questioned by the FBI, the prosecutor’s statement says.

Hastert, a former high school wrestling coach, was a little known lawmaker from suburban Chicago when chosen to succeed conservative Newt Gingrich. Hastert was picked after favored Louisiana Congressman Bob Livingston resigned after admitting to several sexual affairs.

As speaker, Hastert pushed President George W. Bush’s legislative agenda, helping pass a massive tax cut and expanding Medicare prescription drug benefits.

He retired from Congress in 2007 after eight years as speaker.

TIME White House

President Obama Weighs In on Chicago Bulls Firing Coach

Obama says he's sad to see the Bulls head coach go

President Obama is sad to see Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau go, he said Thursday, responding to an off-the-cuff question about basketball during a brief Twitter Q&A.

Chat participant Akshar Patel was anxious to get the president’s thoughts on the breaking news regarding his hometown team, and being an avid Chicago Bulls fan, Obama naturally weighed in.

Obama’s Twitter chat had largely focused on the event’s main topic, climate change, until two participants tossed out questions on basketball, one of the President’s favorite subjects. Before the question on the Bulls, Nathen Vieira asked the President if the Cleveland Cavaliers’ JR Smith can outshoot the Golden State Warriors’ Steph Curry and lead the team to the championship. This was the President’s response:

Sadly, though, the president neglected to answer some equally pressing questions including:

POTUS, the people need answers.

 

TIME White House

Artist Behind ‘Hope’ Poster Is Disappointed in Obama

NY: 2014 National Arts Award
Clint Spaulding/Patrick McMullan—Sipa USA/AP Shepard Fairey attends the 2014 National Arts Award held at Cipriani 42nd St, New York City on October 20, 2014.

Shepard Fairey is critical of the President

Shepard Fairey, the artist behind the iconic “Hope” portrait that became the unofficial symbol of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for the White House, thinks the President fell short of America’s expectations.

“Obama has had a really tough time, but there have been a lot of things that he’s compromised on that I never would have expected,” Fairey said in an interview with Esquire. “I mean, drones and domestic spying are the last things I would have thought [he’d support].”

Fairey, a street artist and the star of MTV web series Rebel Music, told the magazine he thinks the president could have been braver throughout his eight years in office. But Fairey was also highly critical of lax rules on campaign contributions, which he said can lead those who write the biggest checks to believe they hold power over politicians.

“I’m not giving him a pass for not being more courageous, but I do think the entire system needs an overhaul and taking money out of politics would be a really good first step,” he said.

This isn’t the first time the artist has called out Obama for not living up to his campaign message of hope. In 2012, Fairey told the Guardian, “Obama hasn’t done as well as I hoped, but I created the poster with the understanding that people in office can only achieve so much.”

In 2013, he applauded a remixed version of his iconic poster that called out the President and National Security Agency in the wake of revelations that the agency collected data on Americans’ phone and web history in bulk.

“I have never been an unconditional Obama supporter or cheerleader,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “So I’m pleased to see people subvert my Obama images as a way to critique him and demonstrate the wide gap between some of his promises and actions.”

TIME Chris Christie

Chris Christie To Pull New Jersey Out Of Common Core

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Julio Cortez—AP New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

The move could help Christie in his quest for the Republican presidential nomination

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will announce Thursday he is pulling his state out of the Common Core education standards, bowing to pressure from teachers and parents, as well as conservative fears about government overreach.

Christie, who is expected to declare his candidacy for president in the coming months, began a review of the standards a year ago, just as the issue began bubbling up in town hall meetings in New Jersey and on the campaign trail.

Developed as a bipartisan proposal by state governors and states’ chiefs of schools six years ago, Common Core has become increasingly toxic politically among conservatives. Several Republican governors who initially supported the Common Core have backed out in recent years, and others have worked hard to distance themselves from it.

Christie’s announcement comes the same day that a lawsuit regarding Common Core, initiated by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who once supported the standards, was heard in a Baton Rouge court. Jindal is suing the U.S. Department of Education for allegedly “coercing” states into adopting Common Core by tying $4.35 billion in federal funding from Race to the Top, and waivers from No Child Left Behind, to the adoption of high standards.

The Obama administration has moved to dismiss the case on the grounds that states were never required to adopt Common Core in particular, but instead to adopt any “rigorous standards” of their choosing. Forty-six states signed onto Common Core after it was finalized in 2010.

“It’s now been five years since Common Core was adopted. And the truth is that it’s simply not working,” Christie will say in a speech at Burlington County College in New Jersey Thursday afternoon. “It has brought only confusion and frustration to our parents. And has brought distance between our teachers and the communities where they work.”

The move sets up a contrast between himself and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who remains a supporter of the standards. While Bush has distanced himself rhetorically from the policy, choosing not to use the words “Common” and “Core,” his education foundation helped fund and advocated for their implementation nationwide. Likely GOP contender Ohio Gov. John Kasich has also stood up in defense of Common Core, condemning those in his party who have turned their back on them.

“Sometimes things get to be political and they get to be runaway Internet issues,” Kasich said in New Hampshire in March. “We don’t want the federal government driving K-12 education, and in my state–the state of Ohio–that is simply not the case.”

The reversal comes as Christie’s political fortunes are at a crossroads. His poll numbers have continued to wane from the lingering effects of the politically motivated closure of approach lanes to the George Washington Bridge and a weak fiscal picture in the Garden State. But Christie is pegging his hopes for success on New Hampshire, the libertarian-minded state where the Common Core standards are especially divisive.

Christie is tasking David Hespe, the commissioner of the state’s department of education, to lead a panel that will develop a new set of standards for the state.

“I have heard far too many people–teachers and parents from across the state–that the Common Core standards were not developed by New Jersey educators and parents,” Christie will say according to prepared remarks from his office. “As a result, the buy in from both communities has not been what we need for maximum achievements. I agree. It is time to have standards that are even higher and come directly from our communities. I agree. It is time to have standards that are even higher and come directly from our communities.”

Common Core has also been a major bone of contention in Democratic states, where opposition to the standards is linked to objections to an uptick in standardized testing. Last year, Chicago schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett tempted federal sanctions by announcing that she did not intend to force her students to take the tests associated with Common Core. Tens of thousands of New York state students also opted out of the Common Core testing regime.

TIME Education

Chinese Nationals Accused of Vast SAT Cheating Conspiracy

They helped foreign students cheat on college entrance exams, according to an indictment

A group of 15 Chinese nationals are accused of orchestrating a vast conspiracy to help foreign students cheat on standardized college entrance exams administered in the U.S., in what appears to be one of the more brazen testing-related scandals in the past decade, according to a federal grand jury indictment unsealed Thursday.

For the past four years, the defendants provided counterfeit Chinese passports to impostors, who then sneaked into testing centers, mostly in western Pennsylvania, where they took the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT), the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), while claiming to be someone else, according to the indictment.

It’s unclear how many students used these fraudulent test scores to gain admission to American colleges and universities, and to therefore illegally obtain F1 Student Visas.

“These students were not only cheating their way into the university, they were also cheating their way through our nation’s immigration system,” said special agent John Kelleghan of Homeland Security Investigations in Philadelphia. “HSI will continue to protect our nation’s borders and work with our federal law enforcement partners to seek out those committing transnational crimes and bring them to justice.”

A federal grand jury in Pittsburgh issued an indictment on May 21 on 35 charges, including conspiracy, counterfeiting foreign passports, and defrauding the Educational Testing Services (ETS) and the College Board, according to U.S. Attorney David J. Hickton for the Western District of Pennsylvania.

If the defendants are found guilty, they face a maximum total sentence of 20 years in prison and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

TIME 2016 Election

The Republican Presidential Contest Has a Polling Problem

Buttons featuring Republican presidential hopefuls on display during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City on May 21, 2015.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Buttons featuring Republican presidential hopefuls on display during the 2015 Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City on May 21, 2015.

Pollsters say the field is too big for accurate polls

National primary polls have never been so important—or so meaningless.

Nine months before the first votes are cast, these fickle numbers have become a make-or-break metric, determining whether a candidate will toil in obscurity or find a moment in national spotlight.

Fox News, the host of the first Republican debate, announced earlier this month that it will average the five most recent national polls that meet its standards in the week before on Aug. 6, and invite the top 10 finishers on stage. CNN announced that for the second debate in September, it would average national polls from two months prior, adding an average of early state polling as a tiebreaker.

Yet pollsters warn that the current methodology is ill-equipped to accurately measure such a sprawling field of potential candidates. The difference between the 9th and 13th place finishers in polls, where several candidates get less support than the margin of error, can be arbitrary. Candidates, meanwhile, have begun to complain that national polls mainly measure name identification, and national televised media exposure, ignoring the crucial role that early primary and caucus states play in the selection of the nominee.

“I think it’s strange that they aren’t taking early state polls, since that’s where candidates are placing their resources,” said an aide to one Republican candidate who does not yet qualify for the first debate. “In terms of the [Republican National Committee], they wanted to have this process, but I think it’s funny that they didn’t want the media picking candidates anymore except they are allowing media companies to do exactly that.”

“You can’t use polls to make very fine distinctions among candidates—such as who is in 10th place vs. 11th place,” says John Sides, a George Washington University Professor and co-founder of the popular political science blog Monkey Cage. “Even an average of several polls will have enough underlying uncertainty that you won’t be able to clearly distinguish who should be in and out.”

In Thursday’s Quinnipiac poll seven candidates are tied with each other—at zero percent—owing to the ±3.8 percentage point sampling error.

In a letter to members of the RNC Friday, Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon safely on the debate stage with poll numbers in the high single-digits, urged a change. “In the past this type of rule has been used to keep ‘fringe’ candidates off the stage,” he wrote. “None of these men and women deserves this exclusion.”

“I’m probably the best person to comment on this,” former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum told National Journal Friday. “In January of 2012 I was at 4 percent in the national polls, and I won the Iowa caucuses…And so the idea that a national poll has any relationship to the viability of a candidate—ask Rudy Giuliani that. Ask Phil Gramm that.”

It’s in Santorum’s interest to undermine the polling standards. The 2012 runner-up’s national numbers are dismal—he polled at zero percent in a Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday.

As a practical matter, polling in the U.S. has grown more difficult as American attention spans have dwindled and more people have moved to cell phones. The gold standard—live surveys, conducted by actual human questioners—has grown more difficult as people cut phone lines to their homes. Most reputable surveys now include cell phone lines in an effort to ensure those who have cut the cord are represented.

But polling in primaries is has always been difficult. Andrew Gelman, a professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University, wrote in 2011 of the difficulties endemic to polling in nominating fights. “The candidates in a primary election are of the same political party and typically differ in only minor ways in their political positions, so it is easier for voters to change their opinions,” he wrote. “Primary election campaigns can be highly unequal too, with different candidates pouring their efforts into different states. And during the heat of primary season, voters may have only a week or two to make up their minds in light of the news from the most recent primaries elsewhere.”

“Primary polls can fluctuate a great deal depending on which candidate is getting news coverage,” adds Sides. “And that news coverage may arise because of events that really aren’t that significant. For example, Herman Cain’s victory in the meaningless Florida straw poll catalyzed news coverage and his poll numbers. So there is the question of whether, at any particular point in time, good poll numbers are really indicative of a viable candidacy.”

And in a field with at least 15 candidates, it’s even tougher.

“You can’t poll 15 candidates and expect voters to keep paying attention,” scoffs one 2016 strategist, suggesting that poll accuracy will suffer because only those willing to sit through a long list of names won’t hang up.

For much of the cycle so far, news outlets and pollsters have only polled subsets of candidates for just this reason, including just the top eight or 10 candidates at a given moment in their surveys. Many reputable surveys of the 2016 field have chosen to exclude potential 2016 contenders, like Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Others have excluded longshots like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal or former HP CEO Carly Fiorina. The Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday is one of the first national polls to include all 16 Republican candidates.

Douglas Schwartz, the director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, tells TIME that typically they try to keep the list of candidates to a manageable six or eight, but that with the field so large and with support so diffuse, that they had to ask about all of them. It’s not without complication.

“We haven’t encountered the first issue in terms of people hanging up,” he said. It’s just more of an issue that so many of these candidates are not well known and that it’s tough for people to keep all the names in their head.”

The problem is not limited to polling, Schwartz adds. “It’s tough when you’ve got eight candidates and you’re asking people to try to get to know all eight candidates, research the background and learn the biography of people who are all pretty similar because they’re in the same party,” he said. “Now double it. It’s hard for voters too.”

But even those who make the cut shouldn’t be cheering either when in reality activists in a handful of states will decide.

TIME

Morning Must Reads: May 28

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

Republicans espouse free market principles, but one supply-and-demand problem is burning holes in their pockets. With more than a dozen candidates, there’s a bidding—and begging—war for qualified staff, some of whom are taking home as much as $35,000 a month. Meanwhile, as the cover of TIME this week explains, the end of capital punishment is upon us as Nebraska legislators overturned a veto to ban the death penalty in the red state. And the GOP presidential field is anyone’s for the taking, but only two Republicans looked competitive right now against Clinton in a new poll. Here are your must reads:

Must Reads

Mad Rush to Hire 2016 Campaign Staff Brings Out the Beggars
Some top aides could bring in $35,000—a month—TIME’s Philip Elliott reports

Here’s What it Sounds Like When Generation X Runs for President
The next generation—and its culture—take center stage [Washington Post]

Clinton Runs As A Woman
Eight years after playing down her gender on the campaign trail, Clinton embraces it [Wall Street Journal]

Why the End of Capital Punishment Is Near ($)
Bungled executions. Backlogged courts. And three more reasons the modern death penalty is a failed experiment, TIME’s David Von Drehle writes

For Loretta Lynch, a Stunning Debut on the World Stage
FIFA probe makes a name for the new Attorney General [Politico]

White House Presses for Deal on Phone Data Bill
The National Security Agency has a plan for shutting down its controversial surveillance programs [New York Times]

Sound Off

“I may not be the youngest candidate in this race, but unlike my rivals, I’ve been dying my hair for years. You’re not going to see me going white in the White House!” —Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaking to a group of Democratic women in Columbia, S.C.

“This trip has been on my itinerary for a very long time.”—Republican presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina to reporters Wednesday in Columbia, S.C. after facing repeated questions about whether a press conference outside a Hillary Clinton speech was a stunt.

Bits and Bites

Nebraska repeals the death penalty [Journal Star]

Clinton Faces Biggest Threat From Rubio and Paul in New Poll [TIME]

George Pataki to launch presidential campaign [Washington Post]

O’Malley backers launch super PAC ahead of Democrat’s presidential bid [Washington Post]

Clinton Foundation paid Blumenthal $10K per month while he advised on Libya [Politico]

Warren’s populist bestseller earned her a bundle [Boston Globe]

 

TIME 2016 Election

George Pataki Enters Presidential Race

Former New York governor faces steep uphill battle

Former New York Gov. George Pataki launched his long-shot presidential bid Thursday with a video announcement on his website and a rally planned for later in the day in New Hampshire.

The Republican left office in 2006 after serving three terms, including during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, which factor heavily into his announcement. The four-minute video features Pataki speaking directly to the camera and walking in Lower Manhattan at the World Trade Center site retelling his experiences in the months and years after the attacks. After a montage of patriotic imagery, it closes with footage of Pataki gazing at the newly rebuilt One World Trade Center building

“We need to recapture that spirit, that sense that we are one people,” Pataki says. “When we do, we will stop empowering politicians and empower ourselves with the opportunities to have an unlimited, bright future.”

In a Quinnipiac University national poll of the Republican field released Thursday morning, Pataki received no support, and he faces a steep uphill climb even to make the debate stage in August. In a New Hampshire WMUR poll this month, Pataki placed at 2% in the first-in-the-nation primary state.

TIME 2016 Election

Clinton Faces Biggest Threat From Rubio and Paul in New Poll

Hillary Clinton
Rick Friedman—Corbis Former Secretary of State and Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton greeting supporters at a round table discussion at the Smutty Nose Brewery in Hampton, N.H. on May 22, 2015.

Republican voters are split on who should be their nominee

The fight for the Republican presidential nomination is wide open, but only two GOP candidates currently take the fight to likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to a new poll.

The Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday found the GOP field split evenly between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Each earns 10% in a poll of potential Republican primary voters and caucus-goers.

Against Clinton though, only Rubio, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul—who polls at 7% nationally among Republicans—would pose a threat if the election were held today. Clinton scores 46% to 42% against Paul, and 45% to 41% against Rubio, the poll found. All other Republicans poll multiples behind Clinton.

The national survey holds limited predictive value in a race that will start off as a contest among early-state activists, but it will contribute to the culling process for the first GOP debate. Fox News, which is hosting the Aug 6. gathering, will invite the top 10 Republican candidates based on an average of national surveys.

Under the Fox News rules, the rest of the debate stage, according to the Quinnipiac poll, would include Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, reality TV host Donald Trump, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry would be among those excluded.

On the Democratic side, Clinton leads with 57% of potential Democratic primary voters and caucus-goers, followed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders with 15% and Vice President Joe Biden, who has not indicated he will run, with 9%. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is set to launch his campaign on Saturday, polls at just 1%.

A majority of voters—53 %—believe that Clinton is not trustworthy, but they give her high marks on leadership and caring about people like them. Rubio and Paul perform best among voters on those categories, while Bush, who is expected to announce raising as much as $100 million for his presidential bid next month, faces skepticism from voters, a plurality of whom believe he doesn’t care about the needs and problems of people like them.

The Quinnipiac survey of 1.711 registered voters—including 679 Republican and 748 Democrats—was conducted from May 19-26, 2015. The overall sample as a margin of error of ±2.4 percentage points, while the Republican primary figures has a margin of error of ±3.8 points and the Democratic primary has a margin of error of ±3.6 percentage points.

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