TIME Military

Army to Try Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for Desertion and ‘Misbehavior’

Had no option if it wanted to maintain good order and discipline

The Army had little choice other than to charge Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl with desertion. Otherwise, it faced an insurrection in the ranks, corrosion of discipline—or both.

“Bowe Bergdahl is a coward,” says Rob Kumpf, a one-time Army sergeant who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is a refrain echoed by many active-duty troops, although Bergdahl has yet to tell his side of the story publicly. “While I strongly believe that we, as Americans, are duty bound to never leave one of our own behind,” Kumpf says, “I strongly hope that the government does what it needs to do to punish Mr. Bergdahl for his crimes.”

Bergdahl fell into Taliban hands in Afghanistan in 2009 after he reportedly became disillusioned with the war and walked away from his combat outpost. He was released after five years in captivity in a controversial exchange for five detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Army announced Wednesday that he is being charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy. A preliminary hearing could lead to a full-fledged court martial.

Ralph Peters, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, hailed the action. “My Army showed some backbone,” he says. “At least some of our generals have spines.”

The Army’s decision is gutsy, on two counts: first of all, it holds the White House, which celebrated his release with a Rose Garden ceremony featuring President Obama and Bergdahl’s parents, up to ridicule.

President Obama Makes A Statement On Release Of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
J.H. Owen – Pool / Getty ImagesPresident Obama hails Bergdahl’s return home last May with his parents, Jani and Bob.

Secondly, it means the Army could have to explain why it accepted Bergdahl as a soldier two years after he washed out of Coast Guard basic training, normally a red flag for recruiters.

While the desertion charge carries a maximum of five years imprisonment (only in a declared war can it carry the death penalty), the misbehavior charge could lead to a lifetime prison sentence. “The second charge—which is similar to ‘aiding and abetting’ in civilian parlance—suggests to me that we have strong evidence that Bergdahl may have given the Taliban important tactical information, or have otherwise been helpful to them,” Peters says.

While Bergdahl’s legal team didn’t respond directly to the charges in a statement it issued, it asked “that all Americans continue to withhold judgment until the facts of this case emerge.” Pentagon officials suggested a plea deal might avoid a public court-martial.

The Army faced grave consequences if it elected not to pursue the charges against Bergdahl. “The decision to court martial Bergdahl was probably the only one that the Army could make,” says Gary Anderson, a retired Marine colonel who served as a civilian adviser in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Any army has to have discipline at its core, and he is accused of deliberately leaving his post which endangered those soldiers who had to go look for him.”

Soldiers have alleged (although the Pentagon has said it can’t confirm) at least six U.S. troops died in clashes with the Taliban while hunting for Bergdahl after he went missing and was seized by the Taliban in Paktika province on June 30, 2009. “Bergdahl’s walking away was a large factor contributing to my son’s death,” Andy Andrews of Cameron, Texas, told TIME after Bergdahl’s release. His son, 2nd Lieutenant Darryn Andrews, was killed by an RPG September 4, 2009, while protecting a fellow soldier. They had been on a routine patrol near where Bergdahl vanished, and had been asking locals about him when they were attacked. “Sergeant Bergdahl is not a hero, and my son—who sacrificed himself to save others—was a hero,” Andrews said.

The Taliban released Bergdahl last May in a controversial trade for five Taliban detainees the U.S. was holding at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill criticized Obama for not informing them of the trade before it happened. Soldiers in Bergdahl’s unit kept quiet about his disappearance until the White House ceremony heralding his return to the U.S.

“I think he abandoned his post while the other four soldiers were asleep,” Greg Leatherman, Bergdahl’s former squad leader, told TIME after Bergdahl returned to U.S. soil (he has spent much of his time since at a San Antonio, Texas, Army post, where his preliminary hearing will be held at a yet-to-be-specified date). “He was a loner, he didn’t like to share much with anyone. Read the Koran quite a bit, which I respected. I saw it as him trying to be a better soldier, learning more about the people we were going to work with,” Leatherman said. “Turns out he was preparing.”

Charles Jenkins’ fate illustrates what Bergdahl might face, if the pre-trial hearing announced Wednesday leads to his eventual conviction at court martial. Jenkins deserted his Army unit in South Korea in 1965 and lived in North Korea until 2004. He ultimately pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and aiding the enemy. He received a dishonorable discharge, was stripped to the Army’s lowest rank, forfeited all pay and benefits, and was sentenced to 30 days in prison (he got out six days early for good behavior). He now lives in Japan.

But Jenkins was 64 when sentenced (Bergdahl turns 29 Saturday) and no one allegedly died trying to find Jenkins after he headed north through the Demilitarized Zone one freezing January night nearly 50 years ago.

The case also poses some risks for the Army itself. Bergdahl was discharged early from the Coast Guard, after only 26 days in boot camp in 2006, two years before he tried to enlist in the Army. The Coast Guard described the action as an “uncharacterized discharge,” which is typical for someone who leaves the service without completing basic training.

Generally such an event would have required a waiver from the Army before allowing such a prospective recruit to enlist. A wide variety of bars to enlistment—including legal problems and health concerns—require waivers because the Pentagon believes such recruits won’t do as well in uniform as those without such warning signs.

In 2008, the year Bergdahl joined the Army, the service granted waivers for about 20% of its recruits, usually for illicit drug use or other legal problems. Such waivers spiked as popular support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq sagged and the Army found it more difficult to entice young Americans to enlist.

Read next: The Desertion Charge for Bowe Bergdahl Was Months in the Making

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TIME Carly Fiorina

Carly Fiorina’s Anecdotal Campaign

Conservative Activists And Leaders Attend The Iowa Freedom Summit
Daniel Acker—Bloomberg/Getty Images Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co., during the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, Iowa on Jan. 24, 2015.

She doesn't have any legislative experience, so she talks about life experience instead

If you want to hear about health care, Carly Fiorina will talk about her fight with breast cancer. If you want to know about the economy, she’ll talk about working as a secretary in a small real-estate firm. If you want to learn about ISIS, she’ll even cite her degree in medieval history.

It seems that Fiorina has a personal anecdote for just about every policy question.

As she prepares to join the race for the Republican presidential nomination, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO has put together a well-polished set of personal stories for use on the stump. In recent weeks, she’s used the same anecdotes in speeches to very different audiences at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a conservative women’s organization and a group of investors.

To be fair, every presidential candidate relies on stock anecdotes about themselves. As he launched his campaign Monday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz talked at length about his dad fleeing from Cuba and his wife selling bread in elementary school.

But as one of the only candidates with no prior political experience (former neurosurgeon Ben Carson is the other), Fiorina is unusually dependent on personal stories. Without a track record of votes, bills or executive actions to point to and, like many candidates at this stage, without a well-developed policy playbook, she has only her own history.

During an event on leadership and technology in Virginia Wednesday morning, she was asked by a member of the audience about innovation in government. Her response: health care.

“I’m a cancer survivor,” she said. “So I understand how important it is to make sure that people can get care despite pre-existing conditions or that people have access to quality affordable health care regardless of their circumstances.”

At a conference on women and leadership in Virginia Saturday, she talked about how social welfare programs have created a “web of dependence” for people who need help.

“Every one of us needs a helping hand sometimes,” she said. “When I battled cancer, I needed many helping hands. When my husband Frank and I lost our younger daughter Lori from the demons of addiction, we counted on the kindness of strangers.”

One of Fiorina’s favorite all-purpose anecdotes is the fact that she graduated from Stanford with a degree in medieval history and philosophy. It never fails to draw chuckles from the crowd when she brings it up, which she does, often.

She used it to knock President Obama’s comments on ISIS during her speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC): “I was fortunate enough to enroll in Stanford University where I would earn a degree in medieval history and philosophy. All dressed up and nowhere to go. That degree has come in handy recently since our President, he’s talking about the Crusades. Yes Mr. President, ISIS indeed wants to drive the whole world back to the Middle Ages, but the rest of us moved on about 800 years ago.”

Other times, she uses her liberal arts degree to talk about education policy. At the event Wednesday, Fiorina was asked about whether education should be more vocational. She said, “While I joke that my medieval history and philosophy degree prepared me not for the job market, I must tell you it did prepare me for life… I learned how to condense a whole lot of information down to the essence. That thought process has served me my whole life… I’m one of these people who believes we should be teaching people music, philosophy, history, art.”

Sometimes she segues her degree into a discussion of small businesses. After graduation, she felt unprepared for the job market, so she tried law school. She hated it, dropped out after one semester and got a job as a secretary to pay the bills. “I filed and answered the phones for a little nine-person real estate firm,” she said at CPAC. “Most Americans get their start the way I did: in a small business. The dry cleaners, the coffee shops, the hairdressers and the real estate firms of American Main Street create most of our new jobs and employ half of our people. So if we want more jobs, we need more small businesses.”

Anna Epstein, press secretary at Fiorina’s Unlocking Potential Project, says these stories are how Fiorina gets through to the audience.

“Carly has always related to people at a personal level,” Epstein said. “Like all of us, her experiences shape her world view. People relate to story telling more easily than they relate to numbers and figures.”

Fiorina hasn’t said exactly when she’ll announce a run for the White House, but whenever it is, you can be sure she’ll tell some of these anecdotes in her speech.

TIME Health Care

Obama on the Affordable Care Act’s Fifth Anniversary: ‘It’s Working’

White House Student Film Festival
Martin H. Simon—Pool/Corbis President Barack Obama hosts the second-annual White House Student Film Festival in the East Room of the White House, in Washington on March 20, 2015.

He challenged Republican critics who are campaigning on repealing the law.

President Obama had a simple message on the fifth anniversary of the Affordable Care Act: It’s working.

Speaking in the Executive Office Building next to the White House, Obama argued that his signature health care law was “working better than many of us — including me — anticipated” at increasing health insurance rates and improving the quality of care.

“The bottom line is this for the American people: this law is saving money for families and for businesses,” he said. “This law is also saving lives, lives that touch all of us. It’s working despite countless attempts to repeal, undermine, defund and defame this law.”

In particular, Obama highlighted a government report that showed that fewer mistakes in hospitals saved the lives of 50,000 people between 2011 and 2013, which the White House partly attributed to initiatives to reduce accidental overdoses, bedsores and patient falls.

The remarks came just two days after Texas Sen. Ted Cruz promised to repeal “every word of Obamacare” in a speech launching his presidential campaign, the first Republican to join the 2016 race.

Obama took the opportunity to take a few shots at Republican critics of the law, joking that “death panels, doom, [and] a serious alternative from Republicans in Congress” have all failed to materialize and challenging candidates campaigning for repeal to explain how “kicking millions of families off their insurance” will strengthen the country.

“Making sure that the Affordable Care Act works as intended to not only deliver access to care but to improve the quality of care and the cost of care, thats something that requires us all to work together,” he said.

TIME

Morning Must Reads: March 25

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

Germanwings Black Box Found

One of the flight recorders belonging to Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 has been recovered, but French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve says it has been damaged. Investigators are hoping some data can be retrieved to shed light on the crash

Obama Slows Troop Drawdown

President Obama said the U.S. will keep about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan this year, as that country’s leaders had asked he slow the process

Tsarnaev Took ‘Intro to Ethics’

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, on trial for the Boston Marathon bombing that claimed five lives and injured 280, had enrolled in an ethics class before the attack

U.S. Power Grid Under Near Continuous Attack

America’s power grid faces physical or online attacks approximately “once every four days,” according to a new investigation, threatening to plunge parts of the country into darkness. The report looked at public records, energy data and records from utilities

Yemen Leader Asks U.N. to Back Action Against Rebels

Yemen’s embattled President has asked the U.N. Security Council to authorize a military intervention in support of his government to oust Houthi Shi’ite rebels who control much of the disintegrating country’s north and are advancing south

Kelly Osbourne Admits ‘I Have the Cancer Gene’

Kelly Osbourne is one of the latest celebrities to speak out in support of Angelina Jolie’s decision to have her ovaries removed — and she shared that she has the cancer gene. “I agree with this 100%,” said the former Fashion Police host

Jon Hamm Completes Rehab BeforeMad Men Premiere

Like Don Draper, the main character he plays in the hit series Mad Men, Jon Hamm has been battling his own demons too. The 44-year-old actor recently completed a 30-day stint in a treatment center for alcohol addiction

Philadelphia Woman Accuses UberX Driver of Rape

A Philadelphia woman accused an UberX driver of rape in February, according to a report filed with the city’s police, marking the latest sexual-assault claim against the ride-sharing service. As the investigation continues, the driver’s access to Uber has been suspended

The X-Files Returns to Fox After 13 Years

The truth is right here, and it’s amazing: after 13 years off the air, The X-Files is officially returning to Fox as a limited series. Stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson are back on board, along with creator Chris Carter

Vin Diesel Predicts Furious 7 Will Win an Oscar

The Furious 7 star and producer set the bar high for the franchise’s latest installment in a new interview, saying “it will probably win Best Picture at the Oscars … unless the Oscars don’t want to be relevant ever.” The new flick is out April 3

Don’t Buy Your Breast Milk Online, Scientists Say

Buying, selling and trading breast milk is a booming online business — and that’s a dangerous thing — according to a new study, which says there are no requirements to test sellers for diseases that may transmit by drinking the milk, like HIV and hepatitis B and C

Yemeni President Flees Rebels

Yemen’s embattled president fled his Aden home Wednesday for an undisclosed location as Shiite rebels neared his last refuge, according to reports. The advance of the rebels, known as Houthis, threatens to plunge the Arab world’s poorest country into a civil war

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TIME Campaign Finance

Police Advocacy Group Leaves Few Fingerprints

The Law Enforcement Alliance of America has no known office. The group’s address leads instead to “suite 113” inside this shipping supply store in Lake Ridge, Virginia. Rachel Baye/Center for Public Integrity
Rachel Baye — Center for Public Integrity The Law Enforcement Alliance of America has no known office. The group’s address leads instead to “suite 113” inside this shipping supply store in Lake Ridge, Virginia. Rachel Baye/Center for Public Integrity

Wedged between a nail salon and a pizza shop in a strip mall about 25 miles south of Washington, D.C., is a postal supply store where a small brass mailbox sits stuffed with unopened envelopes.

It’s the unlikely home of one of the country’s most mysterious political hit squads.

The Law Enforcement Alliance of America once had offices in a nearby office park, but it abandoned them more than a year ago. It hasn’t filed required IRS reports in two years, and its leaders, once visible on television and in congressional hearings, have all but vanished.

But the nonprofit that calls itself “the nation’s largest coalition of law enforcement professionals, crime victims and concerned citizens” still has teeth. It has succeeded in helping knock out 12 state-level candidates in 14 years, including an Arkansas judicial candidate last year. In doing so, the group helped launch the current governors of Texas and Nevada to their stepping-stone positions as state attorneys general.

The LEAA uses brute tactics — parachuting into otherwise small-dollar races close to the end and buying up TV ads that accuse candidates of siding with “baby killers” and sexual predators.

“They can put out some sort of horrible attack ad on any judges that they want and really influence an election with a fairly small amount of money,” former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz said. “They’re buying seats on supreme courts in states all around the country.”

Diaz knows. He’s among those who have been pushed out of office after being targeted by the LEAA, which spent about $660,000 in the last two weeks of his 2008 campaign running ads linking him to rapists and murderers.

“When a 6-month-old child was raped and murdered, Supreme Court Justice Diaz was the only one voting for the child’s killer,” the ad’s two announcers said. “An elderly woman kidnapped, beaten and raped: Diaz, the only one voting for the rapist.”

How the LEAA pays for the campaigns is a mystery that political opponents, state officials and advocacy groups have fought unsuccessfully for years to unravel. The group, which has ties to the National Rifle Association but no public connections to official law enforcement agencies, has repeatedly gone to court to fend off such efforts. A dispute over whether the group violated Texas campaign laws is expected to wrap up this month, but the group’s donor list has so far remained a closely guarded secret.

The LEAA and its current leader, Chief Operating Officer Ted Deeds, did not respond to repeated calls and emails. Lawyers representing the group said they were not authorized to speak on its behalf, and the LEAA’s accountant referred questions back to the group. In the past, its leaders have argued that its anonymously funded activities are protected under the right to free speech.

The group is an extreme example of a growing cadre of political organizations — from the conservative Crossroads GPS to the environmental advocate League of Conservation Voters — that insert themselves into elections, flood the airwaves with attack ads and often tip the scales in favor of the candidate they prefer. All the while, voters have no idea who is behind the effort and what their motives are because of a gap in disclosure laws.

The LEAA is among the most mysterious and successful, coming into races like a stealth assassin, then all but disappearing when the race ends.

In the LEAA’s sights

Two weeks before last year’s Arkansas Supreme Court election, the LEAA swooped in to take out a trial attorney it didn’t like.

“Tim Cullen worked to throw out the sentence of a repeat sexual predator, arguing that child pornography was a victimless crime,” said the voiceover in one ad. “Victimless? Tell that to the thousands of victims robbed of their childhoods and left with permanent psychological and physical scars.”

Cullen responded, saying the ad misrepresented his argument. The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Factcheck.org, which monitors the truthfulness of political messages, mostly agreed, calling the LEAA’s ad “beyond the pale.”

The group spent at least $320,000 airing the attack ads, as well as some supporting Cullen’s opponent, Court of Appeals Judge Robin Wynne, according to local TV station records. It was the first time a group unconnected to candidates or political parties bought ads in an Arkansas court race.

Wynne, who denied any involvement with the ads, won by a 4-percentage-point margin.

The ads not only contributed to Cullen’s loss, they also led him to give up politics, even though his supporters want him to run again.

“Because I still do not know their motives or the source of their funding, I am concerned that they (or whoever is behind them) might again hijack any future race if I was a candidate,” Cullen said in an email.

A bill that would have required groups like the LEAA to reveal their donors failed in the Arkansas House this week, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

The Arkansas race was simply the latest in a string of judicial elections in which the LEAA helped determine the winners.

Two years before, the group spent at least $450,000 airing ads that criticized losing Mississippi Supreme Court candidate Flip Phillips. And in 2010, the LEAA spent $800,000 airing ads that attacked Michigan Judge Denise Langford Morris, who subsequently lost her campaign for state supreme court, according to Justice at Stake, an advocacy group critical of judicial elections.

In the Diaz case, Mississippi’s Special Committee on Judicial Election Campaign Intervention condemned the ads, causing Comcast to pull them from its stations, according to Mississippi’s The Clarion-Ledger. Still, he lost by 16 percentage points, despite the $100,000 he estimated his campaign spent fighting back.

The group also jumped into races for at least two more supreme court justices, seven attorneys general, two state legislators, plus four congressional races. Each time, the LEAA made a name for itself with harsh attack ads, and almost every time, its candidate won.

Taking aim at gun control

The LEAA was created by the National Rifle Association in 1991 to represent pro-gun police officers willing to defend their right to bear arms, according to Leroy Pyle, an 18-year veteran of the San Jose, California, police department, whom the NRA tapped to launch the group.

At its peak in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the group had about eight employees, two former staffers recalled.

Today the group describes itself as a coalition of thousands of dues-paying law enforcement professionals around the country. The number of members is not publicly verifiable.

“LEAA was established early to give a voice to cops so that when the police chiefs would show up and have a press conference and say, ‘Well, this is what cops think,’ that the public at least have some indication that this is not what all cops think,” said former employee David Bufkin, who now owns a communications firm outside of Washington, D.C.

However, the International Union of Police Associations and the Fraternal Order of Police, two major national police labor groups, disavow any link between the LEAA and their organizations.

“If we have ever agreed with them, it’s been totally coincidental,” said FOP spokesman Jim Pasco.

Officials speaking on behalf of state chapters of the FOP have used even stronger language to distance themselves from the LEAA.

For example, when the LEAA ran ads criticizing now-Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in her 2002 race, the state branch of the FOP said it was an “insult for this group to pretend to represent police when they promote policies that would endanger the lives of law enforcement officers,” according to the Chicago Tribune.

Changing tactics with changing leaders

For most of its early existence, LEAA staff regularly lobbied Congress and state legislatures, usually opposing measures that would restrict gun ownership.

Jim Fotis, the group’s full-time executive director from about 1993 until 2006 and a member of the board of directors until 2010, was a regular presence on Capitol Hill. A former cop in Lynbrook, New York, for 14 years, he also represented the group in “hundreds of TV and radio programs as a commentator on sensitive issues ranging from gun control to international terrorism,” according to his LinkedIn profile.

Fotis could not be reached for comment.

The LEAA’s focus shifted more toward elections in the 2000s, and its newest leader, Deeds, has kept a much lower profile. He also has a tenuous connection to law enforcement.

The 51-year-old worked as a corrections officer for three months in 1984 in the Arlington County Sheriff’s Department and for seven months in 1986 for the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Department, both in Virginia. He was fired from both jobs, according to county personnel records obtained by the Center for Public Integrity. The Virginia Employment Commission later found no evidence to show misconduct connected with his work in Arlington County, but he was not reinstated.

Guns and money

In its early years, the LEAA would not have survived without the NRA, according to Stephen Chand, the group’s legislative director for a few years in the mid-1990s.

“There were other gun groups that were involved, other unions that were involved, but the close tie was really the NRA,” Chand said. “Every time it looked like we were going belly up in the first couple of years, they came in to help float the bills.”

Money was tight enough that the group couldn’t do much, especially when it came to influencing elections, Chand said.

“I remember one year we were handing out $50 to some candidates — the best we could come up with,” he said.

After Chand left in the late 1990s, he was surprised to see the LEAA spending vastly larger sums on state races.

The NRA gave the group at least $2 million over seven years, ending with a grant of $180,000 in 2010, according to the NRA’s tax documents. Since then, the NRA’s tax filings don’t show money going to the LEAA. The NRA did not respond to requests for comment.

Despite the financial links, then-LEAA spokesman Kevin Watson denied his group was a front for the NRA in a 2001 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story.

“There are a great chunk of issues that have nothing to do with the NRA,” he said.

Chand said the LEAA also had close ties to Americans for Tax Reform, the nonprofit run by NRA board member Grover Norquist, who is known for seeking public pledges from elected officials to not raise taxes.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce also collaborated with the LEAA to influence the 2001 Virginia attorney general’s race, according to a memo the Center for Public Integrity obtained from a meeting between LEAA staff and its accountant.

Representatives of Americans for Tax Reform and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce did not respond to questions about whether they helped to fund the group’s efforts.

Operating in secrecy

It’s hard to know whether the LEAA still has links to such groups because it conducts business in near-complete secrecy.

The organization has no known office, having left just a box of posters and pile of unopened mail at the now-vacant space it listed on its last tax form. The LEAA’s current address leads instead to the mailbox in the Lake Ridge, Virginia, postal supply store.

The IRS said the LEAA has not filed mandatory forms with the federal tax agency since the ones that covered 2011 — something that could carry a fine of up to $50,000. The group also failed to release its tax records in response to the Center for Public Integrity’s requests, as required by law.

Even if the LEAA had filed the required documents, they likely wouldn’t have revealed much. Federal law doesn’t require a nonprofit like the LEAA, which is regulated under section 501(c)(4) of the U.S. Tax Code, to reveal the names of donors publicly or to offer many details about how it spends money.

Known as “social welfare organizations,” these nonprofits have become frequent vehicles for political activity by groups whose donors don’t want their names revealed. Unlike candidates, such nonprofits can raise unlimited amounts of money from unions and corporations, plus spend unlimited amounts.

In down-ballot races like those for state supreme court, the secrecy of such nonprofits is particularly problematic, because the groups may be the only ones offering information about the candidates, according to Jessica Levinson, a Loyola Law School professor who specializes in election law.

“People typically aren’t as ill-informed about who’s running for president or governor or even secretary of state as they are about judicial races,” Levinson said. “A few well-placed radio or TV ads can make a big difference because that can be the only thing that people remember about the candidate.” here for more stories in this blog

Fighting in court

The LEAA has repeatedly fought efforts by state officials and opponents to require it to reveal its donors.

After the group failed to register as a political committee in Pennsylvania in 2001, a judge there ordered the LEAA to remove from the air ads attacking state supreme court candidate Kate Ford Elliott. Registering would have required revealing details about donors and spending.

In response, Deeds repeated an argument the LEAA has used frequently: that the First Amendment protects the group’s right to spend money on ads without revealing its donors.

Elliott lost in the end anyway, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court shifted to Republican control.

Three years later, two Texas candidates sued after claiming the LEAA spent more than $1 million opposing their 2002 candidacies. The LEAA had aired ads saying Democratic state Sen. Kirk Watson, who was running for attorney general, “made millions suing doctors, hospitals and small businesses, hurting families and driving up the cost of health care.”

And less than a week before the election, the LEAA accused Democratic state house candidate Mike Head of being on the side of “convicted baby killers” via postcards sent throughout his district.

“What they were doing was just ethically and morally wrong,” Head said. “It misrepresented what I do, and when it hits every mailbox — your friends, family, church members, your children’s [friends’] parents — it certainly will give you pause before you put yourself out there to do that again.”

The LEAA argued that its right not to reveal donors’ identities is protected under the group’s right to free speech.

The legal fight dragged on for more than a decade. The two Democrats reached a settlement agreement with the LEAA in late February 2015, their attorney told the court, and the case is expected to be dismissed this week. Watson declined to comment, and the attorney for both Watson and Head did not return calls.

Yet the effect of the election cannot be undone. Former state Supreme Court Justice Greg Abbott beat Watson to become the attorney general. Today, Abbott, a Republican, is the governor of Texas.

Alan Suderman contributed to this story.

This piece comes from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit investigative news organization. To follow the Center’s investigations into state government and politics, go here or follow them on Twitter.

TIME politics

San Francisco Lawmakers Propose Tougher Restrictions on Airbnb Rentals

Airbnb
Airbnb

The proposal would take a trailblazing regulation measure passed last year and make it more restrictive

At a meeting of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, a local lawmaker returned to an issue that sparked long and contentious hearings in 2014: regulation of the city’s short-term rentals facilitated by Airbnb and similar companies.

“This law is a mess,” David Campos, one of the 11 board members, said of a measure passed last year that legalized short-term rentals. “It’s a mess that needs to be cleaned up. And we need to clean it up as soon as possible.”

Campos introduced legislation that would place stricter limitations on how often people can rent out rooms or homes, putting a “hard cap” of 90 days on every property, regardless of whether the host is present. It would also require companies such as Airbnb to share data about rentals, ban rentals in certain neighborhoods that have been zoned for no commercial use and give disturbed neighbors—like ones living next door to people who rent out units illegally—the right to sue for damages.

A spokesperson for Airbnb said in a statement to TIME that the new proposal is just creating tension over an issue that was settled in 2014.

“Elected officials spent three years debating all aspects of this issue before passing comprehensive legislation, but some folks still don’t think you should be able to occasionally share the home in which you live,” said Christopher Nulty. “We should all be striving to make the law work but these ad hoc rules and this new bill just make things more confusing.”

Campos’ measure has been co-sponsored by two other members of the board.

Under the law passed last year, residents in San Francisco are allowed to rent out their properties an unlimited amount of days if the host is present, while there is a 90-day cap on un-hosted rentals. The different limits were aimed at maximizing the economic potential for residents who depend on sites like Airbnb for income, while making it impossible for landlords to put rental units on those sites full-time. Before the law passed, all short-term rentals were technically illegal; rentals shorter than 30 days were banned.

MORE: 5 Things You Never Knew About the Sharing Economy

The problem, Campos says, is that the city planning commission, which is charged with enforcing the law, says there’s no method of determining when hosts are at home sleeping in their own beds, meaning they cannot monitor whether people are respecting the limits. Campos called the law a “paper tiger” that is “unenforceable” because it has no teeth.

Local lawmakers have pushed for limits on short-term rentals to make sure the sharing economy doesn’t cannibalize existing housing stock. “The concern is you take your unit off the market,” says Supervisor Jane Kim, who supports a 90-day cap.

In recent years, San Francisco has been in the midst of a housing crisis, with the amount of people wanting to live in the city exceeding the apartments that are available—which has sent rental prices skyrocketing. The law was partly aimed at stopping landlords from taking much-needed units off the market because renting them out every night on sites like Airbnb was more valuable than collecting a monthly check. It also legitimized a business popular with tourists and locals.

Kim points out that 90 days per year breaks down to about a week per month, or could be the length of a summer when a college student is out of town. It’s sufficient for what one might consider “regular” hosts who use Airbnb, she says. “If you’re doing more than 90 days, you’re running a business,” she says. Kim believes that people in that camp should apply for a bed-and-breakfast license, which requires hosts to meet more requirements like installing exit signs.

With the aim of making oversight more feasible, Campos’ proposal would require platforms like Airbnb to give the city data about how often properties are being rented through their sites. “Without that data, there’s simply no way of knowing,” Campos says. He adds that Airbnb has responded to previous requests for such data by demanding the city subpoena them and notes that Airbnb has fought such subpoenas in states like New York.

Under the current law, which went into effect in February, all hosts must register with the city before listing a property on a site like Airbnb. Campos says that as of two weeks ago only a few dozen residents have registered, while there are “thousands” of rooms and units being listed on short-term rental sites. In an attempt to incentivize compliance with the law, the proposal would also fine hosting platforms that list unregistered units in San Francisco to the tune of $1,000 per day.

“All of us support short-term rentals,” Campos said of the board members during Tuesday’s meeting. “We know that short-term rentals are part of San Francisco, that they are here to stay … That said, I think that those of us that have been talking about this believe there should be reasonable, fair regulation of this industry,” he continued. “The law that was passed last year does not constitute what we would like to see.”

Read next: Baby, You Can Drive My Car, and do My Errands, and Rent My Stuff…

TIME 2016 Election

Ted Cruz Is Signing Up for Obamacare

Despite being vehemently opposed to Obamacare

Ted Cruz is signing up for insurance under President Obama’s health care law.

The Texas Republican Senator and newly-announced presidential candidate, known for his staunch opposition to the Affordable Care Act, told CNN on Tuesday that he will be joining the millions of Americans enrolled in insurance under the law.

“I believe we should follow the text of every law, even [a] law I disagree with,” Cruz said. “It’s one of the real differences—if you look at President Obama and the lawlessness, if he disagrees with a law he simply refuses to follow it or claims the authority to unilaterally change.”

Cruz, who announced his candidacy on Monday, will no longer have health insurance after his wife went on unpaid leave from her Goldman Sachs position.

MORE: Read TIME‘s 2013 profile of Texas Senator Ted Cruz

[CNN]

TIME Rand Paul

Why Rand Paul is Attacking Ted Cruz

US-VOTE-REPUBLICANS
Paul J. Richards—AFP/Getty Images US Senator Ted Cruz( R-TX) smiles at the crowd while delivering remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the full Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va.

Rand Paul has his sights set on Ted Cruz.

As his Lone Star colleague, Sen. Ted Cruz, announced his candidacy Monday, Paul took to Twitter, asking his following to retweet a two part message: “Stand with … Rand.” His supporters at Virginia’s Liberty University got it, trolling the cameras in red shirts with Paul’s mantra.

Several hours later, Paul went on Fox News’ The Kelly File, which aired an hour before Cruz appeared on Sean Hannity’s show. Paul attacked Cruz for being unable to spread his message past his speech’s largely favorable Christian audience, which, as Paul noted at least twice, were composed of students “required” to attend.

“Ted Cruz is a conservative, but it also goes to winnability,” said Paul, noting that he’s traveled to liberal redoubts like Berkeley, Calif., and spoken at historically black colleges. “I’ve spent the last couple years going places Republicans haven’t gone and maybe not just throwing out red meat but actually throwing out something intellectually enticing to people who haven’t been listening to our message before.”

“That’s the way you win general elections,” he added.

Paul’s double-barreled Internet and TV attacks came before he officially enters the race — he has scheduled a major announcement on April 7 followed by a tour of the early primary states. But they show his primary problem: he is largely competing for the same slices of conservative voters with Cruz even as he tries to expand the traditional Republican electorate.

“I didn’t find much I disagreed with,” said Paul of Cruz’s speech on Fox. “We kind of come from the same wing of the party and if you look at our voting records you’ll find that we’re very, very similar.”

The two conservative senators approach politics through different ideological frames: Paul’s a libertarian who wants a bigger tent in the GOP; Cruz is a conservative who wants to turn out more of the base. “Today, roughly half of born again Christians aren’t voting,” he said in his campaign announcement. “They’re staying home. Imagine instead millions of people of faith all across America coming out to the polls and voting our values.”

Read More: Full Text of Sen. Ted Cruz’s Campaign Launch


But in the Senate, their different paths have often led to the same destination. Both wish to “abolish the IRS,” rein in the National Security Agency, remove the chain of command in military sexual assault cases, pass a flat tax, see states scale back Common Core education standards, reform mandatory minimum sentencing, secure the borders before any type of immigration reform, repeal Obamacare and oppose aid to Syrian rebels. In 2013, several months after Cruz supported Paul’s filibuster over U.S. drone policy, Paul supported Cruz’s 21 plus hours of an anti-Obamacare tirade.

The main differences between the two are stylistic. Paul is running a freewheeling campaign, trying to appeal to constituencies Cruz isn’t addressing, while bucking the GOP leadership on foreign policy issues like normalizing relations with Cuba. But Paul has worked the Senate chamber much better, lining up support from fellow Kentuckian Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, while Cruz has failed to do the same from his Texas colleague, Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn. Both of those members of the leadership team are still incensed with Cruz’s strategy protesting the implementation of Obamacare in 2013 that led to a government shutdown, which briefly battered the party’s image.

The fight between the Tea Party senators extends from the same voters to the same staff. A few top operatives in Cruz’s backyard have jumped to Paul, including Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri and Cruz’s digital strategist, Vince Harris, who orchestrated the nifty little trick of popping up Rand PAC ads every time you searched “Ted Cruz” on Google Monday.

But just Tuesday the New York Times reported that Cruz has recruited three Iowa leaders from Paul’s libertarian base. The polls for the next presidential election don’t close for another 595 days, but the early jockeying between the two colleagues has already begun.

TIME Foreign Policy

Obama Slows Troop Drawdown in Afghanistan

President Obama said the U.S. will keep about 10,000 troops in Afghanistan this year, as that country’s leaders had asked he slow the process of removing troops by 2017.

“This flexibility reflects a reinvigoration in our partnership with Afghanistan,” Obama said at a joint press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Tuesday.

Obama had previously said he wanted to draw down the remaining 9,800 troops to about half that number by the end of the year, with the goal of having between 1,000 and 1,500 in the country when he leaves office in 2017.

Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah have spent the past two days in Washington meeting with high-level officials and expressing gratitude for the American government’s assistance as he seeks to assert control in the country. The Afghan leaders’ trip to the U.S. have marked a bit of a new way forward between the two countries. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter on Monday referred to the relationship as “revitalized.”

Ghani said the flexibility will allow the country to accelerate reforms to ensure its security forces are better trained and focused on their fundamental mission and to ensure that they “honor human rights.”

“Tragedy brought us together, interests now unite us,” Ghani said at the press conference.

Obama noted that slowing the drawdown means more Americans will remain in Afghanistan who would have come home, but he stressed that the overall goal of returning most troops by 2017 hasn’t changed.

“Providing this additional timeframe,” he said, “… is well worth it.”

TIME Hillary Clinton

Round 1: Hillary Clinton vs. Liberal Ideas

Hillary Clinton Holds Press Conference Over Email Controversy
Yana Paskova—Getty Images Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks to the media after keynoting a Women's Empowerment Event at the United Nations on March 10, 2015 in New York City.

Hillary Clinton does not face a serious primary challenger for the Democratic nomination in 2016, but that isn’t stopping some liberals from putting together the trappings for one.

The handful of Democrats who have expressed interest in challenging Clinton — Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb — are all polling double digits behind her and raising minimal funds. None have the kind of name recognition that could seriously threaten her inevitable march to the nomination.

But that’s not stopping some on the left from trying their hand at the classic primary squeeze play of raising issues in the primary in an effort to persuade her to adopt them.

Over the weekend, during his first foray into the early caucus state of Iowa, O’Malley called for tougher sanctions on Wall Street and “too-big-to-fail” banks, and for reinstating Glass-Steagall, a law that separated commercial and investment banking which was repealed in 1999. He also called for strongly supporting the long-embattled Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was passed in 2010 response to the financial crisis.

“Today, most Republicans in Congress are hell-bent on disassembling the Dodd-Frank Act,” O’Malley’s PAC, O’Say Can You See, wrote in a press release Monday, along with a link to a petition. “And too many Democrats have been complicit in the backslide toward less regulation.”

O’Malley’s populist swing came the same weekend that the Boston Globe featured a splashy package begging Massachusetts Senator and liberal hero Elizabeth Warren to run for president. “Democrats need Elizabeth Warren’s Voice in the 2016 presidential race,” the editorial board urged. (The idea is not totally out of left field, as it were. Though Warren has said repeatedly that she is not running for president, she has been somewhat cagey about it. She studiously uses the present tense — “I am not running for president” — and has yet to endorse a Clinton candidacy.)

This week, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee also re-upped its ongoing effort to motivate liberals to challenge Clinton’s famously Wall Street-friendly economic positions. Liberals should join New Hampshire and Iowa leaders in urging candidates to “campaign on big, bold, economic populist ideas,” the PCCC urged. “The more momentum we get, the more Hillary Clinton and others will take notice.”

So what’s all this clamoring, calling-to-arms actually add up to?

Liberal optimists argue that it’s the only thing that will help scooch Clinton to the left at a time when she’s already planning her general election strategy. They believe that Clinton will adopt some of their positions in order to win the full-throated endorsement of key liberals such as Warren who she’ll need to rally the base in 2016.

Liberal pessimisists say it’s all for naught. Without a face to put on these ideas — or even a name on a ballot — the left won’t have enough clout to persuade Clinton to change course. Even if she doesn’t adopt any of their ideas, Clinton could still rally the liberal base in the general election because she’d be the first female president, by adopting other liberal planks or by running against the right Republican.

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