TIME Campaign Finance

Senate Bill Would Limit Lobbyists From Bundling Campaign Donations

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D, joined other law makers during a walk though inspection of the new VA hospital construction site in Aurora, April 24, 2015.
RJ Sangosti—Copyright - 2015 The Denver Post, MediaNews Group U.S. Senator Michael Bennet, D, joined other law makers during a walk though inspection of the new VA hospital construction site in Aurora, April 24, 2015.

Sen. Michael Bennet, former leader of the Democratic Party’s Senate campaign arm, is sponsoring a bill that would make his successor’s job even harder.

Under Bennet’s leadership, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee accumulated nearly three times as much “bundled” money from lobbyists than its counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal campaign finance filings.

The DSCC reported raising roughly $4.3 million from lobbyist-bundlers during 2013 and 2014, compared to $1.5 million reported by the NRSC.

But Bennet’s bill would severely limit high-octane lobbyists’ ability to “bundle” campaign contributions — the act of raising money from people and delivering it to campaigns in one bundle. It’s a move that could further handicap his party’s effort at next year winning back a Senate majority — and has invited cries of hypocrisy from Republicans.

Matt Connelly, a spokesman for the NRSC, said the legislation shows Bennet “says one thing and has done another on the issue.” Connelly declined to comment on the substance of Bennet’s bill.

Sadie Weiner, the DSCC’s national press secretary, declined to comment on Bennet’s proposal. The office of Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who now leads the DSCC, did not respond to a question about whether the DSCC will continue to accept unlimited money from lobbyist-bundlers.

Asked whether Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, would personally continue to accept contributions bundled by lobbyists, Bennet spokesman Adam Bozzi said the senator wishes campaign finance rules were different and is fighting for reforms, but “until then he will continue to abide by the rules.”

In an emailed statement, Bennet himself said members of Congress’s attention has for too long “been distorted toward lobbyists and special interests, rather than the people who elected them and they represent … we can take significant steps to returning the power to the American people by preventing members of Congress from chasing down tens of thousands of dollars from lobbyists while they should be doing their jobs.”

Already, lobbyists who raise above a certain threshold must be identified by campaigns on reports filed with the Federal Election Commission. Bundlers who are not lobbyists are not required to be publicly disclosed.

Bennet’s legislation would require lobbyists to count money they raise from other people against their own personal contribution limits, which vary for different kinds of political committees.

For example, a lobbyist could only bundle up to $2,700 for a single federal candidate per election.

Beyond restricting how much money lobbyists may bundle, Bennet’s bill would also prohibit members of Congress and candidates from soliciting contributions from registered lobbyists while Congress is in session. It would furthermore force more people to register as lobbyists by eliminating certain regulatory thresholds.

Bennet, who faces re-election in 2016, introduced similar legislation during the 113th Congress, but it failed to even reach the Senate floor for a vote.

Several groups that promote campaign finance and lobbying reform, including Democracy 21, the Campaign Legal Center and the League of Women Voters, have endorsed the bill.

But the legislation’s prospects are equally dim this time around, Bennet and others acknowledged. A divided Congress has been unable to pass almost any campaign finance or ethics bills of late.

Craig Holman, a lobbyist for Public Citizen, which advocates for campaign finance and lobbying reform, said he expects the 2016 elections to be the “ messiest federal election that we’ve ever seen,” which could spark new calls for reform.

“Hopefully, some action will come of it later,” Holman said.

At least some lobbyists wouldn’t mind if the bill passed.

“I’m in favor of banning not just lobbyist bundling but lobbyist contributions” said Tony Podesta, the founder of lobbying firm the Podesta Group.

Podesta, a high-profile Democratic donor whose dozens of clients include Google, T-Mobile and Wal-Mart, bundled nearly half a million dollars for the DSCC during the 2014 election cycle. That’s more than any other single lobbyist bundled for the committee.

Asked about the legislation’s odds of passing, Podesta wryly nodded at lawmakers’ historic reluctance to pass legislation limiting their own ability to raise money.

“I would say they are 2,700 to one.”

The Center for Public Integrity is a nonprofit investigative news organization based in Washington, D.C. For more political investigations, go here, or follow the Center for Public Integrity on Twitter.

TIME Apache

#theBrief: The Battle for Apache Land

The land swap was hidden in the defense spending bill's "rider"

In December 2014, Congress passed the defense spending bill. And amid all the talks about expansion of military power and the treatment of suspected terrorists, one thing — totally unrelated to national defense — was able to slip through the cracks: the selling of sacred Apache land to an Australian mining company.

Now, Arizona Apache Indians are occupying that land in protest. And tribal leader Terry Rambler said the swap is a gross violation of Apache rights.

In 1955, President Eisenhower put forth an executive order protecting the land from mining and in 1971, President Nixon renewed the order.

So how did Congress manage to pass the land swap bill? TIME Foreign Editor Bryan Walsh explains in the above video.

TIME Congress

Senators Introduce Bill to Track Police Shootings

"Without reliable data it's difficult to hold people accountable"

A new bill aims to increase police accountability by requiring states to report all shootings by police officers to the Justice Department.

The bill, introduced Tuesday by two Democratic senators, Barbara Boxer of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey, would cover both fatal and non-fatal shootings by police, as well as other instances of police using deadly force, the senators announced.

The legislation comes on the heels of unrest in several cities across the country in response to what protesters see as excessive police force and a lack of police accountability in the justice system, most recently in Baltimore after Freddie Gray died of an injury sustained in police custody. Under the legislation, states would be required to report the age, gender and race of any person seriously injured or killed by police, as well as whether the person was armed.

Civil rights activists have long pointed to a lack of accurate or comprehensive data on how many people are killed annually by police officers in the U.S. Both the Post and The Guardian have recently announced projects that aim to tally all deaths at the hands of American police.

Last week, the Post reported that at least 385 people have been shot and killed by police nationwide since the beginning of this year. If the trend continues, the U.S. will have more than double the number of fatal police shootings this year compared to the number the federal government has reported as the yearly average, based on limited self-reported data.

“Without reliable data it’s difficult to hold people accountable or create effective policies that change the status quo,” Booker said in a statement.

Boxer, in a statement on her website, said the data the FBI currently collects is not sufficient.

“Too many members of the public and police officers are being killed, and we don’t have reliable data to track these tragic incidents,” Boxer said in the statement. “This bill will ensure that we know the full extent of the problem so we can save lives on all sides.”

TIME Rand Paul

Rand Paul Kills Patriot Act, Boosts Presidential Campaign—For the Moment

Presidential hopeful delivers on promise to shut down one NSA program. He never said it would last forever.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s victory over President Obama and most of his Senate colleagues Sunday was messy and almost certain to be brief. But by forcing key U.S. intelligence programs to go dark, he scored a clear win for civil libertarians and those backing his White House campaign.

The Kentucky Republican interrupted his Senate colleagues, threw up procedural roadblocks and even borrowed Democrats’ time to make his objections. He drew reprimands over Senate decorum and rules. Peers scowled at him as he smirked in his leather chair, and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell called the scene inside the chamber he nominally controls “a totally unacceptable outcome.”

Yet, at the end of Sunday’s rare Senate session, Paul was able to claim victory: “I came here to defend the Bill of Rights, not to be popular,” he tweeted. The freshman single-handedly shut down intelligence agencies’ legal authority to continue collecting domestic phone records for a searchable database of who is phoning whom. The law that permitted the program, as well as several other techniques of the National Security Agency, was set to expire as the clock struck midnight Sunday, and Paul was unyielding in his effort to ensure there would be at least some temporary end to it.

MORE: Senator Rand Paul: I Will Stop the Illegal NSA Spying

For Paul, the real audience was the Republican electorate that will pick a White House nominee next year, along with potential donors who can fund his campaign. “Mark my words: The battle’s not over,” Paul said on the Senate floor, where supporters in “Stand with Rand” T-shirts watched him from the Senate visitors’ space. “The Patriot Act will expire tonight,” Paul said, before referencing his opponents. “It will only be temporary. They will ultimately get their way.”

Reluctantly, the Senate agreed to take up a House-passed bill by a 77-11 vote, and will add tweaks to it that the House will consider when it returns this week. The House bill winds down the bulk government collection of the phone records but requires phone companies to retain similar information, where it can be accessed with specific court orders.

After it was clear that the Paul would carry the day, the White House issued a statement of condemnation. “On a matter as critical as our national security, individual Senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly,” the document read. “The American people deserve nothing less.”

One Paul rival for the White House nomination, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, voted with him in opposing a Senate debate over the House version. Rubio did not speak on his vote. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas voted for the House version, which would shift the collection of Americans’ phone data to phone companies and away from the NSA. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina was absent; he was back in his home state, where he is set to start his 2016 campaign on Monday.

But Paul’s conduct again renewed concerns about how he would serve as President, and the scene was certain to raise questions among national security conservatives who have a big voice in the party. “People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me,” Paul said, casting himself as a victim of the political elites.

Set for a midnight expiration, the surveillance program included in the post-Sept. 11 anti-terrorism bill allowed the National Security Agency to collect information that appears on most phone bills: dates and times that calls were placed, how long they lasted and which numbers answered them. In a recent ruling, a federal appeals court said the program was too broad under current congressional authorization, but that ruling was put on hold while Congress had a chance to sort it out. The provision also lets law enforcement officers check other business records, such as hotel bills.

With the law’s expiration, the NSA and FBI will have to return to pre-Sept. 11 ways to collect this information until a replacement Patriot Act is passed by the Congress and signed by President Obama. In most cases where the targets are in the United States, that means going to a judge and asking for a search warrant to get information on specific phone numbers, not the entire database of phone transactions. If Congress renews it—and President Barack Obama restore the powers he sought to keep— the agencies could restart the data collection in a matter of days.

That remained unacceptable for Paul, who vowed to continue his fight against it. “We should be upset. We should be marching in the streets,” Paul thundered in a speech that seemed more directed at a campaign commercial than the civil and somber Senate chamber. “We cannot allow this,” Paul roared.

He even cut off a fellow Kentuckian, McConnell, who has endorsed Paul’s campaign and is the most powerful lawmaker in the chamber. McConnell seemed positively flummoxed by Paul’s one-man roadblock that prevented even a two-week extension of the current program. “That’s a totally unacceptable outcome,” McConnell said.

Even typically mild-mannered Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana was peeved with his fellow Republican for promoting “a siren song” and “a bunch of hokum.” An Indiana Republican who serves on the Intelligence Committee, Coats accused Paul of spreading irresponsible misinformation about the law. Voters, Coats said, now think government “is listening to every phone call that they make” and “knows everything about you.”

“It’s misrepresentation,” he said. “It’s time we told the truth.”

At that point, Paul interrupted Coats—a break in Senate decorum. Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who was his party’s Presidential nominee in 2008, rose to Coats’ defense. “The Senator from Kentucky should learn the rules of the Senate,” McCain said dryly. The hawkish military veteran is Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and sits on the Homeland Security panel.

“Obviously people don’t know the rules of the Senate. Maybe they should learn them,” McCain continued.

But Paul continued, using every trick up a Senator’s sleeve to delay debate and to confound his colleagues. He even asked the clerks to take attendance—a stalling tactic.

Eventually, his colleagues left the chamber. They had been away from Washington for more than a week, and they wanted to check in with their offices around the Capitol before heading home.

“This is a manufactured crisis,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Don’t duck behind not doing anything and then pretend that’s a solution.”

TIME National Security

Here’s What Could Happen If the Patriot Act Expires

President Obama warns of lapses in national security

The Patriot Act is set to expire at 12:01 Monday morning unless the Senate votes to extend it, a week after they failed to reach a deal that would allow the law’s anti-terror protections to remain in place.

President Obama and his national security advisers warn that losing the Patriot Act—which has come under fire from those who have privacy and civil liberties concerns—could weaken the government’s ability to prevent terrorist attacks. “I don’t want us to be in a situation where for a certain period of time those authorities go away,” Obama said Friday in the Oval Office. “And heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.”

That’s why he’s pushing Senators to pass the USA Freedom Act, a compromise bill that would extend some aspects of the Patriot Act while ending the National Security Agency’s ability to collect phone records in bulk. Under that reform bill, telecommunications companies would store customer’s metadata in bulk, but the NSA would need specific warrants to get someone’s data. The House passed the USA Freedom Act by a wide margin earlier this month, but some Senators are arguing that the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect American freedom and privacy.

Senator Rand Paul told Politico Saturday that he would refuse to allow Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to expedite debate on the bill. “Tomorrow, I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program,” he said.

If the Patriot Act expires and the USA Freedom Act is not passed in its place, the government would lose three tools in the fight against terrorism, according to CNN. The NSA would not longer be allowed to collect metadata on Americans and store that data for five years, as they’re currently allowed to do under Section 215, and law enforcement couldn’t get roving warrants to track all of a terror suspect’s devices—they’d have to get individual warrants for each device. And the U.S. would no longer be legally allowed to use national security powers against “lone wolf” terrorists (i.e., not part of a known terror network), a power the government says it has never used. If the USA Freedom Act is passed, those last two powers would stay intact—only the metadata collection would be affected.

Even if the Patriot Act expires, the government could continue using Section 215 provisions in ongoing investigations of terror suspects—they just couldn’t use them in any new investigations. The NSA has been winding down its metadata collection program this week, and is scheduled to sever all connections with phone companies by Sunday afternoon.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Wednesday that if a deal is not reached, the U.S. could face a “serious lapse” in national security.

TIME Congress

What Does This Mysterious C-SPAN Call to Dennis Hastert Mean?

“Hello, Denny"

A C-SPAN caller’s mysterious question to Dennis Hastert last year has taken on a new meaning in light of recent allegations that the former House Speaker illegally paid $3.5 million in hush money to an unidentified resident of Yorkville.

The call was placed during a 2014 interview on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.”

“Hello, Denny,” said the caller, who identified himself as Bruce. “Do you remember me from Yorkville?”

The caller then laughs and hangs up the phone, and the interview moves on without further comment. Footage of the call garnered newfound attention after a federal grand jury indicted Hastert on Thursday for allegedly paying an acquaintance in his hometown of Yorkville hush money over “prior misconduct.”


Everything We Do and Don’t Know About the Hastert Indictment

Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday

The announcement that federal prosecutors had charged former House Speaker Dennis Hastert with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigations about a series of bank transactions shook Washington on Thursday.

Though the Illinois Republican isn’t exactly a stranger to scandal—he was voted Speaker of the House following a scandal surrounding Newt Gingrich’s would-be successor—the announcement and the mystery surrounding it have spurred myriad questions about the Speaker’s future, and most importantly, his past.

Below, we attempt to address the most pressing questions that have been raised amid Hastert’s indictment.

Who is Dennis Hastert?

Dennis Hastert is a former Republican Congressman from Illinois and the longest serving Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. Hastert was born in Aurora, Ill. and attended Wheaton College and Northern Illinois University. Before heading to Washington, Hastert worked at Yorkville High School in Yorkville, Ill., a small city in Northern Illinois about an hour outside of Chicago. At the high school, Hastert taught history and coached the high school wrestling team. He worked there from 1965 until 1981. In the early 1980s, he launched his political career, first serving in the Illinois state House of Representatives and later replacing Republican Rep. John Grotberg in Washington. Hastert rose to prominence on Capitol Hill and replaced Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1999. TIME magazine called him at the time, “The Speaker Who Never Was.” Hastert is often credited for establishing a rule in the House that limits the minority party’s power by only bringing bills to vote if the majority of the majority party doesn’t support it.

What has he been up to since?

Hastert stepped down as Speaker of the House after the 2006 election and in the wake of a lurid scandal surrounding Florida Rep. Mark Foley. Foley was found to have sent sexually suggestive messages to Congressional aides. Hastert was criticized for improperly handling Foley’s actions. Hastert had served on the Advisory of the J. Dennis Hastert Center for Economics, Government and Public Policy at Wheaton College, which was launched in 2007 after Hastert donated his congressional papers to the school. On Friday, the school announced Hastert had resigned from the Board of Directors. Hastert had also joined the Washington lobbying firm Dickstein Shapiro after leaving the House. The firm announced on Thursday the former Congressman had resigned in the wake of the indictment.

What is he accused of doing?

According to the indictment, Hastert is accused of lying to the FBI. Between 2010 and 2012, Hastert allegedly made 15 $50,000 withdrawals from his accounts and various banks and gave the money to an unidentified person, referred to as “Individual A.” The reason Hastert made the payments, according to the indictment, was “to compensate Individual A to remain secret so as to cover up his [Hastert’s] past misconduct.” The withdrawals caught the eye of the banks, which are required by law to report any transaction or series of transactions over $10,000. Hastert reportedly withdrew over $1.7 million dollars over four and a half years, about half of the $3.5 million he was supposedly giving to “Individual A” as a part of their agreement, according to the indictment.

Bank officials questioned Hastert, but after questioning the congressman started withdrawing cash in increments of $10,000 or less. That raised another red flag for federal authorities who started investigating the withdrawals in 2013. A year later, the FBI asked Hastert directly about the transactions and whether he was using the money to “cover up past misconduct” or if he was storing the cash. Hastert reportedly told agents, “Yeah…I kept the cash. That’s what I’m doing.”

Who is “Individual A”?

The indictment does not name “Individual A,” but it does provide some vague details about the person’s connection to Hastert. Individual A has known Hastert for all of his or her life and was born and raised in Yorkville, Ill.—the town where Hastert worked as a teacher and coach between 1965 and 1981. Individual A made contact with Hastert in 2010 a number of times. At the meetings, they are alleged to have discussed the undefined “misconduct” by Hastert. After the 2010 meetings, Hastert began withdrawing and delivering the cash.

What is the misconduct?

This part is unclear. The misconduct is repeatedly referred to as having occurred “against Individual A.” But the indictment does not specify what misconduct Hastert is accused of conducting. The indictment links Hastert and Individual A through the town of Yorkville—where the individual resides and where Hastert was once a teacher. The Los Angeles Times, citing two anonymous sources, reported on Friday afternoon that the misconduct was sexual in nature. Hastert’s lobbying firm declined to comment, while his attorney could not be reached by the newspaper.

Did anyone know?

The Yorkville Community Unit School District reportedly said they had “no knowledge of Mr. Hastert’s alleged misconduct, nor has any individual contacted the District to report any such misconduct.” In an interview with CNN, 2016 Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, a former Congressman and Senator, said the whole ordeal seems “very much out of character” for Hastert. Reporters have unearthed a C-SPAN call during Hastert’s 2014 appearance on “Washington Journal” that could offer clues. In that call, a man identifying himself as “Bruce” calls into the program to speak with Hastert. “Hello Denny,” the caller says. “Remember me from Yorkville?” The caller than laughs and is disconnected.

What happens next?

According to the Wall Street Journal, a judge has not been assigned to the case and there is no date set for Hastert to appear in court. The Associated Press reports each count of the two-count indictment carries a maximum of 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Unloads on GOP Over Export Bank

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a business roundtable at the Smuttynose Brewery with co-owner Peter Egelston May 22, 2015 in Hampton, New Hampshire.
Darren McCollester—Getty Images Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at a business roundtable at the Smuttynose Brewery with co-owner Peter Egelston May 22, 2015 in Hampton, New Hampshire.

Hillary Clinton is out of patience for her Republican rivals and their opposition to an export-assistance program. But she still isn’t taking a position on a Pacific trade deal that has become politically linked to the Export-Import Bank’s renewal.

The Democratic Presidential candidate on Friday unloaded on her GOP foes, calling them cowards who do not make up their own minds and default to the loudest and most extreme voices in the party. The former Secretary of State told an invite-only crowd in Hampton, N.H.. that Americans’ jobs are in the balance, and Republicans would rather scuttle workers’ paychecks than to tell the truth about the Export-Import Bank, which provides financing for U.S. exports.

Clinton said the bank’s opponents are looking to score political points and are shameless panderers “who really should know better.” She did not single out any of her GOP rivals by name, but Sens. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul have all opposed keeping the agency around.

“Across our country, the Export-Import Bank supports up to 164,000 jobs,” Clinton said. “It is wrong that Republicans in Congress are trying to cut off this vital lifeline for American small businesses. … They would rather threaten the livelihoods of those 164,000 jobs rather than stand up to the tea party and talk radio.”

The agency is a favorite target of small-government tea party activists, who claim it is corporate welfare for giant corporations like Boeing. The bank has been a flashpoint for conservatives and it almost lost its charter in 2012 and again last year. Lawmakers secured a nine-month extension for the bank last year, but conservatives are pushing to let the lender’s authority expire this summer.

But complicating the delicate negotiations is a trade deal with Pacific nations that President Obama is seeking. Some Democrats—especially those in the party’s liberal wing—oppose the measure.

Clinton backed the trade deal when she was at the State Department but has remained uncommitted on the issue since she entered the presidential race. She says she wants to see the final terms of the deal before deciding to endorse it or not.

“We don’t yet know all the details,” Clinton told reporters on Friday. “I have some real concerns.”

She said she would need to be assured that currency manipulation is blocked, that the standards would be enforceable and that labor and environment protections are adequate.

“I’ve been for trade agreements. I’ve been against trade agreements. I’ve voted for some. I’ve voted against others,” she said. “I want to judge this when I see what exactly is in it.”

TIME politics

Senator Says Republican Plan If Obamacare Struck Down Is ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Junior United States Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy addresses journalists in Budapest on Jan. 31, 2014.
Attila Kisbenedek—AFP/Getty Images Junior United States Senator from Connecticut Chris Murphy addresses journalists in Budapest on Jan. 31, 2014.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the Affordable Care Act this summer

A Democratic Senator used a popular Internet symbol on Thursday to describe what he says is the Republican plan should the Supreme Court strike down the Affordable Care Act.

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy presented a poster with an enlarged image of the “shruggie”, or ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, during his speech. Murphy said the image was a “pretty good summary of what the Republicans plan is to respond to King v. Burwell.

“The Republicans plan,” Murphy said, “is essentially a shrug of the shoulders.”

The court is expected to issue a ruling this summer. Watch the full clip below.

Read next: 4 Ways the Supreme Court Could Rule on Obamacare

TIME youth

Why Young People Don’t Want to Run For Office

TIME speaks with Jennifer Lawless, whose research on young Americans' political ambition is revealed in a new book

Will American politics face a brain drain? If current trends continue, it could soon.

Political science professors Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox asked more than 4,000 high school and college students if they would be interested in running for political office in America someday: 89% of them said “no.”

That finding is the crux of a new book based on their original research, Running From Office. In it, the authors argue that the dysfunction of Washington has turned the next generation off politics in historic fashion. Unless behaviors change, American University’s Lawless says, the country’s brightest stars are going to pursue just about anything but one of the 500,000 elected offices America needs filled each year.

Here is a lightly edited transcript of TIME’s interview with Lawless, in which she explains who’s to blame, what’s to be done and why she earnestly believes parents should be convincing their kids to become politicians.

It’s an old, old thing to lament the youth’s lack of interest in politics and a rancorous political climate. What is happening here that is new?

There are two dynamics. The first is that lamenting young people’s engagement has previously always stopped at their interest or their participation. [Researchers have] never actually considered whether they’re interested in running for office. The other is the young people that we’ve surveyed, who are high school and college students now, have grown up only amid the dysfunction that currently characterizes the political system. They have known nothing else. And this is really the first generation where that’s the case.

But is this a historic brand of dysfunction?

We know that polarization is stronger now than it’s been and it’s continued to increase. We know that effectiveness—if we measure that in legislative productivity—has been lower in the last several Congresses. And look at some of the high-profile examples of dysfunction that we’re not accustomed to seeing. The government shutdown is the most obvious one. Debates over raising the debt ceiling. The U.S. having its credit rating decreased. The constant worry over the course of the last year that there might be another government shutdown. That’s new to this generation. We saw dysfunction but not at the same level in the 1980s and 1990s.

Why do you think researchers haven’t looked at political ambition before?

I think there is this disconnect. Until we started doing the research, I didn’t know that the careers that young people identify as something they might be interested in during their teens often map onto what they’re going to do later in life … There was probably this sense that, ‘Well, it doesn’t matter. Young people are disengaged. They’re tuned out. When politics matters to them, they’ll care more.’ But what our data suggests that if they’re already writing this off now, there’s nothing to suggest that it’s going to come back onto their radar screen.

Do we have numbers from previous generations to compare the 89% statistic to?

We don’t know because polls of young people in previous generations generally don’t exist. We do, though, have data over time on young people’s interest in politics, whether they talk about politics with their families, whether they are talking about politics with their friends and whether they follow political news. We found that all of those things are predictors of whether you’re running for office. And the over-time data show declines on all of those indicators. Depending how you examine them, we see declines of 20% or 30%.

How long is this list of who or what is to blame for young people’s antipathy or apathy toward being in politics?

We’re not necessarily blaming young people. It’s that they live in an environment where they’re not particularly interested in politics because they find it argumentative and dysfunctional. But their parents agree. And their teachers agree. And the news media agree. So they get these constant reinforcing messages that this is not something that is fun or interesting or important or noble … The [other] set of players are the politicians themselves. They behave increasingly in unappealing ways and in ways that suggest that they’re not effective at their jobs.

Why should parents and teachers be pitching kids on politics when that’s not necessarily a message they believe in?

We think that letting young people know that this is a way that they can effect change—and that politics does not have to be the way they perceive it—is a message we want to send. At the end of the day, legislation is passed and policies are made by the government. And if you don’t have a seat at that table, even if you are highly effective in a behind-the-scenes kind of capacity, you’re not living up to the full potential of options you have. If people choose not to do that, that’s fine. But 13 to 17-year olds should not be writing that off as a future career option … If we had heard that 89% of young people said that under no circumstances would they ever become a lawyer or a doctor or a journalist or a teacher, there would probably be a national outcry.

What happens if kids don’t change their minds?

We have more than 500,000 elected offices in this country. … We’re not concerned that no one will run for them. We’re concerned that the candidates will be the type of people who aren’t interested in bringing about a better system.

What kind of people will still be attracted to political races, if not the best candidates?

The kind of people who are currently in office. People that actually do not think that government is a way to bring about positive change, people who are more interested in their own power than public policy, people that are antagonistic and confrontational and value partisanship over output.

When you’re talking to that jaded 16-year-old, how do you pitch them on this?

The first thing is to ask them what matters to them, and in almost every case what is most important to a high school student or a college student can be linked to a specific political issue. For high school students, it might be that they’re worried about whether they’re going to be able to afford college. For college students, it might be whether they’re worried about moving into their parents’ house when they graduate. For young women, it could be that they don’t have access to contraception.

So what should be done to remedy that situation?

We have a series of recommendations. One is linking political aptitude to the college admissions process, so people have to know something about current events and politics if they want to go to college. Another suggestion we have is some kind of national service program that would value political service. We’ve seen large programs like the Peace Corps, like Americorps, like Teach for America, where we have created incentives for young people to go out and improve communities. There’s no similar program for political service, which could create an incentive for young people to get involved in their communities as elected leaders.

How optimistic are you feeling right now about all the gridlock and bickering and disenchantment improving?

It’s funny because I’m an eternal pessimist but on this front, I believe in government. A lot. Maybe this is a little idealistic, but I think as people begin to realize that there are long term consequences to the dysfunction that we’re experiencing—that we might be turning off an entire generation or even discouraging adults right now who are well-qualified to run and lead—they’ll see there are opportunities for change.

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