TIME Election 2016

Chicago Mayor’s Race Reverberates Nationally

Chicago Mayoral Candidates Campaign One Day Before Election
Scott Olson—Getty Images Chicago Mayoral candidate Jesus "Chuy" Garcia greets workers during a campaign stop at a linen and uniform service company on Feb. 23, 2015 in Chicago.

The largely unknown politician challenging incumbent Rahm Emanuel in the April 7 runoff has secured the endorsement of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders

The progressive left is looking to Chicago for inspiration — and a workable model — on how to challenge Hillary Clinton for the national Democratic nomination in 2016.

Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a scrappy, largely unknown politician, has come out of left field to give Rahm Emanuel, a moderate incumbent from the Democratic establishment, a run for his money.

Garcia, who until recently was a county commissioner with nearly zero name recognition, ran an unapologetically populist campaign and won enough of the vote in February’s mayoral election to force Emanuel into a runoff on April 7.

Garcia’s unexpected success story has become a national rallying cry for liberals who would like to see a candidate challenge Clinton, the former Secretary of State and presumed Democratic nominee, from the left. Like Emanuel’s critics, the activist left sees Clinton as too centrist, too compromising and too cozy with Wall Street and big banks.

On Monday, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is testing the waters for his own run for the Democratic nomination, endorsed Garcia and will travel to Chicago for a rally on Thursday. “At a time when the wealthiest people and largest corporations are becoming richer while virtually everyone else is becoming poorer,” Sanders said in a statement, “working-class people have got to fight back.”

One lesson that national liberals have picked up in Chicago is that any progressive challenger ought to run on a full-throated message of economic populism. Garcia’s union-bankrolled campaign has hinged on issues of economic justice and characterized his opponent as a member of the out-of-touch establishment willing to put Wall Street ahead of Main Street. That smear includes both Clinton and President Obama, who have campaigned for Emanuel this year.

In an interview with the Washington Post in February, Garcia said he was disappointed that neither Clinton nor Obama has been as forthcoming in addressing issues of income inequality.

George Goehl, the executive director of the progressive group National People’s Action, has said that on the national stage, liberals need to demand commitments from Democratic leaders — including Clinton — by drawing “a clear line in the sand: Are you a progressive populist in this moment in time or are you not?”

“That’s happening in Chicago right now,” he said. Goehl cited the rise of a progressive organization, Reclaim Chicago, that sprang up in support of Garcia and of what Goehl calls “a clear set of populist principles, not a party.”

Another lesson that liberals have perhaps learned in Chicago is that they need not hold out for their first choice. It was only after Chicago Teacher’s Union head Karen Lewis, the darling of the left, declined to run at the last minute because of health problems that Garcia — a former alderman, who served as deputy water commissioner in the 1980s — jumped into the race.

The national liberal base has rallied tirelessly to draft Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren into the 2016 race, although she said repeatedly that she is not running. They, too, may have to turn to an unlikely runner-up. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, in addition to Sanders, are considering throwing their hats in the ring for the nomination.

In Chicago, Garcia and Emanuel have gone head-to-head in two televised debates, where Garcia has done unexpectedly well. The last is scheduled for March 31, a week before the runoff. A poll in mid-March still had Emanuel ahead of Garcia by a 14-point lead, with 11% of voters still on the fence. While Garcia’s chances of pulling out the Chicago race are slim, his impact on the national stage has yet to be written.

Read next: Martin O’Malley Gears Up to Take on Hillary Clinton

TIME Hillary Clinton

How Liberals Hope to Nudge Hillary Clinton to the Left

Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testify, at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 24, 2015.
Kevin Lamarque—Reuters Sen. Elizabeth Warren listens to Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen testify, at a Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee hearing on "Semiannual Monetary Policy Report to Congress" on Capitol Hill in Washington, Feb. 24, 2015.

Liberals have two recurring nightmares about the 2016 elections.

In the first, they wake up on Nov. 9, 2016, to find that Americans have elected a Republican who has spent the past year and a half promising to dismantle Obamacare, undo the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean air regulations and cut corporate taxes.

In the second, they wake up on Nov. 9, 2016, to find that Americans have elected Hillary Clinton, who has spent the past year and a half promising them absolutely nothing and courting independents and moderates.

The second scenario is obviously preferable to most liberals, but it’s still worrying. They’d much prefer to elect a Hillary Clinton who has made specific, concrete campaign pledges to them — especially since political science research shows that, contrary to popular belief, politicians tend to keep their promises.

But without a competitive Democratic primary, how can liberals push Clinton in their direction? For now, there’s no clear roadmap, but liberal activists have five general ideas.

1. Pray that Elizabeth Warren runs.

Liberal outfits such as Progressive Democrats of America and Democracy.com have launched small-scale grassroots campaigns urging Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (Ready for Bernie) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (Draft O’Malley) to join the race. But the big money is on Massachusetts Senator and liberal firebrand Elizabeth Warren. MoveOn.org gave $1 million to launch “Run Warren Run,” and Howard Dean’s old shop, Democracy for America, dumped an additional $250,000 into the effort. The Boston Globe ran a special package last week declaring that “Democrats need Elizabeth Warren” in 2016.

While Sanders and O’Malley seem likely to follow through with a run, neither has the clout at this point to mount a serious challenge. Both are polling in the double digits behind Clinton. That makes drafting Warren, despite the fact that she has said repeatedly that she is not running, priority No. 1. “We want to get Elizabeth Warren into the race. She is someone progressives innately trust,” said Neil Sroka of Democrats for America. When he was pressed for a contingency plan, he said, “We’re extremely focused on trying to get her in, building the infrastructure she would need to run, and extending the amount of time she has to change her mind.” Wesley Clark, another one-time progressive fave, didn’t enter the 2004 race until September 2003, Sroka added, hopefully. (Of course, he didn’t win.)

2. If that fails, keep Warren’s ideas in the news.

If Warren isn’t going to be a candidate, liberals hope she can at least be a player behind the scenes. That way, they might indirectly influence Clinton as she seeks a full-throated endorsement from Warren. To that end, liberals are doing everything possible to ensure that the public conversation—in newspapers’ op-ed pages, and at every political forum, debate, and town hall meeting—centers on Warren’s brand of economic populism. “We view an election as a multi-billion dollar conversation with voters,” said Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee. “The more that conversation is about progressive issues, the better.”

Making that happen will involve enlisting progressive leaders both in the all-important early caucus and primary states and nationally. On Tuesday, the PCCC launched a new campaign, Ready for Boldness, along with a signed letter from 200 leaders from Iowa and New Hampshire designed to urge presidential candidates to “campaign on big, bold, economic populist ideas.” Signers included Iowa’s longtime Sen. Tom Harkin, union presidents and state legislators. “We want to show [Clinton] that it she embraces big bold progressive ideas, she won’t be alone,” Green said.

3) Stay on message.

Creating a united front around a handful of broadly popular progressive policies will be as important as ensuring that the message isn’t diluted by squabbles over fault line issues, like free trade and education reform, progressive leaders say. The PCCC’s letter Tuesday, for example, centered on helping students graduate college debt-free, expanding Social Security benefits, reforming Wall Street, enacting campaign finance reform, creating clean-energy jobs and boosting worker pay.

“There’s a real attempt by the beginning of next year to establish a clear platform that gets embraced by everyone,” said Robert Borosage, executive director of the Campaign for America’s Future, which will host a big-tent progressive conference, Populism 2015, at the end of April along with National People’s Action, USAction and Alliance for a Just Society.

“The idea is to avoid the populist bait and switch where they campaign like a populist but govern center-right,” said Maya Rockeymoore, the president and CEO of the progressive Center for Global Policy Solutions. Progressives have to get candidates to make public commitments to enact specific agenda items, she added. “It’s not enough to say all the right things.”

4) Use Congress as a sounding board.

The PCCC and other organizations have been working with progressives in the House and Senate to propose bills on solid liberal issues, like expanding social security, reining in Wall Street financial firms and creating clean energy jobs. But timing is everything. While such bills aren’t likely to pass the Republican-dominated Congress any time soon, they can still make their way into nightly news broadcasts and shape the national conversation that way. “We’re organizing in Congress to propose bills that could become presidential issues” on the campaign trail, Green said.

5) Play the long game.

National People’s Action Campaign, among others, plan to focus on recruiting and supporting progressive candidates in municipal, county and state-level elections. The idea is not only to put progressive policies in place on the local level, but also to help shape the national political landscape from the bottom up, explained George Goehl of the National People’s Action Campaign.

“If you could get thousands of people down ballot running on a similar platform and create a bottom-up swell—that would be something that both parties would have to react to,” he said. Such a groundswell could shape the Democratic Party in the same way that the Tea Party has shaped the Republican Party. “They could help energize people across the board and create a clear line in the sand: Are you a progressive populist in this moment in time, or are you not?” he added.

While Goehl said he also supports the other prongs of the progressives’ national plan—”Getting Elizabeth Warren into the race would be great,” he said—he advised his fellow populists to hedge their bets.

“Hail Mary’s happen,” he said. “But only every so often. There has to be a plan.”

TIME viral

Here’s What Too Many Cooks Would Look Like If It Were About U.S. Politics

Washington is a sitcom

If you loved Too Many Cooks, you’ll love CNN’s version of the viral internet sensation.

With a cast including everyone from Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin to Sarah Palin to Kim Jung Un, the fake ad casts U.S. politics as a bad ’80s sitcom, complete with cheesy footage of hunky cowboys and glorious bald eagles.

There’s also a terrifying demon sheep at the end that will haunt your dreams more than the image of John McCain doing the robot dance.

 

TIME Election 2016

Associated Press Sues State Department Over Clinton Records

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the United Nations in New York, March 10, 2015.
Lucas Jackson—Reuters Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a news conference at the United Nations in New York, March 10, 2015.

The legal action comes after repeated requests filed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act have gone unfulfilled

(WASHINGTON) — The Associated Press filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the State Department to force the release of email correspondence and government documents from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.

The legal action comes after repeated requests filed under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act have gone unfulfilled. They include one request AP made five years ago and others pending since the summer of 2013.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, comes a day after Clinton broke her silence about her use of a private email account while secretary of state. The FOIA requests and lawsuit seek materials related to her public and private calendars, correspondence involving longtime aides likely to play key roles in her expected campaign for president, and Clinton-related emails about the Osama bin Laden raid and National Security Agency surveillance practices.

“After careful deliberation and exhausting our other options, The Associated Press is taking the necessary legal steps to gain access to these important documents, which will shed light on actions by the State Department and former Secretary Clinton, a presumptive 2016 presidential candidate, during some of the most significant issues of our time,” said Karen Kaiser, AP’s general counsel.

“The press is a proxy for the people, and AP will continue its pursuit of vital information that’s in the public interest through this action and future open records requests,” she said.

State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach declined to comment. He had previously cited the department’s heavy annual load of FOIA requests — 19,000 last year — in saying that the department “does its best to meet its FOIA responsibilities.” He said the department takes requests “first in, first out,” but noted that timing depends on “the complexity of the request.”

Michael Oreskes, a senior managing editor at AP, said the news agency was planning to file additional requests under FOIA following the disclosure last week that Clinton used a private email account run on a server on her property outside New York while working at the State Department.

Clinton on Tuesday said she sent and received about 60,000 emails from her personal email address in her four years as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state. She said roughly half were work-related, which she turned over to the State Department, while deleting tens of thousands more that were personal in nature.

The department says it will take several months to review the material Clinton turned over last year. Once the review is complete, the department said, the emails will be posted online.

The AP had sought Clinton-related correspondence before her use of a personal email account was publicly known, although Wednesday’s court filing alleges that the State Department is responsible for including emails from that account in any public records request.

“State’s failure to ensure that Secretary Clinton’s governmental emails were retained and preserved by the agency, and its failure timely to seek out and search those emails in response to AP’s requests, indicate at the very least that State has not engaged in the diligent, good-faith search that FOIA requires,” says AP’s legal filing.

Specifically, AP is seeking copies of Clinton’s full schedules and calendars from her four years as secretary of state; documents related to her department’s decision to grant a special position to longtime aide Huma Abedin; related correspondence from longtime advisers Philippe Reines and Cheryl Mills, who, like Abedin, are likely to play central roles in a Clinton presidential campaign; documents related to Clinton’s and the agency’s roles in the Osama bin Laden raid and National Security Agency surveillance practices; and documents related to her role overseeing a major Defense Department contractor.

The AP made most of its requests in the summer of 2013, although one was filed in March 2010. AP is also seeking attorney’s fees related to the lawsuit.

Other organizations have also sued the State Department recently after lengthy delays responding to public record requests.

In December, the conservative political advocacy group Citizens United sued the State Department for failing to disclose flight records showing who accompanied Clinton on overseas trips. Last week, the National Security Archive, an organization that gathers declassified government records, filed a lawsuit after waiting more than seven years for the State Department to release of details of former secretary of state Henry Kissinger’s telephone conversations.

Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, predicted the State Department would speed up its review facing legal action, particularly given that Clinton has said that her email correspondence doesn’t include classified material.

“When the government is under a court deadline, or really wants to review, they can whip through thousands of pages in a matter of weeks, which they should do here,” Blanton said.

The State Department generally takes about 450 days to turn over records it considers to be part of complex requests under the Freedom of Information Act. That is seven times longer than the Justice Department and CIA, and 30 times longer than the Treasury Department.

An inspector general’s report in 2012 criticized the State Department’s practices as “inefficient and ineffective,” citing a heavy workload, small staff and interagency problems.

TIME 2016 Election

Hillary Clinton Asks for Some of Her Emails to be Released

The former Secretary of State looks to get ahead of a brewing controversy

Hillary Clinton, embroiled in a controversy over her use of personal email during her time as Secretary of State, said late Wednesday that she’s asked the State Department to release her some of her correspondence.

“I want the public to see my email,” Clinton said in a tweet Wednesday evening. “I asked State to release them. They said they will review them for release as soon as possible.”

The likely 2016 presidential candidate’s aides reportedly turned over more than 50,000 pages of emails over to the State Department in compliance with new rules passed late last year. But it was subsequently revealed by the Associated Press that Clinton also used a private email server registered to her family home in Chappaqua, N.Y., which would make it more difficult for her online correspondence to be accessed by court orders or public requests. And her tweet made no mention of releasing emails her aides reviewed and then declined to hand over to the State Department.

“The State Department will review for public release the emails provided by Secretary Clinton to the Department, using a normal process that guides such releases,” State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said in a statement. “We will undertake this review as quickly as possible; given the sheer volume of the document set, this review will take some time to complete.”

TIME Election 2016

Obama: Voters Want ‘New Car Smell’ in 2016

US President Barack Obama
Michael Nelson—EPA President Barack Obama at the Del Sol High School in Las Vegas, Nov. 21 2014.

The President said he himself has gotten a few 'dings' while serving two terms

President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Sunday that voters will be looking for a “fresh start” as they go to the polls in 2016 to select his successor.

“I think the American people, you know, they’re going to want—you know, that new car smell. You know, their own—they want to drive something off the lot that doesn’t have as much mileage as me,” Obama told ABC This Week’s George Stephanopoulos in an interview taped Friday in Las Vegas, a day after Obama announced his executive action on immigration.

The president acknowledged he’s accumulated “some dings,” while in office, adding he’s “very interested” in making sure a Democrat is his successor. “So I’m gonna do everything I can, obviously, to make sure that—whoever the nominee is is successful,” he said.

Obama spoke positively of likely Democratic candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose age and longevity in Washington has already become a target of likely Republican challengers, and against whom he ran in 2008 as the ‘new car smell’ candidate. He called Clinton a friend and told Stephanopoulos they still speak regularly, adding, “I think she and—and a number of other possible Democratic candidates, would be terrific presidents.”

But Obama, who was largely absent on the campaign trail for Democrats in 2014 due to his low poll numbers, acknowledged his successor would likely want him to stay away in 2016. “You know, they’re– they’re probably not gonna be looking at me to campaign too much,” he said, predicting “folks will be ready to see me—go off to the next thing.”

TIME

Tech Startup Amplifyd Seeks to Bring Lobbying to the People

The idea may be a reach but it raises interesting ideas about the future of political engagement in America

Silicon Valley types have long dreamed of a way to hack the beast of bureaucratic dysfunction known as the U.S. government. Mark Zuckerberg honed in on immigration reform. Sean Parker invested in a mystery venture to attempt improving political engagement. And now a much smaller Bay Area startup with a snazzy name, Amplifyd, is launching with the lofty goal of providing “crowd-sourced lobbying” services to regular Americans.

At the core of the project is an untested idea that stretches the definition of lobbying: Provide an app that allows people to pay to create phone call petitions targeting state and federal legislators.

“We spend so much money trying to get politicians elected but there’s no real system that can effectively communicate our opinions as constituents,” said Amplifyd founder Scott Blankenship. At the same time, Blankenship says, business interests spend millions to influence politicians.

Beginning on June 3, Amplifyd hopes to change that imbalance that by allowing activist groups to initiate campaigns aimed at influencing elected officials with telephone campaigns. For around $7—the exact final price has not been determined—a Concerned Citizen can hire another person to call a member of Congress or a state legislator. Blankenship says about 1,000 people have signed up to be callers, with the promise of earning up to $30 per hour.

The script begins, “Hi, I’m calling on behalf of (name of the person who paid), and this call is being recorded so he can review the call later,” and continues with talking points, complaints, suggestions and the like. From the $7 Concerned Citizen paid for the call $1.50 goes to the campaign, between $2 and $3.50 goes to the caller and the remainder goes to Amplifyd.

Blankenship says he was inspired to build Amplifyd by his experience in the anti-water fluoridation movement, an issue he cared deeply about but didn’t have a lot of time to devote to. “There’s a of people like me who want to live in a society and community that matches what they want and their opinions on how things should be run but not necessarily wanting to sacrifice their family and goals and money to fight for that campaign,” he said.

It’s a business model that depends on people not wanting to make their own phone calls to express their opinions. The $7 price tag on a call could be seen as a high price for a service people can accomplish themselves by literally picking up the phone.

“It’s a mathematical estimate that considers variable calling expenses and payment/transfer fees, then broken out between us, the callers and the campaigners so that all groups are getting paid a decent amount for their efforts,” Blankenship told TIME. “If we can’t stay in the black, then we have failed our mission to provide this tool to our national community.” The price of calls will be reassessed after the product launch, he said.

But the $7 is far cheaper than professional lobbying, even as it shows little resemblance to the real thing. Sure, lobbying involves some working of the phones but as the term implies there’s a bit more to it than that. The lobbyist in its purest form is someone who hangs out in the lobbies outside the Senate and House chambers and corners legislators entering and leaving to make convincing arguments and, when the occasion calls for it, thinly veiled electoral threats. Of course, that doesn’t include all the influence peddled between K Street in Washington and golf courses near and far.

It’s also not strictly true that lobbying is unavailable to everyday Americans. Whether you’re a member of a labor union, a veteran, property owner, or a homeless person, someone in Washington on any given week is likely skulking around the Capitol building trying to convince members of Congress vote in your interest.

Amplifyd does raise interesting ideas about the future of political influence in the age of crowdsourcing. It’s not inconceivable that the site could collect payments from people and use them in a lump sum to hire a real lobbyist outfit, wing-tip shoes and all, on an ad-hoc basis, something that was not really possible before with the same efficiency. And rather than donating to a large organization representing an interest group, under Blankenship’s concept—we’ll call it the Kickstarterification of politics—a person can make more precise donations toward furthering specific causes they care about.

Blankenship says six activist groups are in line to start using Amplifyd when it goes live on June 3. Just how many people are in line to pay $7 so someone else will make a phone call for them remains unknown.

TIME

Christie to Biden: Welcome to Instagram, Here’s a Throwback Thursday

Biden joined Instagram on Wednesday with a bang, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie now appears to be showing him the ropes.

Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie welcomed Vice President Joe Biden to Instagram Thursday a day after Joe Biden made waves with his first selfie that also starred President Barack Obama.

“#tbts always trump #selfies,” Christie wrote in an Instragram post, a “Throwback Thursday” picture of himself and Biden from back in the day. The photo’s date was unclear, though the duo appear to be standing at their shared alma mater, the University of Delaware.

Biden and Christie are considered possible contenders in the race for president in 2016, but for today, at least, it’s all #smiles.

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