TIME States

Colorado Still Can’t Figure Out Final Rules for Edible Marijuana

Pot-infused cookies, called the Rookie Cookie sit on the packaging table at The Growing Kitchen, in Boulder Colo. on Sept. 26, 2014.
Pot-infused cookies, called the Rookie Cookie sit on the packaging table at The Growing Kitchen, in Boulder Colo. on Sept. 26, 2014. Brennan Linsley—AP

A state group adjourned without agreeing on solutions for keeping THC-laced food away from kids

A working group convened to help Colorado regulate edible marijuana products failed to come up with consensus recommendations at its final meeting Monday, punting the issue to the state legislature.

Officials have long been worried that edible products, which can take the form of sweets like lollipops and treats like brownies, will lead children to experiment with marijuana or accidentally ingest it. In May, the largest children’s hospital in Colorado reported that nine children had been brought in after accidentally eating such products, double the amount the institution had seen in the previous year. Despite fears that Halloween would see a spike of such incidents, the hospital didn’t report any cases of accidental ingestion.

The working group was formed to develop ideas for keeping edibles safe and out of children’s hands. The ideas ranged from making all marijuana edibles a certain color to banning most forms of edibles, limiting production to only lozenges and tinctures. A variety of suggestions will be presented to the state legislature when it reconvenes in January.

Makers of edible products don’t want to see their section of the market shrunk and point out that every “preparation of the plant” was given the green light when state voters approved Amendment 64 in 2012.

Washington, which opened its recreational market after Colorado, instituted emergency rules about edibles in June that require state approval of every edible product, including its packaging and labeling. Colorado’s working group rejected a proposal from the state health department to create a similar review commission.

TIME States

Arkansas Governor to Pardon Son for 2003 Crime

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe speaks to reporters at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 5, 2014.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe speaks to reporters at the Arkansas state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark., Nov. 5, 2014. Danny Johnston—AP

The prodigal son returns, and he is sorry, Mr. Governor

This is a tale of a son asking a father for forgiveness — in a very public, very formal way.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe (D) plans to pardon his own son for a drug crime committed more than decade ago, after he received a letter pleading to “Mr. Governor” for “a second chance at life,” reports KATV in Little Rock, Arkansas.

“At the time of my arrest I was living in a fantasy world, not reality,” wrote Kyle Beebe, 34, in his application seeking a pardon for his 2003 arrest for possession of marijuana. He received three years supervised probation, plus fines, for the felony conviction.

“I was young and dumb,” he continued in his letter. “I am asking for a second chance to be the man that I know that I can be.”

The Arkansas Parole Board recommended the Gov.’s son for pardon on Oct. 20. These notices are then posted for 30 days, during which time the Governor decides whether to accept or deny the requests.

Gov. Beebe, who says he has granted some 700 pardons since taking office in 2006, tells KATV that he “would have done it [granted the pardon] a long time ago” had his son just asked for one.

“But he took his sweet time about asking,” Gov. Beebe says. “He was embarrassed. He’s still embarrassed, and frankly, I was embarrassed and his mother was embarrassed.”

A spokesperson for the Arkansas parole board tells KATV that Kyle Beebe received no special treatment and that it recommended nine other people with similar drug crime records in the latest batch of pardon applications.

[KATV]

TIME 2014 Election

Republican Wave Floods States

Republicans hold a record number of seats in state legislature as a result of 2014 election

To say it was a good night for Republicans on the state level would be an understatement. Republicans now control 23 state governments outright and are on track to hold more state seats than they have since the late 1920s, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

After Tuesday, the GOP has the upper hand in 69 of the 99 country’s legislative chambers. In Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and West Virginia at least one chamber flipped from Democratic to Republican majorities. Results have yet to come down in Colorado, where Gov. John Hickenlooper was barely able to stave off a Republican challenge to his reelection. In many states Republicans are not simply the majority, they’ve secured a veto-proof supermajority, including in Florida and Missouri.

“Voters overwhelmingly voted for a new, open, innovative future for their families by electing state level Republicans in record numbers across the nation, including in traditionally blue states,” said Matt Walter, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee in a statement. Walters said Republicans were successful largely thanks to their recruitment of a diverse set of candidates, including the youngest lawmaker in the U.S.

The payoffs for the GOP victories the state-level could be substantial. In states where the Republicans have single-party control they have shown willingness to advance aggressive party agendas: think North Carolina during the 2013 session. Come 2020, when state lawmakers will again be tasked with redrawing electoral maps, party control will be crucial.

Democrats haven’t lost hope.“Republicans had a great night,” director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) Michael Sargeant says. “But our operations were able to make sure we limited the damage in some places. ”

Democrats raised a reported $17 million and made about 2 million voter contacts this cycle. Sargeant says that work resulted in Democrats holding on to majorities in key states including the Maine House, the Iowa Senate, and the Kentucky House, which he says will ensure Republican agendas don’t sail through in those states.

“Those victories along with some others were critical to make sure they’re still balances,” Sargeant says.

TIME Election 2014

California Voters Back $7.5 Billion Water Bond

Governor Jerry Brown backed the measure to help prevent future water shortages

In addition to re-electing Governor Jerry Brown by a wide margin, California voters also endorsed his top priority, approving a $7.5 billion water bond. The measure, which looked certain to be passed 66.8% to 33.2% after 99.9% of precincts reported, is meant to shore up the state’s ability to cope with drought conditions and will increase its water storage capacity and protect drinking water.

Ahead of the vote, critics pointed out that the water bond wouldn’t have much immediate effect on the ongoing drought nor would it decrease the state’s overall water usage. But Brown poured more than $3 million of his own campaign funds into the water bond promotional campaign, which was also bolstered by large donations from wealthy Californians, including tech entrepreneur Sean Parker and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.

TIME Election 2014

Meet the Republican Who Might Run Massachusetts

Charlie Baker
Charlie Baker after a debate with Democratic candidate Martha Coakley in Boston on Oct. 21, 2014. Steven Senne—AP

Charlie Baker has made it a tight race by courting Democrats

Politicians abhor dead silence. But for 31 seconds, Charlie Baker sat on a debate stage, staring at the ceiling, and wracking his brain for the answer to the thorniest question he’s fielded since he jumped into the race for Massachusetts governor last year. The question: Name a current politician who’s a role model for you. “Um… um…. You know, you’re kind of stumping me here,” Baker said. After 31 seconds of stammering and silence, he finally ventured, “Um, how about Jeb Bush?”

Baker has been locked in a tight race for governor of Massachusetts for months. Recent polls have shown him leading his Democratic opponent, state Attorney General Martha Coakley, by as little as a single point. Still, the most uncomfortable Baker has been all campaign hasn’t been in the final, frenetic dash toward Election Day, but in that primary campaign debate in late August, when he was forced to identify himself with another Republican.

That’s because Baker is a throwback to a kind of Republican politics that no longer exists at any meaningful scale. It’s what has the former health insurance company CEO within reach of the State House in Boston. But it’s also what makes the final step so difficult to pull off.

Baker is running without much company. The only other Republican in Massachusetts with a shot at major office is Richard Tisei, a former state legislator, and Baker’s 2010 running mate, who’s in a tight race for Congress in the suburbs north of Boston. “I think running as a moderate anything is more complicated than it used to be. That’s the nature of our politics these days,” Baker says. “I think having a different set of viewpoints within the Republican party in New England, and nationally, is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

Democrats dominate Massachusetts politics. The state Republican Party claims less than 11% of all registered voters. Massachusetts hasn’t sent a Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives since 1994. The outgoing governor, Deval Patrick, stormed into office on a campaign that political strategist David Axelrod used to test-drive the themes that took Barack Obama to the White House in 2008. The state flirted briefly with Scott Brown, then turned on him so violently that he fled across the border, to New Hampshire. In Brown’s place, Massachusetts voters installed Senator Elizabeth Warren, a populist who’s pulling the entire Democratic party leftward.

Yet Massachusetts voters have a history of electing a certain kind of Republican to lead the state. The last two Democratic governors are Patrick and Michael Dukakis; between the two of them lies a 16-year stretch of Republican rule. The problem for Baker is that moderate New England Republicans have almost vanished as a political force.

Baker, 57, has long been the state GOP’s brightest star. He rose to political prominence two decades ago in the cabinet of then-Governor Bill Weld. Weld was a Republican who rode a tax revolt into office, but he was so far to the left on social issues that he won in liberal enclaves like Cambridge and Amherst. Baker’s politics echo Weld’s. As health secretary and then budget chief for Weld and his successor, Paul Cellucci, Baker earned a reputation as a sharp policy mind and number cruncher, but was not known as an ideologue.

“He’s the smartest guy in the room, but he doesn’t act like it,” says Jay Ash, the city manager of Chelsea, a small, heavily Central American community just north of Boston. “He’s inquisitive, and he doesn’t dismiss people’s views. He’s open and engaging on the issues.”

“I worked in an administration that was pretty successful in working across the aisle to get stuff done with Democrats,” Baker says. “A lot of our successes were because we had two teams on the field, competition and political engagement. Whether voters decide that’s what they want or not is going to be up to them. I certainly wanted to run a race built on that kind of message and approach.”

Ash and Baker met in the early 1990’s, when Chelsea was operating in state fiscal receivership. They’ve been friends since, yet Baker didn’t get Ash’s vote four years ago, when Baker made his first run for governor. Baker’s 2010 campaign was filled with stunts meant to generate voter outrage, like displaying a prop welfare card that said it could be swiped for booze and lottery tickets at taxpayer expense. The disgruntled turnout wasn’t enough and Baker lost to Patrick with 42% of the vote.

The Massachusetts governor’s race is a redemption run for both Baker and Coakley. Coakley lost the 2010 contest for Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat to Brown in spectacular fashion, and reporters are salivating over storylines about Coakley blowing another high-profile race against another Massachusetts Republican. Coakley has been a popular attorney general, though, and she’s run hard for governor. Their race is neck-and-neck less because Coakley has done something wrong, than because Baker has done a whole lot right.

Baker has managed to run for political office while mostly taking divisive politics off the table. He has beaten the drum on a few red meat Republican issues, like lowering taxes and hardening work rules for welfare. But the bulk of his campaign has been focused on education and economic opportunity, and in these areas, he’s driving a debate that’s less about political vision than it is about competence in managing government. He’s bent the race to his strengths, and made the contest a referendum on putting a policy wonk in the governor’s office.

Baker has also gone to lengths to play up his social liberalism, releasing campaign videos with his brother, who’s gay and married, and with his teenage daughter, who assures him on-camera, “You’re totally pro-choice and bipartisan.”

“Ideologically, he’s where the majority of people in Massachusetts are,” says Larry DiCara, a prominent Democratic attorney in Boston.

“In some states, he’d be a Democrat,” says Ash, who praises his friend’s current run. “He’s with Democrats and independents on social issues.”

Baker is also with Democrats in a more literal sense. On the trail, he has taken the fight to Coakley in the urban centers that normally hand Democrats lopsided vote margins. Baker is trying to raid the Democratic base, aggressively courting votes in Irish pubs and mill towns. He’s held over 150 campaign events in Boston — an unheard-of presence in a city where voters normally hang 40-plus-point losses on Republicans. Baker lost the city by 47 points in 2010; a recent WBUR poll had him cutting that deficit in half.

“You have to make the sale, but you can’t make the sale if you don’t show up,” Baker reasons.

And as he tries to close the deal, he’s doing it without much support from state Republicans. Massachusetts Democrats enjoy an enormous campaign volunteer base, the machinery of organized labor, and star power in Washington, DC. As the campaign entered the home stretch, Michelle Obama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Vice President Joe Biden all swung through to rally the party faithful for Coakley. Weld, who’s now working as a rainmaker at a Boston law firm, is the closest thing Baker has had to a star campaign surrogate.

Baker’s party doesn’t have the bodies to compete with Democrats on the grassroots level. (His campaign has knocked on 270,000 doors this election cycle, a huge number for a Massachusetts Republican; Elizabeth Warren’s campaign hit 240,000 doors in a single weekend two years ago.) But he has received one major outside boost: the Republican Governors Association PAC has spent more than $12 million on the race, over two-and-half times what they spent on the 2010 campaign and more than the combined spending of Baker and Coakley’s own campaigns.

But national Republicans will be hard-pressed to find broader lessons. If Baker wins, it will be because he won over Democratic voters and narrowed the daylight between his partisans, and Coakley’s. That isn’t a formula that has legs far outside Boston.

TIME 2014 Election

Where Marijuana Legalization Votes Are Happening Nov. 4

Medical Marijuana
Colin Brynn—Getty Images

A handful of states and cities will vote to loosen restrictions on the drug, setting the stage for bigger battles in 2016

Residents in Lewiston, Maine may have seen an unusual Halloween decoration this year: a mobile billboard, towed around town on the bed of a truck, featuring a face screaming in horror and, in spooky-squiggly script, the words “Marijuana: Less toxic! Less addictive! Less scary than alcohol!”

The ad is part of the campaign to legalize marijuana in the small New England city, one of a handful of places where measures easing restrictions on the drug are on the Nov. 4 ballot. In Alaska, volunteers are going door to door in below freezing weather. In Oregon, where voting is done by mail, legalization supporters are using a Facebook app to nudge their friends who haven’t put their ballots in the post. Legalization advocates see the mid-term votes as a chance to set the stage ahead of larger fights to legalize marijuana in 2016, where it may be on the ballot in California.

Here’s a rundown of the key votes on marijuana this year, which are all hovering in toss-up territory:

Alaska: Legalization with tax and regulation

Ballot Measure 2 would concretely legalize retail pot, giving the state the power to tax and regulate the substance like Colorado and Washington. Two recent polls show the electorate bending in opposite directions. One found that 57% of respondents support the measure, compared to 39% who oppose; another found that 53% of Alaskans would vote no on the measure, compared to 43% who said they would vote yes.

“It’s very much looking like a coin flip,” says Taylor Bickford, a spokesman for the campaign supporting legalization.

Oregon: Legalization with tax and regulation

Oregon has been down this road before. In 2012, state voters rejected a measure to legalize pot 56% to 44%. This year, more activists have been on the ground asking people to support the pro-legalization Measure 91, an effort funded partly by the deep-pocketed Drug Policy Alliance. The chances of passage here may be better than Alaska, but it’s still no lock: the most recent poll shows 46% of voters opposing the measure and 44% supporting it. The numbers have long hovered around 50%.

All the campaigns are hoping for young people—who are generally more supportive of legalization—to turn out, despite their habit of staying home in non-presidential election years. “The young and young at heart are going to be important for us to pass this measure,” says Brad Reed, a spokesman for the Yes on Measure 91 campaign. “What’s clear from all of the polls is that it’s going to be a very close race.”

Washington, D.C.: Semi-legalization

Initiative 71 falls short of creating a government-regulated, taxable pot market like the ballot measures in Alaska and Oregon. But it would push the nation’s capital into decidedly cannabis-friendly territory, allowing people to possess up to 2 oz. of marijuana and cultivate up to six plants at home without facing criminal or civil penalties. Polls have shown locals supporting the measure by nearly 2-to-1.

The question is not so much whether it will pass as whether it will stand. There remains a disconnect between the reaches of the local and federal governments in the District—the substance would remain illegal in the roughly one-fourth of D.C. on federal land—and Congress could choose to intervene, passing laws that supersede the actions of D.C. officials. Though Congress has held hearings about D.C.’s past pot-related decisions, like decriminalizing marijuana, passage of this measure may spur more than talk. Marijuana is, after all, still illegal under federal law.

Florida: Medical marijuana

Voters could make Florida the 24th state to allow medical marijuana. Despite the lack of history at stake, the campaign for Amendment 2 has drawn millions from big spenders on the left and right, including casino magnate Sheldon Adelson. It’s also an issue splitting the gubernatorial candidates in a very close race, with Democrat Charlie Crist in favor of legalization and Republican Rick Scott against it.

Because it’s a constitutional amendment, the measure requires a 60% supermajority to pass, which is a tall order. Surveys have been all over the place during the campaign, but a Tampa Bay Times poll conducted in mid-October showed 48% of people supporting legalization of medical marijuana, compared to 44% opposing.

Maine: Semi-legalization

In 2013, Maine’s largest city, Portland, legalized recreational marijuana. The vote essentially gave police the power not to prosecute anyone for possessing up to 2.5 oz. of weed, though the sale and purchase of marijuana remain illegal. And some police prosecuted people anyway, drawing on the authority of a state that still views the drug as verboten.

Following Portland’s lead, two other cities have measures loosening marijuana restrictions on Tuesday’s ballot. Residents in Lewiston, Maine’s second largest city, and South Portland, Maine’s fourth largest city, will vote on laws similar to the one Portland passed last year. It’s not exactly polling data, but David Boyer of the Marijuana Policy Project, a legalization advocacy group, says the driver of the Halloween billboard has been lousy with thumbs up. “It’s been creating a real buzz around town, if you will,” he says.

Read next: Republicans See Senate Majority Within Reach Day Before Elections

TIME 2014 Election

Mega-Donors Give Big in State Elections

Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner exits the polling place after voting in Winnetka, Ill.
Illinois Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner exits the polling place after voting in Winnetka, Ill., March 18, 2014. Andrew Nelles—AP

Donors gave millions in races for governor, especially when they were the ones running

At least 29 donors have given $1 million or more to state-level campaigns so far this election, with a dozen of the big givers made up of self-funding candidates, according to an analysis of campaign finance data.

The other big donors to state campaigns in the 2014 election include billionaires, corporate giants, unions and nonprofit political groups. Each donor has shelled out more than 19 times the country’s median household income.

According to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state records collected by the nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics, top donors include:

  • Illinois Republican candidate Bruce Rauner, who has given more than $14 million (* see below), mostly to fund his own campaign for governor;
  • Pennsylvania Democrat Tom Wolf, who has used $10 million of his own money in an attempt to unseat unpopular incumbent Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican;
  • The Republican Governors Association, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that has given at least $9.6 million to gubernatorial candidates in at least six states;
  • Arizona gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones, who gave more than $5.3 million, nearly all to fund her own campaign, only to lose in the Republican primary;
  • And Chicago-based hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, who has given more than $4.7 million, mostly to Rauner in Illinois.

The analysis is preliminary — the totals will only go up as more contribution reports are filed in the states. In addition, the National Institute is still processing reports that have already come in. Less than 80 percent of those reports have been processed thus far this election cycle. Rauner (*) alone, for example, has given at least $12 million more for a total of $26 million, state records show.

Despite those limitations, the Center still identified at least 29 of these million-dollar donors who have given more than $84 million out of the more than $1 billion in the two-year, 2014 election cycle. The Center looked at reports processed by the National Institute through Oct. 29.

While the race for U.S. Senate has grabbed most of the national election headlines this year, much of the action is at the state level. Thirty-six governorships are on the ballot in addition to more than 200 other statewide races and thousands of statehouse contests.

And unlike at the federal level, some states allow unlimited contributions to candidates. In addition, several states also allow direct contributions from the treasuries of corporations and unions.

Seeding their own chances

Rauner, Wolf and Jones are just three of at least 12 candidates for state-level office who have poured at least $1 million into their own campaigns.

States can limit contributions to candidates, but there are no such limitations on how much a candidate can give to his or her own campaign. That gives wealthy individuals with political aspirations an advantage over less wealthy opponents, said Bill Rosenberg, a political science professor at Drexel University.

“If an individual wants to run for public office, and they can be self-financed and the parties view them as reasonable candidates,” Rosenberg said, “a lot of times the party will just step out of the way because they can take those financial resources and put them into other races.”

In the case of Rauner, his early contributions to his campaign may have helped him attract even more cash to his joint campaign with running mate Evelyn Sanguinetti, including at least $4.5 million from Griffin and $7 million from the Republican Governors Association.

“The millions reassured prospective donors that the Republican Party wasn’t going to have a flash in the pan here, that he was going to be in until the end, that he wasn’t going to get outspent,” said Brian Gaines, a political science professor at the University of Illinois.

Limitations on influence

But other donors who give directly to candidates often face strict limits.

In 21 states, corporations cannot give money to candidates’ campaigns, and 16 states ban unions from giving, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. (Unions and corporations can give through their political action committees, though contributions may be limited.)

Thirty-eight states cap the amount a person or group can give to a single candidate.

And until recently, donors in more than a dozen states were limited in how much money they could give overall in an election cycle. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down aggregate limits at the federal level in April, with its ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. States such as Connecticut and Wisconsin have pledged to not enforce the limits in state elections this year.

It’s not yet clear how far-reaching the impact of the decision may be on this election. Still, the existing contribution limits largely shape the way money pours into elections.

The two states seeing the highest number of donations to candidates from the mega-donors so far are Texas, where individuals and political action committees can give candidates as much as they want, and Illinois, whose governor’s race allows unlimited contributions this cycle.

Six-figure donations are the norm in marquee races in Texas.

This cycle, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican running for governor, received at least $900,000 from Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who died in December 2013. Energy tycoon Kelcy Warren has given Abbott at least $450,000, while telecommunications executive Kenny Troutt along with his wife, Lisa, has given him at least $350,000.

Such large-scale giving does not carry a stigma in Texas of trying to buy access, according to Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. Instead, he said, it is “simply par for the course” in the Lone Star State.

“Large donations have little to no political blowback,” Jones said.

Under Illinois rules, if a candidate for statewide office contributes more than $250,000 to his or her own campaign, or if an outside group spends that amount supporting a candidate in the race, caps for contributions to a single candidate are thrown out in that race.

At first Rauner, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, avoided giving his opponent the chance for limitless fundraising by injecting $249,000, just below the threshold, into his campaign in March 2013.

But before the end of that year, Rauner gave his campaign another $1 million, pulling the plug on caps in the race. By now, the Republican nominee has contributed more than $26 million of his own money to his campaign, according to Illinois campaign finance records.

Rauner’s campaign did not respond to the Center’s request for comment.

His self-funding also cleared the path for incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and his running mate to accept more than $3.6 million from the Democratic Governors Association, more than $755,000 from Chicago media mogul Fred Eychaner and millions from unions, including more than $1.2 million from a branch of the Service Employees International Union.

Getting around the limits

Even in states with contribution restrictions, well-heeled donors have found ways to give generously — and legally — to the candidates they favor.

In Pennsylvania, for example, corporations and unions can’t give directly to candidates, but they can give unlimited amounts of money if they establish a political action committee in the organization’s name. That’s how the Pennsylvania State Education Association, a state teachers union, gave $500,000 to Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign.

In New York, wealthy individuals can donate through multiple limited liability corporations to dodge the state’s $60,800 per cycle contribution limit for such businesses. Real estate magnate Leonard Litwin, for example, has given at least $1 million to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo using this method, according to a recent report by the New York Public Interest Research Group. The original sources of such contributions, though, are not reflected in the National Institute on Money in State Politics’ data.

A representative for Litwin did not respond to requests for comment.

Sometimes the best way around the rules is to avoid them altogether by giving to independent groups instead of candidate campaigns. Thanks to the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, and subsequent rulings, there is no limit to what a person, corporation or union can give to independently acting political organizations.

The tactic is widespread this election. Roughly a fifth of the television ads airing in state-level races this cycle were paid for by groups that operate independently from candidates’ official campaigns, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of data from media tracking firm Kantar Media/CMAG.

But many donors this cycle have given directly to candidates and helped fund outside political efforts beyond state-level races.

Eychaner, for example, may not make a list of million-dollar donors to candidates for state-level office this election. He has so far given at least $755,000 to Quinn in Illinois. But he has also given about $8 million to federal super PACs this year, according to the Federal Election Commission. In 2012, he was the largest Democratic donor to independent spending groups, having given $14 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

A representative for Eychaner declined to comment.

On the other side, Griffin was one of the five largest donors to the Washington, D.C.-based Republican Governors Association in the first nine months of this year, according to the group’s latest tax filing.

A representative for Griffin declined to comment.

Why do they give?

For individual donors, there are several likely reasons why they may give to candidates’ campaigns, said Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt.

For some, political ideology is a motivating factor, Levitt said. For others, large contributions are a way for donors to thrust themselves into the public consciousness. Still others are looking to gain favor with the people who could end up regulating their business interests. Sometimes, it’s a combination of the three.

Though some corporations are ideologically motivated, most businesses’ political donations are effectively “bet hedging,” he said.

Cable television giant Comcast Corp. parceled out at least $1.2 million in donations to candidates for state-level office in 36 states, often with as little as $100 given to the campaign of a legislative candidate.

“We believe that it’s important to be involved in the political process,” said Comcast spokeswoman Sena Fitzmaurice. “There are probably thousands of bills and regulatory state actions every year that affect the company.”

Fitzmaurice said the company tends to give across party lines and mostly to incumbents.

The company gave to Democrats in 28 states, Republicans in 31 states and at least one independent in Alabama, the Center’s analysis shows.

Where the company directs its political donations could depend on factors such as whether an election could shift party control of a state legislature or whether a state is considering regulatory action, Fitzmaurice said.

“For a corporation, making a donation may well be laying a bed of good will for legislators or regulators down the line, either to prevent unfavorable legislation or to try and get favorable legislation,” Levitt said. “It’s not uncommon at all for legislators, at least, to do a mental check of whether they’ve received a contribution before they decide exactly how badly they want to schedule a particular meeting.”

Liz Essley Whyte contributed to this report.

TIME States

Missing Denver Broncos Fan Found Alive and Well

Paul Kitterman Denver Post—AP

Paul Kitterman was found Tuesday after he vanished during last week's Broncos game

A Denver Broncos fan who vanished at during last week’s game has been found about 90 miles away, police said Tuesday night. He was “unharmed” and no foul play is suspected.

Paul Kitterman, 53, was last seen leaving his seat at halftime as the Broncos played the San Diego Chargers on Thursday. His concerned family later filed a missing persons report. Denver police said Kitterman was found “unharmed” in Pueblo, Colorado.

NBC station KOAA reported that he was spotted wandering in a Kmart parking lot on Tuesday after police received a call from his ex-wife.

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME Disaster

Residents of Pahoa, Hawaii, Are Preparing to Flee a Frightening Lava Flow

The lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano is seen advancing across a pasture near the village of Pahoa, Hawaii
The lava flow from the Kilauea Volcano is seen advancing across a pasture between the Pahoa cemetery and Apa'a Street in this U.S. Geological Survey image taken near the village of Pahoa, Hawaii on Oct. 25, 2014. Reuters

Those living in the direct path of the molten mass have already begun to leave

Lava inched closer to homes in Pahoa, Hawaii, on Monday evening, spurring the evacuation of residents living in the direct path of the molten mass gushing from the Big Island’s most active volcano.

Authorities and Pahoa residents have been nervously watching the lava coming from the nearby volcano Kilauea for months, since a fresh flow started moving northeast toward the tiny town of 900 earlier this summer.

One official told TIME that locals were taking the necessary precautions in case widespread evacuations are ordered. Over the weekend, residents living in close proximity to the lava flow packed their possessions into trailers in preparation.

As of Monday evening, the lava flow was within 70 yards of the nearest home, according to a statement released by the County Civil Defense Agency.

“Residents in the flow path were placed on an evacuation advisory and notified of possible need for evacuation beginning last night,” read the report.

Local officials continued to fret over the possibility that the lava may eventually cut into nearby Highway 130. The road serves as the major transportation thoroughfare in and out of the town and is used by approximately 8,000 to 10,000 commuters a day. As a precaution, county authorities have opened two auxiliary roads in the area.

Earlier in the day, reports of small-scale looting in the remote community began to surface. “Crime is starting to pick up because a lot of people abandoned their houses. Two of my brother-in-laws’ houses got ripped off,” Matt Purvis, an owner of a local bakery, told CNN.

Late last week, Hawaii’s Governor Neil Abercrombie penned an official request for a presidential disaster declaration, which would provide the state with federal assistance to bolster local emergency services.

TIME Guns

Nebraska School OKs ‘Tasteful’ Senior Portraits With Guns

The school board unanimously passed the rule

A rural Nebraska school district decided Monday to allow graduating high school seniors to pose with guns in their senior portraits, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Broken Bow school board members voted 6-0 to approve the rule, which permits only the “tasteful and appropriate” display of firearms, and prohibits pointing the weapons at the camera or displaying a hunted animal in distress, according to the policy.

“The board, I believe, felt they wanted to give students who are involved in those kinds of things the opportunity to take a senior picture with their hobby, with their sport, just like anybody with any other hobby or sport,” superintendent Mark Sievering told the World-Herald.

Nebraska has no age minimum for hunting, although hunters below 12 must be supervised by a licensed hunter, according to state law. It is illegal under Nebraska law to possess a firearm on school grounds, unless the holder is in an exempt category, such as the police force.

The issue of having guns in or around schools has been especially salient after the Dec. 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, an event that prompted policymakers to question whether adequate gun safety laws were in place. Since that shooting, several organizations have argued that several gaps in gun laws still exist despite many states tightening background checks for firearm purchases. Yet Nebraska’s overall gun policies still lag behind other states, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, whose 2013 Gun Laws Scorecard gave the state a D.

[Omaha World-Herald]

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