National / International News
Ryan Boyette arrived in the Nuba Mountains more than a decade ago and has made it his mission to document abuses he says the government carries out with regularity.
With some 1,500 heirloom fruits and vegetables under cultivation, Appalachia is the most diverse foodshed in the U.S., Canada and northern Mexico. Among them is a beloved corn called Bloody Butcher.
The midterm election is Tuesday, and big money, in the form super PACs and political nonprofits, has fully moved onto the turf that used to be the sole purview of political parties — not just advertising, but organizing and messaging, too.
A super PAC called NextGen Climate Action is bankrolled by billionaire Tom Steyer, and it has spent more than $5 million in Iowa alone. Some of that money has paid for, but Josh Fryday, the group's chief operating officer, says most it has gone toward "field efforts."
“We really made a big effort to focus our resources into building a grassroots infrastructure on the ground,” he says.
According to Steve Grubbs, a Republican political consultant based in Iowa, other outside groups have been doing the same thing.
“The job of campaigns and candidates has largely been outsourced,” he concludes. “When I was state party chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, all of the vote-by-mail or absentee-ballot programs, and get-out-the-vote, were generated through the state parties, maybe some of the candidate committees or local parties.”
These days, super PACs and nonprofits do that kind of work, and some of them take the lead. Outside groups are building huge databases, and they are developing new tools to target voters. “I do think, if I were chair of a party, I would have some significant concerns about it,” Grubbs says.
What's caused this, he argues, is candidates and state parties can't compete. There are restrictions on how much they can raise and how much they can spend. That is not the case for groups like Americans for Prosperity, a conservative nonprofit that has spent half a million in Iowa.
But Scott Brennan, the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, says he has never run into anyone from any of the big outside groups, including Americans for Prosperity.
“I'm sure AFP is not targeting the same people that the Iowa Democratic Party is targeting,” he says. “But the bottom line is they are not an enormous presence here.”
Tim Hagle, a political science professor at the University of Iowa, is on a lot of mailing lists, including the Americans for Prosperity list. He said a recent message from Mark Lucas, the group's state director, bragged about AFP’s ground game, 35 paid staff, five field offices, and so on.
Hagle wonders what the growth of super PACs and nonprofits portends for parties.
“You do have to be careful of the downside of relying on some outside group,” he says. Parties could get rusty, he says. They could find themselves outmatched.
Jim Nicholson used to chair the Republican National Committee, and he says what worries him is parties have lost control of the message: “They – whoever they are – can do and say, you know, whatever that want.”
Nicholson is from Colorado, where $67 million dollars worth of outside money has flowed into the state’s U.S. Senate race. Seth Masket, who chairs the political science department at the University of Denver, says "the ads are pretty constant."
“My impression is that most voters can't necessarily distinguish between an ad run by a candidate and one run by some unaffiliated interest group,” Masket notes.
The race for governor in Colorado is also tight, and it illustrates Masket's point beautifully. The two candidates agreed not to go negative, but that doesn't mean voters aren't inundated with attack ads.
According to Masket, we are witnessing politics evolve. “All of these groups are essentially part of a larger party network, or an informal party,” he says. Even if they can't coordinate, parties and sympathetic outside groups are on the same page. And there may be an upside to all this money, being spent on getting out the vote: More Americans may vote.
Tomorrow is election Tuesday, and a bunch of super PACs, nonprofits and outside groups have sprouted up to give last-ditch, six-figure cash injections to key campaigns.
The New York Times found at least 90 groups that hadn't spend anything before October. Eighteen of them didn't even exist before September, and have now spent $9 million all together. Many of these groups have vague names and some are spending far more than they had on October 15, the last day before the election to disclose contributions. This flurry of activity means voters won't know who's buying up ad space and deploying automated calls until after the election.
After a weekend stumping in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, President Barack Obama will return to Washington and meet with Fed Chair Janet Yellen for the first time one-on-one. Here are some other stories we're reading — and numbers we're watching — Monday:340,000
That's how many more people may have gone to the polls in 2010 thanks to Facebook's "I voted" button the appeared on users' News Feeds. It turns out the tool has been used to experiment on users' voting patterns for the past several elections, Mother Jones reported, and a paper in Nature by Facebook data scientists and others posits that the site is actively stoking civic engagement. Additionally, the site reportedly ran experiments to test whether users with more news stories in their feed were more likely to say they had voted.26 percent
The average profit margin for BP, Exxon Mobil, Shell and Chevron over the past year, down nine points from a decade ago, when crude was about half the price, the Wall Street Journal reported. Prices sunk to $70 a barrel last quarter, and the big oil companies are scaling back projects and selling assets.1.3 million
The number of copies Taylor Swift's "1989" is projected to sell in its first week, with the final tally out Wednesday. Passing that mark would give "1989" the best first-week sales of any album since 2002, breaking Britney Spears' record for first-week sales by a female artist and giving this year its very first platinum album, Billboard reported.
To further capitalize on these big sales, Swift's back catalog has been pulled off Spotify, and the company isn't breaking up gracefully. They've made two playlists, one called "Come Back, Taylor!" and noted that 16 million users have played her songs in the past month.
People who choose assisted suicide tend to be over 65, white and well-educated. And they want to feel in control of their fate. When a young person chooses that route, it draws fresh questions.
On the subject of tomorrow's elections here: energy companies--from the oil industry to companies that focus on renewables will be watching the results very carefully. We reached out to David Konisky, a public policy professor at Georgetown who focuses on energy, to discuss. And amid lackluster sales, McDonalds is acknowledging that it has to do a better job accounting for regional tastes.
Farmers want tomato varieties that yield more fruit. Consumers want tastier ones. How to resolve that tension? A new genetic toolkit could help growers maximize the best of both worlds.