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Jesse Benton, once a political strategist for Ron Paul, resigned as campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday. (AP)

McConnell's Campaign Manager Resigns To Avoid Being 'Distraction'

by Dana Farrington
Aug 29, 2014

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Dana Farrington

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's campaign manager has resigned, citing "inaccurate press accounts" about his role in past campaigns.

The scandal in question revolves around former Iowa state Sen. Kent Sorenson, who pleaded guilty Wednesday to hiding — and lying about — payments he received in 2012 to switch his endorsement from Rep. Michele Bachmann to then-Rep. Ron Paul.

Jesse Benton, who until Friday worked for McConnell, was Paul's campaign chairman at the time.

In a statement given to The Lexington Herald-Leader, which first reported Benton's resignation, Benton said "there have been inaccurate press accounts and unsubstantiated media rumors about me and my role in past campaigns that are politically motivated, unfair and, most importantly, untrue."

He added that the allegations could become a "distraction" to McConnell's re-election campaign.

There "is no more important cause for both Kentucky, my new home I have come to love, and our country than electing Mitch McConnell Majority Leader of the United States Senate," Benton said.

(The Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., posted the full written statement.)

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Jesse Benton, once a political strategist for Ron Paul, resigned as campaign manager for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Friday. (AP)

Federal Judge Blocks Texas Abortion Restrictions

Aug 29, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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Regulations passed in Texas, which affected clinics that perform abortions there, were set to go into effect on Sept. 1. On Friday, a federal judge blocked those regulations, on the grounds that they unconstitutionally restricted access to legal abortion.

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David Kestenbaum's signature (NPR)

Episode 564: The Signature

Aug 29, 2014

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Some people write a squiggle. Others just write an initial. One person draws a dude surfing.

Today on the show: the signature. It's supposed to say, "This is me." But where did the idea come from? And why are we still using it? We consult a rabbi, a lawyer and a credit card executive.

Music: Lightnin' Slim's "The Things I Used To Do." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook/ Spotify/ Tumblr. Download the Planet Money iPhone App.

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Chinese High-Rise Worker Left Dangling After Annoyed Boy Cuts Rope

Aug 29, 2014

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A worker in southern China was left hanging from 100 feet up the side of a high-rise apartment building when a 10-year-old boy, apparently annoyed at the construction racket outside his window, decided to cut the safety line on the man's rappelling apparatus.

Xinhua says the boy was watching cartoons in his eighth-floor apartment in Guizhou province as the worker was outside installing lighting. So, the boy took a knife and sliced through the rope that allows the worker to move up and down.

According to an English translation of the Xinhua article on the Shanghaiist website, the worker was left dangling midair. He yelled down to a co-worker, who called firemen; he was rescued about 40 minutes later. You can view photos here.

Xinhua quotes the worker, surnamed Liu, as saying:

" 'When I was using the electric drill, I felt my lower rope shaking. Then I saw the boy cutting the rope with a knife.'

" 'I shouted at him to stop but he didn't listen and soon after, the rope was broken. That's when I called to my workmate for help,' Liu said."

Shanghaiist says that after speaking with police, "the boy finally admitted to what he did":

"His father, surnamed Tang, was called to come back home from work. He gave Liu a sincere apology on behalf of his son and compensated him with ... a new safety rope."

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President Obama says he agrees that Congress should have buy-in on military intervention against the Islamic State. (AP)

Legal Questions Loom As Obama Weighs Military Action In Syria

Aug 29, 2014 (All Things Considered)

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The White House is working behind the scenes to develop a strategy for fighting the Islamic State in Syria, a strategy that could include airstrikes and other military action there. But there are already lots of questions in political and national security circles about the legal authority the Obama administration might use to justify those actions.

In the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress authorized the White House to use military force — broad authority to strike against al-Qaida.

But Benjamin Wittes, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says times are different now.

"The conflict has changed in a very profound set of ways: It's changed geographically; it's changed in terms of the groups we're fighting," Wittes says.

For his part, President Obama has notified Congress multiple times since June that he's sending military advisers to Iraq. The White House seems to be relying on a broad legal theory of self-defense: to protect Americans from fighters with the Islamic State. Those fighters overran territory near the U.S. Consulate in northern Iraq.

"To have a solid self-defense theory, you either have to have already suffered an armed attack by the people you are targeting, or you have to think that they pose an imminent threat of armed attack," says Ashley Deeks, a former State Department lawyer who now teaches at the University of Virginia.

The legal analysis is complicated because now the White House is considering whether to broaden its air campaign to strike targets in Syria.

"The longer that the hostilities with ISIS go on, the more widespread they become, the less this looks like scattershot incidents of self-defense and the more it looks like the kind of war-making that historically and constitutionally usually requires at least some buy-in from Congress," says Steve Vladeck, a law professor at American University.

In letters and public statements this week, several members of Congress are demanding a say, a call the president says he hears.

"It is my intention that Congress has to have some buy-in as representatives of the American people. And, by the way, the American people need to hear what that strategy is," Obama said at a news conference Thursday.

Wittes, of Brookings, says that's not just the best legal approach — it also makes practical sense.

"It's not that the president can't do it without Congress, but I do think having some degree of consensus in the form of legislation regarding what we are doing and what we're not doing would be a very healthy thing," Wittes says.

But with lawmakers positioning for midterm elections in November, it's not clear either political party is going to want a vote on military action. That leaves President Obama relying on his constitutional powers as commander-in-chief — powers he promised to limit when he ran for office years ago.

Vladeck, of American University, says the administration may be gun-shy about that approach for political reasons.

"Then it looks like there actually isn't much daylight between the very things that candidate Obama was complaining about back in 2008 and the conduct that President Obama seems on the verge of undertaking here in 2014," he says.

That's more reason, Vladeck adds, why the White House may be taking its time before making big decisions about military action.

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