Daily: April 4, 2016

Want to Understand Merrick Garland? Read His Terrorism Rulings.

Before he was a Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland laid out the playbook for his brand of judicial minimalism in a series of rulings on Guantanamo Bay detainees.

By sam-baker

When a group of Guantanamo Bay de­tain­ees turned to the courts in 2003, say­ing it was un­con­sti­tu­tion­al for the U.S. to hold them forever without a tri­al, Judge Mer­rick Gar­land said he couldn’t help them. In fact, he said, no court could.

But when an­oth­er de­tain­ee came be­fore Gar­land in 2008, ar­guing that the gov­ern­ment had cut too many corners when it tried him as an en­emy com­batant, Gar­land agreed. In the span of just five years, he had ruled first that de­tain­ees were not en­titled to a tri­al at all, and then that their tri­als had to be more fair.

Gar­land—the chief judge on the D.C. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals and Pres­id­ent Obama’s nom­in­ee for the Su­preme Court—has heard dozens of cases re­lated to the U.S.’s fight against ter­ror­ists, in­clud­ing some 20 cases spe­cif­ic to Guantanamo Bay. And his de­cisions in those cases il­lu­min­ate far more than just his ap­proach to na­tion­al se­cur­ity law.

Taken to­geth­er, Gar­land’s ter­ror­ism cases are a mi­cro­cosm of his broad­er ap­proach to the law and to his role as a judge. They are es­pe­cially in­struct­ive in try­ing to as­sess what kind of judge Gar­land is, what kind of justice he would be, and how he would po­s­i­tion him­self in ma­jor cases.

There’s a re­mark­able con­sist­ency across Gar­land’s rul­ings, in­clud­ing the os­tens­ibly lib­er­al and os­tens­ibly con­ser­vat­ive ones. As much as he’s a mod­er­ate, Gar­land is a sort of ju­di­cial min­im­al­ist. His de­fer­ence to the gov­ern­ment is part of that, but only one part. He avoids ex­pans­ive, uni­fied the­or­ies of the law. He usu­ally joins his col­leagues’ opin­ions in full, passing up op­por­tun­it­ies to ex­pound sep­ar­ately on his own think­ing. When he does write for the court, his writ­ing is, frankly, bor­ing.

In short, his ap­par­ent aim is to leave the light­est foot­print pos­sible on the law. Taken to­geth­er, his na­tion­al se­cur­ity cases dis­play many of the same traits that people have no­ticed in his do­mest­ic-policy rul­ings, and help ex­plain how those traits fit to­geth­er.

“I think his role in the D.C. Cir­cuit’s work in that spe­cif­ic area is a fairly in­dic­at­ive sampling of his lar­ger jur­is­pru­den­tial ap­proach,” said Steve Vladeck, an ex­pert in na­tion­al se­cur­ity law who teaches at Amer­ic­an Uni­versity. “He prefers nar­row rul­ings, not writ­ing sep­ar­ately, and, all things be­ing equal, giv­ing the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment the be­ne­fit of the doubt.”

Us­ing pre­ced­ents

Nancy Gert­ner, a Har­vard law pro­fess­or and re­tired fed­er­al judge who knows Gar­land per­son­ally, agreed, not­ing Gar­land’s strict ad­her­ence to pre­ced­ent in one of his most fam­ous ter­ror­ism cases—even amid a sig­ni­fic­ant dis­agree­ment over wheth­er that pre­ced­ent should have ap­plied.

Of course, every fed­er­al judge is bound by Su­preme Court pre­ced­ent, so de­fer­ence to the high court is in many ways just part of the job de­scrip­tion. Of­ten, though, it’s not clear wheth­er a Su­preme Court pre­ced­ent con­trols some new case—and plenty of judges will lean in­to the am­bi­gu­ity, seiz­ing the op­por­tun­ity to de­cide the is­sues them­selves.

But in Al-Odah v. U.S., one of the first ma­jor law­suits over Guantanamo, Gar­land was part of a D.C. Cir­cuit rul­ing that went in the oth­er dir­ec­tion—stretch­ing to place it­self un­der the um­brella of Su­preme Court pre­ced­ent, rather than to es­cape it.

A three-judge pan­el of the D.C. Cir­cuit, which in­cluded Gar­land, ruled that no fed­er­al court had the power to de­cide wheth­er Guantanamo pris­on­ers were en­titled to a tri­al, an at­tor­ney, or know­ledge of the charges against them. It cited a Su­preme Court de­cision bar­ring law­suits filed by Ger­mans who had been ac­cused of war crimes dur­ing World War II.

The de­tain­ees ar­gued strenu­ously that their situ­ation was dif­fer­ent—un­like the Ger­man pris­on­ers, they were not cit­izens of a coun­try on which the U.S. had de­clared war, and they had not been charged with any crimes. Even so, the D.C. Cir­cuit said, the Gitmo de­tain­ees’ cir­cum­stances were close enough. The Ger­man pre­ced­ent ap­plied—and no U.S. court had the jur­is­dic­tion to hear their case.

The Su­preme Court later re­versed that de­cision, rul­ing that Guantanamo de­tain­ees are in fact en­titled to face form­al charges. But Gar­land’s de­fend­ers ar­gue that he still made the right call—that if a line sep­ar­at­ing the earli­er case from Guantanamo de­tain­ees was go­ing to be drawn, it was up to the Su­preme Court to draw it.

De­fer­ence—with lim­its

Still, Gar­land’s ter­ror­ism cases bring to­geth­er con­ser­vat­ives’ biggest com­plaint about him—that he’s too de­fer­en­tial to the fed­er­al gov­ern­ment—with the biggest com­plaint on the left—that he’s too de­fer­en­tial to law en­force­ment.

In 2014, Gar­land joined a ma­jor­ity opin­ion al­low­ing the gov­ern­ment to per­form gen­it­al searches of Guantanamo de­tain­ees be­fore they met with their law­yers. “The only ques­tion for us is wheth­er the new policies are ra­tion­ally re­lated to se­cur­ity. We have no trouble con­clud­ing that they are, in no small part be­cause that is the gov­ern­ment’s view of the mat­ter,” the court wrote.

On sim­il­ar grounds, Gar­land re­jec­ted a Free­dom of In­form­a­tion Act suit that sought the re­lease of pho­tos of Osama bin Laden’s dead body. “Why should we not de­fer to” in­tel­li­gence ex­perts, Gar­land asked dur­ing or­al ar­gu­ments in that case, when those ex­perts “are telling us there is a risk that Amer­ic­ans and oth­ers will die if we re­lease the doc­u­ments.”

But Gar­land’s de­fer­ence has its lim­its. Break­ing with the gov­ern­ment is the ex­cep­tion, to be sure, but when those ex­cep­tions hap­pen, they’re of­ten con­sist­ent with an­ec­dotes from friends and col­leagues about Gar­land’s fas­ti­di­ous­ness, in­clud­ing his ex­per­i­ence pro­sec­ut­ing the Ok­lahoma City bombers—his first ma­jor ter­ror­ism case, and by all ac­counts an es­pe­cially form­at­ive ex­per­i­ence in his leg­al ca­reer.

“Mer­rick took pains to do everything by the book,” Obama said when he an­nounced Gar­land’s nom­in­a­tion. “When people offered to turn over evid­ence vol­un­tar­ily, he re­fused, tak­ing the harder route of ob­tain­ing the prop­er sub­poen­as in­stead.”

Trust­ing the pro­cess

A sim­il­ar in­sist­ence on pro­cess has been a hall­mark of Gar­land’s rul­ings against the gov­ern­ment, in­clud­ing his most sig­ni­fic­ant rul­ing in fa­vor of a Guantanamo de­tain­ee. In that case, Par­hat v. Gates, most of the gov­ern­ment’s evid­ence against an al­leged en­emy com­batant was clas­si­fied, and it would not re­veal the source of its in­form­a­tion. Be­cause the court couldn’t de­term­ine wheth­er that evid­ence was re­li­able, it wasn’t enough to jus­ti­fy a con­vic­tion, Gar­land ruled, or­der­ing the U.S. to either re­lease the de­tain­ee or give him a new ju­di­cial hear­ing.

He also balked at the CIA’s ef­fort to fight off a FOIA law­suit seek­ing doc­u­ments about the U.S.’s drone policy. The CIA said it would not even con­firm or deny the ex­ist­ence of any doc­u­ments about drones. But the pro­gram clearly ex­ists, Gar­land said, and the CIA clearly knows about it, since the CIA dir­ect­or him­self has talked about its ex­ist­ence in pub­lic.

“The de­fend­ant is, after all, the Cent­ral In­tel­li­gence Agency. And it strains credu­lity to sug­gest that an agency charged with gath­er­ing in­tel­li­gence af­fect­ing the na­tion­al se­cur­ity does not have an ‘in­tel­li­gence in­terest’ in drone strikes,” Gar­land wrote.

That mild sar­casm is one of the few rhet­or­ic­al flour­ishes any­where in Gar­land’s re­cord, on ter­ror­ism or oth­er­wise—an­oth­er sign of his con­sist­ent abil­ity, even after 20 years on the D.C. Cir­cuit, to avoid mak­ing waves. He would, if con­firmed to the Su­preme Court, be re­pla­cing one of the most as­sert­ive, lay-it-all-on-the-line justices in the high court’s his­tory. And the biggest swing may not be in ideo­logy—be­cause Gar­land is nowhere near as lib­er­al as Scalia was con­ser­vat­ive—but in tone and in breadth.

“The Guantá­namo cases have got­ten a lot of at­ten­tion be­cause of their vis­ib­il­ity,” Vladeck said, “but if there’s any uni­fy­ing theme about Judge Gar­land’s 19-year ten­ure on the Court of Ap­peals, it’s how much his rul­ings tend to be hid­den from view by the far louder, more flam­boy­ant writ­ings of his col­leagues.”



Will the Obama Administration’s New Overtime Rule Upend Washington?

Paying overtime to salaried employees could affect associations, media, and the Hill

By alex-brown

A con­tro­ver­sial over­time rule pro­posed by the Labor De­part­ment could have a sweep­ing ef­fect on the way Wash­ing­ton does busi­ness. But in Con­gress, where the change is already be­ing hotly de­bated, thou­sands of work­ers could stand to miss out on the pay boost it was de­signed to provide.

The rule re­quires em­ploy­ers to pay over­time to work­ers mak­ing less than $50,440 a year, more than doub­ling the cur­rent threshold. Ad­voc­ates say it’s a needed boost to salar­ied work­ers whose pay of­ten is not com­men­sur­ate with the long hours they put in.

The Cap­it­ol Hill work­force in par­tic­u­lar would stand to gain from the change—it’s known for its ir­reg­u­lar hours and work­ahol­ic cul­ture, and many of the staffers who keep Con­gress func­tion­ing come in un­der the $50,440 mark. Case­work­ers, field rep­res­ent­at­ives, le­gis­lat­ive cor­res­pond­ents, le­gis­lat­ive as­sist­ants, sched­ulers, and staff as­sist­ants all have me­di­an salar­ies be­low that threshold, ac­cord­ing to 2013 data.

But if those staffers are go­ing to see the be­ne­fits of the new rule, many will do so over the ob­jec­tion of their bosses. That’s be­cause Con­gress is ex­empt from many work­place rules un­less it af­firm­at­ively ad­opts them—and more than 100 mem­bers of Con­gress have already come out in ob­jec­tion to the over­time rule.

Paula Sum­berg helps run the Con­gres­sion­al Of­fice of Com­pli­ance, which was cre­ated to keep Con­gress in line with labor laws. The Of­fice of Com­pli­ance’s board of dir­ect­ors is­sues pro­pos­als, many of which mir­ror rules already in place for non-con­gres­sion­al work­ers, but they must be passed by Con­gress to take ef­fect on the Hill. In re­cent years, Sum­berg said, Con­gress has been slow to take up pro­pos­als from her of­fice.

“It’s hard to pre­dict why Con­gress moves on any of our reg­u­la­tions,” she said. “I would hope that they would con­sider them. … If they couldn’t live with the way the private-sec­tor law must ap­ply, you either re­peal the law or make changes. To ig­nore it would not be the best thing for the work­force.”

An­oth­er obstacle to im­ple­ment­ing the over­time rule on the Hill is that the GOP-led Con­gress has cut staff budgets in a show of fisc­al re­straint. “It’s not like they’ve got a bunch of money ly­ing around,” said Brad Fitch, pres­id­ent and CEO of the Con­gres­sion­al Man­age­ment Found­a­tion. “If you’re already spend­ing your en­tire budget and most of it’s go­ing to­ward labor any­way, it’s not like you can give every­body raises. The money isn’t there.”

Of­fices would have a few op­tions to com­ply with the rule without ex­ceed­ing their budgets. Some chiefs of staff, Fitch said, are plan­ning to set hard 40-hour caps to en­sure staffers don’t ac­crue over­time hours. Work­ers just be­low the threshold may see their pay bumped up to $50,500 to make them in­eligible for over­time. Some of­fices may be forced to cut staff.

The im­pact wouldn’t be small; a large por­tion of Con­gress’s 15,000-plus staffers would be in line for the over­time eli­gib­il­ity. “There’s a lot of ju­ni­or people mak­ing that range that are ba­sic­ally the en­gine of Cap­it­ol Hill, the perma-terns,” said Chris Jones, who runs Polit­Temps, a polit­ic­al-staff­ing agency. “Are they go­ing to be paid over­time? How is it go­ing to af­fect all those people? … It will shift the work land­scape for ju­ni­or-level staffers in Wash­ing­ton.”

Off the Hill, though, the ef­fects will be much more im­me­di­ate. The busi­ness com­munity is warn­ing that the ex­pan­ded over­time will lead to staff­ing cuts, slashed be­ne­fits, and lower salar­ies for new hires as com­pan­ies try to meet their bot­tom line. “It would have an out­sized im­pact on areas like great­er Wash­ing­ton,” said Jim Din­eg­ar, pres­id­ent and CEO of the Great­er Wash­ing­ton Board of Trade. “You’re go­ing to have to force people to work harder and smarter and fit it in­to a 40-hour week. … It’s yet an­oth­er in­stance of costs to the busi­ness com­munity that un­for­tu­nately may come at cost to em­ploy­ees.”

In Wash­ing­ton’s think tanks, non­profits, and lobby shops, many work­ers reg­u­larly ex­ceed 40-hour weeks—and cap­ping their work time may not be easy. “In Wash­ing­ton, be­cause of the cul­ture, I don’t see how you’re go­ing to stop folks from work­ing,” said Jim Clarke, seni­or vice pres­id­ent of pub­lic policy at the Amer­ic­an So­ci­ety of As­so­ci­ation Ex­ec­ut­ives. “You’re not go­ing to be able to make people leave their iPhone at the door. … In the as­so­ci­ation world, meet­ings are of­ten on week­ends. You’re go­ing to have to look at chan­ging how you put your hours to­geth­er, your work­week. Wheth­er it be the gov­ern­ment or whatever, every­body’s im­pacted by this.”

Like­wise, Wash­ing­ton’s journ­al­ism work­force shares many of the same char­ac­ter­ist­ics. Cete­wayo Parks, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Wash­ing­ton-Bal­timore News Guild, thinks re­port­ers stand to be­ne­fit from the rule. Most journ­al­ists, he said, work so many hours that their em­ploy­ers will have to raise their pay above the over­time threshold. “It’s un­real­ist­ic if they cap them at 40” hours, he said. “If the work isn’t done at 40, what do they do?”

Not every­one in the in­dustry is con­vinced. “Many news­pa­pers will not be able to meet the new stand­ard,” said Dav­id Chav­ern, pres­id­ent and CEO of the News­pa­per As­so­ci­ation of Amer­ica, in a state­ment. He ad­ded that ac­cord­ing to a re­cent sur­vey the as­so­ci­ation con­duc­ted, “most news­pa­pers said that they would either have to re­place full-time em­ploy­ees with those work­ing part-time or con­vert cur­rent ex­empt em­ploy­ees to an hourly wage. The un­in­ten­ded con­sequence of the pro­posed rule is that em­ploy­ees would see a re­duc­tion in be­ne­fits and work­place flex­ib­il­ity and would be re­quired to fill out timesheets.”

The rule is un­der re­view by the White House Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Budget, and could be pub­lished by Ju­ly. It would likely go in­to ef­fect 60 days later.



AGAINST THE GRAIN

How House Democrats Shot Themselves in the Foot

Believing they couldn’t win a majority, they made a half-hearted effort to recruit strong candidates and raise money.

By Josh Kraushaar

If you’ve listened at all to House Demo­crats in re­cent years, you couldn’t help feel­ing pess­im­ist­ic about their pro­spects. The party down­played its chances to win back a House ma­jor­ity—un­til 2022. They blamed ger­ry­man­der­ing for their prob­lems, con­veni­ently ig­nor­ing the fact that dis­trict lines in Illinois, Mary­land, and Ari­zona were all drawn in the Demo­crats’ fa­vor. For the first time in years, party lead­ers didn’t even go through the mo­tions of say­ing they were go­ing to cap­ture the House in 2017, which has been the usu­al spin in re­cent elec­tion cycles. All this poor-mouth­ing has served to dampen re­cruit­ment, de­press fun­drais­ing, and serve as a self-ful­filling proph­ecy that the GOP had a lock on the ma­jor­ity.

Sud­denly, with the pro­spect that Don­ald Trump could head the GOP tick­et in 2016, the mood has dra­mat­ic­ally shif­ted. The party is scram­bling to re­cruit can­did­ates in di­verse, GOP-lean­ing sub­urb­an dis­tricts that they wrote off earli­er in the year. But it shouldn’t have taken Trump for Demo­crats to re­cog­nize that there was a pos­sib­il­ity to com­pete for a House ma­jor­ity. It was al­ways a chal­lenge, but nev­er im­possible.

One of the main reas­ons Demo­crats down­played their chances of tak­ing back the House was that it served their own lib­er­al ideo­lo­gic­al in­terests. If ex­tern­al forces were pre­vent­ing Demo­crats from win­ning back a ma­jor­ity, there was no need to re­place po­lar­iz­ing House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi with a young­er, more-mod­er­ate law­maker. If ger­ry­man­der­ing was the main cul­prit for the party’s woes, there would be no pres­sure for Pres­id­ent Obama to mod­er­ate his agenda. Rahm Emanuel won back the House in 2006 by re­cruit­ing an ideo­lo­gic­ally di­verse slate of can­did­ates, many of whom op­posed gun con­trol and im­mig­ra­tion re­form. But that’s ideo­lo­gic­al heresy for many Demo­crats these days, even if used in the ser­vice of win­ning GOP-lean­ing seats.

But it wouldn’t take cul­tur­ally con­ser­vat­ive po­s­i­tions for Demo­crats to com­pete across the coun­try. Con­sider: There are 65 Re­pub­lic­an-held House seats with Cook Polit­ic­al Re­port rat­ings of R+5 or less, mean­ing that in the past two elec­tions, the GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate ran no more than 5 points bet­ter in those dis­tricts than his na­tion­al av­er­age. Most of the seats are in the type of sub­urb­an areas where Demo­crats must be com­pet­it­ive to win the White House. They only needed to net few­er than half of them—30 seats in total—to re­gain con­trol. Yet, as Na­tion­al Journ­al’s Kim­berly Railey re­por­ted, Demo­crats nev­er thought they had a chance in many of these GOP-lean­ing seats from the be­gin­ning, and they are now play­ing a des­per­ate game of catch-up to re­cruit enough can­did­ates be­fore ad­di­tion­al fil­ing dead­lines oc­cur.

Un­der Pres­id­ent Obama, Demo­crats de­cided that restor­ing their ma­jor­ity de­pended on ral­ly­ing the base while down­play­ing the im­port­ance of swing, cent­rist voters. They bought in­to the myth that midterms, with lower turnout from Obama’s core co­ali­tion, were a lost cause for them. That meant they had all but writ­ten off the House, where the av­er­age con­gres­sion­al dis­trict tilts ever-so-slightly to the right. Demo­crats should have long ago real­ized that re­ly­ing on Trump wasn’t their only path to a ma­jor­ity. Pro­mot­ing a more-mod­er­ate mes­sage—one that’s tough­er on na­tion­al se­cur­ity and less wed­ded to gov­ern­ment reg­u­la­tion—was a way to win that didn’t rely on the op­pos­i­tion im­plod­ing.

TRAIL MIX

1. Even as the threat of sig­ni­fic­ant down-bal­lot losses looms with Trump at the top of the tick­et, there haven’t been many signs of a wave elec­tion—at least not yet. Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats are still tied in the gen­er­ic bal­lot, ac­cord­ing to a new Pub­lic Policy Polling auto­mated na­tion­al sur­vey. In this week’s Mar­quette Law School poll, GOP Sen. Ron John­son is now with­in 5 points of former Sen. Russ Fein­gold among Wis­con­sin voters—a much smal­ler de­fi­cit than in past polls. Even op­tim­ist­ic Demo­crats in­volved in Sen­ate races are see­ing tight polling in battle­ground races in New Hamp­shire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania—states the party must win to take con­trol of the Sen­ate.

The main threat that Trump poses to con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans isn’t that mod­er­ate Re­pub­lic­an voters would sud­denly sup­port down-bal­lot Demo­crats in Novem­ber. The big­ger threat is that he’d spur Demo­crat­ic turnout (in par­tic­u­lar, His­pan­ic voters) and dis­cour­age Re­pub­lic­an wo­men and sub­urb­an­ites from even show­ing up on Elec­tion Day. And those turnout pro­jec­tions are dif­fi­cult to mod­el this far out from Elec­tion Day, without know­ing who the GOP nom­in­ee will be.

2. If Trump loses the Wis­con­sin primary Tues­day, it will be the first time since the Iowa caucuses that he lost a state—and was un­able to point to any oth­er vic­tor­ies the same day to coun­ter­act the bad pub­li­city. With an­oth­er two weeks be­fore the New York primary, Trump will need to come up with an­oth­er di­ver­sion to avoid los­ing mo­mentum.

3. A key test of Pres­id­ent Obama’s re­main­ing juice with Demo­crats will come in Pennsylvania, where Demo­crat­ic voters will de­term­ine their party’s Sen­ate nom­in­ee against Sen. Pat Toomey. The party lead­er­ship is squarely be­hind Katie Mc­Ginty, a former chief of staff to Gov. Tom Wolf, over former Rep. Joe Ses­tak, who nearly de­feated Toomey in 2010. Des­pite Ses­tak’s past polit­ic­al suc­cess, Demo­crat­ic lead­ers have been wary of his per­son­al quirk­i­ness and un­will­ing­ness to run a tra­di­tion­al cam­paign the way that party lead­er­ship wants.

So even though Ses­tak leads in the primary polling, Pres­id­ent Obama and Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden de­cided to put their weight be­hind Mc­Ginty last week. Mc­Ginty quickly put up a tele­vi­sion ad tout­ing Obama’s sup­port. Obama hasn’t had much suc­cess in trans­fer­ring his own per­son­al likab­il­ity to down-bal­lot Demo­crats, however. The pres­id­ent’s en­dorse­ment of party-switch­ing Sen. Ar­len Specter did him no good in 2010, as Specter lost to Ses­tak in the Demo­crat­ic primary. And with the pres­id­en­tial primary grabbing more head­lines than the Sen­ate race in Pennsylvania, it’s very pos­sible Obama will strike out again in a big way.



Political Podcasts Flower in Stormy Election Season

New shows are everywhere. But will they change political journalism?

By ben-geman

Dan Pfeiffer, a former aide to President Obama, opened the latest episode of the new podcast he cohosts with some housekeeping news: The show’s original name, “Playing Politics,” was out the window.

“As it turns out, somehow I can’t believe we didn’t know this, but The Minneapolis Star-Tribune ed board has a podcast called ‘Playing Politics,’ which I’m sure is riveting, but because they beat us to the punch, we have a new name,” he said on the March 31 show. The podcast he does with former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau is now, yes, “Keeping it 1600.”

It’s the latest sign that political podcasting is having a major growth spurt in the 2016 election cycle—unused names are hard to find.

The campaign season that began in earnest in 2015 has brought an explosion of new shows. And they’re helping to provide a counterweight to the Twitter-ization and breakneck speed of the political-news cycle that often leaves context and depth in the dust.

“The number of publishers that are producing political podcasts does point to a new trend, and it’s also what Americans are interested in talking about and hearing others talk about, and that’s what’s perfect for podcasts,” says Mark McCrery, CEO of Podtrac, which tracks the medium and connects advertisers with programs.

There are offerings from longstanding players in political journalism such as ABC News and CNN. NPR’s Politics Podcast launched in November and it’s currently the highest-ranking political show in iTunes (which largely bases its rankings on the number of new subscriptions).

National Journal launched its TwentySixteen podcast early last year. This election cycle has brought shows from The New Republic, the Huffington PostPolitico, the Scripps News Washington Bureau, and more. Newer outlets are getting involved too, such as Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight and The Federalist, a conservative Web publication. Favreau and Pfeiffer are on media mogul Bill Simmons’s recently launched podcast network.

Political podcasting has been well-established for years. But Todd Cochrane, the CEO of the podcasting-services company RawVoice, estimates that there are about 30 percent more politically oriented shows in the 2016 cycle than in 2012.

He says there are now roughly 5,000 political shows, with audiences ranging from just a few thousand per month to shows that have over 200,000 listeners per episode. A substantial number have ad sponsorship.

Many shows offer a way to look analytically at campaigns and cover far more than just the presidential horse race, though there’s plenty of that too. Podcasters are capitalizing on interest in the 2016 race to produce content that’s wider ranging.

The longstanding left-wing magazine The Nation launched its weekly “Start Making Sense” podcast last fall, and it features a mix of campaign and issue coverage.

“Our launch coincided with the magazine endorsing Bernie and with the rise of Trump, so we had an instant audience,” said Jon Wiener, the podcast host, who also teaches history at the University of California at Irvine.

On the right, The Federalist is riding the same wave with its daily podcast that launched a year ago to coincide with the White House race taking off. It’s one of several topics on the show.

“We try to offer a brand of smart talk and interviews on a wide variety of topics—not just politics, but culture, religion, and intellectual debates over the future of the Right,” said Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, in an email.  

One major new entry into the field is “The Axe Files,” an interview program hosted by David Axelrod, who was previously Obama’s top campaign strategist.

Bernie Sanders was the inaugural guest last fall, while Nancy Pelosi and several senators have also been on. But beyond politicians there are heavyweight political strategists, journalists, and even Joakim Noah of the Chicago Bulls.

Axelrod, a former reporter, has extracted news from his guests, and the interviews have bred spot stories on CNN—which is a partner in the venture with the Axelrod-founded Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago—and also National JournalThe HillPolitico, and elsewhere.

But Axelrod also feels that the wide-ranging interviews, which feature a heavy dose of the guests’ biographies, provide an antidote to “soundbite” coverage. The show’s informal, conversational interview style is also used by Politico’s Glenn Thrush on his podcast and other shows.

Axelrod believes there’s an audience that’s hungry for alternatives to today’s go-go-go style of political coverage.

“People turn to podcasts for relief because they are bombarded with these bite-sized nuggets of information, pseudo-information that are often not in a larger context,” he told National Journal. “There’s definitely a market out there for this, and I do think it’s a reaction to the modern media environment.” The weekly podcast has been downloaded over 1.5 million times, Axelrod said.

The growth of political podcasts is part of the overall expansion of download-able, listen-at-your-leisure programing. Chris Bannon, an executive with the digital media company Midroll Media, notes that a laptop and a $200 microphone are enough to create a show.

Data from Edison Research, which tracks digital-media consumption, shows how podcasting is far from the niche market it was a decade ago, and how it has surged even within the past few years.

Around 35 million people in the U.S. over the age of 12 listened to a podcast within the last week, according to a survey conducted early this year, which is roughly twice the number in 2013. Monthly podcast listening is up 50 percent since 2012, their data shows.

Rick Klein, the political director of ABC News, says growing podcast consumption is one reason behind the launch of their weekly “Powerhouse Politics” show this year.

“We are always looking for ways to meet the audience where it wants to be met,” Klein said. He cohosts the show with ABC’s chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl and analyst Matthew Dowd, but they have guests as well, like Ben Carson on the March 31 show.

Their show, too, has an informal banter that’s common in political podcasting. It was pioneered by Slate magazine’s weekly Political Gabfest. Slate’s show has been around for a decade and accurately describes itself as providing the “kind of informal and irreverent discussion Washington journalists have after hours over drinks.”

“John, Matthew, and I were buddies, we talk about politics all the time, and this seems like a great new way to continue that conversation and get smart people talking about it and get the audience engaged in it,” Klein told National Journal.

Political podcasts come in many forms. For instance, The Huffington Post’s “Candidate Confessional,” launched in January, features chats with losing political candidates.

Slate last year added to its stable with John Dickerson’s Whistlestop, which delves into key moments in past presidential campaigns, and more recently Trumpcast, in which Slate chairman Jacob Weisberg tries to make sense of Trump’s shocking rise. The Washington Post launched a weekly podcast on presidential history in January.

There’s more to come.

This month brings the launch of “Hard Nation,” a comedic political show from Earwolf, a subsidiary of Midroll that produces comedy podcasts. Bannon says the company is also exploring serious political talk shows.

And why not? The intersection of politics and podcasts is still evolving. “I wonder if political podcasting will see political ads,” Bannon said. “I’m wondering who is going to get their feet wet.”