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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Public Program: Q&A with Professor Heather Gerken

Before her Law Day Lecture, "Dark Money and Shadow Parties: The Real Problem in Campaign Finance" with Heather K. Gerken on Thursday, April 30, Courtney Wong '15 sat down with Heather Gerken for an interview.

This year’s celebration of Law Day at Dartmouth focused on the relationship between corporate spending and American politics, and how the Citizens United ruling has led to concerns about "dark money." Heather Gerken, a professor at Yale Law School who specializes in election law and constitutional law, delivered a public talk on the theme of money in politics, examining how the constitutional constraints on campaign finance have affected reform efforts.

Before joining Yale faculty in 2006, Professor Gerken clerked for Judge Stephen Reinhardt and Justice David Souter. After practicing for several years, she joined the Harvard faculty in September 2000. Named one of the nation’s "twenty-six best law teachers," she has also won a Green Bag award for legal writing and has testified three times before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. She has also served as a senior legal adviser for the Obama for America campaigns.

Professor Heather Gerken talks about "dark money" during the Law Day Celebration lecture. Photo by Hung Nguyen '17.

Courtney Wong (CW): The amount of money donated to elections has been increasing over time. How much "dark money" is really out there in politics?

Heather Gerken (HG): We don’t actually know how much dark money is out there because so much of it is anonymous, which makes it very difficult to measure. The FEC, the Federal Election Commission, has some means of measuring parts of it, but we all think that whatever the FEC reports is less than what is actually out there. So we just don't know how much money is being spent at this point, but we do know that it is increasing, and that is not hard to see.

CW: There are loopholes for people with deep pockets to anonymously donate a ton of money through nonprofits like 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s. How did it become this way? Can we enforce stricter rules and guidelines for these loopholes?

HG: The Super PACs came about as a result of the Citizens United decision, which said that as long as you spend independently, you can’t cap contributions or control expenditures. Therefore, Super PACs as a formal matter are independent and they can spend however they want. They are, however, regulated by statute and by the FEC so they do have to disclose their donors. The 501(c)(4)s and 501(c)(6)s are under the same rules in terms of independence but unlike Super PACs, they are not governed by statute nor the FEC, which means that they aren’t required to disclose their donors.

You could fix the second piece pretty easily; Congress could pass a law tomorrow that would mandate disclosure, which is constitutional. But since Congress doesn’t really pass legislation these days and the FEC is paralyzed by gridlock, this is unlikely to happen. But on the question whether you can cut back on the independent spending of Super PACs, we’re not going to get a different ruling because as long as those things are thought to be independent, the Court has said that you cannot cut back on the amount of money that is given to them.

CW: Everything about the idea of dark money and shadow parties seems very "House of Cards." How does the existence of these two things affect the way that campaign managers or political staffers will operate?

HG: That's exactly my worry. My worry is that all of the talent will go to the shadow parties. Right now, you’re beginning to see that – for example, Jim Messina is working for Hillary’s Super PAC. That’s because she’s just started her campaign, but the worry is that over time, the big money and the big decisions will get made inside the shadow parties. You’ll see the volunteers and the low-level staff working in the formal, traditional parties, but the real brains of the operation are where the money is. That’s a huge problem for the fate of political parties. It’s very hard to figure out how to stop it because money is power. So if you want to be in the place that’s powerful, you’re going to be where the money is.

Students engage in a discussion of dark money and shadow parties. Photo by Hung Nguyen '18.

CW: In terms of dark money and shadow parties, what should we expect in 2016?

HG: First, you’ll see campaigns contracting out a lot of the things that parties used to do. Jeb Bush is already talking about what his Super PAC is going to do, and Hillary Clinton’s Super PAC is doing a huge amount of what parties would have traditionally done already. We saw this in 2014 with Congressional races, where the campaign had almost no money but the Super PAC was running all of the ads and doing most of the things that the party would normally do. Ultimately, we’ll see shadow parties and shadow campaigns playing a much bigger role, maybe even a preeminent role.

The second thing we are going to see is a lot of dark money. Super PACs are not dark, as they disclose their donors. However, there are these things called nonprofit corporations that don’t disclose their donors and as a result, a lot of money is getting funded through them. For example, Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS put an inordinate amount of money in the 2012 race but didn’t have to disclose any of its donors.

CW: Super PACs seem like huge behemoths that can’t be defeated, especially after Citizens United. What can assure the average Joe citizen that his contribution to the political process can be accounted for?

HG: I sometimes think that some people on the reform side forget that there are elections, so they just assume that whoever has the most money will win. That’s actually not true. You have to have a certain amount of money to compete, but there are lots of other things that matter in an election. On the other hand, money really helps. There is a danger that the political parties are orienting themselves around the interests of the wealthy more than ever before, and leaving the middle and working class behind. All the middle and working class people have is their votes, which matter in the end, but those who are funding the campaign are likely to get their policy interests across. This has become increasingly true in a world of polarized voting.

CW: What is your favorite course to teach in law school?

HG: Right now, it’s a course called Advanced Federalism, which is a course on how to be an academic and write about federalism. A lot of my work is election law-related, but federalism is where election law scholarship meets constitutional law. I’m part of a new group called the Nationalist School, and we’re doing all kinds of work thinking about the ways in which states and localities serve important roles. The course is so fun because the work is just brimming over and the students are brilliant. Yale puts out a ton of academics so it’s like hanging out with your buddies and talking about scholarship.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day 2015 - Remembering Those Who Served

This Memorial Day, the Rockefeller Center remembers those who served.

It is customary to mark Memorial Day by visiting graveyards and war monuments. One of the biggest Memorial Day traditions is for the President or Vice President to give a speech and lay a wreath on soldiers' graves in the largest national cemetery, Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia. Most towns have local Memorial Day celebrations. Here are some ways you can honor the men and women who serve our country:
  • Put flags or flowers on the graves of men and women who served in wars.
  • Fly the US flag at half-staff until noon.
  • Visit monuments dedicated to soldiers, sailors and marines.
  • Participate in a National Moment of Remembrance at 3:00 pm local time.
  • Participate or watch a parade. 

Photo by The Defense Media Academy, San Antonio.

The American Legion Post #22 will be hosting a Memorial Day parade in Lebanon, NH on Monday, May 25. The parade will start at 11:00 am in vicinity of “old” Sacred Heart School. The parade will proceed down Route 120 (Hanover Street), pause at the Hanover Street Bridge for a service, continue around Colburn Park, head down Church Street, and enter the School Street Cemetery for a brief service. The parade will continue out of the cemetery onto School Street and the proceed to Colburn Park for a Memorial Day service. For more information, visit

Friday, May 22, 2015

Recognizing Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant Charlotte Snow '15

In this series, the Rockefeller Center features our Student Program Assistants, student staff who contribute significantly to the success of the Center’s events, programs, and activities.

As a Government major with a focus in public policy and international relations, Charlotte Snow '15 noticed that the Rockefeller Center offered her a seamless combination of her interests inside and outside of the classroom. She first came to this realization during the last presidential election, when the Center hosted a wide variety of relevant speakers, all of whom Charlotte was eager to follow. She then continued to attend programs sponsored by the Rockefeller Center until she finally became a Student Program Assistant in the fall of 2014.

Student Program Assistant Charlotte Snow '15. Photo by Sally Kim '16.

Charlotte specifically works in student outreach. She covers all aspects of social media—the Rockefeller Center’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram—to advertise everything that the Center has to offer and to encourage more students to become involved. In today’s social media-centered age, Charlotte’s role with the Center’s virtual presence is especially important. On each of these platforms, Charlotte shares pictures of events to give a visual image of what we do at the Rockefeller Center.

"From her first day on the job, Charlotte has been a super partner in discussing strategies and trying out new ideas," says her supervisor, Elizabeth Celtrick, Assistant Director for Co-Curricular Programs. "I also really appreciate her dependability and professionalism." The student communications positions at the Center require the student staff to be responsive to requests, sometimes on very short notice. "Charlotte obviously manages her time well. She gets things done, does them well, with little fuss. Those qualities will serve her well in her professional life after graduation," says Elizabeth.

The homepage of the Rockefeller Center’s website is also a part of Charlotte’s work. She constantly updates this page as well as the Rockefeller Center’s weekly calendar, advertising events and programs. Charlotte is connected to essentially all of the staff at the Center as she constantly communicates with the program directors to determine what they would like posted on the website. Additionally, she works with Tyler Stoff '15, a fellow Student Program Assistant who is in charge of the Rockefeller Center's blog. Together, they decide on what relevant and exciting things from the blog should be shared with the student body vis-à-vis social media.

"One thing that I love about working at Rocky is how welcoming and friendly everyone is," says Charlotte. "My position has allowed me to work with almost everyone at Rocky and it has been so wonderful getting know all of the staff. They are genuinely interested in your studies and helping you prepare for work in the real world."

Charlotte’s position keeps her in touch with everyone and everything at the Rockefeller Center, allowing her to take full advantage of the Center’s best qualities. After working with the Center for several terms, she has enhanced her website design, outreach, and advertising knowledge, compiling a skillset that will prove useful to her well after graduation.

-Written by Nikita Bakhru '17, Rockefeller Center Student Program Assistant  

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dartmouth Now: Governor Urges Dartmouth Students to Consider N.H. Careers

This article, written by Bill Platt, originally appeared in Dartmouth Now on May 21, 2015. Click here to read it on Dartmouth Now's site.

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan's message to millennials at a Dartmouth forum this week was short and to the point: Consider a career in public service in the Granite State.

Gov. Maggie Hassan met with members of the Dartmouth College Democrats during her visit to campus on May 19. Photo by Eli Burakian '00.

"New Hampshire is a great place for that," Hassan said at a public event hosted by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences on Tuesday, May 19. "The state still does politics in a grass-roots way—human capital is what's important."

Hassan, who as the governor is a member of the Dartmouth Board of Trustees, took part in a public conversation with Charles Wheelan ’88, senior lecturer and policy fellow at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. Wheelan, a lecturer in economics and author of The Centrist Manifesto, observed that the fractious environment in politics today has engendered a growing cynicism among the electorate, particularly the generation in college today.

Hassan agreed that rigid ideology has created gridlock nationally, but she again pointed to New Hampshire as a place where public officials, with the exception of a few “outliers,’ are still focused on problem solving.

"We are supposed to have disagreements," Hassan said. "Then we come together because it's our job." She pointed to the budget fights in her previous term. In the end, lawmakers compromised so that "everyone disliked something" in the final agreement. A whole new set of disagreements are on display with the current budget debate, but Hassan said she is confident lawmakers will find common ground in Concord.

In contrast, Hassan pointed to the inability of the U.S. House to pass a long-term transportation funding bill, which would support infrastructure work in the states. In New Hampshire, officials on both sides of the aisle as well as business leaders all want infrastructure repairs to be funded, but Congress cannot get it done, Hassan said.

The governor met with Dartmouth College Democrats before the public event, many of whom worked on her 2014 campaign. Charlotte Blatt '18, vice president of the campus group, said that in the midterm election about 1,000 Dartmouth students voted. While it was the highest ever student turnout for a midterm election, Blatt asked Hassan for advice on inspiring even more students to vote.

It is essential to talk about how politics are relevant to students’ lives, Hassan said. With issues such as raising the minimum wage, guaranteeing access to education, and providing job opportunities for young people to stay in the state, it’s important to talk about how these changes would affect real people, she said.

Hassan said students need to see how politics affects them personally. She pointed to a May 15 decision by the New Hampshire Supreme Court that ruled unconstitutional a Republican-backed law that tied the right to vote with the requirement that voters re-register their car and obtain new driver's licenses within 60 days of moving to the state.

This was a direct threat to the voting rights of college students, Hassan said. In fact, the lead petitioners in the case were four students from the University of New Hampshire.

Mariah Williams, MALS '15, of the campus Democrats told Hassan she is drawn to work in public policy, but she is concerned about the lack of diversity and job opportunities for her in the state.

"As an African American female, how can I help New Hampshire if I don’t see myself here?" she asked.

The demographics of New Hampshire are changing, Hassan said. "Democracy makes progress as more people come to the table," she said. When she was first elected in 2012, New Hampshire became the first state in the nation with an all-female congressional delegation and governorship.

"So you may be able to see yourself here," Hassan told Williams. "You would make a great leader."

Public Program: Q&A with Professor Steven Kaplan

Before the Portman Lecture in the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, "Are CEOs Overpaid?" on April 14, Courtney Wong '15 sat down with Professor Steven N. Kaplan for an interview.

The Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Steven N. Kaplan is one of the world’s top researchers on private equity, venture capital, corporate governance, executive talent, and income inequality. Professor Kaplan is also the faculty director of Booth’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and he teaches advanced MBA, law and executive courses in entrepreneurial finance, private equity, corporate finance, corporate governance, and wealth management. In addition, he co-founded the entrepreneurship program at Booth, which has successfully spawned more than 100 companies, including GrubHub and Braintree.

Professor Steven N. Kaplan discusses CEO at the Portman Lecture in the Spirit of Entrepreneurship. Photo by Hung Nguyen '18.

Courtney Wong (CW): Without spoiling too much before the panel, why do you think that market forces largely determine CEO pay and that CEOs are in fact more correctly paid for their performance than we think?

Steven N. Kaplan (SK): There are a bunch of reasons. Number one, I think that you can see that CEO pay today is actually lower on average than it was 15 years ago. This view that it keeps going up and up is just not in the data.

Number two, there is a view that CEOs are overpaid in public companies where the shareholders are distant. Contrast that with private companies where basically the owner controls the company and decides who gets paid what. As a result, many people think that public companies are the ones that overpay their CEOs and that private companies do it right because they don’t have this problem. However, if you look at the growth in the pay of these two groups, the private group has gone up more in pay, which is opposite of what we would expect if we think that public company CEOs are overpaid.

Also, if you look at how public company CEOs have done over the last 20-25 years versus other people at the very top 1 percent, the ratio hasn’t changed since 1993. That’s exactly what you would expect if you think CEO pay is market driven.

CW: So if this is the case, why do CEOs get a bad rep for having a pay that is seemingly blown out of proportion? Why don’t we get mad at athletes or celebrities who have high salaries?

SK: Because CEOs are still paid a lot today. However, this isn’t true of just CEOs – it’s also true of athletes and movie stars. Everyone mentions that the people at the top, not just the CEOs, make more now than they used to, but the CEOs are just particularly visible because they have to report it publicly, which gets a lot of attention. But I don’t think – and this is where you get the arguments – I don’t think they’re any different than many other groups. CEOs, like others, are subject to market forces and those who think that this is a problem should deal with the entire problem and not just focus on them.

CW: The first version of the paper, "Are CEOs Overpaid?" was published in 2007. How have things changed since then?

SK: The argument that I’ve made has gotten stronger. The data continues to support what I’ve been saying, and I think what has been in the popular press regarding this topic has become broader. The criticisms of CEO pay are not as intense as they used to be, but you do see more criticisms of the top 1 percent more generally. If anything, I think that over time there has been more of an understanding that this is a broader issue. I don’t know if I have an answer to it, but it’s definitely a tough issue that sparks economic and political debate.

Professor Kaplan co-founded the entrepreneurship program at the Booth School of Business, which has successfully spawned more than 100 companies. Photo by Hung Nguyen '18.

CW: What’s your favorite course to teach and why?

SK: I love all my courses, but I mainly teach two. In the fall, I teach a course on entrepreneurial finance and private equity. In that course, I teach students how to evaluate startups and buyouts, and explain what venture capitalists and private equity investors do. That course is huge fun. The cases are fun, and the students are terrific.

In the spring, I run a course around our business plan competition ("New Venture Challenge"), which is essentially an accelerator. For this competition, we take companies that are very young with at least one MBA student involved, and we help grow them throughout the course. First we select the companies, taking about 30 out of 90 applications, and then we throw the teams into our network. During the course, the teams present to a group of about 10-13 entrepreneurs and investors who really give them tough but constructive criticism. Then the teams go off and make the company better. They present again, get beaten up again, and then they continue to make it better until the final round, for which we bring in judges from around the country to evaluate their work.

This process is usually productive. For example, this year one of the companies from the '06 competition, GrubHub, went public and is now worth somewhere between $3 and $4 billion. This course is also huge fun because you see the improvement in these companies and really help them get better.

CW: What are the benefits to this kind of experiential learning?

SK: First of all, you get to apply the stuff you’ve learned in class to a real world situation. You have to do strategy, marketing, and finance, which is very helpful. Then if you’re serious about the startup, and ours are, this process is incredibly efficient to either push you upward or tell you to give it up.

The key thing is, it’s a great experience for the students because a, they get to use what they’ve learned; b, they learn a ton about whether they are going to succeed or not; and c, they see the feedback that all the other teams are getting. There’s a huge amount of learning in that and therefore it’s very efficient.