La Pietra Dialogues Inside American Politics
November 12 - 13, 2018
Political experts and strategists joined the John Brademas Center for a dialogue on the current political landscape in Washington. Originated by NYU La Pietra Dialogues, and now in partnership with NYU DC Dialogues and the NYU Brademas Center, this series provides students of New York University with the opportunity to learn from practitioners in order to gain an insider's view of the American political system.
This group of political insiders assessed current political dynamics in the first years of the Trump Administration. The panel shared their insights and perspectives on how domestic and international events have influenced public opinion.
Conference Schedule - Monday, November 12
Conference Day 1
10:00AM - Registration / Coffee
10:30AM - Opening Remarks / Welcome
10:45AM - Panel 1 - The Mid-term Recap and What Happens Next
****Dependent on outcome of election****
With the Democratic Party seizing control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-term elections, this panel will examine how the party will attempt to govern while preparing for the 2020 general election. Will Speaker-elect Pelosi be forced by the liberal wing of the party toward impeachment proceedings? Or will House Democrats ultimately assume a more traditional oversight role while attempting to set a progressive policy agenda that appeals to independent voters?
Moderator: Jonathan Capehart; Participants: Joel Benenson, Stephanie Cutter, Rob Collins, Michael Steele, Todd Harris
11:45AM - Break
12:00PM - Panel 2 - Challenges within the Democratic Party
As the Democratic Party organizes its leadership, the centrist vs progressive divisions remain. With the average age of the House Democratic Leadership being 72 years old and the average committee leader being 68, does the party also have a significant age issue? This issue is further amplified by Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren likely being strong contenders for the Democratic nomination in 2020. With so many newly elected Democrats in Congress, how and when will the party begin transitioning to a more youthful leadership? WIll the age issue be a factor in energizing the youth vote? Is there still a Clinton-Sanders divide in the party?
Moderator: Lynne Brown; Participants: John Anzalone, Karen Finney, Maria Cino, Kevin Madden, Kiki McLean
1:00PM - Lunch
2:30PM - Panel 3 – The Trump Administration: Years Three and Four
By virtually all measures, President Trump has a completely different leadership style compared to recent U.S. presidents. He seems to make most policy decisions by gut instinct, maintains hostile relationships with key members of his administration, shows disrespect toward many democratic institutions and aggressively challenges foreign allies while showing deference toward leaders of authoritarian regimes. This panel will address the President’s unorthodox leadership style and focus on the question of what policy and political issues emerge and who he will tap to fill key leadership positions as his campaign begins to focus on 2020?
Moderator: Kiki McLean; Participants: Todd Harris, Jonathan Martin, Bettina Inclan, Josh Tucker
3:30PM - Coffee Break
3:45PM - Panel 4 – 2018, The Year of The Woman?
Much like 1992, following the Anita Hill hearings, 2018 saw a dramatic increase in the number of female candidates for federal office. As women voters tend to skew more toward the Democratic Party, this panel will examine what this trend means for the electoral future of both parties. How will the Republican Party seek to attract more college educated women, or will they double down on recreating President’s Trump’s successful 2016 coalition? The panel will examine what having more women in elected office will mean for governance. Will having more women leaders help make a dent in the hyper-partisanship that we have seen in recent years?
Moderator: Betsy Fischer Martin; Panelists: Maria Cino, Stephanie Cutter, Steve McMahon, Kevin Madden
5:00PM - Conference Ends for the Day
Conference Schedule - Tuesday, November 13
Conference Day 2
10:00AM - Registration / Coffee
10:30AM - Welcome from U.S. Consul General Benjamin Wohlauer
10:35AM - Panel 5 – Politicization and Polarization - Influence of Mass Media on American Views and Voting Behavior
As U.S. political discourse becomes increasingly polarized and toxic, this panel will explore the role of the media in this ongoing trend. Does the media effectively create partisan audiences and strengthen existing viewer stances? How does the media’s choices of what to cover and how to cover it affect Americans’ knowledge and understanding of important political and socio-economic issues? How has social media changed the journalism profession and what can traditional media outlets do to maintain influence? The panel will also explore the concept of “fake news,” manipulation of information, and the role of the media as watchdog.
Moderator: Steve McMahon; Participants: Michael Steele, Jonathan Capehart, Betsy Fisher Martin, Josh Tucker
11:35AM - Break
11:45AM - Panel 6 - Political and Policy Forecasting: What’s Ahead on the Road to 2020?
This panel will attempt to forecast the primary policy issues that will define the lead up to the 2020 elections. Will foreign policy issues such as North Korea, NATO and trade policy with China be central issues? Will the Democrats attempt to make the results of the Mueller Russia investigation the primary issue, or will they be able to coalesce around a set of progressive policy alternatives? With President Trump’s success as a non-traditional candidate, are the Democrats likely to nominate someone from the business or entertainment world? Who are the strongest challengers, in both parties, to President Trump in 2020?
Moderator: Lisa Benenson; Panelists: Rob Collins, Joel Benenson, Karen Finney,
Kevin Madden, John Anzalone, Bettina Inclan
12:45PM - Final Remarks
1:00PM - Conference Closing
John Anzalone, Democratic Pollster
John Anzalone has over twenty-five years of polling experience and has polled for the presidential campaigns of both Barack Obama (2008 & 2012) and Hillary Clinton (2016). John has helped elect U.S. Senators, Governors and dozens of members of Congress. In 2018, John helped elect gubernatorial candidates in Michigan (Gretchen Whitmer), and Nevada (Steve Sisolak). In 2016, he polled for North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and the fight against the state’s anti-LGBT laws and also polls for Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards. During the 2018 midterms, John’s firm has flipped five congressional seats and four independent expenditure races across the country.
In the last two decades, John has helped beat more incumbent Republicans and take back more Republican seats than any other polling firm in the nation. ALG Polling works regularly with the DSCC, DGA, and DCCC, as well as with the Human Rights Campaign, Emily’s List, the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood.
Prior to his polling career, Anzalone was a campaign operative and was one of the first staffers in Iowa for Joe Biden for President in 1987. He also worked for democratic strategists James Carville in U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg’s 1988 campaign. He began his political career as an aide to David Wilhelm (who later became DNC Chairman) at Citizens for Tax Justice and the AFL-CIO, and then went on to manage campaigns in five states.
The son of two union members, John grew up in St. Joseph, Michigan and graduated from Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, MI. John is married and has four children and lives in Montgomery, AL.
Joel Benenson, Democratic Pollster and Political Strategist; founder and CEO of Benenson Strategy Group
Joel Benenson, founder and CEO of Benenson Strategy Group, is the only Democratic pollster in history to have played a leading role in three winning presidential campaigns — making him the “go-to guy for any politico wanting to take the public’s temperature,” according to GQ. Joel has been the chief pollster and a senior strategist for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential race and President Barack Obama from the beginning of his 2008 campaign, and worked on President Bill Clinton’s polling team during the 1996 race. Since founding the firm in 2000, Joel has served as a strategist and consultant to heads of state, domestic political leaders at all levels, Fortune 100 CEOs, and leaders of major advocacy and nonprofit institutions. His unique combination of communications expertise and astute analysis has led clients across sectors to win in the most challenging competitive situations. Joel’s corporate clients have included CEOs and top executives at Campbell Soup Company, HBO, Toyota, the NFL, Procter & Gamble, Panera Bread Co., Hearst, Blue Star Energy, and MSNBC. In the advocacy and nonprofit sector, he has worked with leading institutions including The Fairness Project, Story Corps. AARP, League of Conservation Voters and SEIU. Joel has been named “Pollster of the Year” by the American Association of Political Consultants, among the “most powerful” people in D.C. by GQ magazine, and a part of “the new lineup in Washington” by Newsweek magazine. He was also included on The New Republic’s “The O-List,” which identified the 30 most influential players in Obama’s 2008 run for office. Joel and the firm also won the Ogilvy Award Gold Medal for Government and Public Service. Before becoming a pollster in 1995, Joel was a political journalist for the Daily News in New York and served as communications director for Governor Mario Cuomo’s 1994 campaign. He was also previously a vice president at the New York ad agency FCB.
Lisa Benenson, Vice President for Communications and Strategy, Brennan Center for Justice
Lisa Benenson is the Vice President for Communications and Strategy at the Brennan Center for Justice. In that role, she serves on the organization’s executive management team, and leads the Brennan Center’s communications strategies and initiatives, marketing and brand, and digital presence. She was previously the Deputy Director of Communications for UNICEF’s global operations, leading the organizations media, digital and internal communications teams. Lisa had previously served as the Chief Communications Officer for the Natural Resources Defense Council, and as Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications, at the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. Before embarking on her career in non-profits, Benenson was a journalist. She was a consulting editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast; was the founding editor of Hallmark Magazine, and was the editorial director at Working Mother and Working Woman magazines. At Hallmark, she played a key role in shaping business strategies to leverage the Hallmark brand and developed and supervised the magazine’s digital and social media operations. At Working Mother, she created the “Take Your Kids to Vote” campaign, a joint initiative with the Council for Excellence in Government. Earlier in her journalism career, Benenson worked for Newsday, where she was a reporter and served as the Assistant National Editor, and for The Denver Post, where she held positions including Metro Editor and Sunday Editor. Benenson has appeared on NBC’s Today Show and was a contributor for the Weekend Today Show. She has also appeared on NBC Nightly News, the CBS Evening News, Oprah, Good Morning America, The Fox Report and other national broadcast programs. She is a board member at P olaris, a leading nonprofit in the fight to eradicate modern slavery, and at Riverkeeper, a New York organization that defends the Hudson River and its tributaries, protecting the drinking water supply of 9 million New Yorkers.
Lynne P. Brown, Senior Vice President for University Relations and Public Affairs, New York University
Lynne P. Brown, Ph.D., is NYU’s Senior Vice President for University Relations and Public Affairs. In that position, Dr. Brown is responsible for the University’s government relations, strategic communications, and university events. A political scientist by training, Dr. Brown received her B.A. from Smith College, where she was elected Phi Beta Kappa, and went on to receive her Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University. At NYU, she taught a graduate seminar on the politics of higher education for twenty years. She is a frequent speaker on national politics, trends in higher education, and leadership strategies. Before coming to NYU, Dr. Brown worked on Capitol Hill for Congressman (and now NYU President Emeritus) John Brademas and Congressman Thomas S. Foley during their tenures as Majority Whips in the House of Representatives. A native New Yorker, Dr. Brown serves on a number of civic boards, including the Union Square Partnership, New York Building Congress, and VillageCare.
Jonathan Capehart, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and member of The Washington Post editorial board
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jonathan Capehart is a member of The Washington Post editorial board, writes about politics and social issues for the PostPartisan blog and hosts the “Cape Up” podcast. He is also an MSNBC Contributor, who regularly serves as a substitute anchor, and was the host of “America on the Line,” a news and national call-in show from WNYC New York Public Radio. Capehart is a regular moderator of panels at the Aspen Ideas Festival and for the Aspen Institute, the Center for American Progress and at the Brussels Forum of the German Marshall Fund. He has also moderated sessions at the Atlantic’s Washington Ideas Forum and for the Connecticut Forum. Between his column, podcast, panel moderating and substitute hosting, Capehart has interviewed important political leaders and cultural icons. Among them include, Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin. Capehart has also interviewed actor Mark Hamill, actress Sonia Braga, jazz greats Wynton Marsalis and Nancy Wilson, Academy Awardwinning actor Christoph Waltz, dancer and choreographer Savion Glover and Bravo television’s Andy Cohen. In September 2014, the Advocate magazine ranked Capehart 9th out of 50 of the most influential LGBT people in media. In December 2014, Mediaite named him one of the “Top 9 Rising Stars of Cable News.” Equality Forum made him a 2018 LGBT History Month Icon in October. In May 2018, the publisher of the Washington Post awarded him an “Outstanding Contribution Award” for his opinion writing and “Cape Up” podcast interviews. Capehart was deputy editorial page editor of the New York Daily News from 2002 to 2004, and served on that paper’s editorial board from 1993 to 2000. In 1999, his 16-month editorial campaign to save the famed Apollo Theatre in Harlem earned him and the board the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. Capehart left the Daily News in July 2000 to become the national affairs columnist at Bloomberg News, and took a leave from this position in February 2001 to serve as a policy adviser to Michael Bloomberg in his first successful campaign for New York City mayor.
Maria Cino, Vice President for Americas, Corporate Affairs, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise
Maria Cino is Vice President for Americas and is responsible for managing HPE’s relationships with governments and political stakeholders in Washington D.C. and throughout the Americas. She also oversees HPE’s U.S. political programs including the HPE political action committee. Maria has over two decades of experience in senior-level positions in the executive and legislative branches as well as the private sector. She joined HP in July 2012 from Pfizer where she held the position of Vice President for Federal Government Relations since 2009. At Pfizer, she led the Reimbursement & Regulatory Affairs, International Government Affairs, and Tax & Trade teams. Maria’s political experience includes a number of senior strategic positions with the Republican National Committee: Bush for President Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee, and Chief of Staff for a Member of Congress. She served as President and CEO of the 2008 Republican National Convention in Minneapolis where she organized the successful four-day event supporting 45,000 delegates. In addition, Maria has held two Senate-confirmed, Presidential appointments: Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (2005-2007), and Assistant Secretary and Director General of the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service at the U.S. Department of Commerce (2001-2003). At Transportation, Maria was responsible for the day-to-day management of a $61 billion budget, ten modal administrations and approximately 60,000 employees. At Commerce, Maria managed an annual budget of $200 million and supervised 1,700 employees at 105 domestic offices and 162 international offices in 85 countries. Maria is a native of Buffalo, New York and a graduate of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York.
Rob Collins, Republican Political Strategist and Partner in S-3 Public Affairs
Rob Collins is a veteran strategist and partner at S-3 Public Affairs. In the Spring of 2017, the Trump Administration asked Collins to ‘quarterback’ the successful bipartisan nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the United States Supreme Court. In that role, Collins worked directly with West Wing senior staff, the Office of the Vice President, the White House Counsel, the Department of Justice, the White House Office of Legislative Policy, Legislative Affairs, the Inter-governmental Office, the White House Public Liaison Office, and the White House Communications Office. Additionally, Collins worked closely with Senate Leadership, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office, the Senate Judiciary Committee, over 20 outside advocacy groups, and Judge Gorsuch’s team. Prior to S-3, Collins was the Executive Director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), a $125 million, 80-person organization responsible for electing Republicans to the U.S. Senate. During his tenure at the NRSC he helped reelect 12 incumbents and elect 12 new Republicans. These pickups were a part of a historic 9-seat gain for the Republicans, the largest GOP-gain in over 35 years. Before taking over at the NRSC, Collins was a partner at Purple Strategies, a bipartisan consulting firm. He also ran the American Action Network (AAN), which raised over $30 million for advocacy in 5 Senate races and 35 House districts that helped the Republicans retake the House of Representatives in 2010. While at AAN, he created the Hispanic Leadership Network co-chaired by Governor Jeb Bush and Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. Before starting the Network, Collins spent 7 years as Chief of Staff for Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). Collins has been chosen by Roll Call Newspaper as a member of the ‘Fab 50 Staffers in DC’ 4-times, twice he has been selected to be on the ‘Power 100’ by Washingtonian Magazine and Recently Fortune Magazine cited him as the ‘Top Strategist’ for Republicans in 2016.
Stephanie Cutter, Founding Partner, Precision Strategies, and Former Deputy Campaign Manager and Senior Advisor to President Obama
Stephanie Cutter is the founding partner of Precision Strategies, a leading communications, digital and data targeting consulting firm in Washington DC and New York City. At Precision, Stephanie has revolutionized the integration of datadriven communications with digital and campaign style organizing to improve reputations, manage crises and drive people to action. She has improved the brand of one of the nation’s largest health insurers during a controversial merger; successfully launched a news network; restored the reputation of a multinational financial institution; reshaped a national storyline on behalf of a leading NFL quarterback; and successfully managed a global crisis for a well known consumer tech platform. Called “one of the most prominent voices in the [Democratic] party, and one of its top strategists and crisis managers” by Politico, Stephanie has crafted high-level communications, reputation and crisis-management strategies for two U.S. Presidents, U.S. Senate leaders, and the nation’s highest profile political campaigns and Fortune 500 corporations. The New York Times called her “the polished, sometimes scarily organized strategist who gets things done” who “has a long and favorable reputation with some of the most influential journalists and opinion makers in Washington.” GQ named her one of “the 50 most powerful people in Washington.” Stephanie served as Deputy Campaign Manager for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, where she played a pivotal role in designing and executing a game-changing campaign that broke barriers in understanding, reaching, and connecting with more Americans than any election in history. Previously, Stephanie served in various senior positions within the Obama administration and campaign, from managing the President’s message strategy and issue development in the White House, to serving as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chief of Staff, to counselor to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Before the Obama administration, Stephanie served as a senior advisor to Minority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Senator Edward M. Kennedy. In 2004, she served as Communications Director for the John Kerry for President Campaign. She also held various positions within the Clinton Administration, including President Clinton’s White House Deputy Communications Director. A Massachusetts native, Stephanie lives in Washington, DC with her son, and is a graduate of Smith College and Georgetown University Law Center. Stephanie is currently a contributor to ABC News, and is a former co-host of CNN’s Crossfire show. Stephanie is represented by Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau in Washington, D.C.
Karen Finney, Political Consultant and Media Commentator; Senior Advisor to Stacey Abrams for Governor campaign
Karen Finney is a leading political consultant and television commentator who works with political and corporate clients in the United States and globally on message development, crisis communications, branding, public affairs and strategy. Most recently she was a Residential Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, Fall 2017. During the 2016 presidential elections Finney served as Senior Advisor for Communications and Political Outreach and Senior Spokesperson for Hillary Clinton, additionally she was Communications Director for U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), the Vice Presidential nominee. From her experience working in media, national politics, political and communications strategy in both the public and private sectors, Finney brings a unique perspective to her work. Finney hosted her own television show on MSNBC, “Disrupt with Karen Finney,” where she also worked as a contributor and political analyst for several years. Her work also includes four presidential campaigns, service in the Clinton White House, and Hillary Clinton’s first New York Senate race. Her international work includes a joint project with the French American Foundation and the American Embassy working with minority political candidates in France following the election of Barack Obama. The first and only African American spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, Finney helped lead the DNC’s communications and media strategy for Howard Dean’s “50 State Strategy,” re-branding the Democratic Party, the successful 2006 Congressional elections and DNC communications efforts during 2008 presidential campaign. Finney has also worked to improve public education. As Chief of Staff to the Chairman, CEO and President of Scholastic Inc., Karen led a number of corporate projects including branding campaigns, internet strategy and partnership development. As Director of Business Development and Strategy, she developed and oversaw the growth of Scholastic, Inc. into new market areas and cultivated strategic relationships with key organizations in the public and private sectors. As the chief spokesperson and Communications Director for the New York City Board of Education, Karen also managed crisis communications in the aftermath of 9/11. Karen serves on the boards of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Power Rising, Ultraviolet and the Civic Engagement Fund. Finney continues to appear regularly on television as a political analyst and has written columns for The Hill and US News and World Report.
Betsy Fischer Martin, Executive Director, Women & Politics Institute, American University and Former Executive Producer of "Meet the Press"
Betsy Fischer Martin is an Emmy-winning journalist and former TV news executive. Currently she is the Executive Director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University and a member of the International Advisory Council of APCO Worldwide. She also founded her own consulting business, Fischer Martin Media, where she specializes in providing media training to corporate executives. During the 2016 presidential campaign cycle, she was a contributor to Bloomberg Politics where she co-hosted “Masters in Politics” - a political podcast featuring interviews with presidential candidates, government officials and key strategists. She was also the Contributing Editor for Washington for MORE Magazine where she interviewed female political leaders about policy issues, women’s empowerment and leadership. Additionally, she traveled abroad extensively on behalf of the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs, speaking to foreign journalists, students and political/civic organizations as an independent expert on U.S. elections, women in politics and women in media. During her earlier career in television news, she spent 23 years at NBC News serving as the longtime Executive Producer of Meet the Press with Tim Russert and as the Managing Editor of NBC News Political Programming. A native of New Orleans, Fischer Martin did her undergraduate and graduate work at American University in Washington, DC. She is a cum laude graduate of their School of Public Affairs and earned a master’s degree in Broadcast Journalism from the AU School of Communications.
Todd Harris, Republican Strategist and Partner, Something Else Strategies
Todd Harris is one of the nation’s preeminent media and communications strategists. Roll Call dubbed him “A spinner extraordinaire in the world of political communication,” while Buzzfeed wrote his media work belongs in the “Political Advertising Hall of Fame.” Todd served as senior strategist and media consultant for Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s 2016 campaign for president. He has produced award-winning media for leading Republican candidates and causes, and served as a senior strategist for a who’s who of GOP officials including Senator Joni Ernst, Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. John McCain, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has advised some of the nation’s largest corporations, political committees and trade associations including Wal-Mart, Pfizer, Calpine Energy, Magnolia Pictures, the RNC, NRCC, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace and many others. He is a sought-after media source, appearing regularly in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press and many others, and is a regular guest on several political news programs on MSNBC, FOX News and CNN. Harris is a California native. He lives with his wife and two daughters in McLean, VA.
Bettina Inclán, Communications and Republican Strategist and Executive Director of RightNOW
Bettina Inclán is a seasoned communications and political strategist with a deep understanding of the nation’s political and cultural landscape. She utilizes over a decade of knowledge at the intersection of media, government, politics and community relations to provide creative, politically savvy and smart insights to clients. She has leveraged her experience in senior roles in political campaigns, at the Republican National Committee (RNC), National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), on Capitol Hill, and in multiple political organizations to help clients navigate through crisis management and maximize strategic communications efforts in a host of issue areas. Bettina is recognized as a leading expert in women and Hispanic outreach. She was presented with the “Women To Watch” Award by the “Running Start” a non- partisan organization focused on inspiring girls to run for public office. Latina Magazine named her one of the top six Latino Players in the 2012 Presidential Race. In 2014, she was featured in Cosmo for Latina’s 2014 Power Issue. She has provided political commentary on news outlets like MSBNC, FOX News, CNN, PBS, and Al Jazeera America. She formerly co-hosted a political radio show on Sirius XM satellite radio. Currently, she is the Executive Director of RightNOW, a women’s empowerment nonprofit. She is also the President and Founder of Mira Mira Strategies, Corp. Most importantly, Bettina is a busy mother of two boys. A happy wife who enjoys documenting her family life on social media. She is the proud daughter of a Cuban exile and a Mexican immigrant.
Kevin Madden, Republican Strategist and Partner at Hamilton Place Strategies
Kevin Madden is a partner at Hamilton Place Strategies [HPS], serving as an adviser and counselor to a client roster that includes the nation’s top corporations, business associations, industry coalitions, foundations and non-profits. Building off of over 20 years of experience operating in some of the most high-profile debates from Wall Street to Washington, Kevin leads HPS teams in the design and management of comprehensive, modern and effective public affairs campaigns, working with CEOs and their executive teams to navigate today’s challenging media environment. Prior to his leadership role as a partner at HPS, Kevin served as a senior strategist and spokesman on three presidential campaigns from 2004 to 2016. In addition to his national campaign experience, Kevin was a top congressional leadership staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving as spokesman and communications strategist in the Office of the House Majority Leader. Kevin also served as Deputy Director of Public Affairs and national spokesman for the Department of Justice. Kevin’s experience with today’s modern media, as a frequent guest on national and international cable and broadcast news outlets, has earned him a reputation as a sought after media strategist and crisis communications manager. He also serves on the advisory board of the Bipartisan Policy Center Action Network.
Jonathan Martin, National Political Correspondent, The New York Times
Jonathan Martin is a national political correspondent for The New York Times. Before joining The Times, he had served as senior political writer for Politico since its inception in 2007. He began covering politics for National Journal’s political publication, The Hotline, and then reported on party politics and the aftermath of the 2006 midterm elections for National Review magazine. Mr. Martin is a co-author of the New York Times best seller “The End of the Line: Romney vs. Obama: The 34 Days That Decided the Election” (December 2012), the fourth and final e-book in Politico’s 2012 series on the race for the presidency. His work has been published in The New Republic, National Journal, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. He has appeared frequently on television and radio as a political analyst and commentator, including on CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, MSNBC and NPR.
Catherine “Kiki” McLean, Leading Public Affairs and Political Strategist and Director of the Walton Family Political and Communications Office
Catherine “Kiki” McLean is a leading public affairs and political strategist. She is the director of the Walton Family Political and Communications Office. Previously, she served as counsel for the Washington, D.C., office of Porter Novelli and the agency’s global public affairs efforts. She assumed this role after four years leading the Washington, D.C., and global public affairs practices and serving as a member of Porter Novelli’s Executive Committee. In her work, Kiki’s expertise is in strategic communications and public affairs. A veteran of six presidential campaigns, including the historic 1992 Clinton-Gore campaign, Kiki has more than 25 years of experience leading strategic communications initiatives. She served as senior advisor to the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign in 2008, and has served as spokesperson and led communications for Vice President Al Gore, Senator Joe Lieberman, the Democratic National Committee and others. Kiki McLean is a native of San Antonio, Texas, and received her Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree in Communications from Austin College in Sherman, Texas. She serves on several not-for-profit and corporate boards of directors.
Steve McMahon, Democratic Strategist and Co-Founder of Purple Strategies
Steve McMahon is an attorney and co-founder of Purple Strategies, LLC, a firm that applies politically-inspired solutions to corporate reputation and business challenges. He’s advised Senators, Governors, CEOs and presidential candidates on political and communications strategies for over thirty years. McMahon began his professional career working on the Senate and political staff of Senator Edward M.Kennedy, where he served as Assistant Press Secretary and later, as Deputy Director of Kennedy’s PAC, the Fund for a Democratic Majority. McMahon began working as a political strategist and media consultant in 1987, and has worked on dozens of Senate, Gubernatorial and Mayoral campaigns across the country. McMahon worked in the U.S. presidential campaigns of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, served as senior political strategist and media consultant for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, and produced the advertising in support of then Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic National Committee in the 2008 presidential campaign. He has also produced issue advertising for the Democratic National Committee (DNC) the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). On the international front, McMahon and his partners worked as strategic advisors or campaign consultants on successful presidential campaigns in Nicaragua for Violetto Chamarro and in Greece for Andreas Papandreaou. For the past decade, McMahon’s principal focus has been on providing comprehensive reputation, brand image, crisis, and issue advocacy campaigns to companies and industries operating in challenging environments. Their clients have included many of the best-known brands in the world, including McDonald’s, BP and Coca-Cola. He and his colleagues have also handled numerous and initiative and referenda campaigns on a wide range of subjects and helped develop litigation communication strategies for companies engaged in significant class action and government-initiated litigation. Steve McMahon appears often as a political commentator on television network and cable stations, and appears regularly as a Democratic Strategist on MSNBC and other political programming. Steve is married to Cynthia Alksne, a former federal prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst. The couple has four daughters.
Michael Steele, Former RNC Chairman, Former Lt. Governor of Maryland, Host "Man of Steele" podcast
When he was elected Lt. Governor of Maryland in 2003, Michael Steele made history as the first African American elected to statewide office; and again with his subsequent chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 2009. As chairman of the RNC, Michael Steele was charged with revitalizing the Republican Party. A self-described “Lincoln Republican,” under Steele’s leadership the RNC broke fundraising records (over $198 million raised during the 2010 Congressional cycle) and Republicans won 63 House seats, the biggest pickup since 1938. His commitment to grassroots organization and party building at the state and local levels produced 12 governorships and the greatest share of state legislative seats since 1928 (over 760 seats). As Lt. Governor of Maryland, Mr. Steele’s priorities included reforming the state’s Minority Business Enterprise program, improving the quality of Maryland’s public education system (he championed the State’s historic Charter School law), expanding economic development in the state and fostering cooperation between government and faith-based organizations to help those in need. Mr. Steele’s ability as a communicator and commentator has been showcased through his current role as a political analyst for MSNBC. He has appeared on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, and Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. In addition to his work in television, Mr. Steele co-hosted the daily radio program, Steele & Ungar on the POTUS Channel on SiriusXM and is the host of the podcast Man of Steele. Mr. Steele’s writings on law, business and politics have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Hill.com, The Grio.com, Politico.com, The Root.com, BET.com, Townhall.com, The Journal of International Security Affairs and Catholic University Law Review, among others. He is the author of Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda, which is a call to arms for grassroots America and co-author of The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis. Born at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Mr. Steele was raised in Washington, DC. Upon graduating Johns Hopkins University (‘81’), he entered the Order of St. Augustine where studied for the priesthood. He is a graduate of Georgetown Law Center (’91), an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership and a University of Chicago Institute of Politics Fellow.
Ellyn Toscano, Executive Director, New York University Florence and Founder and Director, La Pietra Dialogues
Ellyn Toscano is Executive Director of New York University Florence, a campus of New York University that hosts nearly 1000 students a year. She directs NYU’s Villa La Pietra, a 15th century villa and collection of six thousand objects dating from the Etruscans to the 20th century. She founded and directs La Pietra Dialogues, a year-long series of conferences, exhibitions and talks, and founded and produces The Season, a summer cultural festival that assembles artists, writers, musicians and public intellectuals to produce new work or reinterpretations of classics in the Villa’s expansive Renaissance revival gardens. Before arriving at New York University Florence, Ms. Toscano served as Chief of Staff and Counsel to Congressman Jose Serrano of New York for two decades, was his chief policy advisor on legislative, political and media concerns and directed his work on the Appropriations Committee. Ms. Toscano also served as counsel to the New York State Assembly Committee on Education for nine years. She has served on the boards of several prominent arts and cultural institutions including the Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Brooklyn Academy of Music (as the representative of the Brooklyn Borough President). She currently serves on the Honorary Board of the Museo Marino Marini in Florence, the Advisory Board of the John Brademas Center, New York, the Italian Advisory Council of the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Italy, and the Board of Directors of the National Parks of New York Harbor Conservancy. A lawyer by training, Ms. Toscano earned an LLM in International Law from New York University School of Law.
Joshua Tucker, Professor of Politics, Director of Jordan Center for Advanced Study of Russia, co-Director of the SMaPP Laboratory and co-editor of award-winning blog The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post
Joshua A. Tucker is Professor of Politics, affiliated Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies, and affiliated Professor of Data Science at New York University. He is the Director of NYU’s Jordan Center for Advanced Study of Russia, a co-Director of the NYU Social Media and Political Participation (SMaPP) laboratory, and a co-author/editor of the award-winning politics and policy blog The Monkey Cage at The Washington Post. He serves on the advisory board of the American National Election Study, the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems, and numerous academic journals, and was the co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Experimental Political Science. His original research was on mass political behavior in post-communist countries, including voting and elections, partisanship, public opinion formation, and protest participation. More recently, he has been at the forefront of the newly emerging field of study of the relationship between social media and politics. His research in this area has included studies on the effects of network diversity on tolerance, partisan echo chambers, online hate speech, the effects of exposure to social media on political knowledge, online networks and protest, disinformation and fake news, how authoritarian regimes respond to online opposition, and Russian bots and trolls. His research has appeared in over two-dozen scholarly journals, and his most recent book is the co-authored Communism’s Shadow: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Political Attitudes (Princeton University Press, 2017). Professor Tucker’s research on social media and politics has been supported by over $2.7 million in grants and gifts in the past 18 months from five philanthropic foundations and the National Science Foundation. Follow him @j_a_tucker.