NYU Washington, DC and the NYU Brademas Center presented a screening of Charlie vs Goliath, a feature-length documentary about a former Catholic priest returning to Wyoming after working among the poor in Venezuela. Upon his return, however, he saw homelessness and hunger, poverty and despair, and decided to try and fix things by running for the US Senate.
His opponent was supported by a huge campaign chest bolstered by corporate donations – something Hardy had rejected. This film chronicles one man’s battle to take on the political establishment and show you can win in politics without discarding your values.
NYU DC faculty Tad Devine and Ron Christie joined a discussion following the film. This dialogue was moderated by NYUDC Global Leadership Scholar, Manahil Zafar.
Ron Christie, founder and President of Christie Strategies LLC, is a veteran senior advisor of both the White House and the Congress, brings years of government relations and media experience.
Previously, Christie served as Vice President of Navigators Global LLC - a strategic consulting and communications firm. He previously served as Executive Vice President and Director of Global Government Affairs at Ruder Finn and Of Counsel at the Washington D.C. law firm Patton Boggs, LLP. From 2002 to 2004, he was Acting Director of USA Freedom Corps and special assistant to President George W. Bush. He began service at the White House in 2001 as deputy assistant to Vice President Cheney for domestic policy, advising the Vice President on policy initiatives in healthcare, budget, tax and other policy areas.
Prior to joining the Vice President's staff, he briefly served as counsel to U.S. Senator George Allen (R-VA). He previously served as a senior advisor to former House Budget Committee Chairman and current Ohio Governor John Kasich from 1992-1999.
Christie served as a Resident Fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University for the Fall 2011 term. He was appointed as an Adjunct Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University in 2014. He also teaches The Business of Lobbying at Georgetown's McDonough School of Business He was appointed last year to the advisory board of the Georgetown University Institute of Politics.
Additionally he has also served as a Visiting Assistant Professor at Haverford College as well as an adjunct professor at The George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management and was a visiting assistant professor of Political Science at Haverford College in 2009 and 2011. He has also served as a guest lecturer at University of Virginia's Center for Politics.
Thomas A. (Tad) Devine was born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1955. He was an All-State basketball player at La Salle Academy, and received his A.B. in American History from Brown University, and his J.D. from Suffolk University School of Law. He is a member of the Bar in Rhode Island and the District of Columbia, and a member of the Board of Directors and Secretary of the Corporation at IFES, the International Foundation for Electoral Systems, an NGO which is a global leader in the promotion of democracy.
Since 1993, Tad has worked as a media consultant— writing, directing and producing television and radio advertising for leading Democratic and Independent candidates in the U.S. and providing strategic and media advice for national campaigns in Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. He has produced television advertising in 20 winning U.S. Senate & Gubernatorial campaigns, and worked as a media consultant and strategist in 11 winning campaigns for President or Prime Minister around the world.
Tad Devine has been recognized as one of “the nation’s most respected media consultants” by USA Today, and in 2003 Ireland’s Sunday Business Post called his firm “one of the most highly regarded and influential in the world.”
In the United States, Tad has worked at the highest-levels of campaigns for President. In 2016 he served as Chief Strategist for Bernie Sanders campaign, and his firm produced the acclaimed and award winning media for that campaign. In 2004, Tad served as senior advisor and strategist to John Kerry’s campaign for President in both the primary and the general election. He frequently represented the campaign on programs like Meet the Press and Face the Nation. In 2000, he served as a senior strategist to the Gore/Lieberman campaign and oversaw day-to-day management in the general election.
Tad is considered one of the leading experts on the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating process and general election strategy. His work in presidential politics began in 1980 on President Carter’s campaign. He worked for Walter Mondale in 1984 and Governor Michael Dukakis in 1988. In the general election that year, he served as Campaign Manager for the Vice Presidential nominee, Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas. In 1992, Tad was Campaign Manager for Senator Bob Kerrey’s campaign for President.
Tad has also worked in law, government and academia. From 1982-83 he served as a law clerk to the Rhode Island Superior Court, and from 1985-87 he worked as an Associate Attorney in the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm of Winston & Strawn. From 1989-90, he served as a Chief of Staff to the Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island.
From 1991-93, Tad served as Assistant to the President of Boston University, where he taught a course on presidential campaigns and was a frequent university lecturer. He has also taught campaign management and strategy courses at George Washington University, University of Pennsylvania, and New York University. In 2011, Tad was a Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government where he led a study group on international political consulting.
Tad lives in Block Island, RI and Washington, DC with his wife Ellen their and their pug Maeby. They are the parents of three adult children – Anna, Jacqueline and Thomas.
Manahil Zafar is a sophomore at New York University, pursuing a double major in Journalism and Psychology. During her semester at Washington D.C., she will be interning with the Liberty and National Security program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Manahil is a NYUDC Global Leadership Scholar, a Dean’s Circle Scholar, and Dean’s List honoree. She is currently on the pre-law track and is hoping to open her own law firm in the future.
After being snubbed by his congressional representatives, Charlie decides to run for office himself in 2014 and manages to win the Democratic Party’s nomination for the US Senate. His Republican opponent has a $3 million war chest, and Charlie’s advisors urge him to focus his efforts on fundraising. Instead, Charlie rejects money from special interests and makes campaign finance reform a key part of his platform. The election is considered the most lopsided in the country and his friends say he is “tilting at windmills.” But Charlie is convinced he will triumph even with all the cards stacked against him. A 21st century Don Quixote, Charlie galvanizes a ragged band of young volunteers determined to make waves in Wyoming’s elections, and in so doing set a precedent for the rest of the country.
The film provides an intimate portrayal of this resolute and uniquely charismatic septuagenarian while revealing an inside look at a campaign fueled by hope rather than money. Challenging the belief that our political process is fair and democratic, Charlie vs Goliath explores the question of how an honest and sincere person without money can make a difference running for higher office, and more broadly, whether, in the spirit of Don Quixote, it is worth fighting an unbeatable foe and dreaming an impossible dream.