November 29, 2018
Sidley Austin LLP and NYU School of Law co-hosted the 3rd Annual Sidley Austin Forum.
The program examined the results of the 2018 congressional midterms and state and local contests around the country to assess their implications for governance and the political landscape.
A reception immediately followed the lecture.
The Sidley Austin Forum is held annually and co-hosted by Sidley Austin LLP and NYU School of Law’s Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic. The Forum explores topics critical to American democracy, citizen engagement, and public service. Over Sidley’s 150-year history, the firm has been committed to honoring and supporting the rule of law in our democracy. Sidley has built a reputation as a premier legal adviser for global businesses and financial institutions with 1,900 lawyers in 20 offices worldwide.
1:00 p.m. Welcome
1:15 p.m. Keynote
Henry Olsen, Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center
2:00 p.m. Break
2:15 p.m. PANEL I: Implications for Governance
3:30 p.m. Break
3:45 p.m. PANEL II: Implications for American Politics
5:00 p.m. Closing Remarks
5:15 p.m. Reception
Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, studies and provides commentary on American politics. His work focuses on how America’s political order is being upended by populist challenges, from the left and the right. He also studies populism’s impact in other democracies in the developed world.
He is the author of The Working Class Republican: Ronald Reagan and the Return of Blue-Collar Conservatism and The Four Faces of the Republican Party, co-authored with Dante Scala. Mr. Olsen is also an editor at UnHerd.com, where he writes about populism and politics around the world, and he is a regular contributor to American Greatness, City Journal, and World Magazine.
Mr. Olsen’s work has been featured in many prominent publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, National Review, The Guardian, and The Weekly Standard. His pre-election predictions of the 2008, 2010, 2012, and 2014 elections were particularly praised for their remarkable accuracy. In the 2016 campaign, he accurately identified the factors fueling the rise of Donald Trump early in the race, and his election eve predictions were more accurate than those of virtually any other major analyst or commentator.
Mr. Olsen has worked in senior executive positions at many center-right think tanks. He most recently served from 2006 to 2013 as Vice President and Director, National Research Initiative, at the American Enterprise Institute. He previously worked as Vice President of Programs at the Manhattan Institute and President of the Commonwealth Foundation.
Mr. Olsen started his career as a political consultant at the California firm of Hoffenblum-Mollrich. He then worked with the California State Assembly Republican Caucus before attending law school. He served as a law clerk to the Honorable Danny J. Boggs on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and as an associate at Dechert, Price & Rhoads. He has a B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School, where he served as Comment Editor for the University of Chicago Law Review.
American political consultant and analyst
David Axelrod is a preeminent American political strategist and commentator and the former chief strategist and senior advisor to President Barack Obama. Axelrod currently serves as the founding director of the University of Chicago's non-partisan Institute of Politics and as a senior political commentator for CNN. He is the host of The Axe Files, a top-rated podcast featuring in depth conversations with public figures across the political spectrum. A televised version of the show airs monthly on CNN. A former political writer for the Chicago Tribune, Axelrod produced media strategy and advertising for 150 campaigns across the US, culminating in President Obama’s historic elections.
Axelrod is also the author of The New York Times best-selling memoir, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.
Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence; Co-Director of the Legislative and Regulatory Process Clinic, NYU School of Law and former White House Counsel to President Barack Obama
In Bob Bauer’s 40 years of practice, he has provided counseling and representation on matters involving regulation of political activity before the courts and administrative agencies of national party committees, candidates, political committees, individuals, federal officeholders, corporations and trade associations, and tax-exempt groups.
Bauer served as White House counsel to President Obama, and returned to private practice in June 2011. In 2013, the president named Bauer to be co-chair of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration, which in January of 2014 submitted to the president its findings and recommendations in “The American Voting Experience: Report and Recommendations of the Presidential Commission on Election Administration.”
He is the author of several books: United States Federal Election Law (1982, 1984), Soft Money Hard Law: A Guide to the New Campaign Finance Law (2002) and More Soft Money Hard Law: The Second Edition of the Guide to the New Campaign Finance Law (2004) and numerous articles for law reviews and periodicals. He also serves on the National Advisory Board of Journal of Law and Politics. In 2000, he received the "Burton Award for Legal Achievement" for his legal writing. Bauer writes the weblog More Soft Money Hard Law on campaign finance and other topics in political law, and he is a contributing editor of Lawfare and writes for legal commentary for Just Security.
Bauer was general counsel to Obama for America, the President’s campaign organization, in 2008 and 2012, and he is general counsel to the Democratic National Committee. He has also served as co-counsel to the New Hampshire State Senate in the trial of Chief Justice David A. Brock (2000); general counsel to the Bill Bradley for President Committee (1999-2000); and counsel to the Democratic Leader in the trial of President William Jefferson Clinton (1999).
He has co-authored numerous bipartisan reports, including “Report of Counsel to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee in the Matter of the United States Senate Seat From Louisiana” in the 105th Congress of the United States (March 27, 1997); “Campaign Finance Reform,” A Report to the Majority Leader and Minority Leader of the United States Senate (March 6, 1990); and “The Presidential Election Process in the Philippines”, a bipartisan report prepared at the request of the chairman and ranking member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations (1986).
Emily Ekins is a research fellow and director of polling at the Cato Institute. Her research focuses on public opinion, American politics, political psychology, and social movements. She leads the Cato Institute project on public opinion in which she designs and conducts national public opinion surveys and experiments, including on issues of policing, free speech, immigration, banking, health care, and paid leave. She also serves on the editorial committee of the Democracy Fund’s Voter Study Group. Her publications include: The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America: Attitudes about Free Speech, Campus Speech, Religious Liberty, and Tolerance of Political Expression, and the Five Types of Trump Voters.
Before joining Cato, she spent four years as the director of polling for Reason Foundation where she conducted national public opinion polls and published specialized research studies. Prior to joining Reason, Emily worked as a research associate at Harvard Business School, where she coauthored several Harvard Business Case Studies and helped design and conduct research experiments and surveys.
She holds a PhD and MA in political science from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation examined sources of support for the tea party movement and the moral values undergirding public demand for limited government.
Ron Klain is Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Revolution LLC, an investment firm launched by AOL Co-Founder Steve Case in 2005. Revolution manages over $2 billion in assets, with a mission of building disruptive, innovative businesses that offer consumers more choice, convenience, and control in their lives. Prior to joining Revolution, Klain spent four years as a partner and National Practice Group Chair at O'Melveny & Myers LLP, where his practice focused on constitutional and commercial litigation, competition-related litigation in the technology sector, and corporate transactions.
In addition to his private sector career, Mr. Klain has devoted many years to public service, most recently as White House Ebola Response Coordinator (2014-15). At the conclusion of his work coordinating the US response, President Obama said that Klain had taken on “a challenge that many called insurmountable, and, in leading the team responsible for tremendous progress, helped remind the world what makes America exceptional.”
Earlier, Mr. Klain served as a senior White House aide to President Obama responsible for implementing the Recovery Act, and Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden from 2009 to 2011. He has also served as Chief of Staff for Vice President Al Gore, Chief of Staff and Counselor to Attorney General Janet Reno, Staff Director of the Senate Democratic Leadership Committee, and Chief Counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Klain was also Associate Counsel to President Clinton in charge of judicial selection. Through his work on the Judiciary Committee, and in the Executive Branch, he has played a role in the selection or confirmation of eight Supreme Court Justices. Mr. Klain began his legal career as a law clerk to Justice Byron White, for the Supreme Court’s 1987 and 1988 Terms.
Mr. Klain gained national notice as General Counsel for the Gore Recount Committee in 2000, in recognition of which he was selected as one of National Law Journal's "Lawyers of the Year," and featured in HBO's film "RECOUNT." He has worked on seven Presidential campaigns, serving as a top debate preparation advisor to Presidents Obama and Clinton, and Democratic Presidential nominees Al Gore, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. He has worked with numerous candidates for the US Senate and U.S. House on their debate preparation, as well.
Mr. Klain’s current and previous civic affiliations include service as a member of the Board of Visitors of Harvard Law School and a Board Member of the American Progress Action Fund, the American Constitution Society, the Executive Council of TechNet, the Democracy Forward Foundation, and a member of the external advisory boards of the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Security project and the Ending Pandemics Project. President Obama appointed him to the Governing Council of the Administrative Conference of the United States. He is a contributing columnist for the Washington Post, and is Chair of the Board of the progressive technology incubator Higher Ground Labs.
Ron Klain teachers a course on political law a Lecturer on Law at the Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude, was an Editor of the Harvard Law Review, and won the Sears Prize for highest grade average in 1985. He was a summa cum laude graduate of Georgetown University, where he serves an Adjunct Professor.
Megan McArdle is a columnist at the Washington Post, covering politics, public policy, and business. Her work has appeared in the Economist, Newsweek, The Atlantic, Bloomberg, The New York Times, Time, the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, and Reason Magazine.
Ms. McArdle has been a Bernard Schwarz Fellow at the New America Foundation, a fellow at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics, and the Egan Visiting Professor at Duke University's Sanford School of Public Policy. Her book, The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well is the Key to Success, was published by Viking in 2014.
Sam Stein is the Politics Editor at The Daily Beast, based in Washington, DC and a contributor to MSNBC, where he regularly appears on programs such as Morning Joe, Hardball, and The Last Word.
Previously, he worked as the senior politics editor at HuffPost, where he launched the website’s Washington DC bureau and won the Sidney Hillman Award for his reporting on government funding cuts to scientific research. He has been a guest on HBO’s Bill Maher and NBC’s Meet the Press. He has also been an intern at Newsweek magazine and the New York Daily News and a staffer at the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity.
Stein has a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate of Dartmouth College, where he majored in history with a specialty on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Doug Thornell is a managing director at SKDKnickerbocker, one of the leading public affairs and political consulting firms in the country. He is responsible for developing and executing strategic communications, crisis management, and earned and paid media campaigns for political candidates, major non-profit organizations and Fortune 100 companies.
Over his career, Doug has served as the senior advisor to the DNC, the top spokesman for the DCCC, a senior aide at the DSCC, a top advisor to Senator Chris Van Hollen and the congressional black Caucus as well as the traveling spokesman for Governor Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. Doug began his career as an organizer on the Iowa Caucus campaign for Al Gore. PRWeek, the leading public relations trade publication, named Doug one of the top communicators in the country under 40. The trade publication said this about Doug, “when it comes to the public affairs sphere, Doug Thornell knows the Beltway like few others.”
Doug is a frequent political analyst on MSNBC, CNN and Fox News Channel. Doug resides in Maryland and graduated from Cornell University.
Benjamin Wittes is a senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution. He co-founded and is the editor-in-chief of the Lawfare blog, which is devoted to sober and serious discussion of "Hard National Security Choices," and is a member of the Hoover Institution's Task Force on National Security and Law. He is the author of Detention and Denial: The Case for Candor After Guantanamo, published in November 2011, co-editor of Constitution 3.0: Freedom and Technological Change, published in December 2011, and editor of Campaign 2012: Twelve Independent Ideas for Improving American Public Policy (Brookings Institution Press, May 2012). He is also writing a book on data and technology proliferation and their implications for security. He is the author of Law and the Long War: The Future of Justice in the Age of Terror, published in June 2008 by The Penguin Press, and the editor of the 2009 Brookings book, Legislating the War on Terror: An Agenda for Reform.
His previous books include Starr: A Reassessment, published in 2002 by Yale University Press, and Confirmation Wars: Preserving Independent Courts in Angry Times, published in 2006 by Rowman & Littlefield and the Hoover Institution.
Between 1997 and 2006, he served as an editorial writer for The Washington Post specializing in legal affairs. Before joining the editorial page staff of The Washington Post, Wittes covered the Justice Department and federal regulatory agencies as a reporter and news editor at Legal Times. His writing has also appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines including The Atlantic, Slate, The New Republic, The Wilson Quarterly, The Weekly Standard, Policy Review, and First Things.
Benjamin Wittes was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1990.