While the New York City Campaign Finance Board celebrated its 20th anniversary on Feb. 21, that day was also the official debut of Fordham’s Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy.
The center was founded by Costas Panagopoulos, Ph.D., assistant professor of political science and director of Fordham’s elections and campaign management program. Its launch came in the form of “Citizen-Owned Elections: Public Financing Past, Present and Future,” a daylong conference that was representative of the center’s goal of bringing scholars and practitioners together to tackle tough subjects, Panagopoulos said.
“It’s a manifestation of a long tradition at Fordham of having intellectual debates and exchanges about real-world issues and influencing real-world debates,” he said. “Scholars can learn what is practical and what can be applied, and practitioners can learn what empirical evidence shows.”
When it comes to guest panelists and lecturers, Panagopoulos has drawn from an extensive network of contacts he has made from work on the NBC News Decision Desk in 2006, as well as his experience as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow in the office of U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“We’re aiming at a high level of discussion that cannot be distilled and examined in the superficial way that TV programs do,” he said. There’s a place for that, but you can’t discuss financing public elections in less than seven seconds without losing audiences. It takes more to flesh out those ideas.”
Nancy Busch, Ph.D., dean of the Fordham Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, said the center represents a continuation of a tradition that former Fordham president Joseph A. O’Hare, S.J., started with his leadership of the campaign finance board when it was founded.
“With his retirement, we needed to continue that kind of commitment to New York City, to national politics and, quite frankly, to international politics,” she said. “It’s exciting because open and fair elections are at the heart of a democracy, and that’s what the center is all about.”
Just as the Thursday program brought a raft of high-level experts and elected officials to Fordham, Panagopoulos noted that Pulpit Politics, a conference the center is sponsoring in April with the Center for Ethics Education, will feature Donna Brazile, chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute. Brazile is one of the Democrats’ “super-delegates,” so her appearance will no doubt attract attention in the midst of the presidential election season. The conference will discuss religion, gender and social justice in the 2008 elections.
“We’ll be inviting high-profile officials and operatives to speak to students, and we’ll be exploiting opportunities to bring people together, and to study aspects of electoral politics,” Panagopoulos said. “This is just the beginning.”