Business and Politics: Which Drives Which?

Politics and Business appear to more intertwined than ever because politics is so salient and ubiquitous in the current American drama in the aftermath of the financial crisis. The popular charges are contradictory: politics and politicians intervene in business and the economy, and business intervenes, often by non-transparent means, in politics.

We are in an age in which corporations and unions are given first amendment rights while political donations are veiled behind nonprofit organizations (the '527'). Lobbying is viewed as 'information' by many, but as 'legal corruption' by others. The financial crisis has surely rendered these issues more salient, where the stakes riding on regulation are reshuffling the flow of money and contributions.


Click to see photos from the event

This conference draws on research and practice in a public forum to discuss the trends in the relations between American business and politics. The keynote speaker was Professor Raghuram Rajan of the University of Chicago and former chief economist at the IMF, whose recent book Fault Lines places the origins of the financial crisis on a thesis of failed government policies to address poverty by a wayward intervention in mortgage markets coupled with a financial sector that successfully lobbied for deregulation and yet failed to self-govern. The subsequent panels consisted of academics who explained and debated what their research says about this thesis of an intervening government that misused markets for social policies and a business sector that influenced government policies to deregulate, and sometimes subsidize, their activities. The final panel was led by a prominent journalist and consisted of those at the front-line of these issues.

Co-hosted by: the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) and the Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics

Friday February 24, 2012
8:30 a.m– 4:15 p.m.
Venue: The Italian Academy


Time Event
9:00 – 10:30 AM:

Welcome Remarks, Introduction, and Opening Keynote

Gita Johar
Senior Vice Dean
Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business
Columbia Business School

Bruce Kogut
Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Professor of Leadership and Ethics
Director, Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Center for Leadership and Ethics
Columbia Business School

Raghuram Rajan
Eric J. Gleacher Distinguished Service Professor of Finance
University of Chicago Booth School of Business
Keynote Presentation: Have Capitalism and Democracy been Captured by the Elite: Business and Politics Before the Crisis
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10:30– 10:45 AM:

Coffee Break

10:45 – 12:30 PM:

Research Presentations and Panel Discussion

Sharyn O'Halloran (Moderator)
George Blumenthal Professor of Political Science and International and Public Affairs
Columbia University
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David Lazer
Associate Professor, College of Computer and Information Science and Department of Political Science
Northeastern University
"What are the invisible networks of money in US Politics?"
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Shamus Khan
Assistant Professor of Sociology
Columbia University
"Mobility and Inequality in the United States"
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Jacob Hacker
Stanley B. Resor Professor of Political Science
Yale University
"Income Hyper-Concentration and American Governance"
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Marianne Bertrand
Chris P. Dialynas Professor of Economics
University of Chicago Booth School of Business:
"What do lobbyists do? Do connections pay?"
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Brett Gordon
Class of 1967 Associate Professor of Business
Columbia Business School:
"Political Advertising and the Electoral College"
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12:30 – 12:45 PM:


12:45 – 2:00 PM:

Lunch and Keynote Speaker

Peter Stringham
Young & Rubicam Group
"How the business of politics has affected business in America"

2:00 – 3:40 PM:

Closing Panel: "Broader Perspectives"

Gillian Tett (Moderator)
US Managing Editor
Financial Times

John Podesta
Chair and Counselor
Center for American Progress and Center for American Progress Action Fund

R. Glenn Hubbard
Russell L. Carson Professor of Finance and Economics
Columbia Business School

Matthew Bishop
US business editor and New York bureau chief
The Economist

Lewis Kaden
Vice Chairman

3:40 – 3:50 PM:

Closing Keynote and Remarks

R. Glenn Hubbard
Dean, Columbia Business School

3:50 – 4:00 PM:


Robert Kuttner
Co-Founder and Co-Editor
The American Prospect

Research Report

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