Cook On Concord: Rudman testimonial offers history and a lesson

Every once in a while there is an event of major importance that blends New Hampshire history, politics and instruction on the way problems can be handled and reminders of what constitutes true and effective leadership. One such event was a May 13 testimonial for former U.S. Sen. Warren Rudman, sponsored by Americans for Campaign Reform.

Rudman, former New Hampshire attorney general, counsel to Gov. Walter Peterson, attorney and political and civic activist, was honored at a testimonial attended by 350 people. A centrist Republican, he was joined (and surprised) by a visit from former Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker and former Kansas Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker. Both Bakers were in the Senate with Senator Rudman, were known for their pragmatic and bipartisan conduct and good humor.

They also brought much political history with them, Baker having been the son-in-law of Everett Dirksen, the Republican leader of the Senate and father of his late wife, and Kassebaum Baker the daughter of Alf Landon, the Republican presidential candidate in 1936 (whose running mate that year was Frank Knox, a Manchester resident and former owner of the Union Leader).

The master of ceremonies was Walter Peterson, a moderate Republican whose presence on the New Hampshire political stage has stretched from the early 1960s to the present and who brought Rudman into politics, first as his fiscal agent and then as counsel to the governor and attorney general.

Among others present were former Senate President Stuart Lamprey, former House Speaker Douglas Scamman, former Deputy Speaker (and Rudman law partner) Kimon Zachos, and scores of former legislators and officeholders, as well as officials of both parties.

Speakers honoring Rudman included former Attorney General Thomas Rath, former Congressman Charles Bass, Fred Kocher, Rich Ashoo and Bob Stevenson from Rudman’s Senate staff, and this writer, also a former law partner of Rudman’s at Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green. The speakers stressed Rudman’s leadership, vigor, style and provided humorous anecdotes.

Americans for Campaign Reform, the sponsor of the event, is an organization that was founded by New Hampshire political activist John Rauh and others. Its chairmen are former Democratic Sens. Bill Bradley and Bob Kerrey, former Republican Sen. Alan Simpson and Rudman. These four distinguished Americans recognize the need to change the method by which campaigns are financed, for several reasons.

First, to a large extent only the rich can participate in politics as candidates for major office. Second, the effect of money in politics retards the ability to solve problems because of the influence of major givers and lobbyists. Third, there is a need to level the political playing field.

In his remarks, Rudman pointed out the need to solve America’s big problems. He indicated that he had come to believe that money in politics was a pervasive evil that had to be solved by some effective method of campaign finance reform, or basic issues will not be addressed. He cited the need to solve the economic problems of the country (a cause of another bipartisan group, The Concord Coalition, of which Rudman is a founder) or it will be too late, citing 2015 as the date by which all federal dollars will be spent on entitlements, interest on the debt and defense, the need to address environmental problems effectively, and the need to provide basic health care to all Americans.

The dinner pointed out several things. First, the affection for Rudman and the fact that his former staff members came from all over the country to honor him was testimony to his personality, effectiveness and legacy. Second, the assemblage of New Hampshire leaders from the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s recalled the decency and accomplishments of New Hampshire government under Peterson and several of his successors and their ability to get things done, most notably replacing the stock in trade tax with the business profits tax, which transformed New Hampshire, in Rudman’s words, “from a labor-intensive economy to a capital-intensive economy.”

But the most important lesson of the evening was that bipartisanship, addressing problems in a cooperative way, is the only way government is going to be able to solve problems. If America does not learn this lesson and act in this fashion, the problems will overwhelm us all.

Those wanting to have more information on Americans for Campaign Reform should visit

Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.