Rudman Center off to a great start

At the opening dinner, keynote speaker John McCain gave a glowing tribute to Rudman’s ability to forge alliances, stand for principle and display humor

The Warren B. Rudman Center for Justice, Leadership and Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire School of Law had its initial events on April 21 and 22 in Concord. The promise of the center, named in honor of the late New Hampshire senator, seemed fulfilled in the attendance and prominence of participants.

At the opening dinner, attended by over 200, keynote speaker John McCain gave a glowing tribute to Rudman’s ability to forge alliances, stand for principle and display humor. At the dinner, McCain was joined by former Gov. Steve Merrill, Gov. Maggie Hassan, former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, recipient of the first Rudman Center award, former Sen. Judd Gregg, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, along with Rudman’s widow and John Broderick, dean of the law school and former New Hampshire chief justice. Not a bad group!

The dinner reminded those generous contributors in attendance how meaningful their contributions have been and reminded those who had yet to contribute that contributions in the “public” phase of the Rudman Center campaign are welcome as the Center seeks to reach its fundraising goal.

Of more substance, the initial Rudman conference took place the next day at the Law School, on the subject of “The Federal Budget and the Law: Finding a Way Forward.”

Funded by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the panels considered the challenges of the federal budget, a favorite topic of Warren Rudman’s and the subject of the famous Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Budget Reconciliation Act. David Walker, former comptroller general, set the stage by outlining the fiscal mess.

The first panel was composed of McCain and Ayotte and former senators Bob Kerry and Phil Gramm, along with Alice Rivlin, former director of the Office of Management and Budget and noted economist. Moderating the panels and the dinner was Ari Shapiro, White House correspondent for National Public Radio, who conducted the proceedings with great skill.

Interestingly, those discussing the current budget situation were somewhat optimistic that 2013 is the year in which a “grand bargain” may be possible. They noted President Obama’s start at trying to reach across the aisle, although there was some criticism of his lack of compromise in some areas. Nevertheless, all of the participants believed there was a shot at reaching some agreement, while noting the change in the amount of the deficit and national debt from the days Rudman was in the Senate – from $2 trillion to the present $17 trillion!

Another panel, entitled, “Tough Choices and Possible Solutions,” again moderated by Ari Shapiro, featured former Sen. Pete Domenici of New Mexico, Rivlin, Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, and William Hoagland, senior vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and former congressional staffer.

The panel examined possible remedies to the budget situation and faced the reality that it would take both cuts in spending and increases in revenue, especially focused on reining in so-called “entitlement programs” and these would all have to be part of the aforementioned “grand bargain.”

Again, the panel rated the chances of such a deal as better than 50-50 and stressed that political realities make 2013 the necessary year for such budget resolution, 2014 being an election year and the start of President Obama’s declining influence as he becomes more of a “lame duck” toward the end of his second term.

At lunch, former Commerce Secretary Pete Peterson addressed the group as did Snowe, who gave the keynote address remembering Warren Rudman and crediting him with the ability to compromise on legislation while not compromising on principle.

Snow was introduced by 2nd District Congresswoman Ann McLane Kuster, who noted in the spirit of bipartisanship that the first congressional campaign on which she had ever worked was Republican Snowe’s first run for Congress in the late 1970s.

Kuster, a Democrat, noted that a group of over 20 freshman members of Congress of both parties are working toward solutions that seem to have eluded Congressional leadership.

People wanting to know more about the Rudman Center should go to the UNH School of Law website. A visit to UNH School of Law is worth the effort, as well.


Grammatical complaint: I think it is a reasonable request to ask all readers to take a pledge that they will not start sentences, paragraphs or interviews with the word, “So.” Where this trend came from, I do not know, but it is not adding to the quality of the English language.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

Categories: Cook on Concord, Opinion