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Past Event

Money Talks: Philanthropy, Politics, and Democracy

Past Event: 01.29.2015 @ 5:30 pm
Terry Sanford Distinguished Lecture

New Yorker investigative reporter Jane Mayer, philanthropist and political scientist James Piereson and businessman J. Adam Abram discussed the impact of big money on American democracy and governance in a public lecture at Duke University on Thursday, Jan. 29 in the Sanford School of Public Policy's Fleishman Commons.

Professor of Law and Public Policy Joel Fleishman moderated the panel, which examined how the influx of money is shaping policy agendas.

>> Read story, which includes short video highlight clips.

Mayer, a reporter for The New Yorker, has written about money in politics for more than a decade, with articles covering spending from both liberals and conservatives, including George Soros, the Koch brothers and Art Pope. She received the Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting in 2012 for her article on North Carolina state politics.

Piereson is president of the William E. Simon Foundation, a private foundation which has interested in education, religion and the problems of youth. He is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Abram is CEO of the James River Group and chair of the Sanford School Board of Visitors. The talk was live streamed.


Lindsley, Mary -

Featured Guests

Speaker Image: 
Adam Abram portrait
Speaker Name: 
J. Adam Abram
Speaker Title: 
CEO, James River Group; Chair, Sanford Board of Visitors
Speaker Bio: 

Adam Abram is chairman and CEO of James River Group Holdings, and chair of the Duke Sanford School of Public Policy Board of Visitors. He a prominent donor to charitable and political causes in North Carolina and nationally. He has supported civil liberties groups, including the national and state ACLU, in support of litigation to curtail national surveillance programs and to oppose the North Carolina State Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriages.

Abram is a member of The Democracy Alliance, a partnership of business and philanthropic leaders committed to progressive causes and candidates.He has founded three property-casualty insurance groups, and founded Piedmont Community Bank, which, after a series of mergers, became the largest and best performing community bank in North Carolina. He serves as lead director for Yadkin Financial Corp., the successor to Piedmont Community Bank.

Abram also serves on the boards of the Urban Institute and of Human Rights First, for which he served as an observer at Guantanamo Bay. He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard University.

Speaker Image: 
Head shot of Jane Mayer
Speaker Name: 
Jane Mayer
Speaker Title: 
Investigative Reporter, The New Yorker
Speaker Bio: 

Jane Mayer is an award-winning investigative reporter whose work has covered the role of “dark money” in politics. She is working on a book about the families who have funded the modern conservative movement in politics, including the Koch Brothers.

Since 1995, Mayer has been on the staff of The New Yorker, where she covers politics, culture and national security. Previously, she worked at the Wall Street Journal, where she covered the bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, the Persian Gulf War, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 1984, she became the paper’s first female White House correspondent.

She is the author of the 2008 best-seller The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, which is based on her New Yorker articles and was named one of the top 10 works of journalism of the decade by N.Y.U.’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute. She is also the co-author of Strange Justice, and of Landslide: The Unmaking of the President 1984-1988. Two of her books were finalists for the National Book Award.

In 2009, Mayer was chosen as Princeton University’s Ferris Professor of Journalism. She has won broad recognition for her work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Goldsmith Book Prize, the J. Anthony Lukas Prize, the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, the Toner Prize for political reporting, and the George Polk Award. She is a graduate of Yale University.

Speaker Image: 
Head shot Piereson
Speaker Name: 
James Piereson
Speaker Title: 
President, William E. Simon Foundation
Speaker Bio: 

James Piereson is a longtime foundation executive and public intellectual. He currently serves as president of the William E. Simon Foundation, a private grant-making foundation with $125 million in assets that focuses on education, religion and young people. He is also a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

Before joining the Simon Foundation, Piereson served for 20 years as executive director and trustee of the John M. Olin Foundation, whose influential grantmaking focused on public affairs and public policy. He also enjoyed an earlier career as a university professor, serving on the political science faculties of Iowa State University, Indiana University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Piereson sits on the boards of many prominent institutions, including the Pinkerton Foundation, the Thomas W. Smith Foundation, The Philanthropy Roundtable, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, and DonorsTrust, a consortium of donors interested in free market principles and limited government. He serves on the grants advisory committee of the Searle Freedom Trust

He is the author of Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism. He is also a co-author of Political Tolerance and American Democracy and editor of The Pursuit of Liberty: Can the Ideals That Made America Great Provide a Model for the World?

Piereson has also published articles and reviews on higher education and political ideas in numerous journals, including The American Political Science Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, and National Review. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a PhD in political science from Michigan State University.