Interview with Dan Schnur


Segment One
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Dan Schnur
Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics
University of Southern California

Dan Schnur is the Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, where he works to motivate young people of all political persuasions to become involved in politics, government and public service. He has been teaching college students in California – at both USC and UC -Berkeley — about the importance of political involvement and public service for almost twenty years. He currently teaches courses in political communications, leadership, and California’s most significant public policy challenges.

In 2010, Dan Schnur was appointed Chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission, where he worked to enforce state election laws and punish politicians who broke the law. During his time as chairman, he successfully implemented groundbreaking campaign finance disclosure requirements for independent committees, appointed a bipartisan task forced to update the state’s 1978 Political Reform Act, and supported legislation to upgrade the technology in the Secretary of State’s website that would have allowed for 24-hour disclosure of all campaign contributions and 48-hour approval of state business licenses.

Dan was also a founder and co-chairman of the Voices of Reform project, the bi-partisan statewide effort whose work laid the groundwork for California’s landmark redistricting reform that took the responsibility for drawing boundaries for legislative districts away from the politicians and gave it to an Independent Citizens Commission. More recently, he has begun Fixing California, a campaign finance and political reform movement that has prioritized the banning of political fundraising during the legislative session.

During his time on the USC and UC-Berkeley campuses, Dan Schnur has helped hundreds of his students identify internship and professional opportunities in politics, government, issue advocacy and other forms of public service. As the director of the Unruh Institute, he has created and sponsored dozens of conferences, seminars, panel discussions and other programs where students can interact with and learn from some of the state’s and nation’s political and policy experts. In 2011, Dan was awarded the Steven B. Sample Teaching and Mentoring Award for his work with USC students.
Dan is a Trustee for Junior State of America, which works to prepare high school students for life-long involvement and responsible leadership in a democratic society through political and policy. He also works regularly with leadership organizations such as Coro, Hispañas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Young Leaders program, the Leadership California Institute and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Dan was also the founder of the Center for Campaign Leadership, a multi-partisan national program series designed to teach young people of all political persuasions the basic skills of political involvement and advocacy. Earlier this year, he oversaw the work of a group of USC students who coordinated with the National Association of Elected Latino Officials on a research project that examined barriers to youth voter participation.

Dan Schnur has been an advisor to the William & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Broad Education Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, the James Irvine Foundation, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Stuart Foundation on a variety of K-12 education, college and workforce preparedness, governance and political reform efforts.

Dan Schnur was the national Director of Communications for the 2000 presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain, one of the first advocates of campaign finance reform.  Dan also worked as the chief media spokesman for California Governor Pete Wilson, and as a communications specialist for the presidential campaigns of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. In 2003, he was the campaign manager for the gubernatorial campaign of former Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, his last professional work for a candidate for partisan office.
In early 2011, Dan registered as a no-party preference voter.  Since then he has spoken to hundreds of civic and student groups around our state on a variety of reform topics, including the impact of money in politics, the need for increased civic engagement and participation, the importance of restoring voter trust and confidence in their elected leaders, and ways to break the gridlock caused by increasing hyper-partisanship and polarization so that the political and governmental processes can function.

Dan Schnur’s commentaries are featured in local, state and national media including the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, the Washington Post and the New York Times. In addition, he has been an analyst and political commentator for CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, and National Public Radio.

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