Bienen, guests discuss politics and business

Michelle Ma

As the presidential election nears, a chance to discuss the election’s relevancy to business was just what some people wanted.

About 60 people gathered in McCormick Tribune Center on Wednesday evening to participate in the Ayers College of Commerce and Industry keynote panel, the third event in the day-long program “Politics … It’s Everyone’s Business!”

The discussion was meant to highlight other key issues that are easily overshadowed by the War on Terror, said graduate student Elise Lipkowitz, assistant master of CCI.

Moderated by University President Henry Bienen, the event brought together the Fortune Brands Vice President of Corporate Communications Clarkson Hines and former Wisconsin Gov. Scott McCallum in a panel discussion about business’s influence on politics.

Topics included job outsourcing, trade policy and corporate endorsements of candidates.

Bienen asked the speakers about the close-knit relationship between business and politicians, specifically in election campaigns.

“Business groups will work hard to motivate people to vote who will support pro-business candidates,” Hines said.

The amount of financial support companies give candidates differs, Hines said. Some CEOs are “taking a high profile and funding candidates.”

McCallum said business leaders sometimes tell their employees that one candidate — more than the other — will benefit them as workers. Doing so pressures employees to vote a particular way, he said.

The discussion turned toward the candidates’ promises to the public.

Both McCallum and Bienen pointed out that Sen. John Kerry has made promises that probably won’t come true if he is elected. They also criticized some of his proposals.

“What Kerry says about trade would be disastrous if he actually did it,” Bienen said.

Students asked the speakers about the future job market for engineering students. Both speakers said the students probably won’t hear a response from either candidate in the final weeks of campaigning.

CCI’s annual business symposium has a different topic each time, said McCormick sophomore Jason Jackson, CCI president.

“The keynote (speech) was exactly what we wanted to see,” he said. “In the past, (the symposium) was usually just a CCI thing, but this year we wanted to open it up to the Northwestern community.”

Reach Michelle Ma at [email protected]