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Nick Lemann is the Dean of the Columbia University School of Journalism and a former New Yorker staff writer. While at Harvard – where he  graduated in 1976 –  Lemann[…]

Lemann says that their influence is exaggerated, something that makes him uncomfortable.

Nicholas Lemann: The common answer at this moment while I’m giving this interview is the Israel lobby, and that makes me intensely uncomfortable for, you know, a number of reasons I don’t have to go into. I guess the standard answer you would get is, you know, organized business lobby groups, because they have money, are . . . are disproportionately powerful. So that seems to me to be the strongest argument. To make the argument that a group that just essentially organizes very effectively around its point of view is “too powerful”, that makes me uncomfortable. I guess you could say groups that have access to unlimited financial resources and are able to make campaign contributions by advertisements and so on, they have a kind of thumb on the scales of politics, and they get more, you know, than they should. I’m not sure I believe that if that were true, you know, there would be a tweak to the system. I’m also not persuaded that campaign finance reform ever works, because it’s kind of like you cut it here and it pops up over there. That’s what we’ve seen in the last few rounds.  There’s a lot of money that wants to find its way into politics and tends to find its way into politics. I mean in a certain way the most egregious example is small states are too powerful. You know Iowa and New Hampshire are too powerful relative to their population because they get to have two senators, and because they have these early presidential primaries. So their sort of special concerns get elevated over those of others.


Recorded on: 11/30/07