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Drake Law students get involved in political action

December 10, 2015

One of the perks of being a Drake Law student is the opportunity to be involved in politics.

Every four years, Iowa becomes one of the country’s political hubs. Presidential candidates visit Iowa vying for votes in the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Drake University has hosted at least one nationally televised presidential debate during each of the past three campaign cycles. And as the only law school in the capital city of Des Moines, Drake has a close relationship with the state government.

That means Drake Law students are able to work on campaigns, get a front row seat to debates, meet candidates, complete internships through the Drake Legislative Practice Center, and more.

“Drake Law School has been fantastic about providing opportunities for students if they are interested in becoming involved in political events,” says Deborah Plummer, a first-year Drake Law student. “That is a unique feature of being located in Des Moines in an election year.”

Democratic candidate Martin O'Malley is interviewed by reporters in the spin room at Cartwright Hall following the primary presidential debate on Nov. 14.

On Nov. 14, Drake hosted a Democratic presidential debate on campus. Drake Law School’s Cartwright Hall was the site of the media “spin room,” where major news outlets broadcast live throughout the event.

“A dozen law student volunteers were on hand to assist with political party needs,” says John Edwards, Drake Law professor and associate dean for information resources and technology. “Some helped in the spin room holding signs and directing traffic, and some helped CBS throughout the night running errands to and from the debate.”

“For students interested in politics, it was an extraordinary opportunity,” he adds.

Plummer was one of the student volunteers during the event.

“Being a part of the spin room that I have seen on CNN, Fox News, and other news channels was energetic and fascinating,” she says.

Drake Law student Deborah Plummer takes a photo with Donna Brazile, vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, in the debate spin room Nov. 14. Brazile tweeted the photo calling Plummer "my future leader."

Plummer was able to witness the media’s live analysis of the debate, watch interviews, and interact with journalists, analysts, and politicians. She even got her picture taken with Donna Brazile, vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, who tweeted the photo calling Plummer "my future leader."

Across the street in Sheslow Auditorium, third-year Drake Law student Brooke Yang watched the debate in person.

“It was so cool to be able to attend the debate,” Yang says. “Compared to watching it on TV, seeing it live allowed me to feel the tension and pressure on stage.”

As Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O’Malley debated various issues, Yang says her experience at Drake Law School gave her a better understanding of the politics behind the topics.

“As a law student, I feel like we know more about what’s going on,” she says. “Many of the issues the candidates discussed were issues we learned from cases, statutes, and real life working in the legal profession.”

In addition to the debates, presidential candidates often schedule visits to Drake to meet with students. In September, Republican candidate Rick Santorum stopped by campus to talk to a group of students in Cartwright Hall. The event was organized by Drake Law Republicans, a student group at Drake Law School.

Logan Murray, second-year Drake Law student and treasurer of the organization, was able to meet Santorum and introduce him to the audience.

Republican candidate Rick Santorum talks to a group of Drake students in Cartwright Hall on Sept. 21. Drake Law student Logan Murray introduced Santorum to the audience.

“We have been in contact with a lot of the campaigns, especially where the candidate is an attorney. Santorum was the first one that was able to come,” Murray says. “Hopefully next semester Rubio or Cruz can visit as well.”

Meeting Santorum wasn’t Murray’s first encounter with politics. Last year he worked as a clerk for state senator Bill Anderson in the Iowa capitol.

“I learned a lot about working in the capitol and was able to see things you don’t really see from the public point of view,” Murray says. “I got to know Senator Anderson pretty well, along with a few of the other senators. It was a great experience.”

Murray is now beginning an internship with Cornerstone Government Affairs, a national lobbying group. He was placed with the organization through Drake Law School’s Legislative Practice Center.

Established in 1998, the Legislative Practice Center offers students the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the government and law-making process, taking advantage of the Law School’s proximity to the state capitol.

“Drake Law School’s Legislative Practice Center is one of a kind,” says Julie Smith, director of the Legislative Practice Center. “Students intern with a legislator during the legislative session and then in the public policy arena with lobbyists, caucus staffs, associations, and government entities. This allows the students to build practical experience while in school and to hit the ground running upon graduation.”

As part of his internship, Murray had the opportunity to speak at the Iowa governor’s public budget hearing Dec. 2.

“I gave a short speech about our client to the governor, the lieutenant governor, and the governor’s chief of staff,” he says. “I was definitely the youngest person in the room speaking.”

Travis Inghram, a Drake Law third-year student, also recently finished an internship through the Legislative Practice Center in which he worked on Republican candidate Rand Paul’s campaign.

“Most of my work centered around organizing and facilitating campaign events,” Inghram explains. “I took a few surveys via telephone and in-person interviews as well, and I also recruited supporters and volunteers for Senator Paul's campaign.”

Inghram says the internship taught him tactics for campaign recruitment and provided sufficient knowledge of election law in Iowa, especially related to primary caucuses.

“I believe this legislative practice internship was one of the greatest experiences I was offered in law school,” he says. “I recommend the program to anyone with an interest in politics.”

Many students take their interest in politics into their careers. Drake Law alumni include governors, state legislators, attorneys general, chiefs of staff, mayors, city councilmen, and more.

“You can find Drake Law graduates working in all areas of the public policy arena in the state,” Smith says. “Drake Law graduates are sought after because of their extensive legislative knowledge, professionalism, and excitement for participating in this extremely important legal process.”