Actor Alec Baldwin, a self-proclaimed liberal, advocated for campaign finance reform and sustainable energy initiatives as solutions to the nation’s political and economic problems during a talk at the Institute of Politics last night.
Looking just as suave as Jack Donaghy, his character on “30 Rock,” Baldwin appeared before a packed audience to participate in a Q&A session with Rick Berke, national editor of the New York Times. Throughout the evening, Berke and Baldwin maintained a playful banter while also conducting more serious political discussions on the Iraq war, Sarah Palin, and whether or not Baldwin would date a Republican—the answer is no.
Initially a political science major at George Washington University, Baldwin said he originally planned to go to law school after college.
“I very badly wanted to go into politics,” he said. “At GW I joined the College Democrats and did a lot of canvassing for them.”
On a dare from a friend, Baldwin applied to acting school at NYU and was offered a drama scholarship. “It was important to go to a school I could afford,” he said. “When I went to college, they didn’t have the levels of financial support that they do today.”
Although he has put his civic career on hold for the past several decades, Baldwin has remained involved with politics, attending the 1988 Democratic National Convention and working closely with Senator Edward M. Kennedy ‘54-’56 during Kennedy’s 1994 re-election campaign.
Baldwin—who is involved with Riverkeeper, a clean water advocacy group, and serves on the board of People for the American Way, a civil rights organization—said he uses his celebrity status to advocate for causes he believes in, especially clean politics and clean energy initiatives.
“Bill Clinton killed welfare reform as an act of conciliation to Republicans,” Baldwin said, noting his disappointment with public servants that cave to political pressures. “I believe in a government that will ultimately at least try to do the most amount of good for the greatest number of people it can.”
According to Baldwin, lax campaign finance regulations have led to many of the problems that plague the American political arena. “I don’t want to see anyone who’s unqualified in office,” he said. “It always troubles me that certain politicians are all too willing to serve the needs of powerful interest groups.”
Baldwin also emphasized the importance of renewable energy research, saying that he supports wind power initiatives such as placing giant turbines off the shore of Long Island, where he lives. “Wind turbines would be the symbol of our energy independence,” he said. “We wouldn’t have to fight bogus wars for oil anymore.”
When Berke asked whether Baldwin would consider running for office in New York, Baldwin said, “Anything can happen in politics. You never know what the future holds.”
Near the end of the discussion, Baldwin was asked to offer advice to the audience both as himself and his alter ego Jack Donaghy. “You have to figure out who you are and what you want to do,” Baldwin said. “If you want to make money, make money. If you don’t care about money, go into publishing.”
Later, in the voice of Donaghy, he added, “From the time you get your first job until you’re about forty-five to fifty, go strong equity, when you’re fifty, switch to bonds, when you’re sixty-five, get out.”