Dan Schnur is the Executive Director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California, where he works to motivate students to become involved in politics, government, and public service and teaches popular classes in politics, communications and leadership. He also is the founder and Director of the USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences/Los Angeles Times poll series.
Dan has worked for years as a political reformer and has held several leadership positions in this field. In 2010, Dan was appointed Chairman of the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). During his tenure, he implemented groundbreaking campaign finance disclosure requirements for independent committees, appointed a bipartisan task force to update California’s 1978 Political Reform Act, and worked to assure the disclosure of campaign finance and spending practices, fair elections, and government transparency. Dan also was a founder and co-chairman of the Voices of Reform project, the bi-partisan statewide effort whose work laid the foundation for California’s landmark redistricting reform.
After completing his FPPC term, Dan registered as a no-party preference voter and launched Fixing California, an organization dedicated to campaign finance and political reform. In 2014, Dan ran for statewide office as a non-partisan candidate for California Secretary of State. Dan’s campaign focused on rebuilding the political center, the need for campaign fundraising reform, and increasing civics education in California schools. Dan plans on continuing the discussion on how to fix a current broken system of politics in California to address the challenges facing the state.
Throughout his teaching career, Dan has helped hundreds of students identify internship and professional opportunities in politics, government, issue advocacy and other forms of public service. As Director of the Unruh Institute, he has created and sponsored dozens of programs. In 2011, Dan was awarded the Steven B. Sample Teaching and Mentoring Award for his work with USC students. In addition to his work at the Unruh Institute and the classes he teaches, Dan serves as the Faculty Advisor for the SC Students for Israel organization.
In addition to his position at USC, Dan is an Adjunct Instructor at the University of California at Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. Dan also has held the post of Visiting Fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics at Harvard University and taught an advanced course in political campaign communications at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.
For years, Dan was one of California’s leading political and media strategists, whose record includes work on four presidential and three gubernatorial campaigns. He served as the national Director of Communications for the 2000 presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John McCain and spent five years as chief media spokesman for California Governor Pete Wilson.
Dan is a Trustee for Junior State of America, which works to prepare high school students for life-long civic involvement and leadership. He also works regularly with organizations such as the Coro Public Affairs program, Hispañas Organized for Political Equality (HOPE), the Los Angeles Jewish Federation Young Leaders program, the Leadership California Institute, the Teach for American Alumni Support Network and Leadership for Educational Equity.
Dan 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 and college and workforce preparedness efforts.
Dan’s commentaries are featured in local, state and national media including the Los Angeles Times, the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle, 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.
Dan is a graduate of the American University in Washington, D.C. He is married to Cecile Ablack, a communications and public affairs consultant, who is a former Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles, an Associate Dean at Yale University, and Director of International Communications and Public Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce. They have two children, Rob and Tessa.