Awesome Stuff: Crowdfund Our Way To Reducing The Influence Of Money In Politics

from the a-different-sort-of-crowdfunding-campaign dept

Okay, so each week for our awesome stuff post about crowdfunding projects, we look at a variety of interesting projects for weird, funky, innovative and interesting products that are being offered on platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. This week is going to be a bit different. We’re just going to point people to a single project: Larry Lessig’s MAYDAY.US. And, yes, we already wrote about this at the beginning of May when the first phase launched, and again when it hit the $1 million goal — and then secured the second million in matching funds. However, the project has now moved into phase two, where the goal is to raise (and match) $5 million, instead of just $1 million. Already it’s around half a million dollars, so there’s a long way to go, but it’s a good start.

And, once again, the goal here is to raise this total of $12 million ($1 million + $1 million match in May, and then $5 million + $5 million match in June) as a test for a much larger effort. I’ve seen too many overly cynical folks say “$12 million isn’t enough to change politics.” And you’re right. But that’s not the goal. This is $12 million to be used in specific races as a proof of concept for a much larger moonshot. But to make that happen, this campaign needs to get to $5 million by the end of June. If that happens, it will truly fit into the category of “awesome stuff.”

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Comments on “Awesome Stuff: Crowdfund Our Way To Reducing The Influence Of Money In Politics”

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45 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

this is not awesome, this is sad.

To be frank, regardless what they get in the end, even if it is 100x as much, the corporations can still outbid them.

This is just some kind of highly ironic performance art, even if the people involved are not even aware of the irony.

Spending money on politics to reduce the influence of money in politics, it can’t get more ironic than that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

100x as much would be 1.2 Billion dollars, more than half the total amount spent in the entire 2012 presidential election.

But such an amount is not necessary for what the current plan is for mayone.us. The plan for now is to try to win 5 house seats for candidates who support campaign finance reform to end the influence of super PACs. 12 million dollars is a great start along those lines.

Oh, perhaps you have some better idea for curbing the outsized influence of these deep pocketed corporate machines? Its becoming more and more obvious that the only way to effect policy in this country is with money, and the vast majority of money lies in private hands. An inspiring enough message with a proven track record of winning seats in congress could outspend any corporation 100x over.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Oh, perhaps you have some better idea for curbing the outsized influence of these deep pocketed corporate machines?

The answer is simple: there isn’t a way.

Trying to turn this into a game of money is merely fighting on the terms that the interests WANT you to fight on. You claim that the vast majority of money lies in private hands, but most of the ‘private hands’ with any kind of money are the hands that are already down the pants of the politicians.

So trying to fight on their terms sounds like a good way to get into a money-pissing contest in which no one can fight unless you’re a billionaire (much like the SAME corrupt interests that have already taken over government).

This is an experiment in a field that only the super-rich can participate in, why does anyone think that crowdfunding is going to even scratch the surface of the money that is already spent on politics? How do we even know that this money won’t go to completely opposed political campaigns once it is all over?

andypandy says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Let the voters realsie what is going on, make sure they understand that their cotes are beign purchsed by big money interests, they would really open their eyes if this money was offered to the top republican and the top democrat to pass a specific law or make sure a law was changed to represent what the public want, be it taking lobbyists out of the mix or maybe enforcing a law that makes politicians only allowed a specific amount each voting season and no more funds are allowed o be used if they are donated in any way, and if they spend over that they are removed from the vote.

Maybe just buying a law or making it public that they are offering so much money to politicians to do the right thing would force people to really rethink what is happening in politics in the US.

This is not going to work if it is all about voting one person in or even two or three, big money will make sure they do not get voted in and then say money does not make a difference.

The way to do this is to shame the politicians into changing laws and making politics a nonprofit and only allow money given by the government limited to 1 million for the presidential fight.

Anonymous Coward says:

Actually this is not sad.

What is sad are the people who never do anything but bitch and moan about the approach taken by the people who are trying to affect positive change.

This – on the other hand – is sadly necessary. For example, we may disagree with nuclear proliferation but that doesn’t mean that using nukes to counter nukes is “ironic” it just means that sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

Sucks but it’s true.

One can hope that $12MM in the hands of this advocacy group will go far further than that same money in the hands of lobbyists et al. Hopefully this money will be used to leverage the millions of people who are sick of the status quo and have been waiting for a gameplan and a way to help out.

No, it’s not sad – it’s awesome stuff.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Even assuming that $12M in the hands of this group can go farther than lobbyists is fallacy. The job of lobbyists is to subvert them through social and financial manipulation, which is something that raw money cannot do alone. Which means the end-game of this is to buy counter-lobbyist lobbyists.

This isn’t even scratching the surface of what kind of friends are really pulling the strings on your average politician, drinking buddies, fishing partners, secretaries, spouses, etc.

Charles (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree that doing nothing has gone on for too long. I do not know Mr. Lessing, nor have I met him. I do, however, trust and admire him.

So, in response to an email from the MaydayPAC, I put up a pledge page. I am the only contributor so far. But for anyone interested the URL is

https://my.mayday.us/t/e5cd-Charles-Johnson

To quote the above AC: “No, it’s not sad – it’s awesome stuff.”

Anonymous Coward says:

As long as the Govt Employees are in Unions, there is NO way to get money out of politics, period.

Heavy Hitters: Top All-Time Donors, 1989-2014 / Top 25

https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php

** = Union and Union run
1 ActBlue = $102,652,175 / 99% Dems – 0% GOP
2 American Fedn of State, County & Municipal Employees** = $61,819,629 / 80% Dems – 1% GOP
3 National Education Assn** = $58,970,590 / 56% Dems – 4% GOP
4 AT&T Inc** = $57,024,350 / 41% Dems – 57% GOP
5 National Assn of Realtors = $55,558,528 / 41% Dems – 44% GOP
6 Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers** = $45,572,151 / 91% Dems – 2% GOP
7 Goldman Sachs = $45,254,315 / 53% Dems – 44% GOP
8 United Auto Workers** = $41,920,628 / 71% Dems ? 0% GOP
9 Carpenters & Joiners Union** = $41,577,299 / 71% Dems – 9% GOP
10 Service Employees International Union** = $38,699,798 / 84% Dems – 2% GOP
11 Laborers Union** = $38,401,420 / 83% Dems – 7% GOP
12 American Federation of Teachers** = $37,271,575 / 89% Dems – 0% GOP
13 Communications Workers of America** = $36,472,773 / 86% Dems – 0% GOP
14 Teamsters Union** = $36,355,957 / 88% Dems – 5% GOP
15 JPMorgan Chase & Co = $35,116,206 / 47% Dems – 51% GOP
16 United Food & Commercial Workers Union** = $34,173,003 / 86% Dems – 0% GOP
17 United Parcel Service** = $32,685,942 / 35% Dems – 64% GOP
18 Citigroup Inc = $32,493,212 / 48% Dems – 50% GOP
19 National Auto Dealers Assn = $32,267,410 / 31% Dems – 68% GOP
20 EMILY’s List = $31,891,545 / 98% Dems – 0% GOP
21 American Bankers Assn = $31,629,002 / 36% Dems – 63% GOP
22 AFL-CIO** = $31,594,825 / 60% Dems – 3% GOP
23 Machinists & Aerospace Workers Union** = $31,399,047 / 98% Dems – 1% GOP
24 American Medical Assn = $30,175,387 / 40% Dems – 59% GOP
25 Microsoft Corp = $29,710,808 / 55% Dems – 43% GOP


59 Koch Industries = $18,445,223 / 8% Dems ? 91% GOP
60 American Assn for Justice = $18,337,608 / 80% Dems – 3% GOP
61 American Postal Workers Union** = $18,033,408 / 86% Dems – 2% GOP

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hey turd licker…Govt Unions destroy city budgets, period.

The totals from the listed above #1-25 & 61(does not include numerous union entities listed from #26-58 -follow link):

Union donations: $641,972,395
Kock Brothers: $18,455,223

34 TIMES more donations from Unions than Koch Brothers…

Anonymous Coward says:

Overly Optimistic

Going the route of “Spending” money to undo the influence of the money spenders is misguided.

One of the major parts of the equation that this does not address is one of the most fundamental. That is the revolving door sitting up there. People are not just doing it for the money. If you will notice, a lot of family members seem to have jobs at places where a lobby exists.

Will this “Super PAC” (what ever other form this may become or any others like it) going to start offering these political critters and their families jobs? In the end, what are we really doing? If we do that then this will just turn into another corrupt organization trading favors on capital hill!

There are a lot of ways to BRIBE public officials without breaking the law!

zip says:

"change the way Washington works"

Larry Lessig was a big supporter of a presidential candidate who repeatedly promised to “change the way Washington works” if elected (in fact, making that goal a centerpiece of his 2008 campaign).

It would seem that Lessig’s involvement with this new crowd-funding program suggests that he’s grown tired waiting for The Great Black Hope to ever start living up to expectations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: "change the way Washington works"

None of the previous 43 presidents ever missed making a campaign “promise”, as is the case with all members of congress – they always do exactly as they say in every campaign speech. I am shocked and dismayed that this one prez has the audacity to do these horrible things.

zip says:

Re: Re: "change the way Washington works"

The standard political promises are things that no one has any direct control over, such as promising to fix an ailing economy. Obama made –and broke– that (obligatory) promise as well as everyone else elected that year. But that’s hardly a betrayal.

In contrast, Obama’s oft-repeated promise to end the wholesale (& illegal) NSA spying on the US public — and then secretly doing the exact opposite once taking office — now, that’s the very definition of betrayal. Obama (and Obama alone) had complete control over that domestic spying program. No one could have over-ruled him if he had chosen to keep his promise to shut it down, and no one could have used that decision against him (such as to hurt his re-election bid) since the whole thing was by law secret.

Snowden’s NSA leak was just one of many examples that demonstrated that this president, after riding into office like some knight-in-shining-armor, turned out to be not just another lying, corrupt-to-the-core politician, but even more so.

It’s understandable that Larry Lessig has given up hope in the US political system, and (post-Obama) now appears to see politicians of all stripes as more-or-less equally corrupt. Though it’s somewhat of a disappointment to see him give up the fight in the battle over copyright reform.

andypandy says:

craZY

Seriously this one of the most depressing and heartbreaking things i have ever read. The American people have to collect contributions to buy a political position to get real politicians that believe in the public and not just big business.

I am ashamed for the politicians and think they should be ashamed of themselves.

Maybe they should start a collection for Obama, promise him he will get the money legally after he has finished his Presidency to do with as he wants as long as he curbs the Monopolies that are destroying the Internet, or wish to.

Jake says:

Well, I say you’d get better results from some good old-fashioned American mob justice. If there’s one thing that motivates your average conservative politician more than lust for money and power (and from this European’s perspective your politicians are all conservative), it’s a desire to preserve his or her own miserable hide from getting tarred and feathered or worse.

And if GCHQ ends up reading this, that goes for you bastards in Whitehall as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Well, I say you’d get better results from some good old-fashioned American mob justice.”

Although mob justice tends to get excellent results, it’s become somewhat of a “lost art” – the last (semi-successful) application of this time-honored tradition being the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791.

It’s largely the fear of mob justice that has fueled the recent rise of the American Police State. For instance, all the federal agencies (which were previously unarmed) now have their own paramilitary police forces, and are busy stocking up their armories with enough weapons and ammunition to literally fight a war.

http://rt.com/usa/americans-revolution-armed-percent-738/

Whatever says:

circumventing it all

Of course, you realize that groups like this are ripe for infiltration by big money again, first by quietly getting their sock puppets into the groups, into key parts of it, and then donating a ton of money to the groups to allow them to front for whatever cause they want.

Quite simply, trying to outspend the outspenders just attracts… the outspenders.

Nothing changes as long as the law allows politicians to take huge piles of money, and as long as superpacs can dominate campaigns with their one sided, often hateful messages.

David says:

Win a battle, lose the war

The only way that will work to reduce the influence of money in politics is to reduce the influence of money in society.

Unless it becomes pointless being a billionaire, you cannot really stop money from making a difference.

That means that things like basic living standards, food, security, education need to be available to everyone. There needs to be diminuishing returns for money so that selling off your conscience to the highest bidder is not an attractive option.

Luxury items have to become something that stops being something that anybody would crave, and that needs a combination of education and raising the minimum living standards while dafing out maximum living standards and/or their desirability.

Basically, you have to curtail the basis of large-scale capitalism.

Because the current U.S. society is a tilted playing field, you’ll not get to straighten out its politics on their own.

The “reform” focuses on pushing the “right” Democrats and Republicans into office, but there are no Democrats and Republicans who would be interested in curtailing money as the driving force behind U.S. society, and thus the tilted playing field will remain. A focused attack may score a single goal, but while the playing field remains tilted, the others will eventually win without effort by just keeping the ball rolling.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Win a battle, lose the war

There needs to be diminuishing returns for money so that selling off your conscience to the highest bidder is not an attractive option.

Won’t help, because most of them aren’t in it for the money. They aren’t directly getting the money anyway; they’re only using it to get re-elected. Many even use their OWN money in their campaigns. Name one member of the Senate who wasn’t already a millionaire before they received their first campaign contributions.

Luxury items have to become something that stops being something that anybody would crave, and that needs a combination of education and raising the minimum living standards while dafing out maximum living standards and/or their desirability.

Not practical. Even if you could magically raise the standard of living so high that everyone has a yacht, some people would then want four yachts and a private jet. (On a side note, I have no idea what “dafing” is.)

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Win a battle, lose the war

“Won’t help, because most of them aren’t in it for the money”

This is true, but relatively meaningless. A politician may not be in it for the money, but the money corrupts them anyway. It’s how the system is designed. You need TONS of money simply to get elected or reelected, to buy all those TV ads and such. So much money that most of every politician’s day is spent fundraising. Even the politicians who have the best of intentions face the reality of this. They play the money game or they don’t get to be in office.

This is why I want to see two main things — the elimination of paid political advertising, and the elimination of all campaign donations. All campaigns should be publicly financed with a fairly small budget that is the same for all candidates.

Quiet Lurcker says:

Re: Re: Re: Win a battle, lose the war

…[I] want to see two main things — the elimination of paid political advertising, and the elimination of all campaign donations. All campaigns should be publicly financed with a fairly small budget that is the same for all candidates.

You espouse a part of what I believe to be the complete response to this situation, although a ban on paid political advertising is (at least IMNSHO) constitutionally problematic at best – that whole first amendment thing, you know.

I’d eliminate campaigns altogether. Instead each candidate spends a set amount of dollars – escalating with the size of the election district, so less for say a candidate for mayor of New York City than than for governor of New York – to a central office to cover costs of production and mailing, and in return is handed a pre-determined set of questions, which (s)he must answer him-/her-self. The answers may not be simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ type answers, they have to supported by a chain of thought – much like essay questions from secondary or post-secondary school.

The questions and the attendant answers are returned by each candidate then compiled with those from all candidates for each office, and then mailed/distributed to every household in that voting district, along with the candidate’s resume and prior voting record and criminal records.

These things go out, say six weeks prior to the election, and that is it. No campaigning of ANY kind. No advertising. Nothing like that. They have to print their records and opinions, and voters decided based on the information in front of them in those booklets.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Win a battle, lose the war

“although a ban on paid political advertising is (at least IMNSHO) constitutionally problematic at best – that whole first amendment thing, you know.”

Yes, I’m aware of the difficulties, but here’s my argument for the Constitutionality of this idea:

First amendment rights (like all rights) are not absolute. There are many instances where they are curtailed in ways that are considered Constitutional. The general argument is that when two rights conflict with each other, obviously a compromise must be made. In my opinion, the first amendment, in this instance, conflicts with the right to free and fair elections.

Also, it’s not a complete infringement on the first amendment — people can still speak freely all they want. They just can’t buy political ads to do it.

zip says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Win a battle, lose the war

The goal of cleaning up dirty-money politics was the primary reason behind the Nixon-era Federal Election Campaign Act. However, well-funded candidates (BHO, for instance) tend to refuse the gift of matching funds that the Act provides, in order to be free to operate outside its rules.

Anonymous Coward says:

The “best” outcome I can see happening here is that the goal is actually met, the money is spent, a bunch of candidates actually get elected, and they actually pass some sort of “reform”… and that “reform” either has loopholes you can drive a truck through, or restricts speech and is unconstitutional. (Feingold knew his reform was unconstitutional.) And then people will find some other issue that’s more important to them, and most of the politicians will quietly drop their support once they go through a reelection campaign and decide they like the advantages the current system gives the incumbent.

Sorry to pile on the negativity, but that’s the way I see it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: MAyDay Pac

Maybe Jennifer would have loved to see the name “Mike Masnick” in the credits on this page: https://mayday.us/about/

On the pledge page, (https://pledge.mayday.us/pledge) I got a blank page, and the [clipped] page code said this:

style=”COLOR: black; FONT: 8pt/11pt verdana”>The page you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or you may need

Did anyone else have any luck?

Anonymous Coward says:

Giving politicians campaign money in exchange for specific laws is something that might be illegal and needs to be looked at carefully.

However, paying for campaign ads in support or opposed to certain laws (and perhaps supporting or opposing specific candidates) might provide a lot more flexibility given that campaign ads have been considered free speech now.

So the legal aspects of this need to be very carefully considered.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

But it’s not actually a vote for “none of the above”. Abstaining is actually a vote for the guy who won, meaning that every single abstaining vote is part of the problem. Sure, it’s ALSO a comment on levels of engagement in the system, but the guy who wins doesn’t care about that.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Maybe I phrased that badly. Given that a particular vote is not cast, there is no practical way to tell if the holder of the vote said “I don’t like any of the options”, or if they said “I don’t care, just pick who you like”.

Technically speaking, if paper ballots exist you could actually go to the polling place and write “None of the above” on your form and submit it, but it’s highly unlikely that this datum will be lost in collation, meaning the practical situation is still the same.

Quiet Lurcker says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Technically speaking, if paper ballots exist you could actually go to the polling place and write “None of the above” on your form and submit it, but it’s highly unlikely that this datum will be lost in collation, meaning the practical situation is still the same.

By the by, did you mean it would be highly likely that information would be lost? As may be.

Perhaps a conflation of your ideas: a ‘tick-box’ denoting “I have no preference” and a second ‘tick-box’ denoting “I do not like (or approve of, as the case may be) any of these options”.

Adding them to any ballot, carried on electrons or on former trees is a trivial exercise. Counting the number of times those tick-boxes are ticked is similarly trivial. For my own tuppence worth, I rather like the idea. Might convey some meaningful information to all interested parties.

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