Awesome Stuff: One Last Chance To Join With Thousands Of Others To Help Limit The Influence Of Money In Politics

from the don't-let-cynicism-get-in-the-way dept

Okay, we’ve written about Larry Lessig’s Mayday PAC a bunch of times already, including when it launched, when it hit its first target of $1 million (which was then matched by donors for another $1 million), and again when the second round launched with a goal of raising $5 million (again to be matched with another $5 million) by July 4th.

Guess what? Today is July 4th, and the campaign ends today.

And you have a chance to help determine if it meets that $5 million goal or not. While there’s been a big last minute push from a variety of places, as I write this, the campaign is still significantly short of its target goal. There is a very real chance that it won’t reach the $5 million. And that would be unfortunate. So, today is basically a big chance for you to make a statement about trying to limit the impact of money in politics.

One note on cynicism: pretty much every time we’ve written about this, the comments have been filled with people cynically trashing the idea either based on the argument that it’s impossible to get rid of the influence of money in politics or because Lessig hasn’t taken a specific issue on a particular pet issue (term limits is one that comes up often enough). Personally, I find this disingenuous and disappointing. It seems like people are actively looking for ways to keep the status quo, rather than to represent any real challenge to it at all. This kind of attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy that only keeps things the way they are.

No one knows for sure if Lessig’s plans will have any real impact, but I know of no one who has put as much time, thought and effort into tackling the problem of the corrupting influence of money in politics. For every simplistic point that someone has for why this plan or that plan won’t work, Lessig has a detailed, fact-based or data-based answer. This isn’t just some randomly idealistic person with a dream. This is someone who has dedicated a huge chunk of his life and intellectual resources towards really tackling the problem in a realistic and doable way. Even if I don’t know all of the details, if there’s one person who can actively make a difference, who has thought through the pros and cons of basically every possible approach, it’s Larry Lessig.

Go ahead and be cynical, if you must. But think about what that cynicism leads to in the end. Even if the MAYDAY PAC fails, isn’t it better that they have a chance to succeed, rather than killing it off from the start so you can sound smart about how you knew it wouldn’t work?

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Comments on “Awesome Stuff: One Last Chance To Join With Thousands Of Others To Help Limit The Influence Of Money In Politics”

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kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Talk about a wasteful plan. Money has always influenced politics. Just exactly what does everyone think campaign contributions are? Money influences politics, no matter what political party you’re running with. Democrats are influenced by big money from organized unions, the health care industry, TransCanada and their Keystone XL Pipeline and lobbyists on Capital Hill. The same goes for Republicans with Wall Street, big banks, wealthy corporations, big oil and whatnot.

Ending the influence of money? Might as well declare our country to be a country of fools led by an iron fist dictator, not that it already is one now.

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Have you read this take? “Ending the influence of money” is a slogan, simplified out of necessity. In slightly more detail, the plan is to balance out the influence of the rich and everyone else by providing tax credits, vouchers, or matching funds for small-dollar political contributions.

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

i don’t have the same reasons, but have to agree with kenichi on this one: OUT-BRIBING the puppetmasters to take over a system THEY corrupted and co-opted, so WE can (automagically?) dismantle and re-make it ?
really? joe/jane sixpack are going to drain THEIR funds in THIS economy, and STILL not compete with the puppetmasters, who are using chump change they found in the couch of their 10th home ? ? ?
sure, that’s fair: ‘buy back/out-bid’ the corrupters, AND pay THEM, AND STILL not get any traction…

say, i’ve got a great idea: why don’t we take a critical service most people desperately need, and privatize it, make it mandatory, AND keep the major reason for high costs in effective control of the system, the services and the prices… ain’t that a great idea too ?
sheeple, hoodwinked and they don’t even realize it…

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

For anyone interested in the actual plan, all the details are here: There’s nothing magic about it. I’d be interested in your thoughts, art guerrilla, if you have anything to say about the actual plan.

(Like sheep, we are social animals. We are actually far more imitative than sheep and even monkeys, contrary to the stereotype.) Setting that aside, who’s more like mindless, docile sheep: people who have digested Lessig’s analysis, agree with him, and support his initiative as the best thing going or the huge mass of apathetic people whining to anyone who will listen about our government but not doing anything about it?

p.s. The flawed health care reform is a great example of why we need to fix the way elections are funded, as Lessig has argued repeatedly: “Let’s say we are talking about healthcare: money guaranteed that single-payer health insurance was not on the table. There could be nothing more fundamental to that bill than that.”

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

@ TimH-
preface: OF COURSE, i am 100% for changing the CORRUPTED present system, however, i think it is beyond salvation at this point by working within ‘The (corrupt) System’…

1. thanks for response, and so i did go and look at their ‘manifesto’, etc; and -in general- my points are STILL salient and valid… frankly, i saw NOTHING of substance which contradicts my original perception of this naive effort…
2. this is their pollyanna-ish vision of how this is going to work: step 1 elect ‘good’ kongresskritters… well, gosh, why didn’t anyone think of that before, geez, do i feel stooopid; step 2 Win Majority of kongresskritters!, oh, its that simple, gosh, i feel even stooopider; step 3 make a law! damn, why didn’t we idiot sheeple think of that!; step 4 change constitution to keep future evil minions of doom from changing back to bad old ways, brilliant ! ! !
easy peasy japanesy…

? ? ? ALL OF THIS BEGS THE QUESTION: HOW are you going to elect ‘reform-minded’ kongresskritters when we can be out-bid at every turn ? ? ? AS IF ‘we’ have not been trying already ? ? ?

i’m sorry, i’m left shaking my head at this ‘hey gang, let’s put on a show!’ bullshit… AS IF there already aren’t a majority of kongresskritters who would agree that -yes- the system is broken, and -yes- it should be ‘fixed’…
but it doesn’t get fixed, does it ? ? ?

let’ say you elect super-boy scouts who have ‘pledged’ (said ‘pledge’ meaning NOTHING, by the way) to pursue real election reform… what are they going to do, beat up the old kongresskritters who are holding up reform, blackmail them (prob the most effective method), hold their dog hostage ? ? ? WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO DO DIFFERENTLY that has not already been done ? ? ? WHAT SPECIFICALLY ? ? ?

no, this is nothing but a simpleton chamberlain heading out to be snookered by a couple hundred hitlers…

the 1% are simply going to fold their cards and let THEIR kongresskritters be bought out from under them ? ? ?

not to mention: using immoral methods to combat that SAME immorality ? ? ? no, you have lost your way if you go down that road…

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Thanks, I really appreciate you taking the time to look at the plan. I disagree with your analysis, however. The difference in this initiative is that it focuses like a laser on citizen-funded campaigns. That subverts the current narrative of a rigidly polarized debate over whether political spending should be treated as speech under the Constitution. At the very least, it will force opponents of fundamental reform to invest heavily in new messaging strategies. In the best case, it catches them off guard completely and they lose control of the narrative. In the most likely case, they are on their game, but we have a fighting chance because they have an uphill battle against a clear, focused, plausible plan for citizen-funded campaigns. Now that Mayday is funded, however, debate over whether it can succeed is mostly wasted breath. We will see in the next few months whether they can succeed. They are going to do pre and post polling to attempt to demonstrate conclusively that they had decisive impacts in up to 5 House races and that they increased the salience of systematic corruption in Congress for those races. Why don’t we table this debate for five months and see what happens?

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

i will say that there are some potential remedies in the proposal that i can support, but i doubt would pass legal muster: having the small contributor money ‘leveraged’ by matching gummint ‘donations’ times 9-10, for example…

HOWEVER, i don’t know how/if it could withstand a legal challenge: WHY isn’t rich people’s speech/money worthy of having matching funds too ?
(AND GIVEN the present perverted system, i don’t know why not, either, AS A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE…)

i just hate:
using IMMORAL means to combat said immoral means, makes me feel icky, I AM (whether corporadoes do) supposed to have morals and ethical strictures, i will NOT abandon them for convenience…

i just don’t see us 99% out-bidding the 1% who have the money, the power, the media, the law, the courts, the EVERYTHING amenable to THEIR demands, not ours…

sorry, i’ve given up on changing a corrupt system by using a corrupt system; nothing short of a constitutional convention (which could be hijacked by the 1%), or a revolution (bloody or totherwise) can stop this self-perpetuating, inhuman, and inhumane Empire…

outbidding the puppetmasters ? i just don’t see it… someone run the numbers for me, but i bet it is literally impossible to out-bid them…

when a card sharp is cheating you, you don’t try to out-cheat him, you take out your Colt and ventilate him…

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

The point is simply that it is hopefully not necessary to outbid them. We still have a formal democracy, if not a fully functioning one. There are diminishing returns to big money. We just need enough money to have a fighting chance.

Sorry if I have already, quoted this here, but I am interested in your response in particular: “Some worry that there’s something improper about using a corrupted system to achieve corruption reform. Don’t we dirty our hands if we use the money of the few to achieve a democracy for the many?

“I understand that concern. I don’t agree with it. One might have said it was wrong to use the racist system of American democracy to bring about the rights of citizenship for African-Americans. I wouldn’t have said that. Or one might have said it was wrong to use a sexist political system to bring about a democracy in which women have the right to vote. I wouldn’t have said that either. In my view, we work with the democracy we have to make a more perfect democracy. And the only way we’ll convince America that winning is possible is if we show America we’ve got the resources to win.”

JWW (profile) says:

Term limits!

Mayday is making absolutely no effort to call for term limits.

Because of this they will fail. This isn’t cynicism this is a fact.

Their planned voucher system for funding campaigns will end up hopelessly tipped in favor of incumbents. With higher name recognition and by virtue of being the voters representatives, incumbents can set themselves up to receive the lions share of voucher money being proposed by Mayday.

In my belief our problems are much less caused by “money in politics” than they are caused by the corruption derived from having a near permanent running class that get into office and never leave. The bad that our representatives are doing in their establishing of laws and regulations far outweighs the bad they are doing in their political campaigns.

We need to throw the bums out, we need term limits to make sure that happens.

Call me a cynic all you like. But I’m just being a realist. They’re trying to solve the wrong problem.

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re: Term limits!

And term limits for friends, and term limits for protege’s? Or we could just face up to the fact that this is an imperfect solution to having “a near permanent running class”? Yes, term limits, non-partisan redistricting, maybe more seats in Congress, jungle primaries, instant runoff voting…these are all ideas worth trying, but they don’t rise to the urgency of the central, root problem, the dominance of big money. If anyone has time for a little more detail on how Lessig has convinced me and so many others that the way we fund elections is the #1 issue we need to focus on, I recommend this 45 min talk: It’s going to give you the stats, case studies, insightful analogies, and hope – the same things that made me believe that it is possible to restore our democratic republic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Term limits!

I think all of this is still a patch for the real problem, a problem created by the government itself. The problem is the fact that the government grants various (media) monopolies (ie: broadcasting and cableco monopolies) and these media monopolies benefit from the broken system they try to maintain. Therefore they keep most people ignorant of the important issues covered by this blog and they feed everyone a one sided narrative that supports their self interested agenda. They have influence over what candidates to support while ensuring that those that will opt for real reform don’t stand a chance.

The government creates so anti-competitive laws (ie: via patents, govt established taxi-cab monopolies, etc…) and govt established monopolists and those that benefit from anti-competitive laws inherently rent seek. This is econ 101, they use their monopoly rents inefficiently to lobby and influence legislation to maintain and advance their monopoly position instead of using that money to lower prices and improve product quality.

Through a one sided penalty structure copy’right’ holders deter restaurants and other venues from hosing independent performers without paying a parasite collection agency a fee and they can manipulate broadcasting and cableco monopolies to keep independent performers out so that the only way they can get their content distributed and gain recognition is to go through a parasite middle man that contributes nothing (forcing authors to sign over their copy protection privileges to that parasite). These companies and patent trolls like Intellectual Ventures use their ill gotten monopoly rents to rent seek and influence legislation instead of competing in a free market where such inefficient use of funds are unaffordable and will put you out of business. As someone else noted there are people whose career and skill set is to manipulate the legal system to rent seek and they don’t have the skill set to make an honest living. It is monopoly rents that provide the financial basis for hiring people to dedicate their time and effort into manipulating the system. At the root of the problem these monopolies must be abolished. This is something taught in an introductory economics course about monopolies.

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Term limits!

The next thing taught in an introductory economics course is that there is such a thing as a natural monopoly (e.g. utility companies). This is where, without any government interference, there would be a monopoly. So there is a good argument for government to regulate such monopolies and keep their prices lower than the “free market” would have them.

Another thing you may have learned in a slightly more advanced economics course is that knowledge is something that the free market does not provide the right incentives for. If I put years into inventing something, someone else can steal my idea as soon as I make it public, leaving me with no compensation for my research. The temporary monopolies granted by patents and copyrights are a response to this problem with the free market. (Granted, there are abuses of patents and copyrights and there is a serious need for reform. Also, there are alternatives such as grants, prizes, and government- or foundation-funded fellowships for researchers. But we need to understand the basic economics, first.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Term limits!

(and this argument can also be said of things like government contracts and the revolving door behind them. Seeking government contracts in return for providing regulators with revolving door favors can also be seen as a form of rent seeking and the economic rent provided in channeling money towards things that are being decided on based not on what’s in the public interest but what’s in the personal interests of politicians can be used to support more rent seeking)

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Term limits!

The way to change the way elections are funded is for the government to fund them.

First, it would be much cheaper as the government could hold out their ‘business license disapproval if you don’t cooperate and pay your tax of x number of minutes/column inches/exposures during campaign season’ weapon.

Second would be to eliminate paid outside political advertising. I am not saying don’t let corporations or PAC’s speak, I am saying that their money is tainted speech. Let the candidates use the resources to speak. Let the forums and op ed columns speak for those big groups that are so used to having so much influence over something they have no real right to influence. After all, corporations really aren’t people, are they?

Also, by the government paying for elections, moneyed dynasties will no longer have that advantage as any downtrodden soul could run, from a financial standpoint. If their platform and ability to state and stand by their position puts them in the limelight, the system succeeds. Of course, what ever system is set up would need to be as un-biased as possible which brings up…

Third is the need to eliminate the political parties. I am not demented enough (though there is some) to believe they will go away. I am talking about their influence as to candidate selection and other ways they currently intrude upon the democratic administration of a republic. They, as a whole, aren’t people either.

There may be holes, there may be missing, but government pays takes outside money out of the system and out of our congresscritters zone of influence. It stops only that ‘form of speech’ created by and entrenched by the supreme court. A properly motivated congress could correct this.

You are trying money, big uphill road to hoe (the little guy does not understand the threat or cannot afford it), is there another or coincidental way?

Pseudonym (profile) says:

Re: Term limits!

To borrow a Lessig analogy, consider an alcoholic man who is beating his family. Lessig is talking about the alcohol, and you are talking about the violence.

They are both problems. And it’s undeniably true that violence is the proximate problem; it’s what is directly hurting people. But the alcohol is the underlying problem, and without fixing that, nothing will really get fixed.

Similarly, term limits are a proximate problem, but money is the underlying problem. Action on term limits won’t happen until there is a critical mass of politicians who are not motivated primarily by campaign funding.

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Some worry that there’s something improper about using a corrupted system to achieve corruption reform. Don’t we dirty our hands if we use the money of the few to achieve a democracy for the many?

“I understand that concern. I don’t agree with it. One might have said it was wrong to use the racist system of American democracy to bring about the rights of citizenship for African-Americans. I wouldn’t have said that. Or one might have said it was wrong to use a sexist political system to bring about a democracy in which women have the right to vote. I wouldn’t have said that either. In my view, we work with the democracy we have to make a more perfect democracy. And the only way we’ll convince America that winning is possible is if we show America we’ve got the resources to win.”

Nic (profile) says:

I have nothing against the stated goal of the PAC but dammit man, there’s the Wolf PAC that already managed to go through both the Chamber and Senate of Vermont. And they are not asking for kickstarter type of money (millions) to get rid of the influence of money on politics. So why the hell do we need another PAC when one has already accomplished more than them and without the ironic stupidity of raising a PAC asking for millions to get rid of the influence of MONEY.

So that’s why I think this Mayday PAC is downright idiotic since it’s just splitting forces and the way they demand money runs counter to their stated goals.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Failure is the Option

Don’t you get it? This is the political-donation equivalent of a black hole: If you give your money to them and they fail, they prevented that money from going to other political causes that had any chance of succeeding. “Event Horizon: Election Day” coming soon to a theater near you.

ChrisB (profile) says:

Won't work

At the root, this won’t work. First, if tries to fix big government by making it bigger. Second, the root of the complaint is that the public doesn’t donate to parties, only large donors do.

If the problem is no one cares about politics, isn’t the solution to make them care? If people understood the issues, snake oil salesmen would not be elected. The root of this campaign assumes people are idiots who are duped by advertisements. This is not exactly the most inspiring message. A better way to fight this is education. Show people that all those pork barrel projects are bankrupting government, and we’d all be better off with less government.

Which is back to my first point. Large government isn’t fixed by larger government, only smaller government. In Canada, we have something like this: we give parties money based on how many people vote for them. It was meant to do exactly what this campaign wants: take the burden of parties to fundraise and just use taxpayer money to fund political campaigns. So what happens? The people in power now get even more money, in addition to their fund raising.

The solution is people need to wake up, and stop voting for people based on empty promises. There is no free lunch. If someone offers it to you, know that it was stolen from someone else.

Hans says:

Re: Won't work

“The solution is people need to wake up, and stop voting for people based on empty promises.”

Your solution is based on the assumption that people are actually getting to vote for who they want. In the current system the only candidates on the ballot are the ones who have taken large donations from various people/entities that want legislative attention. The empty promises are simply the way they get you to vote for them. However, when they win, they give their paymasters what is expected. At least they do if they want to stay in the job.

JP Jones (profile) says:

Re: Re: I gave

Um…you just increased the amount of money in politics.

Politics costs money. Everything costs money in one way or another. To paraphrase one of my college professors: “politics is the method by which human beings decide who gets what.” Since we use money as the primary determination for our economy (also “who gets what”) that means politics is all about money, or at least economic value.

You can’t remove money from politics. The money, however, isn’t the problem. The problem is the strings attached to the money, the intent behind those who “donate” to the political process. This has a class-based definition: if the rich or affluent do it, it’s called “lobbying” and if the poor or middle class do it it’s called “bribery.” The result is the same; the implication is that the individual receiving the money will behave in a manner that benefits the one giving the money, and if they do not, the money will not be offered. Since money is required to have a successful campaign (and thus get elected) this becomes a major factor in how politians act.

The idea behind a crowd funded PAC is that by making the money generic and outside of the control of any political goal or intent you remove the “or else” from the equation. This means politicians are compelled to act in accordance with what their constituents want because now their votes are the primary determining factor in how they represent us, not the money from campaign contributions (which currently have the largest impact on elections). In other words, our representatives are motivated to represent the voters rather than the lobby.

Charles (profile) says:

Re: I gave

I gave too.I have donated 3 times. I believe in Larry Lessing. I believe in his cause. Have you naysayers never heard the man speak? He is awesome. As I have said before, Larry Lessing is a man to be trusted.

You all have the choice of doing nothing or doing something. I choose something over nothing every time. I firmly believe this country is approaching a crossroad of epic proportion and I choose to help decide which direction we will be going. For far too long I have accepted what the powers that be have doled out while lining their pockets at my expense. In my opinion this country is an oligarchy.

Most of the money donated to MAYDAYPac will not be collected unless the goal is met or the donor chooses to donate anyway. If you are happy with the status quo, do nothing. If you are the status quo, troll the forums.

I, for one, have had enough surveillance, income equality, bad Supreme Court decisions, and secret courts making secret laws. I support Larry Lessing and you should too.

Rob McMillin (profile) says:

Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

Larry Lessig is a smart man, but he — and Techdirt — are on the wrong side of this. This is really a hidden call to suppress speech of people who wish to spend money on political campaigns. The “speech isn’t money” canard is old and tired and false.

The real answer to limit the reach of money in government is to limit what powers government has. We do not generally see people spending millions of dollars for a school board seat. But limiting state power, of course, is a political non-starter.

Rob McMillin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

Lessig doesn’t literally have to say “speech isn’t money”; I use that locution mainly because it was used by opponents of Citizens United who refused to understand that the First Amendment makes no distinction among speakers. What does money buy in political campaigns but airtime and advertising? And if you complain about the power of money in elections, isn’t that, in the end, the thing you would complain about — other people using money to advance political speech for the candidates of their choice?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

The only reasons corporations are ‘persons’ is because of some definitions related things like the corporate vail and contract stuff.

I do not believe, and nothing you or anybody else has to say, will make me believe that the framers intended to give the CEO of some corporation two platforms to speak from, his personal soapbox AND his well funded campaign to perform some regulatory capture over at the legislature.

Rob McMillin (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

Once more, with feeling: Citizens United was correctly decided. People complaining that it was not miss two very important points, at least:

1) The Constitution says nothing about the nature of the speaker; it suppresses Congressional action. The First Amendment doesn’t care whether the speaker is a Martian or a Montanan, or acts through a corporation to do so. Indeed, you are using multiple corporations to engage in speech here; complaining that speech via corporations needs to be regulated is to invite that same regulation upon yourself.

2) If Citizens United was wrongly decided, then so was New York Times vs. Sullivan, a point made eloquently by Floyd Abrams, who represented the Times in that case.

Pretending that Congress has not only a right but a responsibility to suppress speech (as Bernie Sanders most perniciously has) is a vile perversion of what the First Amendment stands for.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

“Citizens United was correctly decided”

So sez you.

The rest of us look at our bank accounts and wonder how any of us could compete with the hundreds of millions of dollars these guys are prepared to spend while speaking for a very very very small percentage of the whole, who, because money, can speak loudly enough to overpower everybody else. Sorry, does not work, as this is not properly balanced, soapboxes should be equal.

Maybe if you scream your mantra “Citizens United was correctly decided” enough times you might get another few thousand to believe you, but those folks will either be already part of the problem or so naive that they have already invested in both the Brooklyn Bridge AND the Eiffel Tower, and are looking for the return.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

I had one more relevant thought. If a corporation is a person, does he/she register to vote in their place of corporate registry, where the HQ is, or at the home address of the current Chairman, or is it the home address of the current CEO? There are so many people involved with this ‘person’ it is hard to know which one to give a vote to…oh wait!

Well maybe two thoughts. The constitution recognizes people and citizens, and it recognizes voters. Where does it differentiate between them? Why do people/citizens have problems with registering to vote? The answer is the entrenched. You sound like an entrenched kind of person. How do you go about restricting, or allowing the restriction of voters to vote? We all know it comes from the parties, cause they currently have the power, and you seem like your in lock step with one of them (so hard to tell them apart these days).

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

you don’t need to go any further than that to demolish your ‘argument’…
not to mention, back in the day when our forefathers were contemplating these ‘rights’, corporations were tightly leashed, relatively rarely granted charters to perform some specific task THAT HAD TO BENEFIT THE PUBLIC AT LARGE, NOT just generate profit for private parties…

if you haven’t noticed, THAT situation has been TURNED ON ITS HEAD, and it is the corporate-tail that is wagging the dog-state: IT IS TOTALLY PERVERTED…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

Excuse me if I don’t weep for the billionaires who could potentially “have their speech suppressed”. How will we ever survive if they can’t throw large sums of money at politicians and then threaten to cut the gravy train if they don’t get their way? /s

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

The “speech isn’t money” canard is old and tired and false.

The thing is, the government is being hypocritical.

I got my property tax bill a couple weeks ago, and e-mailed my County Treasurer asking his phone number and how many chapters of A Tale of Two Cities I’d have to read to him to consider my taxes paid in full. He said I couldn’t do that.

Hans says:

Re: Techdirt is on the wrong side of this

“The real answer to limit the reach of money in government is to limit what powers government has.”

Do you seriously think that anyone in the current “system” has any incentive to put such limits in place? I certainly don’t. If you really want to make such a change, you need to be heard. The way campaigns are funded today, your vote and your voice don’t mean much. Lessig wants to change that.

You’re wrong, Techdirt is on the right side of this. If you really want what you’re asking for, you should be supporting Mayday.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

It’s not the money in politics that’s the problem, it’s the fact that there are no term limits in either the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives nor the U.S. Supreme Court. All three of these institutions need term limits not exceeding two terms. Additionally, the U.S. Senate needs terms of service like the House of Representatives. Senate terms are for four years whereas the House are every two years.

The U.S. Supreme Court? We need to end these lifetime terms of service because it’s gotten ridiculous. Additionally, we need to abolish the Electoral College. The president should be elected in the General Election vote, NOT the Electoral College.

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What do you say to this argument that an anonymous coward made a couple years ago:

“I don’t really see term limits as a solution. If anything, that could make the revolving door problem even worse. People will enter Congress not thinking “I will be working for this institution in thirty years”, instead, they will enter thinking “Who will I work for when I’m done working for Congress and how can I do them favors while in Congress”. and you would have a lot more people who have worked for Congress (which is harder to publicly track), a Congress that regulates many industries, what, are you going to force all these people to never work for any industry?”

Hans says:

Re: Re:

“It’s not the money in politics that’s the problem, it’s the […]”

Whatever you think the problem is, Lessig’s whole point is that it doesn’t matter, because you have no voice in the current funding climate. You won’t get the change you want, whatever it is, until your voice can be herd, and big donations get the legislative attention. Period.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

Please. Most congressman end up getting a job working for either Wall Street, the health care industry, the RIAA, the MPAA, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, The USTR, the US Patent and Trademark Office, the Copyright Industry or some other industry that lobbied the same congressmen they will eventually employ.

Congress does favor for big business and corporate interests and they in turn get high profile jobs working for those self same industries.

Anonymous Coward says:

I keep hearing ‘term limits’ thrown around.

Forgive my ignorance, but I’m assuming this to mean ‘limit how long people are in power’.

I don’t see how that, in itself, helps. In addition to lessening peoples devotion to congress in favor of ‘Okay, what do I do when my term is up?’, its always bothered me that the political system seems designed to ensure nothing gets done.

Person (a) is in office 4 years (random example, bear with me). In 4 years, they try to put in motion a plan to solve problem (a). But, their term is up before the plan is finished, and person (b), who replaces them, doesn’t care about problem (a). No their pet issue is problem (b). So they scrap the in progress plan to solve problem (a), wasting 4 years of work and who knows how much money, so they can start their work on problem (b). But ending the plan to solve problem (a) takes time and money to. Person (b)’s term ends, and person (c) comes in. Starting to see where this is going?

It honestly amazes me anything ever gets done in politics when all anybody seems to have time to do is short sighted plans that they HOPE the next guy isn’t just gonna drop of change track on…

Not Important says:

Veracity of claims aside, and you’d be right if you guessed I generally agree with Tim H:

I think we all recognize that our government is not functioning the way we would like it to. To those of you that want a national popular vote, great! Do you work with the national popular vote movement? To those that want to do away with career politicians, are you working with US Term Limits or a related group? To those that think the WolfPAC is the way to go, if you’re not yet involved, the WolfPAC guys I’ve met love Larry and what he’s doing, but they definitely want all the help they can get.

To all the cynics and realists with the clarity of mind to know what the wrong approach is, I hope you’re actively working to implement the correct solution(s) we so desperately need. Let us know what you’re doing and how we can get involved.


P.S. – for those that haven’t given yet, this is my favorite MayDay PAC pledge page:

Anonymous Coward says:

USA is so great that it fails as a Republic and a Democracy

You have a fundamental problem in the USA today. You have the tools to be a great nation. However, it is not possible for you to achieve that status. As a nation and as people you have forgotten the lessons of the past and so you repeat them.

At the least, you are a nation of cowards, so interested in your own individual “rights” and desires that you (in the majority) are unable to see a bigger picture. Your national influence in relation to freedom and protection of those who are unable to protect themselves has been on the decline for decades. You are a people that are seen to be lazy, corrupt, hedonistic and lacking any spiritual well-being. You are seen as a people that say one thing and yet do the opposite.

You have allowed those who rule you to get away with “murder” and not be responsible for the actions they dictate. Your apparent arrogance in all things American gets right up the nose of those whom you would influence.

And why is this the case? Because, you are people and people everywhere are flawed, stupid, arrogant, self-seeking, wanting pleasure and their own way first. My own nation is no better.

Occasionally, someone tries to fix something. But these fixes don’t go to the core of the problem, people. It requires a fundamental change in people. This is recognised and their are those who would try and force their proposals on people. This, however, won’t work and for the simple reason, that it is people who want to force the changes. As we have seen throughout history, this is futile and doomed to failure.

There is a solution, but it cannot be forced on people. There is a way out but you cannot make people follow it. It requires a willingness to see oneself as one really is and people baulk at this. It also requires recognition that one cannot do this alone, we don’t have the wisdom, the wherewithal or the power to do this. This too is where people will baulk at this.

It requires patience, kindness, not being proud, not getting angry, nor being jealous, nor boasting, nor self-centred and it requires recognising that we cannot sustain such. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I have had to recognise that in and of myself, I am no different to anyone else on this planet, a self-serving, ignorant, arrogant, frail, power-hungry lover of oneself. Yet in him, he raises me above that if I remain focussed on him, seeking him first above all else. Do I have everything I want? No. Do I face difficulties and problems? Yes. Is it worth it? Very much so. When I look at my life, I have been able to bring (it has been brought through my life) some good into the lives of others. I don’t have great influence nor great wealth, power or position.

I can share what I have learned. I cannot force it down anyone’s throat as that is an exercise in futility and in reality, each of us is responsible for our own choices. The one actual right we each have is to choose. Funnily enough the one right that people want to take away from others. All of our choices bring consequences, some good, some bad. As individuals we are then responsible.

The godless say that evil in the world shows that there is no God. Yet they forget that evil is there because people have chosen that evil. They have made choices and have allowed it to rise up. They abrogate their own responsibilities in the matter. There is a verb in the Australia vernacular called “aorta”. This verb is commonly used to push the responsibility on to others, instead of facing that it is a consequence of their decisions and choices.

So will Mr. Lessig’s call for action work? Probably not and simply because most people don’t really care to change the things that are fundamentally wrong.

Alan says:

If it's hypocritical, it's a good hypocrisy

Sometimes you need to join ’em in order to beat ’em.

If you were designing a new computer, would it be hypocritical to use existing computers to do the job?

Was it hypocritical for the designers of the first hybrid car to drive gas-powered cars to work every day?

“Money in politics” is not the full definition of the problem. It’s where the money is coming from, and what those donors expect in return. And the MayDay PAC can only improve matters. That’s why I gave twice.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Money has no effect

Say I’m a corporation and I want to cause a new law to be made that favors my industry. What do I do in an election? I could pick a candidate that will do as I request and give that candidate all my money. But if that candidate doesn’t win, my goals aren’t met. I could buy votes, as you suggest, but I have the same problem.

Now, remember I’m a corporation, and I have a lot of money. So I divide it up among several likely winners. To hedge my bet, I also fund both sides of some close elections. I don’t really care who wins, I just want my law passed (and notice that I don’t care if the winner is a Republican or a Democrat or a Green — I just care that I’ve given enough money that the candidate will feel obligated to fight for my law). Because I’ve given so much money to several different winners, I have effectively bought support for my law — maybe bi-partisan support!

In this scenario, votes don’t seem to matter any more. And it sure looks like money is a problem because of the large amounts that single corporations can donate to PACs.

Hans says:

Re: Money has no effect

“Money is not a problem in elections, unless someone is directly paying for a vote. My vote is not for sale.”

Then either you didn’t watch Lessig’s video(s), or you didn’t listen. The point is that the only people on your ballot — your only choices — are being pre-screened by people contributing gobs of money in return for legislative attention. Your vote doesn’t really matter, except perhaps to choose the red candidate or the blue candidate.

Anonymous Coward says:

Trying to limit the influence of money in politics is like believing that Harry Potter actually exists. It’s fantasy and anyone who thinks that this can actually happen is delusional and they need psychiatric help.

It’s like actually believing that magic can be conjured by muttering words from a movie. I just love the delusion that people think that limiting influence of money in politics will actually work.

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Let’s see, what should I trust more, careful reports analyzing the empirical evidence on whether fundamental reform has an impact ( or some random anonymous coward’s analogy to Harry Potter. So hard to know what to think when there is such conflicting evidence!

Tim H (profile) says:

Re: Populism.

You can accuse Lessig of many things, but it’s hard to accuse a Harvard Law Professor of populism. No, I do not want populism, per se, defined as “any of various, often antiestablishment or anti-intellectual political movements or philosophies that offer unorthodox solutions or policies and appeal to the common person rather than according with traditional party or partisan ideologies.” That’s a mix of good and bad. I do definitely want a democratic republic, though, defined as “a state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote for officers and representatives responsible to them.”

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

What I find horrendous is that everyone is trying to limit the influence of money in politics but everyone keeps forgetting that those morons in congress, and I’m referring to Democrats AND Republicans, use our own tax dollars to influence their own re-election campaigns, bills that they want passed, and so on.

Democrats AND Republicans have always fought hard for earmarks, or pork barrel spending, and it looks like Democrats, under the leadership of Harry Reid, wants to bring back earmarks.

The thing is, our own elected official not only borrow money from China because they seem to think that it’s okay to spend more money than the government is generating in revenue but that they are also using our own tax dollars to influence their own politics.

Every moron knows that you start from the top and work your way down. Want to end that influence? Start with President Obama, continue with the U.S. Supreme Court, make your way to congress, then to state government and finally to city government.

THAT’S how you end the influence of money in politics. Campaign donors aren’t even the problem. It’s the morons who were elected to run our country who have literally screwed everything up and they fight tooth and nail to prevent anyone from changing the status quo.

Even Elizabeth Warren is a moron. She talks a good talk, but in the end, she cannot do shit because the same changes she wants to make would literally screw herself, not to mention the Democratic Party.

Democrats and Republicans are strung out because they cannot commit to any meaningful reform without cutting off their own legs in the process.

Everything has a consequence. Unfortunately, Democrats have developed tunnel vision and they are only fixated on big money and they are NOT looking at the larger picture.

Take a look at that Nuclear Option Harry Reid enabled. Sure, it ended filibusters of judicial nominees and cabinet appointments but it’s going to backfire when the Republicans regain control of the Senate in November.

Christopher Smith (profile) says:

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

It’s disappointing but unsurprising to see Techdirt and its community unreflectively jumping on the bandwagon here. The logic of the argument here isn’t complicated, but it’s apparently the elephant in the room.

The entire outrage about campaign contributions is premised on the claim that political money equals votes. There are only two ways that can work: direct bribery, which undoubtedly happens but is a relatively minor influence, and using money to purchase publicity. Therefore, the crucial implicit claim is that political publicity directly manipulates the electorate’s votes.

Now I happen to agree wholeheartedly with that claim; I believe that most of the incumbent’s advantage is a matter of the mere-exposure effect. However, an honest adherent to that claim has to acknowledge that the issue is not money per se but political publicity.

If that’s the case, then the proposed “reforms” boil down to carving out a privileged position for incumbent media companies. CBS and the New York Times will still have massively wide-reaching platforms from which to push their political goals, but companies and individuals whose business happens not to be the mass media will be blocked from straightforward access to modern soapboxes.

Support Mayday if you like, but be honest about what you want: the government’s picking who’s allowed to reach an audience with political messages.

Hans says:

Re: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

“Support Mayday if you like, but be honest about what you want: the government’s picking who’s allowed to reach an audience with political messages.”

You might want to back up this statement with some logic. It certainly doesn’t follow from your previous paragraphs.

Lessig has thought about this, written about it, spoken about it. He’s put his idea out there, and put his credibility behind it. Where’s your idea and what have you done about it?

Feel free to enlighten us with your solution and see if you can get a movement going. Otherwise, you’re just another armchair cynic.

Christopher Smith (profile) says:

Re: Re: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

You’re begging the question. My “solution” is that while there are certainly issues with the way things are now, it’s probably the best compromise out there, just as with the US approach to free speech.

And my conclusion follows if you expect “freedom of the press” to be maintained as some sort of principle at all. Unless you’re going to forbid the NYT from printing editorials–and deal with situations where the media aren’t interested in covering newsworthy stories at all–then you’re placing Real Journalists in a privileged position to distribute their political opinions while denying others the right to use their means to do the same.

Hans says:

Re: Re: Re: Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

“You’re begging the question. My “solution” is that while there are certainly issues with the way things are now, it’s probably the best compromise out there, just as with the US approach to free speech.”

I don’t think “begging the question” means what you think it means. What I did do was assume you had a better idea, instead of assuming you accept the way things are.

Some of us, however, don’t accept that congress members should spend 30-70% of their time collecting campaign donations, and then listen to those donors instead of the people they represent. I think the Framers would find your “compromise” unsatisfying too.

Gerald Robinson (profile) says:

There are two reforms urgently needed:
First call bribes bribes and make them taxable.
Second term limits so that a Congressional office is not worth millions in bribes!

Citizens United was needed to offset the influence of labor unions and their “voluntary” contributions—which are any thing but voluntary. Often these are withheld from your pay along with Union dues, second if they aren’t you are strong armed into making them, and sometimes even if they are part of the Union pay deductions.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

I have a hard time believing that Larry Lessig’s motives are genuine. Everyone has an agenda and I just don’t believe that Lessig’s motives are entirely altruistic. He has an agenda. it doesn’t matter if your idea is a good idea, the problem is implementing that idea and ensuring that it’s a reasonable idea to begin with.

Lessig’s motive for wanting to limit the influence of money politics is an unattainable goal. But, instead of reaching for something that was within grasp, he decided to shoot for the moon with what amounts to nothing more than a pea-shooter.

Not only that, but his goal has no real hope of affecting change. The first goal is to repeal The Patriot Act and to limit the powers of the NSA within the borders of the United States. Americans should not be subjected with continual spying by our government and President Obama should be signing executive order after executive order either banning or restricting their powers against identified Americans.

The second goal is to disband the TSA. These guys and gals are the second worst abuser of civil rights in this country. What makes it worse, is the TSA violates the civil rights of every American. They don’t just target Muslims or blacks, they target everyone. If you videotape or videorecord what they’re doing, you’re labeled a troublemaker and blackballed from flying on any sort of domestic commercial airline.

Third, disband the FISA courts. Again, the FISA court is not a court when it continues to rubber-stamp subpoenas and secret search warrants without allowing opposing counsel to argue against the government. They violate due process and wreak of Nazism, fascism and are anathema to public policy.

There is no such as a free society anymore because the U.S. Government screams “terrorism” or “national security” and the courts jump to the defense of the government.

99guspuppet says:

Raise money to end money in politics

This campaign ( the MAYDAY PAC ) is meant to be a satire…. right ? If not , it certainly looks like satire.

If the campaign raised money to educate… that would a fine idea. But I doubt that the plan is to be non-coercive.

Since it is described as a PAC , I presume ( and I could be wrong ) that the money will be used to influence big time politicians. Sort of a bidding war to control the biggest a**holes. Pour more money into the slavelord* system and you get more of the same. More wheeler-dealers. More messianic lying manipulators. More buyoffs. More influence peddling. The bigger the system gets… the worse it is likely to get.

Remember the First Commandment ( and only commandment )…
== Leave thy neighbor alone ==

* that is what the politico/industrial/crapitalism/military/welfare is ….. people bossing other people around.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

I’m not trolling. I’m simply making a point. But what nobody is getting is that in order to eliminate the influence of money in politics, then you need to ban all money in politics where it comes in the form of donations to an election or re-election campaign.

THAT is the only way to prevent the the influence of money.

Every time a single citizen donates to an election or re-election campaign, YOU are influencing politics through your donation. YOU contribute to a politician engaging in a smear or dirty campaign against a member of their same party or against a member of the opposing party.

It just doesn’t matter whether you donate $1 or $10,000, YOU are influencing politics through your donation.

Hans says:

Re: Re:

“I’m not trolling. I’m simply making a point.”

Right. And your next comment below isn’t an insulting childish rant either. Troll.

“[…] you need to ban all money in politics […]”

Oh, poof! TK says “ban all money” and it shall be!

Laws need to be passed for such a thing. Conventionally, legislators pass laws in this country. Legislators benefit from the current scheme. Figure it out from there. I’m not going to hold your hand all the way through this.

“It just doesn’t matter whether you donate $1 or $10,000, YOU are influencing politics through your donation.”

I don’t think Larry ever said that it didn’t, so stop jumping up and down stomping your feet. It’s stunning how insufferable you are on this thread. How about spending some significant time actually reading and watching what Larry has written and spoken? He wrote a book, you know. It’s quite good, easy to read. It’s free if you look for it.

Relevant to your latest tantrum, the point is to change election funding so that most of the money comes from the 99.95% of us instead of the .05% that it currently does, reducing the influence of large donors who expect something in return.

kenichi tanaka (profile) says:

I just heard that Lessig reached his goal. So, this idiot is going to try to end the influence of money in politics by using that five million dollars to influence politics.

You don’t fucking try to end the influence of money by using you own money to influence politics.

Larry must have forgotten the old rule that two wrongs don’t make a right.

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