Democrats Screw Over Larry Lessig To Keep Him Out Of The Debates; Forces Lessig To Drop His Campaign

from the what's-up-dems? dept

Ever since Larry Lessig announced his campaign for the Presidency a few months ago, we noted that it wasn’t just a long shot, but seemed more like a gimmick to get the (very real) issue of political corruption into the debates. I like Larry quite a bit and support many of his efforts, but this one did seem kind of crazy. I’m glad that he’s willing to take on crazy ideas to see if they’ll work, because that’s how real change eventually comes about, but the whole thing did seem a bit quixotic. That said, the last thing I expected was that the Democratic Party would be so scared of him as to flat out lie and change the rules to keep his ideas from reaching the public. Yet, that’s what it did, and because of that, Lessig has dropped his campaign for the Presidency. You can see the video of him explaining this decision below:

An article from one of his advisers, Steve Jarding, explains the situation in more detail. We already knew that the Democratic Party had tried to keep him out of the debates by not “officially” welcoming him to the race — as it had done with candidates like Jim Webb and Lincoln Chaffee who had raised less money and were polling lower than Lessig. And many polling operations hadn’t included Lessig in their polls because they relied on the DNC’s official welcome to start polling.

In response, Lessig had dropped his original gimmicky promise to resign the Presidency after getting campaign finance reform through Congress. Based on that, it was expected that the DNC would recognize his campaign. In the meantime, more polling operations started putting Lessig in their polls, and he was polling over 1% — which was the threshold that the DNC had clearly told Lessig’s campaign was necessary to cross to get into the debates. In fact, Lessig’s campaign had specifically asked and gotten confirmation on the rules:

The DNC’s rules for candidate participation in their debates were pretty straightforward–or so we thought. In August, before the Lessig campaign began, DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, announced the standards for being included in the debates. As she described the rule, a candidate had to have 1 percent in three DNC sanctioned national polls, “in the six weeks prior to the debate.”

Hitting 1 percent would not be easy, but it was possible. And indeed, at the end of August already one national polling firm, PPP, found Lessig at 1 percent nationally.

Yet, about this time, Lessig’s campaign manager received a troubling email from the DNC, suggesting the debate participation standards were different. The email included a memo that stated that the three polls had to be “at least six weeks prior to the” debate–contradicting what Wasserman-Schultz had said that they could be “in the six weeks prior to the debate.” To try to clear up the contradiction, I arranged a call with the DNC. On that call, the DNC political director confirmed to me the rule was as the Chair had stated it–three polls finding 1 percent “in the six weeks prior to the debate.”

But… then the rules magically changed, despite the fact that it shows that the previous debate wouldn’t have allowed some candidates if the DNC had followed the same rules:

And indeed, that is precisely the rule that was applied in the first debate. As CNN specified in a late September memo, to qualify a candidate had to poll at 1 percent in the “polls released between August 1, 2015 and October 10, 2015.” The first debate was October 12.

So, we believed we had our guidelines. And as such, we worked hard–and spent our campaign’s resources–to meet this clarified goal. It wasn’t easy, as most of the national polls didn’t even include Lessig’s name. But then a week ago, a Monmouth poll of Democrats nationally found him at the qualifying percentage. Then an NBC poll found the same. HuffPost Pollster now lists three polls at 1%. Since the Monmouth poll, no poll that included Lessig’s name found him with anything less than 1%.

The new rules, which seem solely designed to block Lessig out:

Late last week, the DNC again changed the rules for participation in the debates. Just at the point that it seemed Lessig was about to get in, the DNC has shut the door.

We were informed of this change in a phone call late last week that I had with the DNC political director. During that call, I was told that the DNC participation standard for the debates was for a candidate to be at one percent in three polls conducted, “six weeks prior to the debate”–not the clarified rule cited earlier by Wasserman-Shultz and the DNC political director that a candidate had to be at one percent in three polls conducted “in the six weeks prior to the debate.” To further make the point, the political director confirmed the new rule in a follow-up email to me.

Under this new rule, Lessig obviously cannot qualify for the November 14 debate. He would have had to qualify four weeks ago! Under this new rule, all the work–and expense–of the past four weeks has been for naught. The door has been shut. By DNC mandate, Larry Lessig won’t be participating in the Democratic Party debates.

This seems pretty fucked up. Yes, politics is a nasty business, but let’s face it: Lessig had no chance to win, but could have had a real impact on the campaigns and what followed by participating in the debates. And he did everything by the rules… and still got fucked over for it.

If Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and the Democratic National Party wanted to do a job highlighting just how corrupt the process is, they just did a great job.

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Comments on “Democrats Screw Over Larry Lessig To Keep Him Out Of The Debates; Forces Lessig To Drop His Campaign”

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art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re:

yep, thought the ‘step-down’ gimmick was stupid for a lot of reasons, the least of which is it would provide some excuse for the dem rats to exclude him…
(for example: IF we great unwashed DID elect a man running on such reform issues, AND we thought he could achieve them, WHY wouldn’t we REALLY want him as a ‘full-time’ president to confront ALL the other issues similarly ? ? ?)

otherwise, you only had to remember a little bit of his story to see how nader, jackson (shirley and jesse and scoop) et al have been treated by the dem rats (and rethugs) in unfairly, illegally excluding various qualified candidates…
funny how that works: lamestream candidates whose mom is not going to vote for them, get in the debates; ‘outsiders’, semi-progressives, etc who meet ALL the criteria, get the door slammed in their face…
huh, is there a pattern there ? ? ?
this whole bullshit of how the dem rats and rethugs have control of the ‘debates’ is corrupt from the get-go…

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re:

His campaign was all but non-existent. His campaign platform was a single skinny plank about campaign reform. His political profile so low as to be nearly invisible.

Of course the Democrats “clarified” the rules to make sure he’s not in the debate, because he was trying to use the debate to further “brand Lessig” and not about any true aspiration towards being President. He tried to build himself up at the cost of the Democratic party, and instead has wasted a million dollars of other people’s money.

Oh wait, another way Lessig is like Nina Paley: people very good at spending others people’s money.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Re: No real surprise

Precisely. The more you look at it, the more it appears that the entirety of the Democratic debate system this time around is designed to turn it into a coronation for Hillary and shut down anyone and anything that gets in the way. Seeing as how she’s thoroughly corrupt from beginning to end, the worst thing that could possibly happen to her would be to give serious attention to a candidate whose strongest issue is fighting corruption!

David says:

Re: Re: Re: No real surprise

What more do you need for mock presidents? If he/she tries to get the Constitution back as the rule of the land, he’s dead. Nobody who had the life style even making it possible to become president wants to end like JFK.

Yes, a lot of power runs through the hands of the elected sock puppet. No, that does not mean that it’s free to use it according to its own whim.

Anonymous Coward says:

While Lessig didn’t have a chance of winning, in retrospect, I think his attempt to run for presidency was a good thing because it helps expose how low the corrupt establishment will stoop to keep corruption in politics. Allowing us to document and spread this gives us more ammunition to explain and spread to everyone how unfair and corrupt the system is.

But, more realistically, why doesn’t Lessig run for Congress? While running he can also help us document the process, the politics, and any corruption involved. If he does win then he can run for president next term and will have a much higher chance of getting higher polls. Then he can more easily make it in the debates and discuss the issue.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Don’t look at me! I voted for KANG! ๐Ÿ™‚

I also like South Park’s take on it. I voted for Giant Douche.

In all seriousness, I voted third party for almost 30 years before finally quiting voting altogether. There simply isn’t anyone worth voting for by the time you reach the main elections. Other than the rare Congress-critter and local dog-catcher, I would vote “none of the above” if it were on the ballot.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

At least in a trial, there’s usually at least one side that prefers an intelligent, thoughtful, common-sense, honest, trustworthy juror… and one side that doesn’t.

Unfortunately, either side can choose to eliminate the smart one, so they don’t tend to make it in.

In politics, on the other hand, brainless, corrupt puppets are far more valuable, regardless of which side.

Chris Rhodes (profile) says:

Flashbacks to Ron Paul's Campaign

Remember: Your vote is really important! Not in the “representation” manner, mind you, but in the “we need your sanction to abuse you” manner.

Now get in line and pull the lever for one of our carefully pre-selected candidates. Which lever doesn’t matter, just as long as you pull a lever.

Marc John Randazza (profile) says:

“A better candidate could have gone further.”

That quote makes me respect Lessig a lot. I’ve alway thought highly of him since he published a piece criticizing himself for losing Eldred v. Ashcroft. (

I greatly respect his self-reflection and his humility in the face of a loss.

Andrew (profile) says:

Re: He is in the wrong party

we released a statement on that yesterday (, the problem is the ballot access laws across most of the US are some of the strictest and most difficult to follow regulations, PLUS there’s 51 of them – one per state (and DC) as well as federal funding (FEC) regulations.

That’s why there’s so few parties in the US.

Clouser (user link) says:

Run as a Libertarian

Larry Lessig chose the wrong party, that is all. He chose the Republicrat party — We know the Demopub party is corrupt to the core, and screws good candidates over, look what they did to the Good Doctor in the last election. Dr. Ron Paul got taken out as well by stupid rule changes and dirty politis. Forget the Demopubs, instead, the Libertarian Party would suit Larry Lessig better. He sounds like a Libertarian to me. Exactly like one.

How about a Gary Johnson – Larry Lessig duo for President and VP? Now that is an enticing ticket! I hope Larry comes back and joins the Libertarians in the run and resumes his vigor and trys to win. Gary has filed a lawsuit over unfair debates. Perfect timing.

Mark Wing (user link) says:

Lessig screwed himself. He should’ve come out swinging for the fences, unambiguously, and he didn’t do that. He gave most people a WTF moment he won’t recover from this election cycle.

In the words of my longtime mentor, some people are too smart to die their damn shoes. Lessig did what many geniuses do, he overthought the problem. And in the words of Marlin Brando, “he coulda been a contender.”

As long as Bernie isn’t president in 2020, then I will vote for Lessig if he runs a legit campaign. He would make a great VP as well. Nobody wanted Gore as president either, but he got more done as a VP than most do as POTUS. Bernie / Lessig for 2016–sign me up for that shit.

Sneedurn says:

DNC, like republicans, is scared shitless of Sanders.

Lessig in the “debates” would have emphasized Sanders’ strongest suit…corporate money has corrupted the entire political system, including the party machinery. That means the DNC would (rightly) be called out as part of the corruption plaguing our democracy. Sanders will win by a landslide if in a “debate” he simply lists the abuses of various big money sectors against the public, and points out that the democratic party and candidates all are beholden to those same big money sectors…and he is not, and will work to end that corruption.

He could not be stopped if he switched to independent AFTER winning the democratic primary, because of corruption within the party.

Anonymous Coward says:

Debbie Wasserman-Shultz is trying to protect Clinton. She formerly worked on Clinton’s campaign.

Wasserman-Shultz is corrupt. Clinton is corrupt.

Larry’s anti-corruption crusade stands to hurt Clinton the most, because she is the rockstar of raising money from wealthy special interests.

Don’t think that the Dems are the party of enlightenment. The conservatives may also be backwards socially, but both parties are completely bought and paid-for by the elite. 2016 will be a decision between a giant douche and a turd sandwich.

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