Awesome Stuff: Crowdfunding To Get Money Out Of Politics... Now With Steve Wozniak!

from the mayday! dept

Two weeks ago, we took a slight detour from our usual Awesome Stuff fare to talk about Larry Lessig's new crowdfunding project, MAYDAY.US, which aims to start a serious effort to significantly reduce the influence of money in politics. This week we're highlighting MAYDAY.US again, since it just received a major boost in the form of a video endorsement from Steve Wozniak:

The project already completed its first phase, raising $1-million and securing another million in matching funds, and now it's partway through the second, which has a goal of $5-million (and another $5-million to match). With two weeks left to go, it's got some distance to make up, so now is the time to use your money to fight back against the corrosive influence of money in politics. It could be awesome.


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  1.  
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    JWW (profile), Jun 21st, 2014 @ 9:43am

    I'm not really liking this

    I think Mayday pac is seriously misguided.

    I can see no result from them "getting the money out of politics" other than total future domination of the incumbents. And thats only going to make things WORSE and not better.

    Incumbents have huge advantages already and if you remove the ability for challengers to have enough money to campaign against them, the incumbents will be locked in forever.

    I will not support Mayday pac at all until they make term limits one of their proposed reforms.

    Besides, how do we really control money in politics. As an example lets say a group pools their money to buy a TV ad to run the day before an election. But the law forbids it. So, whats their punishment? If they don't back off and run the add anyway (lets assume the TV station is defiant as well in running the ad), do they get hauled off to jail, huge fines, whats their punishment?

    Now since they've been punished because we "need to get the money out of politics", lets analyze what they did. They used their money to speak to the people to give an opinion of who to vote for. This is pure fucking FREE SPEECH, which is supposed to be allowed in this country isn't it?

    I'm really sorry, I feel a little bad that money is speech, but when you boil it down, you cannot limit money in politics without limiting free speech rights of people or the groups in which the associate (also a constitutionally protected activity).

    Of course I know my constitutional explaination doesn't mean squat to Progressives, because, well, all their ideas are so good and well intentioned. Right? Also, yes I know term limits needs to be a constitutional amendment, but dammit more than 80% of the citizens want it, its well past time congress make it happen. Again, I'd support Mayday if they'd support candidates that will enact term limits.

     

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    steell (profile), Jun 21st, 2014 @ 10:32am

    Free Speech Rights

    How many people believe that Corporations should have the same rights to free speech as the people do?
    In reality, after Citizens United, the Corporations have so much money to invest in political speech that the average Citizen's speech gets lost in the noise. So, in the end, it's Government of the Money, by the Money, and for the Money.

     

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    Kevin, Jun 21st, 2014 @ 11:22am

    Super PACs and Corporations

    I went to the Mayday PAC website, and I must say that it was not very encouraging. Partly because everything was so vague and filled with platitudes.

    I read up on Lawrence Lessig, the fellow spearheading the whole thing, and learned that he supported Obama, but later expressed disappointment. Okay, that's fine, but honestly, what did he *really* expect? I wasn't even living in the U.S. at the time of the 2008 election and even from a distance I could tell that Obama was a typical politician. (McCain too, to be fair.)

    Is someone who is so easily duped by populist rhetoric really the one to be the architect for political reform?

    I doubt it.

    I also doubt the honesty of the campaign. They want to eliminate "corporate" money from Super PACs, or even eliminate Super PACs altogether, but there isn't a word on getting Labor Union or "Grass Roots" money out of politics. In other words, they only want to restrict the money that they don't like.

    It's a little like calling for the end of subsidies to corn, and quietly advocating for subsidies to be given to apples.

    And of course, there is the problem of restricting speech. Super PACs are an expression of free speech, funded from a variety of sources (yes, labor unions included), but at the end of the day, they are *just* commercials and ad campaigns that seek to influence people to vote or contribute one way or another.

    And besides, Super PACs are not designed to influence Congress, they are designed to influence voters and contributors. In other words, get rid of Super PACs today, and you still have a congress with all the same powers as before. Term limits would be a nice start, cutting congressional pay is another, but even then you still have the problem of corruption in the form of stroking an ego.

    For example, I don't need to pay a congressman to bribe him, I can bribe him with the promise of a nice, shiny new stadium in our state by "creating" a bunch of jobs. The fact that I am actually lobbying for tax money to be spent on the stadium...well, let's leave that part out of the conversation. The point is, it is corruption, even though I didn't have to go through a Super PAC, and I didn't have to pay the congressman anything...yet he will relish the power trip because in his mind, it will have been "his" Stadium that created jobs.

    On the other hand, if I go through a Super PAC to lobby the people directly, to try to convince the majority of voters that some tax money should go to the new Stadium, then so be it. I would not consider this a good use of tax money, but at least it would be democratic.

    So with all things considered, I can't support the Mayday PAC because I would consider it, at best, a superficial band-aid, and at worst, an attack on free speech and in either case, ineffectual at actually limiting the powers of the federal government.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2014 @ 11:44am

    Re: Super PACs and Corporations

    I'm in agreement with you.

    My argument is with Labor and their decades long influence with "inside" money that those who favor Labor won't report.

    OpenSecrets.org is a group that has show it's influence by exposing the actual totals used to "bribe" public officials - Koch Brothers are 59th, way down the list of many Labor organizations.

    Heavy Hitters: Top All-Time Donors, 1989-2014
    https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/list.php

    Until Labor's money influence is brought to bare, nothing can or will change regarding "money in politics".

     

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    James Jensen (profile), Jun 21st, 2014 @ 12:11pm

    Re: I'm not really liking this

    The free speech defense is not very convincing.

    First, limiting how people can pay for something is not a free speech issue. I can't pay for ads with sexual favors or human organs, either.

    Second, the right to free speech has lots of exceptions. These include harassment, defamation, obscenity, inciting a riot, divulging national secrets, infringement of copyrights, helping to plan a crime, and of course yelling "fire" in a crowded theater.

    Thirdly, the main target of this, as I understand it, is corporate funding. Corporations are legal fictions that exist by decree of the government. Regulating the use of corporate funds is really just changing the deal between the government and corporation owners.

     

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    Koby (profile), Jun 21st, 2014 @ 12:30pm

    Re: I'm not really liking this

    I too am confused as to exactly what they are proposing to do about "getting the money out of politics". What law do they think that they're going to pass in order to accomplish this? It sounds to me like they're soliciting donations prior to having a legislative platform, which usually attracts the most insidious politicians.

     

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    andy, Jun 21st, 2014 @ 3:33pm

    Come On

    Seriously this is not going to do anything other than get a few people into political seats, if it works that is.
    Why not use this money to start really embarrassing the politicians, Use lobbyists to get to politicians not mentioning where the money has come from, then once they have come forward supporting something they previously did not support out them as paid to change their support for money. Do this through a few lobbying groups and eventually the politicians will not trust the lobbyists to hide the bribery that is happening.

    I am sure this would get more people talking about money in politics if they saw how bills could be put forward if you have a few thousand paid to politicians.

    Damn do it secretly and embarrass the politicians by coming out once a bill has been put forward and admitting to giving them money to support the stance people hold.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 21st, 2014 @ 9:58pm

    Re: Super PACs and Corporations

    I went to the Mayday PAC website, and I must say that it was not very encouraging. Partly because everything was so vague and filled with platitudes.

    I read up on Lawrence Lessig, the fellow spearheading the whole thing, and learned that he supported Obama, but later expressed disappointment. Okay, that's fine, but honestly, what did he *really* expect? I wasn't even living in the U.S. at the time of the 2008 election and even from a distance I could tell that Obama was a typical politician. (McCain too, to be fair.)


    Okay, I guess if you've just discovered Lessig, you could be silly enough to judge him based on one particular decision (and, really, siding with Obama is enough to not get you to trust him at all? That's crazy).

    I have never met anyone who has such a deep and nuanced understanding of what's happening inside the political system as Lessig. He's spent well over a decade digging into this stuff, and any time I've come across a part of his plan that seemed suspect, he's always had ready and knowledgeable answers.

    If you haven't, I highly recommend his last book:

    http://republic.lessig.org/

    You might learn that perhaps his ideas are a lot more fleshed out than your quick search turned up.

    I also doubt the honesty of the campaign. They want to eliminate "corporate" money from Super PACs, or even eliminate Super PACs altogether, but there isn't a word on getting Labor Union or "Grass Roots" money out of politics. In other words, they only want to restrict the money that they don't like.

    That's not even close to true. Lessig has been just as hard on both the right and the left if you've paid any attention to his statements and actions.

    You're making a lot of assumptions that are just wrong.

     

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    Whatever, Jun 21st, 2014 @ 10:57pm

    Re: Re: Super PACs and Corporations

    You're making a lot of assumptions that are just wrong.

    Don't you mean "You're making a lot of assumptions that I just don't agree with."?

    Lessig may be a wonderful person, but someone with an agenda looking for a bankroll to push it is just another cog in the political machine. Pouring more money into politics doesn't make money go away, it just makes the other side raise a few more dollars and bury your ideas under slanted advertising and bought votes. Thinking money will change the money problem is sort of like arguing the 1st amendment outlaws copyright. Amusing, but not really good.

    Lessig COULD make a difference by in fact running for office and actually trying to get others elected that are of the same mind. That is the true nature of democracy, if you want to change things you get enough people elected who support your change and do it.

    US politics will not change until Senators and House members are subject to the same sort of term limits that the President is subject to. At that point, you will stop getting career critters looking for a good paying job and instead get people trying to make a difference.

     

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    Coises (profile), Jun 21st, 2014 @ 11:52pm

    Re: I'm not really liking this

    I have trouble understanding how term limits would help anything.

    Surely one of our major influence problems is the “revolving door” syndrome. So long as a politician can be reelected, he or she has some incentive to please voters. Term limits would assure that no elected representative could hold office long before the primary question of interest would become, “What next?”

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 12:36am

    To change how you elect people, you have to chnage how they are elected

    The "features" of your political system is that you don't have to vote and you win by being first past the post. As has been explained elsewhere, your political system ends up with two political parties who do not represent the electorate. Note I am not saying those who voted but the full electorate.

    Other systems are in place which allow more choice. It is doubtful that you Americans (of the USA persuasion) would even have the nous to be able to develop a better solution to what you currently have. You are more concerned about keeping your personal freedoms that your personal freedoms are actually flying out the window.

    It doesn't matter what country one is in, the pollies will game the system to their benefit. Mostly due to the fact that people don't believe that they can get the changes made that are needed.

     

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    Whatever, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 2:25am

    Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    So long as a politician can be reelected, he or she has some incentive to please voters.

    You typed it but you didn't understand it. This statement is the key. If they are working for re-election (what the people want) rather than doing the right thing (what people need) it gets back to the old Roman bread and circuses. What people want is a free lunch. What they need is training on how to make lunch and grow the veggies to make it. One gets you re-elected, the other makes the country better.

    When you have term limits, you also limit two other key issues: Long term money buying votes, and the gridlock of the same politicians locked in the same inflexible positions for decades.

    Example, if you had a 10 year term limit on the senate (which is a long time), you would lose 38 current members:

    http://www.rollcall.com/politics/senateseniority.html/

    House seniority would lose 70+ members:

    http://www.rollcall.com/politics/houseseniority.html/

    Heck, Dingell has been there for 60 years... isn't that a little too long?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 4:43am

    Fighting corruption with money... Guess what, money is corruption.

     

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    Anon E. Mous (profile), Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 5:16am

    While I am sure we would all love to see the money come out of Politics and a more effectual Senate and Congress start to form, I wouldn't hold my breath.

    If you ever wondered Why those in Senate and Congress stay in politics for 10, 20 or 30+ years, it isn't their love of politics nor their wanting represent their constituents views, it is all about money...period!

    Why is it that those who are in the Senate or in Congress become so wealthy during their time in office? It sure isn't their salary.

    It is because the Lobbyists and Special Interest groups throw ungodly amounts of money at them to push their position or get them to vote for or against something they have an interest in, or to influence that groups position and it's all legal.

    If the U.S. Government ever outlawed Lobbyists and Special Interest groups and their funneling of cash to Senators and Congressmen thru PAC's and other means, do you really think that all these long term Senators and Congressmen would stick around for long? Hell no, they'd be out of there and off to make real money in the private sector.

    Washington has a river of Dirty Money flowing thru it and there are a lot of politicians that would be loathe to have the Gravy Train stopped.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 6:57am

    Re:

    While I am sure we would all love to see the money come out of Politics and a more effectual Senate and Congress start to form, I wouldn't hold my breath.

    I'm curious about this type of response. No one's asking you to hold your breath. They're asking you to try to change things... and your response is "don't bother."

    That kind of cynicism is destructive. You're basically just giving up and handing the other side a victory. To me, that's shameful.

    People can reasonably argue why they think this approach won't work, but "it's all hopeless" guarantees the other side wins.

    If you ever wondered Why those in Senate and Congress stay in politics for 10, 20 or 30+ years, it isn't their love of politics nor their wanting represent their constituents views, it is all about money...period!

    Right. And approaches that start to get the money out of politics would weed those kinds of politicians out, and bring in more who are focused on actual public service.

    It is because the Lobbyists and Special Interest groups throw ungodly amounts of money at them to push their position or get them to vote for or against something they have an interest in, or to influence that groups position and it's all legal.

    It actually works in reverse. Politicians "threaten" lobbyists on certain bills to increase their own fund raising. That is, it's more like extortion than bribery, but either way, point taken: so shouldn't we be working to fix that?

    If the U.S. Government ever outlawed Lobbyists and Special Interest groups and their funneling of cash to Senators and Congressmen thru PAC's and other means, do you really think that all these long term Senators and Congressmen would stick around for long? Hell no, they'd be out of there and off to make real money in the private sector.

    Isn't that a good thing? Shouldn't we want those politicians gone?

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 7:36am

    Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    Why do the stockholders not have a voice in corporate "speech"?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 7:38am

    Re:

    1) money = speech
    2) money = corruption

    therefore

    speech = corruption

    wait a second ...

     

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  18.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 8:15am

    Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    I, too, am skeptical of term limits -- but for a slightly different reason. If every elected official has a fixed sell-by date, it seems to me that it would shift even more power to the administrative infrastructure since those would end up being the people who are in it for the long haul. Also, it would make the problem of agencies like the NSA et al even worse. Already, they keep a lot of things secret from the people who are supposed to oversee them. If they know that those congresspeople are going out the door, they will do that even more.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 9:03am

    Re: I'm not really liking this

    I will not support Mayday pac at all until they make term limits one of their proposed reforms.


    Can someone explain to me why term limits are so great? Term limits only reinforce the revolving door between business and politics. With term limits you have no choice but to go from the public sector to working for the private sector. That means you have a greater incentive to please private industry and a strong disincentive to piss them off because you're going have to be working for them soon.

     

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  20.  
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    Leigh Beadon (profile), Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 10:34am

    Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    it would shift even more power to the administrative infrastructure since those would end up being the people who are in it for the long haul

    This. Same reason that the elegant old Greek system of sortition -- where any and all citizen can be called upon to govern for a short period of time, as a civil service much like jury duty -- almost certainly wouldn't function today. The actual work of government is too huge and complex now, and requires dedicated lifelong staffers who learn its ins and outs -- and that's already a bit scary, because anybody who has worked in an even-slightly complex/large organization knows how much power lies in the gaps between "official" decisions.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 11:32am

    Re:

    Money feeds 100's of millions around the world,
    Money makes potable water for 100's of millions,
    Money creates jobs,

    Money is just a tool, just like you...

     

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  22.  
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    Un (profile), Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 12:01pm

    Chasing Horses

    The only way to stop excessive money in politics is with enough money to stop it.

    When you leave the gate open and the horses escape, you have two choices. You can just stand there and cry, maybe fall to your knees and talk to the sky. You can get on a faster horse and chase them, scaring the horses and making them run even faster, but eventually ending up with the best possible chance to turn them around.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Super PACs and Corporations

    "At that point, you will stop getting career critters looking for a good paying job and instead get people trying to make a difference."

    Fat chance. Corruption is a nasty beast that is not easily avoided, overcome, or even exposed. There are a few who show signs of not being mouth pieces for moneyed interests but how long will they survive in an environment that rewards tossing ethics out the window? Term limits is not the panacea you claim it to be.


    "That is the true nature of democracy, if you want to change things you get enough people elected who support your change and do it."

    Another idiom from fantasy land. Fact is, you stand little chance of being elected much less influencing anyone else to support your cause. btw, we do not have a government based upon democracy.

     

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  24.  
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    Coises (profile), Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 1:52pm

    Re: I'm not really liking this

    If they are working for re-election (what the people want) rather than doing the right thing (what people need) it gets back to the old Roman bread and circuses. What people want is a free lunch. What they need is training on how to make lunch and grow the veggies to make it. One gets you re-elected, the other makes the country better.
    That cuts to the heart of it.

    Can any form of real democracy work? (“Real” meaning that the idea of rule by the people is implemented seriously; as opposed to Democracy Theater, in which the object is to go through the motions of democratic process in order prop up the peasants’ belief in the moral authority of government, while keeping things organized so that the ignorant masses can’t actually do much damage.)

    If it can, can we find a way to make it work here?

    I agree (at least, I think this is agreement) that there is a disturbing disconnect between what it takes to get elected or reelected and what it takes to do the job for which one is elected. We elect those who campaign best, not those who govern best.

    Is your argument that without the need to maintain the approval of the people, at least once their last campaign is over, elected officials would be free to ignore the foolish folks who voted for them and do “the right thing,” should the mood strike them? I really can’t see that as being much help.

    I can see how one might argue that getting big money out of elections wouldn’t do much to help either, because the problem is really with the electorate: the campaigns just reflect that. Our political dysfunction is not a superficial one that will respond to minor procedural tweaks alone.

    I don’t think MayDay.us could be the step that makes democracy work here. I think it just might be the first step.

     

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    hank roberts (profile), Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 6:20pm

    watched video; clicked URL; downloaded Lessig's free book -- reading it now

    I am going to wait until I've studied this to comment.
    Seeing that Lessig's book is free to download is a good sign.

     

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  26.  
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    Adrian Lopez, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 7:01pm

    Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    "The free speech defense is not very convincing."

    To you, perhaps.

    "First, limiting how people can pay for something is not a free speech issue."

    Limiting the things one can say when money is spent in speaking, however, is very much a free speech issue.

    "I can't pay for ads with sexual favors or human organs, either.

    Restrictions on advertising have, for the most part, nothing to do with speech. Prostitution and the sale of human organs are illegal. Legalize them and the advertising ceases to be a problem. Likewise for false advertising: deliver what you promise and you can say almost anything you want.

    "... harassment, defamation, obscenity, inciting a riot, divulging national secrets, infringement of copyrights, helping to plan a crime ..."

    Not a single one of those has anything to do with political speech.

    "... yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater ..."

    Please stop using that as an example of the need to regulate speech. It's a contrived, ridiculous red herring that needed to be done away with even before it was conceived.

    Corporations are legal fictions that exist by decree of the government.

    Corporations are legal fictions that exist because it's a hell of a lot easier for the legal system to deal with a single party than to deal individually with all those who own or are employed by a given company.

     

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  27.  
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    Adrian Lopez, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 7:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    "If every elected official has a fixed sell-by date, it seems to me that it would shift even more power to the administrative infrastructure since those would end up being the people who are in it for the long haul."

    This is already happening to a significant degree with the US presidency. While I don't think much of Barack Obama, I don't think the differences between President Obama and Candidate Obama would be quite as pronounced if not for the fact that people in positions of influence often remain in power beyond the reign of particular administrations.

    I'm not sure doing away with presidential term limits is the answer to this (I'd like to give the president more power to "clean house" instead), but I can see how imposing term limits on politicians in general could end up doing nothing more than to shift the problem onto where it's a great deal more difficult to address.

     

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  28.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 7:24pm

    Re: Free Speech Rights

    I do.

    When a newspaper is sued for publishing a factual news story, its freedom of speech is trodden upon. When a publisher is shut down because of the things it publishes, its freedom of speech is violated. When a video game developer is forced to censor the content of its products, its right to free speech is violated.

    When you, as an individual, use the Internet to speak, you generally do so through a corporate intermediary (Techdirt, Facebook, Youtube, news sites, etc.) whose right to speak enables you to do the same.

     

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  29.  
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    Eldakka (profile), Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 9:38pm

    Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    I think "real" democracy CAN work.

    However, I am not aware of any large state that has ever had "real" democracy. Not even ancient Athens had real democracy, as they had limits on who could vote: No slaves, no women, etc.

    Even our current nation-states do not have real democracy, US, UK, France, Germany, Australia, Canada, etc etc. None of them are Democracies, they are all Representative Democracies. The closest thing to a democracy in recent historic times is Switzerland.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 4:54am

    Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    "Limiting the things one can say when money is spent in speaking, however, is very much a free speech issue."
    - Wut?

    "Prostitution and the sale of human organs are illegal."
    - So is corruption.

    "Not a single one of those has anything to do with political speech."
    - Wow, how naive.

    "Corporations are legal fictions that exist because it's a hell of a lot easier for the legal system to deal with a single party than to deal individually with all those who own or are employed by a given company"
    - Corporations are people my friend.

     

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    ChrisB (profile), Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 5:50am

    Re: Free Speech Rights

    Come on. Corporations can't vote.

    Who cares if they spend a lot of money. The real problem, as you allude to, is people are too stupid to see through the nonsense. That means education is the solution, not less money.

     

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    ChrisB (profile), Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 5:55am

    Re: Re:

    The reason lobbyists shower politicians with money is the politicians can un-level the playing field. The solution is not to try and reduce the money flowing it, which is impossible, it is to reduce the power the politicians have. A smaller and less centralized government is a less corruptible government.

     

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  33.  
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    John Thacker, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 6:38am

    Re: Free Speech Rights

    I don't think that the government should have been able to ban a non-profit, Citizens United, from distributing a political documentary simply because it was close to an election.

    If you think that Citizens United was wrongly decided, then you think that Fahrenheit 9/11 should have been banned; after all, it was produced by a corporation. The government side in Citizens United argued before the Supreme Court that the government could
    ban books and pamphlets close to an election, if it might sway the election.

    The reality is that ordinary people need to organize into corporations in order to pool their power. A corporation is just a name for a group of people with a common goal, with legal restrictions to ensure that one person doesn't just run off with all the money. That's why non-profits are corporations. Labor unions are corporations. Every charity you like is also a corporation.

    The alternatives to corporations publishing media is the days of individual robber barons, like Hearst and Pulitzer. That would work out fine for a few guys like Rupert Murdoch, but I don't think it would reduce the impact on money on elections.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    John Thacker, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 6:41am

    We just had the sitting Majority Leader of the US House, Eric Cantor, heavily supported by corporate money, knocked off in a primary election where he outraised his opponent 30:1 and outspent him 50:1. We've had plenty of candidates who spent tons of their own money, far more than their opponents, and lost.

    The influence of money per se in politics is overrated. However, even without monetary contributions, the opinions of the rich and educated will carry more weight with politicians, who are mostly friends with rich and educated people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    18scsc, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 7:54am

    Re: I'm not really liking this

    I had typed out a long and involved response, but deleted it.

    Lessig's goal is not to get rid of money in politics. But instead to reduce the influence of big money from the few by increasing the influence of small money from the many. To do this there are three bills he supports.

    "John Sarbanes’s (D-MD) Government By the People Act would establish an aggressive small-dollar matching system, at the extreme, giving contributions of $100 a $900 match. George Bush’s former Ethics Czar, Richard Painter, has proposed the Taxation Only With Representation Act, which gives a $200 voucher to every voter, to be used to fund candidates who agree to limit his or her campaign to small-dollar contributions only. And the group Represent.US has proposed the American Anti-Corruption Act, which has a $100 voucher plus aggressive regulation of lobbyists, to break the revolving door between K Street and Capitol Hill."

    From his article on Medium that's well worth a read.

    https://medium.com/@lessig/whats-so-bad-about-a-superpac-c7cbcf617b58

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Free Speech Rights

    "If you think that Citizens United was wrongly decided, then you think that Fahrenheit 9/11 should have been banned; after all, it was produced by a corporation."

    Apples. Oranges. Fahrenheit 9/11 wasn't election-time propaganda. Also, the movie that CU made wasn't in danger of being banned. The issue was whether or not it should be aired just before the election.

    "The government side in Citizens United argued before the Supreme Court that the government could ban books and pamphlets close to an election, if it might sway the election."

    Indeed. I simply have a problem seeing how this would be a bad thing.

    "The reality is that ordinary people need to organize into corporations in order to pool their power."

    No. Corporations are one way for people to pool their power. It's not the only way.

    " A corporation is just a name for a group of people with a common goal, with legal restrictions to ensure that one person doesn't just run off with all the money."

    Also no. A corporation is an independent legal entity that is more than the people who are sitting on the board or the shareholders. Corporations have rights and powers that ordinary people don't have. To say they are simply a "group of people" is to oversimplify to the point of deception.

    "That's why non-profits are corporations. Labor unions are corporations. Every charity you like is also a corporation."

    This is glossing over the real and powerful difference between a nonprofit and a for-profit corporation. You can't equate the two and say they are the same thing just because they're called "corporations".

    "The alternatives to corporations publishing media is the days of individual robber barons, like Hearst and Pulitzer."

    I honestly don't see the difference between that and the state of the publishing industry right now, except that the robber barons are corporations instead of individuals. Which means they have even more power and less accountability than the old robber barons could have ever dreamed of.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 8:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    "I'd like to give the president more power to "clean house" instead"

    Do you mean "clean house" in Congress? I'm assuming this is what you mean as the President already has absolute power to clean house in the Executive. If my assumption is wrong, then ignore the rest of this comment.

    The presidency should have zero, no, nada, negative infinity power to clean house in Congress. That would be a massive breach of the separation of powers. Also, the presidency is far too powerful these days as it is -- certainly far more powerful than the system was intended to allow. We need to reduce the power of the presidency, not enhance it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Adrian Lopez, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 9:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    "Wut?"

    Spending money on speech doesn't mean it's any less protected.

    "So is corruption."

    Then punish corruption, not speech.

    "Wow, how naive."

    Not at all. Some of those elements may sometimes be present in political speech, but they're otherwise independent of it.

    "Corporations are people my friend."

    Corporations are legal persons and have been long before Citizens United.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 9:56am

    Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    "Prostitution and the sale of human organs are illegal. Legalize them and the advertising ceases to be a problem."

    There are numerous legal items that you can't advertise in certain forums for, though. Cigarettes, alcohol, porn, etc.

    I object to the notion that spending money == speech. I see the reasoning by which they got there, but the end effects are so terrible that I think a solid argument can be made that that the end effect is so corrupting that ultimately it reduces everyone's liberty.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    I mean clean house in the executive. I don't think the president gets to appoint every single person in the executive, but perhaps I'm mistaken? Does a new president get an absolute "clean slate" when he walks into the White House, down to the very last man?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 10:10am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    Not every position in the executive is an appointed one, however the president is the ultimate boss in the executive. he can fire anybody there that he wants to, whether he appointed them or not.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    There are numerous legal items that you can't advertise in certain forums for, though. Cigarettes, alcohol, porn, etc.

    True enough. Those would be the major exceptions, though. You don't get to advertise cigarettes, alcohol or pornography to minors simply because it's illegal to sell those to them. It's therefore mainly a regulation of commerce, rather than speech.

    "I object to the notion that spending money == speech."

    Spending money is not speech. Spending money for speaking, however, doesn't turn speech into non-speech.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 10:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Super PACs and Corporations

    "At that point, you will stop getting career critters looking for a good paying job and instead get people trying to make a difference."

    I don't think so. I think it would simply change where the power lies away from elected representatives to the functionaries.

    Besides, being a congressman isn't that much of a good paying job (it's better than most jobs people have, but in the sphere of good paying jobs, it's pretty low). The ones who get elected because they want to make bank are counting on the big bucks flowing to them once they leave office and start working as a political consultant.

    Terms limits don't change that equation at all.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Adrian Lopez, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    I'm not sure where you're going with this. Are you suggesting it isn't the case that term limits for presidents have shifted some of the president's power onto those who remain in the executive through successive administrations?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Adrian Lopez, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 10:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Free Speech Rights

    "I simply have a problem seeing how this would be a bad thing."

    Because election time is precisely when political speech becomes most important? Because people should be able to influence the political process while that process is in progress? Because the First Amendment guarantees me the right to speak freely in expressing my opinions, political or otherwise?

    Should Techdirt be forced to go through and take down any posts dealing with a particular candidate some days before an election? If a copyright maximalist runs for office, is Techdirt not allowed to call them on it while the election is in progress?

    Be careful of what you wish for.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    All people have the right to free speech, but Super PACs have more free speech than others.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 2:08pm

    Re: Re: Re: Free Speech Rights

    " A corporation is just a name for a group of people with a common goal, with legal restrictions to ensure that one person doesn't just run off with all the money."

    Also no. A corporation is an independent legal entity that is more than the people who are sitting on the board or the shareholders. Corporations have rights and powers that ordinary people don't have. To say they are simply a "group of people" is to oversimplify to the point of deception.
    A corporation also provides limited liability to all its members to such a degree that it is nearly impossible to hold any of its members accountable for the often illegal or immoral acts of the corporation. When is the last time you heard of an executive officer facing prison time or personally paying any fines out of their own pocket when they order their corporation to do things that would most certainly put the other 98% in prison?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Zonker, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 3:08pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    This comment made me think about how the US Congress was intended to represent its constituents vs. who they really represent today. Whenever Congress deliberates anything it is always portrayed as votes between Democrats, Republicans, or very rarely bipartisan. Sometimes it is a vote between conservatives and liberals.

    But never is it seen as a vote between California and Ohio, northern states and southern states, rural America and urban America. In other words, the votes aren't between representatives of different regions or populations, but between political parties or viewpoints. Rather than represent all the voters in their districts, politicians are only representing whichever party they are a member of.

    I don't see this as a true representative form of government, it is a partisan government where whichever political party is in power at the time sets the rules.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    icon
    James Jensen (profile), Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 4:36pm

    Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    Not a single one of those has anything to do with political speech.

    So? Is "political speech" more sacrosanct than non-political speech?

    Please stop using that as an example of the need to regulate speech. It's a contrived, ridiculous red herring that needed to be done away with even before it was conceived.

    The linked article misses one big, big point: the scenario has actually happened. It happened in 1856 during one of Charles Spurgeon's sermons in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall. Several people were killed in the panic. So, no, it's not ridiculous or contrived.

    At any rate, that's why I mentioned everything else first. Free speech is not an absolute right and trying to make it one is as dangerous as any other form of extremism.

    Corporations are legal fictions that exist because it's a hell of a lot easier for the legal system to deal with a single party than to deal individually with all those who own or are employed by a given company.

    This has precisely nothing to do with the subject. Corporations exist as a deal between government and individuals, and the owners receive both benefits and obligations they wouldn't otherwise have. If the government decides to change the deal, that is not a speech issue.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 8:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    So? Is "political speech" more sacrosanct than non-political speech?

    No.

    The linked article misses one big, big point: the scenario has actually happened. It happened in 1856 during one of Charles Spurgeon's sermons in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall. Several people were killed in the panic.

    That's a very good argument for fire codes. Those actually protect people against panics due to real and imaginary fires alike, so it makes sense to have them.

    It isn't, however, by any means a good argument for, say, prohibiting speech in opposition to a draft, as in Schenck. It's a stupid analogy designed to distract from the real issue. Like I said, it's a ridiculous and contrived example, and it has no place in this discussion.

    Free speech is not an absolute right and trying to make it one is as dangerous as any other form of extremism.

    It's a good thing I never argued that free speech is absolute. In any case, your argument is fallacious: "free speech can be regulated under particular circumstances, so free speech is not absolute; free speech is not absolute, so it's perfectly OK to regulate it in this case."

    "If the government decides to change the deal, that is not a speech issue."

    It is if the deal involves limiting a corporation's ability to speak. Quite literally.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    identicon
    Adrian Lopez, Jun 23rd, 2014 @ 8:33pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Free Speech Rights

    A corporation also provides limited liability to all its members to such a degree that it is nearly impossible to hold any of its members accountable for the often illegal or immoral acts of the corporation.

    Limited liability does not protect against criminal acts. If corporate fatcats aren't being punished for the criminal acts they commit, the problem lies somewhere other than with limited liability for business owners.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 24th, 2014 @ 8:58am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: I'm not really liking this

    I argue quite the opposite. Presidential terms limits have absolutely shifted power onto the administrative functionaries. Personally, I think that the Presidential term limit isn't actually desirable.

    My comment that you replied to was regarding whether or not the President can unilaterally clean house. Within the executive, he can. Outside of the executive, he can't.

    However, the problem is that the administrative functionaries actually have the bulk of the real power, thanks to term limits. The president may be technically able to fire anyone he likes, but he can't actually do that without crippling the government.

    It's a bit like how China developed the reputation of being unconquerable: no matter who "conquered" China, they had to work within the existing administrative infrastructure in order to wield power -- which means that they got absorbed into existing regime in the end. The real power was in middle management, not at the head.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 24th, 2014 @ 9:00am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Free Speech Rights

    "Limited liability does not protect against criminal acts"

    It doesn't shield against criminal act done by individuals. It absolutely shields against criminal acts done by the corporation.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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