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Interviews: Ask Lawrence Lessig About His Mayday PAC

samzenpus posted about a month ago | from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.

Government 308

samzenpus (5) writes "Lawrence Lessig's list of achievements and areas of influence is not small. He's co-founder of the Creative Commons, but it is his Mayday PAC however that has garnered the most attention recently. The crowdfunded "Super PAC to end all Super PACs" was launched in May with the goal of raising money to elect candidates who would pass campaign finance reform. It raised over $1 million in the first 13 days and has the support of some influential people. With the help of matching contributions, Mayday hopes to raise $12 million by the end of June. Lessig has agreed to answer any questions about the PAC that you might have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post."

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308 comments

Petit bourgeois liberal utopianism (2, Funny)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about a month ago | (#47298309)

Quaint, pathetic and naive. Read Marx.

Irony (2)

Roger W Moore (538166) | about a month ago | (#47298625)

Lighten up! You have to be amused by the irony of a site which at the top of it: "Help us reduce the influence of money in politics!" just above a button which is labelled "Pledge Now!".

Re:Irony (3, Insightful)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a month ago | (#47298707)

This would be taken seriously if Cantor hadn't just lost after outspending the other guy 5,000,000 to 200,000. Liberals think Money is the problem, always the problem, rather than the people. The problem is the people who are too stupid and fall for the same hate filled rhetoric. This is especially true in (D) districts where people vote primarily on (D) after the name, and then "name recognition" after that, and rarely (if ever) on actual issues.

The fix is to research and vote with your conscience. Which is why I haven't voted (D) or (R) in years.

Re:Irony (5, Insightful)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a month ago | (#47299081)

This would be taken seriously if Cantor hadn't just lost after outspending the other guy 5,000,000 to 200,000.

. The Eric Cantor case was an exception, not the rule. In most cases, the politician who greatly outspends his opponent usually wins

But the bigger issue that Lessig doesn't seem to understand is that he's not the only person trying to buy politicians. No matter how much money he raises, there are people out there spending a whole lot more money, a LOT more money, to buy politicians who oppose the political agenda supported by Lessig, the EFF and others.

Why do you hate capitalism? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298311)

Why do you hate free markets? Do you think our country should be run by a bunch of communists after thousands and thousands of brave soldiers died defending our heritage of capitalism? Do you think it's OK to keep increasing taxes on businesses, driving them overseas and causing massive unemployment for us?

Re:Why do you hate capitalism? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298403)

If all countries had the same taxes, businesses wouldn't have to/be able to move.

Re:Why do you hate capitalism? (1)

fche (36607) | about a month ago | (#47298495)

Regulations also differ - as do local market conditions.

Re:Why do you hate capitalism? (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47298651)

if all the countries had the same taxes, there would be no incentive for governements to keep taxes low enough that people can live

Re:Why do you hate capitalism? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298407)

Do you like your country? It must suck to be an American with a brain today.

we won the race to the bottom! USA! USA! USA! (1)

Thud457 (234763) | about a month ago | (#47298743)

I never understood why you libertarians always make such a big deal about flea markets. These days it's mostly expired dollar store crap and people that make your typical Walmart customer look classy.

Re:Why do you hate capitalism? (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about a month ago | (#47298805)

Because free markets do not exist, and capitalism is not a silver bullet to the world's problems (it may, however, be a silver bullet for the problems of the 1% to get more money, which is why quite a few people like it).

That said, I can't figure out if this is sarcasm, or if someone is serious. The political discussion in this country is seriously fucked.

Other similar Efforts (5, Interesting)

Great Big Bird (1751616) | about a month ago | (#47298317)

There are other similar efforts, specifically WolfPAC, which aims to reform using a constitutional amendment. Do you feel that these other efforts are complimentary or just duplication of effort?

Reverting to business-as-usual (4, Interesting)

guruevi (827432) | about a month ago | (#47298319)

So best case scenario is that you lobby away PAC money in the next election cycle. Once you have reached your goal, what do you think is going to prevent lawmakers from finding other loopholes in the laws to do something similar-but-not-equal the cycle after that? As we've seen with FISA/DMCA/... - if they can't do it this year, they'll try and try again until they can get their ways.

In other words, do you think getting rid of PAC's is going to solve anything about corporate money flowing into government. And once you have outlawed the only avenue currently available (a PAC that is run by the people) that can somewhat level the playing field for citizens, what other avenues will there be to fight this corruption?

Political will and patience? (3, Interesting)

TigerPlish (174064) | about a month ago | (#47298331)

Mr. Lessig,

Yours is the first effort I've heard about revamping Government that makes any sense whatsoever. A hearty thank you to you and your staff!

In your estimation, does MaydayPAC have a decades-long plan, to replace as much of Congress as possible, and even reach for the Presidency?

I'm all for it. Even if it takes 30 years.

Re:Political will and patience? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298865)

Daw :)

clarify FAQ on statutory vs. constitutional path (4, Interesting)

fche (36607) | about a month ago | (#47298341)

Why do you believe statutory reform is necessary, or sufficient to accomplish anything serious? Why do you believe it is a precondition of a constitutional-amendment path?

timing and resource allocation (5, Interesting)

globaljustin (574257) | about a month ago | (#47298373)

Mr. Lessig, thanks for taking the time.

My question is about timing and resource allocation: With all the problems in America right now, why did you feel that campaign finance reform was the one issue of many (civil rights, immigration, American poverty, health care, etc.) that deserves this huge P.R. and money push now?

Re:timing and resource allocation (2)

franksan (3710973) | about a month ago | (#47298539)

There's a dependency of all the issues you mention and just about all others on basic access. Money warps consideration of all potential legislation.

Unions. (5, Insightful)

harrkev (623093) | about a month ago | (#47298383)

I was just wondering if you were also concerned about money from unions? To me, a millionaire donating is own money is somehow less problematic than unions taking money from their members to donate. Keep in mind that in many states, union membership is required in order to get the job. Therefore, many union members may find their money being used to support candidates that they do not support.

Re:Unions. (2)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47298611)

Why does everybody treat unions different from any other corporation? They are simply a competing interest in the game of capitalism, but they operate in exactly the same way, with exactly the same style hierarchies. To single out the unions is only taking sides. Attempting to destroy one cartel only assists the others.

Re:Unions. (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47298699)

well lets look at it like this. The union is nothing but a bureaucracy in the middle of you and your job. As such they exist for the sole reason of making money on their members, So I have to pay money to Group A for the ability to work for group B, all while group A is taking money from my paycheck to spend on their pet projects that I may or may not agree with.

remove the mandatory union membership for jobs, and let the people keep more of their own money and donate it to the candidates they like, rather than the ones the unions decide on

Re:Unions. (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47298933)

You are overlooking the fundamentals of business. A union is a bureaucracy with all the same profit motives as all others. Try to widen your view a bit.

Re:Unions. (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47298985)

while this is true, im already getting screwed by my job, i dont feel i should have to pay another bureaucracy for the privilege of working for said job.

Re:Unions. (2)

mythosaz (572040) | about a month ago | (#47298761)

Why does everybody treat unions different from any other corporation?

Mostly because they are.

You can be an electrician, and you can work for any number of companies or corporations, but in many places you must belong to the IBEW to work at any of them.

Re:Unions. (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47299079)

...but in many places you must belong to the IBEW to work at any of them.

Just another business protecting its turf. I do believe there is a process of de-certification that people can actually vote on. Your point of view is singular. There are other angles that illustrate the fundamentals of nature that motivate everything. The desire for power takes many forms.

Re:Unions. (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about a month ago | (#47298703)

Keep in mind that in many states, union membership is required in order to get the job

Do you have a citation for that? The only thing I know is that some states allow union-membership to be automatic once you're hired into a particular position at a particular company. That is very, very different from being required to have a union membership to get a particular anywhere in the state.

Furthermore, the big difference is the scale. It's a lot harder to get a large group of people to agree on a political course of action than it is to get one person to agree with themselves. The entire point of democracy is to remove money and power as a tool for selecting a leader, and to instead trust the wisdom of the masses to make an orderly transition at the top. The current campaign finances remove that approach.

That said, union-membership requirements can go die in a fire. I understand the concept of free-loading, but I also understand the concept of not wanting to support a useless organization.

Re:Unions. (1)

harrkev (623093) | about a month ago | (#47298907)

There are many "right to work" states where you do not HAVE to join a union. Here are lists of them:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org]
http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm [nrtw.org]

If they are not "right to work" then you can assume that you are forced to join a union to get a unionized job.

Re:Unions. (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about a month ago | (#47299139)

Right, quite a few years ago my state wasn't "Right to work" and I was forced into several unions. They take the dues right out of your check, you have no choice at all. After my state went right to work, you could ask to be removed from the union. This had little effect on you personally, but for the first few years there was a lot of derogatory comments thrown at me. I didn't mind, I was getting paid more and the Union never did a damned thing for me.

Re:Unions. (1)

harrkev (623093) | about a month ago | (#47298923)

By the way: better description here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U... [wikipedia.org]

Basically, you can't be forced to do things like attend meetings, vote, etc. But you CAN be forced to pay dues or loose your job.

Re:Unions. (1)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about a month ago | (#47298995)

Yep, I'm aware of union shops and right to work states. Just wanted to be sure what you were talking about, because your initial description told a much, much wilder story.

Should the US government censor political blogs? (2, Insightful)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47298389)

Your goal is to level the playing field so that some individuals do not have more influence than others on elections. Have you considered the idea of censoring political blogs? Some bloggers have widely disproportionate influence, and by throttling their readership (perhaps by a government controlled internet filter occasionally injecting 404's), together we could take the "celebrity blogger" influence out of politics and level the playing field.

...or would you recognize that as a gross abuse of free speech, much like your plan to make political donations illegal? Seriously, why don't you stop trying to undermine the 1st Amendment?

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47298521)

..or would you recognize that as a gross abuse of free speech, much like your plan to make political donations illegal? Seriously, why don't you stop trying to undermine the 1st Amendment?

Exactly... If they want to restrict speech, they must amend the constitution. However, more and more people are starting to agree that the 1st amendment "goes too far [firstamendmentcenter.org] ", so repealing or severely restricting it should be an easy go. Lessig is barking up the wrong tree without a paddle.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (2)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47298715)

anyone who thinks that the first amendment goes to far, should simply find a place that fits their beliefs better, I hear china is nice when it comes to restricting freedom of speech

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about a month ago | (#47298767)

Extremism in the defense of Liberty is no vice.

You, the one who wants to restrict free speech because you don't like the results, how would you feel if a right winger tried this only towards the kind of speech liberals like? Liberals didn't complain when it was only Soros' money, but when the Libertarian/Conservative Koch brothers adopt the same exact donation category, all of a sudden you hate it.

Take your slavery and shove it. People like you are the problem, not Koch and Soros.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47298993)

Whoa! That was intense! Where did I say anything about "liberal/conservative" or Koch and Soros? What to they have to do with the price of rice? I am merely one who believes that "no law" means no law... Your post completely misses the mark, to the point of being completely off-topic.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

pla (258480) | about a month ago | (#47298845)

Exactly... If they want to restrict speech, they must amend the constitution. However, more and more people are starting to agree that the 1st amendment "goes too far"

I sincerely hope you meant that as sarcasm, but fear otherwise.

The first amendment has become a sad parody of itself, when we have "first amendment zones"; a press crippled by a tide of anti-whistleblower policies and laws; the complete disregard for religious proscriptions in business; and an inability to petition the government for redress of "classified" grievances... Among other offenses.

That said, we have a much simpler way of undoing the damage of Citizen's United than resorting to substantially gutting the first amendment: Money is not speech. Simple as that, really. Personally, I would go a step further, and point out that corporations are not people, but sadly, that boat sailed over a century ago. But if we do insist on a constitutional amendment as the fix, we damned well need to target the 14th, not the 1st.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47299013)

Money is not speech.

Why not?

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (0)

mjm1231 (751545) | about a month ago | (#47298543)

That's easy. A blog is speech. Money isn't. Blogs (and the internet, for the most part still) are fairly democratic institutions. Using cash to drown out the majority of voices is tyranny. A more egregious twisting of the intent of the 1st amendment I cannot imagine.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (2, Insightful)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47298681)

That's easy. A blog is speech. Money isn't.

You're certainly entitled to your opinion. Whatever term you use, it's clear that you want to let the government take away our "freedom to spend our own money to get the word out about something". That means less freedom. Maybe you're happy with that, because governments never, ever abuse their position when given leeway to curtail personal freedoms?

Blogs (and the internet, for the most part still) are fairly democratic institutions.

I think you define "democratic" differently than I do.

Using cash to drown out the majority of voices is tyranny. A more egregious twisting of the intent of the 1st amendment I cannot imagine.

Using the government to outlaw political movies, political blogs (that cost money to operate), newspapers, etc. is exactly contrary to the intent of the 1st Amendment. I would say that you are a very confused individual. Or perhaps merely naive, if you expect that only roses and happiness will result from such a loss of freedom as you advocate.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298829)

Ad hominem. I don't htink the mjm wants governments to "take away our freedom." Rather, I suspect he also sees loss of freedom from undue influence in the public sphere by private entities. Surely I don't have to point out examples of this over the last decade, with resulted in significant cost to the taxpayer. He likely thinks a reasonable balance could offset this other category of "loss of freedom." .."...is exactly contrary to the intent of the 1st Amendment."

You're reaching. The concept of money-as-speech did not exist until waaaay after the 1st Amendment was drafted.

I understand the "libertarian" argument, here, but I think you and others are applying it dogmatically, without acknowledgement of the corrupting power of money, and the corrosive effect it can have on governance.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47298719)

Let's put it a different way. Suppose a Republican president comes to power with Republicans in both legislative houses, and it becomes the law of the land that nobody can donate to a Democratic party or politician. Donating money to Democrats is now illegal. So... we all know that is "not OK", but why exactly is it "not OK"?

The answer lies in the freedoms guaranteed by the 1st Amendment, whether you like the "money=speech" idea or not. Tell me why I'm wrong, please!

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

danheskett (178529) | about a month ago | (#47298959)

In your theory, the tort is not that you can't donate to Democrats, it's that you can donate to Republicans. It's a clear cut equal protection clause. The government must have a compelling state interest in regulating the donation to Democrats but not Republicans, otherwise, it fails equal protection and is unconstitutional.

It is not a 1st amendment issue either under current law or any previous interpretation of it.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47299109)

There are a couple of problems with that. One, you seem to be saying that such a bad law as my hypothetical would have been constitutional prior to 1868. Two, if you don't have a fundamental right to support political causes with your money as a matter of political expression, then there's arguably nothing there to "equally protect". At least, I am sure that an entrenched monopoly party would find a way to suppress political donations if at all possible in the absence of strong 1st Amendment assertion of an inherent right to engage in such political activity.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a month ago | (#47298991)

So... we all know that is "not OK", but why exactly is it "not OK"?

Because there are different rules for the different parties, simple as that. They need the same set of rules, as do the Libertarian, Green, Justice, etc parties. As it is now, anyone who is not a D or R isn't allowed to debate on TV for president, because the people in charge of regulating presidential debates are Ds and Rs, and those are their rules. We don't even need to resort to hypotheticals to figure out why this is a problem. It's not even an issue of free speech, it's an issue of everyone having the same set of rules. Right now the system is heavily weighted in favor of incumbents.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

fustakrakich (1673220) | about a month ago | (#47298749)

How is money not speech? Is any force involved? Do you have to vote for the guy with the biggest budget? Is mass media your only source of information? If so, then the problem is not the crooked politician, or the guy making the offer. If you want to take the money out of politics, then stop voting for big money. That is the only way you can win. Prohibition is tyranny, and I for one, will never vote for such a thing.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | about a month ago | (#47298599)

So, just because the Warren Burger led supreme court went 5-3 (Justice Stevens did not take part) in Buckley vs Valeo in favor of this line of reasoning does not make it correct. It simply means that our Supreme court believed that it knew better than the majority of Congress, who felt strongly enough about limiting campaign money to override Gerald Fords veto.

Should the US government censor political blogs? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298691)

There's a plausible argument to be made that money isn't speech and corporations aren't people.

It's almost intuitive.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (2)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47298783)

There's a plausible argument to be made that the 1st Amendment requires that a government can't make it illegal to donate money to their political opponents. There's a plausible argument to be made that exactly zero corporations are owned by robots today -- they are owned and run by people. And finally, there's a plausible argument to be made that you are a somewhat under-informed parroter of left wing talking points.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298887)

"There's a plausible argument to be made that exactly zero corporations are owned by robots today "

Careful, you don't want to go down that line or reasoning.

"...you are a somewhat under-informed parroter of left wing talking points."

You are growing increasingly shrill and defensive. Relax. I'm more of what I call a "pre-Rand" libertarian.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47298971)

"There's a plausible argument to be made that exactly zero corporations are owned by robots today "

Careful, you don't want to go down that line or reasoning.

Our own judgement will we keep about down what line of reasoning we want to go.

"...you are a somewhat under-informed parroter of left wing talking points."

You are growing increasingly shrill and defensive. Relax. I'm more of what I call a "pre-Rand" libertarian.

I don't care how you describe yourself, but it is my personal policy to become increasingly shrill and defensive when people suggest removing my 1st Amendment's protection from government control/tyranny. :p

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a month ago | (#47299003)

There's a plausible argument to be made that the 1st Amendment requires that a government can't make it illegal to donate money to their political opponents.

The fact that money is classified as speech but prostitution is illegal doesn't match up. Paying for political influence should not be legal.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (3, Insightful)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47299137)

Perhaps you're oversimplifying this. It's not that "money equals speech"; the problem is that suppressing certain kinds of donations means preventing people from "getting the word out" about something important to them, and thus prevents them from joining in unison with their peers in an act of aggregate, unison political speech. Or something.

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (0)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about a month ago | (#47298733)

Because money is not speech.

Seriously, stop trying to undermine the entire concept of a democracy. Or, in your lingo, a republic (even if that means you think the US and China have the same form of electing leaders... oh, wait, that would explain a lot of things).

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47298849)

Because money is not speech.

OK. But you ignored and did not address my point. If it is desirable to "level the playing field" and make sure some people don't have more of a voice than others, then it should be OK to censor some political blogs, right? (Assuming we got that pesky 1st Amendment reduced in scope.)

Doesn't it undermine the entire concept of democracy if some political bloggers have wider readership (and more influence) than others? That is the core idea behind why you want to change the money flow, right? It's not ultimately about money (after all, people are free to throw their money in the gutter if they like), it's about disproportionate influence, right?

Re:Should the US government censor political blogs (1)

danheskett (178529) | about a month ago | (#47298983)

The people arguing about disproportionate influence are doing a bad job. Disproportionate influence is poorly stated way of saying "disproportionate access". People with lots of money have additional access to the levers of influence than others. You can still have idiots like Karl Rove and his "maths" spending a quarter billion dollars and still loosing badly. And you can still have idiot billionaires like Zukerburg and Murdoch trying to reform immigration, despite it's overall unpopularity.

Any tips you can share for a mad push (1)

franksan (3710973) | about a month ago | (#47298401)

July 4 is coming fast. The goal is vital. The goal is ambitious. The first thirteen days of May had novelty going for it. What can we do to inject an extra dose of excitement into the next ten days?

Getting Democracy Right (2)

ADRA (37398) | about a month ago | (#47298413)

As there are many shapes and forms to democratic process, can you reference an active government that have 'gotten it right' at least in terms of dealing with campaign / direct contributions that you find working well (or at least as close to what you're proposing to introduce)?

Mayday PAC (4, Interesting)

werepants (1912634) | about a month ago | (#47298415)

What kind of accountability exists with the Mayday PAC to ensure that representatives elected due to this funding actually follow through on promises of campaign finance reform?

Federal Candidates ? State Candidates ? Local? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298439)

At what levels of government will your group be providing endorsements and funding to candidates?
In my home state of New Hampshire we have several (as in, 3 ..) great state legislators working hard introducing bills for serious campaign finance reform including both the statutory and constitutional amendment paths, and I'd hate to see their efforts ignored in favor of federal candidates only.

Why not Wolf PAC? (4, Interesting)

werepants (1912634) | about a month ago | (#47298445)

Why do you believe that forming a PAC to elect reform-minded candidates is more promising than Wolf PAC's method, of bypassing the typical political process and trying to call an Article V Convention for the purpose of limiting the influence that money has over our political process?

Re:Why not Wolf PAC? (0)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about a month ago | (#47298863)

Perhaps because the the last amendment [wikipedia.org] to the US Constitution (the 27th) took over 200 years to ratify.

Patience is a virture, but ....

Re:Why not Wolf PAC? (2)

amicusNYCL (1538833) | about a month ago | (#47299045)

There's no point in referencing statistical outliers. The 26th amendment took 3 months and 8 days to ratify. Seven amendments have taken less than a year.

Having the PAC's voice heard? (1)

Joe Gillian (3683399) | about a month ago | (#47298465)

Hello, Mr. Lessig. I'm not entirely sure what the end-game fundraising goal for the PAC is, but I know that many of the people running for Congress are backed by the ultra-rich. In my state, Connecticut, we had a single Senate candidate (Linda McMahon, CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment) spend something like $97 million of her own money on two races in 2011 and 2012. That averages to over $45 million per race for a single candidate, though I'm not sure how representative Linda McMahon is of the average candidate for the Senate. However, I believe it's safe to say that no matter how much money the Mayday PAC raises, there will always be a bigger fish, so to speak. This leads to my question, which is:

Assuming the Mayday PAC meets its fundraising goals, how do you plan to have the Mayday PAC's voice heard over the dozens of other PACs run by the "bigger fish" - the ultra-rich who can spend hundreds of millions without batting an eye?

Outspending (2)

werepants (1912634) | about a month ago | (#47298467)

How would you respond to critics that believe that as soon as the Mayday PAC raises a substantial amount of money, all the other PAC's, along with the commercial media (who are the main beneficients of political spending) will jointly work together against the Mayday PAC and overwhelm it with superior resources?

Re:Outspending (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298551)

Interesting point

Morality and permanence (2)

ddt (14627) | about a month ago | (#47298503)

I want to applaud you for making an impressive effort to fight this problem, but at the same time, you're combating the purchase of elections by purchasing elections. This seems morally dubious. I understand the goal is to have one last round of evil and then patch up the laws that allow these things, but what's to prevent lawmakers from undoing these changes later?

Re:Morality and permanence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298541)

It's called working within the system, and it's one of the few options available.

Government regulation of political speech (4, Insightful)

Jay Maynard (54798) | about a month ago | (#47298517)

Why does the prospect of government regulation of political speech not terrify you to your core? Any "campaign reform" proposal must necessarily result in government deciding which speech is political and which is not, which is permissible and which is not. How do you prevent government from suppressing only political speech that it disapproves of?

Re:Government regulation of political speech (2)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | about a month ago | (#47298771)

By instituting rules that apply to how speech is created, and completely disassociated from the content of that speech.

Some examples:
1) You can't run ads that mention political candidates or parties 2 weeks before an election.
2) You can't contribute more than x money to the campaign of a single person/party for a specific election.

Does it leave concern-troll ads open? Sure does. It's not meant to be remove all influence of money on political speech. It just attempts to curtail the impact that a single large donor can have on the entire political process (witness Christie's pilgrimage to Adlai Stevenson's "political forum").

Yes, it means that political speech is impacted. Congratulations, you found out that sometimes, there's a trade-off in a decision that you make, and a perfect solution doesn't exist. It also means that you're capable of weighing the pros and cons of a decision.

Re:Government regulation of political speech (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298819)

(why does unregulated corporate speech Not terrify _you_ to the core??)

Re:Government regulation of political speech (3, Insightful)

sideslash (1865434) | about a month ago | (#47298889)

The solution to "bad speech" is "more speech", not censorship. Corporations come and go, but governments' use of power and restriction of liberties tends to only grow and be abused in creative new ways.

Re:Government regulation of political speech (1)

Jay Maynard (54798) | about a month ago | (#47299075)

Sideslash has it exactly right. The answer to speech you don't like - be it the content, or the source - is more speech explaining why it's wrong, not silencing speech you disagree with.

Regulations to speech have the problem that they're open to interpretation by the regulators - and regulations to political speech have the additional problem that they can silence the very speech needed to fight them.

Makes News Media Even More Powerful (4, Interesting)

cmarkn (31706) | about a month ago | (#47298565)

The two major parties have done everything in their power to make sure that minority candidates have virtually insurmountable obstacles to their getting onto a ballot in the first place, and even then these candidates are rarely given serious coverage by the media. If you were to actually succeed in taking the money out of political campaigning, then how do you keep the news media from completely controlling who gets elected by their control of who is able to get their message out?

Don't suggest that a "Fairness Doctrine" will provide equal coverage to all candidates, because there would certainly be a test for "viability" of candidates before they get any taxpayer-provided funding, and only major-party candidates would ever pass that test.

Implementation Details (2)

CapedOpossum (953156) | about a month ago | (#47298567)

What kind of a solutions are you seeking from politicians that your SuperPAC will support: A law similar to McCan-Feingold or something more resilient like a constitutional amendment?

Amendment Effort Scope (3, Interesting)

CapedOpossum (953156) | about a month ago | (#47298577)

If you seek to address the influence of money on our political process via a constitutional amendment, is your SuperPAC up for the task of influencing not just federal legislators but state legislators and governors as well?

Term Limits (4, Interesting)

JWW (79176) | about a month ago | (#47298591)

Mr. Lessig,

Have you considered the potential side effect that if you are successful in removing "money from politics"? You will likely end up enormously empowering the position of incumbency, establishing a ruling class that once elected, no one will have the capabilities to truly mount a successful campaign against.

Incumbents have huge benefits and a large number of tools to communicate to the voters (who are of course their constituents, so they can even justify it).

My great fear is that campaign finance reform will do nothing to stem the tide of permanent, lifetime, politicians dominating our system. Even in the worst election for incumbents in a half century (2010) over 80% of incumbents won.

Will you support and make your backed candidates support a constitutional amendment to create and enforce term limits on members of Congress?

If Mayday can't support term limits, then I can't support it. In fact I may feel compelled to fight against it. I don't even really want money out of politics if it leads to lifetime memberships in Congress for the lucky ones that achieve office once, and then never lose again until they die.

Re:Term Limits (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about a month ago | (#47298851)

Agreed. taking money out of politics is important, but ensuring term limits would make the money less important. I am with you, I will not be able to support anyone who does not try and get term limits imposed

Re:Term Limits (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47299127)

This. No more than 12 years each as a representative or senator. No more than 20 years total in congress. Then you either become president or retire.

Money vs. Free Speech (1)

SpeedBump0619 (324581) | about a month ago | (#47298613)

I'd love to hear your opinion on the debate over Money as a form of Speech. Should expenditure of money be protected as a form of expression or restricted as a form of coercion (just like some forms of speech are)? How are speech and money similar and how are they fundamentally distinct?

Single-Issue Candidates (1)

jesseck (942036) | about a month ago | (#47298619)

You seek to elect candidates focused on a single issue, however our Congress hears and votes on multiple issues during an election cycle. While campaign finance reform is your goal, wouldn't your contributors / potential contributors be more concerned about other issues that affect our country as well? Campaign finance reform may be important, but rarely would it trump individual moral / political beliefs.

Re:Single-Issue Candidates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298725)

This is exactly what I was thinking. I would want to see a bunch of people elected who would ONLY pass campaign finance reforms and then would resign, forcing states to hold special elections. I mean who cares if congress doesn't accomplish anything for 6 months, its not like they get much done the way it is.

No, no.. Two things we need... (1)

bobbied (2522392) | about a month ago | (#47298621)

They are going about this the wrong way... There are TWO things we should do to fix this...

1. FULL DISCLOSURE - Namely, make ALL political organizations, candidates and campaigns disclose the source of EVERY penny they receive. If the organization does advocacy for any political issue or candidate, it requires FULL disclosure. Disclosures need to be in a common format and available to the public and should identify by name and address every individual, company, etc who donated to the organization. Also make political candidates disclose their assets and tax returns for a minimum period before they ran for office. Once they are in office, the full disclosure rule applies for every dollar they earn or asset they obtain. This disclosure rule applies AFTER they leave office for a period of time equal to how long they where IN office.

2. TERM LIMITS - All elected offices at the state and federal level should have term limits. For instance, only allowing 12 years of service in congress (6 house terms or 2 senate).

Re:No, no.. Two things we need... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298827)

I'd say 2 terms in senate + 4 terms in house and a max federal political positions of 30 years (including things like ambassador appointments, cabinet members, etc). The only exceptions should be judicial and joint chiefs.

captch: termed

Reduce Incumbents' Advantages? (3, Interesting)

cmarkn (31706) | about a month ago | (#47298657)

How will your plan reduce the overwhelming advantages enjoyed by incumbents so that challengers have a fair chance of winning more than 10% of the time?

if money counters money.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298659)

....you'd think the people with the most money (the so called 1â...) would be able to counter this effort outright.
What is to stop wolfpac from simply being outspent?
Also take into consideration that while expenditure on sustenance remains more or less constant, disposable income increases greatly with increased wealth. The wealthy can afford to spend a larger fraction of their income in addition to having more income.

Mayday botched my donation... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298671)

I attempted to donate the full balance of a prepaid debit card I received from a mail-in rebate. Before charging the card's full balance as I instructed them to do, they made an inexplicable $1 charge first. Since the card then had a balance of $1 less than it was supposed to, the transaction failed. If they're too stupid to successfully take my donation, I have serious doubts about the organization. If they don't refund my $1 soon, I'm going to dispute the charge.

Re:Mayday botched my donation... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298879)

How do you make a million dollars? Get a million idiots to give you a dollar.

1) Set up a PAC
2) Set up a payment structure that attempts to deduct a $1 for ever donation
3) Say donation failed so your PAC never gets any money
4) Profit!

Holy Shit, no "..." required.

Not trying to be snarky... (3, Interesting)

Capt James McCarthy (860294) | about a month ago | (#47298697)

When your goal is 12,000,000 and have the support of Mr. Wozniak and he believes in your PAC, why not just get the money from him?
(I mean, if I have billions and a topic I support, and 12 million wouldn't make me lose sleep. Just saying.)

Heck, he could start a PR firm that will handle all the ads and such for the PAC and be paid by the PAC. Or you can take a loan from the PAC to pay your bills. Isn't that the way PACs are run currently?

Less than impressed (1)

cmeans (81143) | about a month ago | (#47298735)

These are supposed to be technical people, but their email list subscription system doesn't work... It's happy to send me an email, but denies that my email address is in the system. Very disappointing. Makes me wonder how well they're going to be spending the SuperPAC money if their own systems work no better than anyone else's.

Chasing symptoms and not the real problem? (3, Insightful)

macraig (621737) | about a month ago | (#47298763)

Mr. Lessig:

Have you read Crispin Sartwell's article in the latest June issue of The Atlantic [theatlantic.com] ? Mr. Sartwell seems to make arguments that imply that efforts such as that of RootStrikers and the Mayday PAC are merely nibbling at the edges of the true problem and not addressing it directly. If the hierarchies of wealth concentration and governance are inextricably linked through a Principle of Hierarchical Coincidence, then will you unlink them merely by legislating campaign finance reforms? For that matter, would even a round of revolutionary head-chopping do the job when so many other heads have been groomed and eagerly await the same chance at dominance?

Legislation? Or a Constitutional Amendment? (2)

djpretzel (891427) | about a month ago | (#47298781)

Given that the Supreme Court has already weighed in twice on the constitutionality of campaign finance reform (money = speech, etc.), is traditional legislation even enough - at this point isn't an actual amendment necessary, to overcome existing rulings?

Getting media attention? (2)

Red Demon (41734) | about a month ago | (#47298899)

I love this idea Dr. Lesseg, was one of the first to donate in May.

I was wondering how difficult it is to get media access to shows? It seems like one or two interviews on Colbert, Daily Show, John Oliver, etc. would propel the campaign to the finish line but it hasn't happened yet. I'm assuming you have tried, and/or would be more than willing to appear if they called?
   

Goodbye samzenpus (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298911)

Since samzenpus has decided that Slashdot is his personal soapbox for all his lefty political nonsense, which isn't technologically related, I will be blocking all articles by him. I thought Slashdot was supposed to be tech news site. I guess I was confused. I might as well go read Mother Jones.

Unintended consequences (2)

Rob the Bold (788862) | about a month ago | (#47298925)

Concerning the goals and strategy of the Mayday PAC, what unintended results are you most concerned about, and how do you intend to avert them? E.g., further legitimizing the "buying" of elections, or contributing to the escalation of political spending.

Citizens United (3, Insightful)

JWW (79176) | about a month ago | (#47298937)

Mr. Lessig,

Since it seems that your PAC espouses the belief that Citizens United is a horrible supreme court ruling, and noting that the key product of the Citizens United LLC was a Documentary, and also noting that almost all documentaries are backed by or produced by corporations of one form or another; aren't you explicitly calling for the total prohibition of political documentaries in our political system? Also, is the publishing by major corporations (this includes all publishing companies) of books that are about politicians or from politicians required to be banned to take money out of politics?

Why are media corporations exempt. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298943)

Why do in-kind contributions from media corporations get a pass on contribution limits in your proposal?

I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a month ago | (#47298969)

How will sending more people to Washington with their pockets stuffed with cash fix corruption?

What's the outcome supposed to be? (3, Interesting)

stenvar (2789879) | about a month ago | (#47298973)

MayDay.US promises to "reduce the influence of money". That's a good sound bite, but the reason other people don't like your proposals is not that they like "the influence of money", but that they don't see any way of reducing that that doesn't do more harm than good. So, please be specific: what outcome do you actually envision and desire, and how are the details going to work? You propose "public funding" or "vouchers", but you are vague on who gets to make the decisions about (1) who violates your rules, (2) who the money can go to, and (3) who will still be allowed to use their own resources for political purposes.

(1) If you impose restrictions on political speech, someone needs to be in charge of determining which political speech is in violation of the restrictions you envision. For example, does generally opposing a political ideology count as political speech that I can't spend money on? Is this determined by the courts? The executive branch? Why wouldn't that power be abused by incumbents?

(2) Who can I give the vouchers that pay for political speech to? Just candidates? Not-for-profits? For-profits? Would it be a felony to sell these vouchers for money?

(3) You work for a rich and powerful organization, and many media organizations are rich and powerful too. Will universities and news corporations be subject to the same restrictions on political speech? Will you be prohibited from speaking on political issues? Will the editors of the NYT be prohibited from commenting on candidates? If not, why should they be exempted? Why should the $32+ billion company you work for have rights to engage in political speech that other companies do not?

International comparison? (2)

stenvar (2789879) | about a month ago | (#47299027)

There are many campaign finance systems around the world, and a lot of experience with them in other countries. Can you provide clear and concrete evidence that the kind of mechanisms you envision work better in practice in other countries?

What, in fact, are your objective criteria for "better democracy"?

Note that it is insufficient to cite factors that you prefer for ideological reasons. For example, particular forms of campaign finance may correlate with lower levels of income inequality, but if that's your argument, you are really arguing that we should change the campaign finance system to achieve your political objectives, not in order to achieve a better democracy (low levels of income inequality are not by themselves an indication of a functioning democracy, since low income inequality exists even in many non-democratic nations).

staying true (3, Interesting)

lyapunov (241045) | about a month ago | (#47299105)

Mr. Lessig, while I respect your efforts on many levels, I'm curious what strategies you will use to prevent those that you will help will with your Mayday PAC to not go off the reservation should they win.

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