Lawrence Lessig

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Editorials: Dumbing Down American Politics: Lawrence Lessig and the Presidency | Thomas E. Mann/Institute of Governmental Studies – UC Berkeley

Donald Trump and the Amen chorus of Republican presidential aspirants may have appeared to monopolize the capacity to make fantastical claims about what’s wrong with America and how to fix it. But a rival has appeared on the scene, outlining a very different fantasy plan to run for president on the Democratic side of the aisle. Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig looks meek — a dead ringer for Mr. Peepers – yet is anything but. Lessig built an impressive career in legal scholarship on the regulation of cyberspace, and the mild-mannered, soft-spoken academic became a cult hero among libertarians fearful of increasing legal restrictions on copyright, trademark and the electromagnetic spectrum. But Lessig’s transformation into a political activist was spurred by his personal revelation that money in politics is the root of all our governing problems. Eliminate the dependence of elected officials on private donors and the formidable obstacles to constructive policymaking will crumble. Simple but searing truth, or a caricature of a complex governing system shaped by institutions, ideas/ideologies, and interests?

Full Article: Election 2016: Dumbing Down American Politics: Lawrence Lessig and the Presidency | Institute of Governmental Studies - UC Berkeley.

Editorials: The Only Realistic Way to Fix Campaign Finance | Lawrence Lessig/New York Times

For the first time in modern history, the leading issue concerning voters in the upcoming presidential election, according to a recent Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, is that “wealthy individuals and corporations will have too much influence over who wins.” Five years after the Supreme Court gave corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited amounts in political campaigns, voters have had enough. Republican candidates, including Chris Christie, Ted Cruz and Lindsey Graham, and the main Democratic candidates, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders, all acknowledge the problem, with some tying it to the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United, which unleashed virtually unlimited “independent” political spending. The solution proposed by some, notably Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Graham and Mr. Sanders, is amending the Constitution. It sounds appealing, but anyone who’s serious about reform should not buy it. For a presidential candidate, constitutional reform is fake reform. And no candidate who talks exclusively about amending the Constitution can be considered a credible reformer.

Full Article: The Only Realistic Way to Fix Campaign Finance - The New York Times.

Editorials: Democrats embrace the logic of ‘Citizens United’ | Lawrence Lessig/The Washington Post

Since the Supreme Court cleared the way for unlimited independent political expenditures by individuals, unions and corporations, there has been a fierce debate among academics and activists about what the term “corruption” means. For five justices on the court, “corruption” means “quid pro quo” — a bribe, or an exchange of a favor for influence. But an almost unanimous view, certainly among Democrats, and even among many Republicans, has emerged that this is a hopelessly stunted perspective of a much richer disease. Certainly, quid pro quo is corruption. But equally certainly, it is not the only form of corruption.

Full Article: Democrats embrace the logic of ‘Citizens United’ - The Washington Post.

Editorials: People hate politics. So why is nobody talking about campaign finance reform? | Jaime Fuller/The Washington Post

After more than a year of campaigning, New Hampshire Senate candidate Jim Rubens (R) has decided on his closing message: the “disconnect between voters in New Hampshire and politicians in Washington, D.C.” He was campaigning in Groveton, a small town of about 1,000 near the Canadian border, when he walked into a diner (as all candidates in New Hampshire inevitably do). “The entire room erupted,” the former state senator said. “People were ready to vent their frustrations. I’ve been involved with politics in this state for 20 years, and I’ve never felt the dissatisfaction more than I do now.” His anecdotal evidence is backed up by empirical data; when Gallup asked Americans what the top problem facing the nation was, many of the top answers have been variations on grumbling about the state of government today.

Full Article: People hate politics. So why is nobody talking about campaign finance reform? - The Washington Post.

Editorials: The Court Case That Pivots on What ‘Corrupt’ Really Means | Lawrence Lessig/The Daily Beast

Early next month, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that will be a test as much of the five conservative justices as of the law they will review. Ever the optimist that principled reasoning will prevail, I’m betting that the conservatives will pass the test (hoping for once to be proven right!). The issue in McCutcheon v. FEC is the limitation on aggregate contributions to federal campaigns. To simplify it radically: under federal law, individuals can give up to $2,600 to any candidate in any election cycle. But the total amount they can give to federal candidates in aggregate is capped at $123,200 per year. So, for example, while I can give $1,000 to any candidate I want, I can’t give that much to more than 123 candidates in one year (poor me!). Critics of the law say it “abridges” their “freedom of speech.” They should be allowed, these critics argue, to give as much as they want in aggregate, so long as the contribution for any candidate is limited to $2,600. Since 1976, the Supreme Court has been pretty clear about the basic question that must be answered in a case like this. The First Amendment limits Congress’s power to regulate political speech—severely, and rightly, in my view. Only if Congress can show a “compelling” interest can it restrict the freedom of individuals to contribute to political campaigns. Even then, the restriction must be “narrowly tailored” to the interest the government seeks to advance. “Good enough for government work” just doesn’t cut it when the issue is political speech.

Full Article: The Court Case That Pivots on What ‘Corrupt’ Really Means - The Daily Beast.

National: Americans Don’t Elect to Use Americans Elect; 3rd Party Hits Wall? | TechPresident

As David Karpf wrote here ten days ago, the Americans Elect third-party experiment of 2012 looks like it has hit a dead end. No declared candidate is anywhere close to hitting the group’s requirement of earning 10,000 supporters across at least ten states, with at least 1,000 from each state. Former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer the closest at just 5,840. He has less than 600 from California. As Jonathan Tilove points out in his story in the Times-Picayune, that means Roemer has more followers on Twitter than he has supporters who actually want him on AE’s presidential ballot line. Americans Elect had an ambitious plan to hold several rounds of online voting to winnow down what its leaders had hoped would be a competitive field of national candidates, and spent a reported $35 million circulating ballot petitions and building the organizational and online infrastructure to attract those candidates to its fold. It also attracted a fair amount of media coverage for its efforts, and encomiums from the likes of Thomas Friedman, John Avlon and Lawrence Lessig. But it never caught on, in part for the reasons I outlined almost a year ago: the lack of transparency about its finances made potential supporters distrustful (even spawning a watchdog blog called AETransparency), and the evident lack of public interest in its founders’ evident desire to find a “centrist” candidate. It’s possible that AE could have evolved differently, but that would have required that the vehicle be more genuinely controlled by its supporters, and that was an option that AE’s leaders clearly didn’t want to allow.

Full Article: Americans Don't Elect to Use Americans Elect; 3rd Party Hits Wall? | TechPresident.

National: Americans Don't Elect to Use Americans Elect; 3rd Party Hits Wall? | TechPresident

As David Karpf wrote here ten days ago, the Americans Elect third-party experiment of 2012 looks like it has hit a dead end. No declared candidate is anywhere close to hitting the group’s requirement of earning 10,000 supporters across at least ten states, with at least 1,000 from each state. Former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer the closest at just 5,840. He has less than 600 from California. As Jonathan Tilove points out in his story in the Times-Picayune, that means Roemer has more followers on Twitter than he has supporters who actually want him on AE’s presidential ballot line. Americans Elect had an ambitious plan to hold several rounds of online voting to winnow down what its leaders had hoped would be a competitive field of national candidates, and spent a reported $35 million circulating ballot petitions and building the organizational and online infrastructure to attract those candidates to its fold. It also attracted a fair amount of media coverage for its efforts, and encomiums from the likes of Thomas Friedman, John Avlon and Lawrence Lessig. But it never caught on, in part for the reasons I outlined almost a year ago: the lack of transparency about its finances made potential supporters distrustful (even spawning a watchdog blog called AETransparency), and the evident lack of public interest in its founders’ evident desire to find a “centrist” candidate. It’s possible that AE could have evolved differently, but that would have required that the vehicle be more genuinely controlled by its supporters, and that was an option that AE’s leaders clearly didn’t want to allow.

Full Article: Americans Don't Elect to Use Americans Elect; 3rd Party Hits Wall? | TechPresident.