Hey reddit,

When we launched the first phase of MAYDAY.US, we had a great discussion about the influence of money in our political system.

Now, with three days to go in the second phase of MAYDAY, I'd like to dive into more detail about what exactly our country faces and how it specifically impacts the Internet.

I'm excited to be joined by Jack Abramoff, a man who has seen how this process works up close. You probably know him as the super lobbyist who was convicted for violating lobbying laws. He is that. But I know him as someone who has made changing the system a number one goal. He helped write the American Anti-Corruption Act (His task: to design a law that could have stopped him.) And he has written an fantastic book — Capitol Punishment — detailing how the system “works."

We're excited to discuss corruption, money, and its effect on the future of politics, technology and the Internet, so...

Ask us anything!

  • Lessig & Jack

Proof: https://twitter.com/lessig/status/484365736773566464

[Sorry: Wrong about the time zone -- back now for 45 minutes. And from Jack:

"thank you so much for including me in this scintillating discussion today. I am grateful for all the messages and hope I was able to provide some responses that were adequate. Please support Professor Lessig in his efforts, as he is a true American hero. Thanks. - Jack"]

Comments: 496 • Responses: 76  • Date: 

deadlyicon88 karma

Why hasn't Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or John Oliver supported Mayday pac on their show?

lessig95 karma

Can someone please call them and ask?

stevenxdavis70 karma

Americans hate income and wealth inequality but their distrust and disgust for the federal government prevents them from taking action. Simply put, how can we combat apathy? What will it take for people to believe that change is possible and take steps to achieve it?

lessig67 karma

Great question. This is the biggest problem to solve — total lack of faith in the ability of gov't to do anything. I think that's fed by the skepticism and cynicism that the current system invites. First step to being trusted: become trustworthy.

waffle_ss63 karma

What do you think of ideas like GitLaw, where the ideas of version control of code/software are applied to legislation in order to make them more publicly visible to citizens, to keep a cryptographically-secure history of changes, and make it easier to suggest changes to them ("pull requests")? (Think of it like GitHub for our laws)



lessig68 karma

I love GitLaw, and especially at the local level, I think it can be a fantastic way to extend democracy. But I also believe in REPRESENTATIVE democracy. I want representatives who represent us.

dkssud135 karma

First question: I've been following the advancement of the Mayday Pac very closely. I know that we only have few days to achieve the goal, but we still lack approximately 45% of the fund. Although I would love to see Mayday Pac succeed, if you do not meet your goal, what is your plan after July 4th regarding the Mayday Pac?

Second question: What do you think about Julian Assange and his work, WikiLeaks?

lessig40 karma

I'm working 24/7 to get to $5M. Plan B is for July 5 (but I'm still confident the net can do it). Re JA: He was critical in cracking our blind acceptance of what the gov'ts doing. I am glad he inspired people like Snowden to step forward.

deadlyicon31 karma

What is the best thing I can do today to help push MaydayPac over the line?

lessig30 karma

Rally rally rally: http://Mayday.US/pledge

Get FOX to cover it.

f1orestan29 karma

Lessig, how do you plan to enforce successful candidates' anti-corruption pledges after they've been backed by the Mayday PAC? Do you see this this requiring multiple election cycles for the PAC to have its desired effect, by campaigning against candidates who renege?

lessig38 karma

We need to do this by 2016. So we will elect the reform congress in 2016; we'll get a vote in the first 100 days of 2017; and we'll gear up to take on anyone who renegs in 2018. Here's a plan: http://mayday.us/the-plan

snappyj28 karma

Do you think the government is more corrupt now than it has ever been? Or maybe it just seems that way because we are more informed now?

lessig55 karma

Both MORE and LESS. Less corrupt in the sense of quid pro quo bribery. But only the Supreme Court thinks that's the only sense of "corruption." Congress is clearly MORE corrupt in the sense that it is pathologically dependent on its funders, who are not "the people."

Trying2BaWiseGuy28 karma

For Dr. Lessig:

Prior to your founding of MAYDAY.us, you participated actively in Americans Elect, an alleged effort to offer a third "independent" Presidential candidate. However, many soon noted that Americans Elect was actually a front backed my hedge funds with anonymous secret donors who seemed to have other intentions. One commentator noted that the list of Americans Elect organizers "suggest the group will promote a kind of pro-establishment, 'why can’t we just all get along by agreeing to dismantle Social Security'-style centrism." Frankly, this theory makes sense, as many hedge funds very much want to privatize social security to expand the available capital for their investments (although doing so would defeat the whole purpose of Social Security, as it's supposed to be a benefit that provides stability in retirement entirely independent of market performance).

You later defended Americans Elect's donor secrecy in a tumblr post. However, Buzzfeed then later reported that many donations ended up repaying the millionaire donors after it became clear their efforts were not going to succeed.

Given this previous association, why should any of us trust you with our money in the MAYDAY PAC? How do we know that you and MAYDAY's primary backers don't have some ulterior motives, such as privatizing social security, or that the money will just end up in some Wall Street tycoon's slush fund?

(Note: To be clear, I am asking this as a genuine concern. I like the idea of MAYDAY PAC--I'm just unsure if I can trust your administering it...hanging out with an allegedly-reformed Jack Abramoff doesn't offer me much confidence, either.)

edited because I got my PACs confused...too many of them, goddamnit!

lessig25 karma

So first, it is the great Cenk Uygur who started WolfPAC and I think you should certainly support it. I've started the MaydayPAC. I did advise AE, though only because I was hopeful a reform candidate might emerge within it. One didn't. My point re transparency is part of a bigger campaign, but here, the point was quite narrow. My preference has always been full transparency, and that's the rule for MaydayPAC.

knardi22 karma

What can we do about the revolving door in politics? (Where lobbyists promise lucrative jobs to politicians in return for favors?)

lessig35 karma

The American Anti-Corruption Act addresses that nicely: see it at http://reform.to

waltbosz18 karma

  1. Have you decided/publicly-announced in which 5 districts you will be targeting?

  2. How else can I spread the word? I've posted to facebook a bunch times, but my 30-something-year-old friends don't bite.

lessig41 karma

(1) No: don't announce troop movements b4 yr ready to move the troops. (2) Use words like "student debt," "federal debt" and the like to wake them up to the fact that BECAUSE OF THIS CORRUPTION, my generation is dumping all our trash on yours.

BizCoach16 karma

I realize many elected officials may hate the current system but be reluctant to come out against it publicly.

How many senators and representatives have you talked to that privately support real campaign finance reform and would vote for it if it were going to succeed?

lessig33 karma

I've never met someone who defends the current system. I've met too few who have the courage to say publicly what is certainly true: We must find a way to change the way elections are funded.

RedheadBanshee16 karma

What is the one thing a person like me can do to make a difference? I feel a vast separation from the power and wealth that is running this country into the ground.

lessig14 karma

Rally people to a movement that's trying to remove the reason for cynicism: http://Mayday.US/pledge

sylphiae15 karma

Professor Lessig,

I recently watched you in a screening of the Internet's Own Boy, which was heartbreaking. At the Q & A with Aaron's father, I asked how the audience could best contribute towards improving the system that led to his tragic death. His answer mentioned your PAC, which is how I've heard of it. What other ways can we contribute aside from donating money to MAYDAY?

Do you foresee a big political protest movement in the future similar to the unrest of 2011 but more successful?

What is your opinion of Piketty's Capital?

Thank you.

lessig22 karma

Aaronsw is why I am in this fight. He and I took the first steps together (he was CTO of Change Congress). There isn't a day when I don't think of how awful it is to do this without him. But my commitment is to win this by his 30th birthday — Election Day, 2016.

RLG6215 karma

For Both: If you have given time to considering "Legal" versus "Moral" when it comes to the behavior of government and big business, what do you feel causes the greatest dissonance between the two concepts?

lessig24 karma

The legal too often leaves corporations free to do what everyone (including they) think is immoral. But competitive forces "force them" — or so management feels. E.g., carbon is a pollution. We all get that people should clean up their pollution (at least at significant levels, etc.). But if a company did that in a competitive market where others weren't, that could be very costly to that corp. And hence managers. And so few do.

icoleslaw14 karma

Are you actively considering using the funds in non-traditional ways, such as mobilizing volunteer canvassers, staging local protests, or pursuing publicity stunts? It seems like you really want a game-changing media narrative, and genuine grassroots supporters may give you more options then a conventional campaign. Used widely, I could see the money making a real difference, but I worry that if just thrown into spot television ads it could quickly disappear down a sinkhole. As a huge supporter of this campaign, I want to see the money used the most effectively.

lessig16 karma

tl;dr: yes. longer: There are two stages to this campaign. 2016 is LARGELY about using different techniques to achieve an incredibly difficult task — electing a congress committed to fundamental reform. 2014 is about winning in 5 districts. There's only so much innovation possible before Nov.

keithjr9 karma

Dr. Lessig, to what extent do you think we've been successful in keeping this a bipartisan movement? Could we do better? If so, how?

lessig10 karma

We have not yet inspired many Republicans to take up the cause of changing the way elections are funded. Jim Ruben (R-NH) is running in the GOP Senate primary against Scott Brown. He's one clear example. We need more.

wad4ever8 karma

Thanks for accepting bitcoin donations! I sent in 0.02 BTC yesterday. How much bitcoin have you received so far?

lessig11 karma

We'll report daily.

mps123458 karma

I'm curious why you are concentrating on Congress. It seems like the biggest obstacle to getting rid of big money in politics is the Supreme Court rather than Congress. Heck, congress actually passed McCain-Finegold, but the Supreme Court gutted the anti-big money provisions in Citizens United. As long as the government isn't allowed to restrict spending by corporations, association, and unions, it seems like Congress can't really take big money out of politics.

How do you propose to accomplish your goals of getting rid of big money within the strictures created by the Court?

lessig8 karma

Thanks for the question. REALLY disagree with the claim made in it. Even if the Court got it 100% right, we STILL would have a Congress focused obsessively on the views of the tiniest fraction of the 1%. THAT is the first problem to solve — and nothing else can get solved till we solve that. And the solutions we've advanced would solve that, without any risk of supreme court negation.

RiflePoet7 karma

For Lessig: was it a tactical decision to raise the first million, then IMMEDIATELY launch into the 5 million campaign? As a donor I would have preferred to see some small results at the very least before being asked to contribute again. For example a district win. Can you please explain the process there?

lessig10 karma

The plan (http://Mayday.US/the-plan ) is to get a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016 (and I'm REALLY convinced that's essential). So we didn't have an election cycle to prove anything. The tactical decision was to prove the salience of the issue, so that (or so we hoped) the most important news channel in America would give it attention. But Comedy Central had other issues to focus on.

L30K037 karma


Do you fear the cause of MayDayPAC becoming viewed as a partisan issue and alienating one tribal political camp or another?

lessig11 karma

Always. We can't win unless this is cross-partisan.

hobo1267 karma

1) In your opinion, what are some of the best "real world" examples from the state or international level of how campaign financing should work?

2) How would these changes affect the political balance between "big business" and "big labor"?

lessig7 karma

You can't compare easily, because the comparable countries are parliaments (so no regular election) and because they don't have a similarly interpreted First Amendment. But the objective is to separate the funding from the legislating, so that the dominant incentive everyone is focused on is pleasing the voters.

adler1875 karma

Dr. Lessig, I really liked your book 'Republic, Lost' and the idea of a grass roots campaign for a constitutional amendment for alternate campaign funding. It seems that the MAYDAY PAC is using a slightly different tack here by trying to work within the existing system to effect change.

Is the end goal the same (constitutional ammendment) or has the "campaign finance reform" strategy changed? (I haven't seen a concrete action plan from the MAYDAY PAC, but maybe I haven't looked enough.)

lessig8 karma

I favor many strategies pursued at the same time. I love WOLFPAC, which is pushing for a convention, and I've helped them when I can. But we also need a Congress that will pass fundamental reform. That's what I'm working on here.

Ganondorf25 karma

Dr. Lessig, First off, I just want to wish you luck in the upcoming NH Rebellion march. My question, as an aspiring local politician, is what do you feel is the most pressing issue currently facing our nation? And what could one do on a state level to change that to a certain degree?

lessig4 karma

The way we fund campaigns for Congress is the most pressing issue. Mayday.US will change that.

SugarPimp5 karma

Getting candidates to agree in principal to campaign finance change is one thing. Ironing out the details could be the real nightmare. How will you keep lobbyists from preventing anything meaningful from passing? Don't lobbying reform and campaign finance reform need to go hand-in-hand? The lobbyists are so powerful now and have zero incentive to change the system. I can't imagine anything more important for our country than what MAYDAY is attempt to achieve, but I'm so pessimistic the powers who benefit from the existing system won't be able to prevent it from happening. Give me some hope!

lessig9 karma

The American Anti-Corruption Act (which Jack and I both helped draft) (visible at http://reform.to ) does both at the same time. IN my view, you are not a supporter of fundamental reform unless you're on the list at http://reform.to.

somjuan5 karma

A lot of people have been pointing to Cantor's race as an example of how money doesn't have the influence in politics that people seem to feel it does. How do you feel about the influence of money in that race?

lessig3 karma

There are two issues: (1) how $ affects voters, and (2) how $ affects the candidates. Brat's argument was about #2: That Cantor had become a "crony capitalist." That is the issue we're focused on: How politicians raise money to fund their elections.

desiWonder5 karma

Prof. Lessig,

Considering your contacts in the valley, $5M seems like chump change. So I am sure the $5M goal will be reached.

But has this campaign helped you identify you and your PAC's strengths/weaknesses in marketing ? 19,500 donors in 30 days for such an important cause seems laughable.

lessig9 karma

Not sure of your baseline here. No organization has ever raised as much in as short a time for this issue. No where close. So 20k is a big number for this. Now WHY do so few step up? Because too many of us are convinced we have lost the power of citizens. We're trying to show people that's not true.

hansjens475 karma

When you talk about campaign financing, internet activism and the intersection between the internet and politics, and the intersection of money and politics, a lot of people immediately dismiss you as some sort of fanatic who's found a pet cause.

What steps are you taking to ensure this type action can also reach the other large groups of voters who are older and don't rely as heavily on online media?

How can online campaigns establish themselves as a "normal" thing to participate in?

lessig7 karma

My book — available ccFree at http://republic.lessig.org — maps this issue in every significant policy domain. As does, e.g., http://thisiscorruption.com But I'm trying to take this message to as many communities as we can.

redditorinarms5 karma

I'm not a US citizen, so I can't contribute. When I talked with some interested friends, who are, they pointed to the following perceived problem. Even those elected with MaydayPAC politicians won't be able to change things, particularly because the press has a lot of power and also inertia. Press depends on money, and chief editors will hesitate putting out articles which endanger their money supply. Those 0.01% has ways to affect opinions using mass communications, and the traditions of the industry are favoring them.

I.e., MaydayPac isn't nearly enough, therefore...

What are the ideas to beat obstacles like that?

lessig7 karma

Keep focused on the plan: http://Mayday.US/the-plan

Our first step is to pilot the idea. Our second is to win a Congress committed to reform. If we do that, that will be an incredible first stage for reform.

mrnavey5 karma

All of my friends and family shut me out whenever I try to talk to them about this issue. They all say they care about the problems happening but we can't do anything about it and when I send them the link to donate to Mayday (or tell them to call their representatives to voice their support) they simply say it doesn't work and there's nothing we can do.

What can I do to show them that they do have a voice? Are there studies out there that I can link them to that can prove that it works?

timhuge8 karma

Here's what happened when CT implemented fundamental campaign finance reform: http://www.demos.org/publication/fresh-start-impact-public-campaign-financing-connecticut

You can probably find similar studies on Arizona and Maine.

lessig4 karma

tim we think too much alike.

cos4 karma

Does this Mayday PAC have people with solid and successful political campaign experience? Money is necessary to win Congressional campaigns, but it is far from sufficient - especially if opposing sides have money. A good campaign is what wins, and that means understanding things like tracking polls, message testing, field, events, grassroots support, volunteer coordination, voter file analysis, turnout, etc.

Many things that seem obvious or intuitive turn out to be wrong, and many well funded campaigns stumble badly. Especially very ambitious ones that set out to not only win an election but change people's minds about something (or things) - that's very hard to pull off during the course of an election.

AFAIK, neither of you two have these skills or experience in your background. So who at this PAC does? How do we know this money will be spent in ways that actually help win elections, rather than wasted on ineffective ads?

lessig9 karma

Great question. We are not going to take the money and spend it ourselves. We are recruiting the very best campaign shops we can to run the campaigns in the districts we target.

JStewBop4 karma

Professor Lessig, is there a back-up fundraising plan where high networth individuals are standing on the sidelines and ready to jump in to cover whatever crowdfunding gap exists come Friday night?

Also, are you able to push back the deadline a few days to meet the crowdfunding goal by picking up off the past few days of donation growth?

lessig5 karma

I'm talking to all sort of potential supporters. But no, this isn't a Hollywood movie. Re the deadline: Can't move the deadline. Every contribution is a contract: we get to keep this IFF we meet our goal.

bwcpete4 karma

Hi Mr. Lessig,

First I loved your book Republic Lost, it lays out the issues with the current system very well. While I completely support Mayday PAC and the goal of campaign finance reform isn't there a serious limit on what Congress can accomplish? The Supreme Court has so narrowly defined the government's interest in campaign finance reform, to only apply to quid pro quo corruption, that anything Congress can pass would likely be ruled unconstitutional anyway.
My question is, how does Mayday PAC plan to support legislation that is both effective and likely to be held constitutional given this restriction?

lessig3 karma

The reforms described at http://reform.to are PERFECTLY constitutional, even for this court. (People will quibble about the AA Act, but I think the court will uphold it). So for the changes we're pressing — changing the way elections are funded — there is a no constitutional problem. And that's got to be the first step to getting to a place where the constitution can be amended, if amendment is necessary.

jbhalper4 karma

Mr. Lessig,

I know you're not alone in thinking what you do about money and influence in US politics. Where does MAYDAY fit in with other PACs with similar goals, like WolfPAC, and is there any cooperation currently in progress, or possibly upcoming?

lessig3 karma

Love WolfPAC. They're working on bringing about a convention, and I'm helping wherever I can. Friends of Democracy is, like us, working to elect a Congress that would pass fundamental reform. We're complementing (and complimenting) their work, and pressing for change more quickly: by 2016.

parallaxingposition3 karma

To what extend does the MayDay PAC's success depend on an inevitable overturning of Citizen's United or FEC v. Speechnow.org? Is the strategy to create new legislation that effectively overturns their affects or will there also be an attack on those decisions?

lessig2 karma

MD is pushing to elect a Congress that will enact fundamental reform in the way campaigns are funded. That's independent of Citizens United and Speechnow. In my view, Speechnow will fall on its own. And as I described in my piece in Medium, I'm not convinced Citizens United (independent of Speechnow) matters that much.

RocIngersoll3 karma

I feel that a problem with gathering real support from the general public, to a point where people are willing to contribute their own money, is that while an overwhelming majority of people believe current campaign financing to be a problem with politics, it seems to be a kind of vague problem. Meaning, that yes I know it's a problem, but HOW is a problem exactly? Where can one go to connect the dots? Who is benefiting from the contributions, and who is taking them?

John Oliver had a good piece last week on dietary supplements and campaign contributions to Senators Tom Harkin and Orrin Hatch. These essentially amount to quid pro quo exchanges, but their visibility seems to be lacking.

What is the MAYDAY PAC doing or what can it do to make these contributions visible and name names in order to clearly illustrate the problem at hand?

lessig2 karma

Exactly. This is the biggest challenge (though people are more and more convinced). Check out thisiscorruption.com

stevenxdavis3 karma

A majority of Americans believe that corporations are not people in any meaningful sense, but the Supreme Court has upheld and expanded the corporate personhood doctrine since they established it in 1819. Could this issue encourage people to take significant action to change the Constitution? How can we get people to take a more active role?

lessig3 karma

I do think this issue has been incredibly important in rallying people to reform. I think the first step of reform, however, should be to change the way we fund elections.

hackersgalley3 karma

After we have won and gotten the 28th amendment do you think it will be necessary to organize a group to protect that amendment from loopholes similar to how the NRA is dedicated to the 2nd amendment?

lessig4 karma

I think the first step to winning is a statute — that changes the way elections are funded. That makes more possible an amendment — that should protect the statute and make other essential changes. http://mayday.us/the-plan

kstinfo3 karma

I have a concern that any money spent on the left can easily be matched on the right because they are, in effect, using our money. Do the pair of you see any hope in attacking the problem from the congressional ethics committees of the House and Senate? Could a ban of committee chairmanship or membership be linked to how much a member accepts?

lessig3 karma

Reform needs to speak in the language of YES, not NO. We've tried restrictions and prohibitions and blocking. It didn't work. Now we need to try new supplies of funding. Let's call it public funding (though bottom up), and let's not be embarrassed about using those words.

orangejulius3 karma

For both of you:

  • Do you think the public comments opposed to the FCC rules that would effectively gut net neutrality will affect the FCC's decision making?

For Abramoff:

  • You had some pretty extensive access to the Bush administration - what are your thoughts on their decision making process?

  • How did you, as a lobbyist, influence that decision making?

lessig9 karma

I don't think any leader of the Democratic Party is eager to get out in front attacking the cable companies prior to the 2014 election — because of politic$

TRussert3 karma

Once campaign finance reform is Law, how much of an individuals or families income rise? (taxes currently diverted to special interests)

lessig2 karma

Cato estimates corporate welfare is $100B every year. And that's just the begining.

mtnbkr13 karma

Do you think that there is an appetite for possibly restructuring how long folks are in office? For example, if the office of the presidency was limited to 1 term of 6 years, thus (at least conceptually) of removing the need to constantly raise money to run for office?

lessig3 karma

There are cheaper ways to solve that problem. Obama is the first president since Nixon not to be elected with public funding. He held more than 225 fundraisers in his second term campaign. Reagan (the biggest beneficiary of public funding in history) participated in less than 10.


How long do you think America will be able to stay like it is? What are some things needed to be done to fix it? What is already being done?

lessig4 karma

America will fail if it stays like this, and the cost of that failure will fall on everyone 30 years or younger (which is why it is so critical that those same souls get involved).

J_Keezey2 karma

Professor Lessig - thank you for doing this AMA and thank you for the Mayday Pac. I think this is THE most important topic of our time yet, it seems like the Mayday PAC goal is languishing. Why do you think that is? Is it a lack of visibility? Lack of understanding? Apathy? And what can be done to help?

To Mr. Abramoff, you've seen (and been part off) the corrupting influence of money in gov't. In your opinion, what would be some of the most impactful and beneficial aspects of removing the corrupting influence of money in politics?

lessig7 karma

We set the goal very high. As we get closer, more will get invested in it. The key now is to kick it much much closer. And that's why we're working as hard as we can to recruit new supporters.

bluerasberry2 karma

What plans are in place to encourage the MAYDAY.US supporter base to contribute to educational resources, perhaps by sharing Creative Commons licensed graphics, writings, Wikipedia articles, photo pools, and other free works?

lessig3 karma

Fear not, stage 2...

DeanCutlet2 karma

Mr. Lessig, your book Republic Lost excellently describes a major source of our broken government and suggests campaign finance reform as a solution. However, there are other sources of voter disenfranchisement that have a massive effect on silencing minority and changing opinion like the party system, gerrymandering, and the plurality voting system. What is your opinion of the National Popular Vote, Ranked voting, and/or Proportional Representation?

lessig5 karma

I like all of them but as I said above, after changing the way we fund elections.

balesofhey2 karma

Have you heard of Dollarocracy?

lessig2 karma

yes and like it (the book at least)

RiflePoet2 karma

If this movement had a song, what would it be? Or can we make one?!!

lessig4 karma

yes, write a song (and CC license it)!

FloatingToaster2 karma

I feel like the Occupy Wall Street movement should have become more of an electoral movement to get money out of politics in both the Democratic and Republican parties. In the latter case, I think the reaction from libertarian and tea-party conservatives would have been mixed, since many, including Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, support a "free-market" approach to campaign finance. If your movement is going to be "cross-partisan," how is it going to approach the conservative side of the electorate? What should be done in the event of major opposition from libertarians?

lessig3 karma

By speaking the language: "crony capitalism" Who's for that?

lessig3 karma

By speaking the language: "crony capitalism" Who's for that?

meaningfulmindful2 karma

Professor Lessig, since other non-profits and organizations in their efforts for shaping policy are (indirectly) weakened by the current engine of campaign finance, why do you think we haven't yet seen more of them sign on and include MAYDAY in their fundraising channels?

lessig3 karma

A bunch have — PCCC, Represent.US, Friends of Democracy, Demand Progress, and maybe Moveon (haven't heard the final resolution of that yet). But orgs are jealous of their lists. I'm REALLY grateful to those who have stepped above that.

DostUpvoteth2 karma

Thank you for taking our questions and for all the work you are doing. Even if you are able to reach the $5MM goal, what's to say that opponents of those you back won't just get more money infused into their campaigns?

lessig3 karma

They may, but they've got a very weak argument to make. Who's going to buy "hey, it's important for us rich people to have more influence than you"?

stevenxdavis2 karma

Professor Lessig, can you describe the ideal (theoretical) Congressional district for MayDay assistance? What would be your dream conditions for a MayDay win in those circumstances?

lessig4 karma

My dream? (Don't tell anyone, please): An incumbent Democrat who has opposed reform vs a progressive GOP who has endorsed the kind of reform at http://reform.to — and that the GOP has a shot at winning.

naturescosmos2 karma

Professor Lessig, do you plan on supporting the Green Party? How can we elect a creative, knowledgeable President who keeps his word?

lessig3 karma

Picking a president isn't enough. The President needs a Congress. That's why we're focused on Congress.

hamsterberry2 karma

Hi guys,

Thanks for the great work. I really feel that the only way to fight fire is with fire - I have already contributed my small amount I hope it helps!

My question is this, after what I am quite certain is going to be an eventual victory and ultimate reversal of Citizens United, what plans do you have if any to make sure this mess does not happen again?

lessig2 karma

Mayday is focused on statutory reform, followed up by constitutional reform. That constitutional reform should do a great deal to preserve the changes we've achieved.

theannaquinn2 karma

I love what you're doing! Why are prison populations exploding while schools face budget cuts? Why is healthcare a cruel joke? We live in a bizarro world because our politicians are bought. Politicians give auditory candy to the voters to get elected, then turn around and vote in the interests of their donors. How is campaign finance not THE most important issue in America right now! But, Mr. Lessig, how can I donate to your PAC when I am struggling myself? I have no money to give. I am the educated poor. What I do have is a computer, unyielding motivation, and a sharp tongue. Why not start a letter writing/emailing campaign to all newspapers,especially smaller papers, to express our need for more stories on how our politicians fundraise. We want our local journalists to report on PACs, their donors, and how they are used in our political system. Every regular Republican and Democrat know politics is corrupt, but they don't know exactly how. It would be nice to see our local papers writing more articles on the logistics of fundraising, how these donors influence their votes, and how it affects our lives on a very local level. I say start at the local level because that is where it is easiest to affect change. I know I've done it and I'm a nobody! Pressuring journalists to report on campaign finance will not help you reach your fundraising goal, but it will keep pushing and highlighting how our political system is corrupt.

tl;dr: How can I fight political corruption with no money?

lessig3 karma

Alas, I don't believe in unilateral disarmament (at least in politics). We need to use whatever legal tools there are to fix an unjust system.

citation_included2 karma

How would you compare campaign finance reform with other reforms designed to improve elections? For example:

  1. Approval Voting to ensure its safe to vote for your honest favorite and not just the lesser of two evils.
  2. Unified Primary to ensure the general election is always between the two best candidates for a district.
  3. Mixed Member Proportional Representation for state level governments to ensure everyone gets represented.

All three are easier to pass as they can be enacted using state level laws, in many states via ballot initiatives. They also all give voters more choice in elections, making it easier for them to vote against the corrupt candidates without voting in someone even worse.

lessig3 karma

I'd support experiments with all of them, but after we change the way elections are funded.

syphax1 karma

Dr. Lessig: Why do you often sign your emails, etc., as "Lessig"? I personally find this a little affected, pretentious, and off-putting. If you want to maximize your engagement with the general public, might I suggest "Larry"? It's a small detail, but details sometimes matter.

lessig4 karma

my best friends call me Lessig. And when I grew up, "Larry" wasn't a very strong first name. A bit better than my real first name — Lester. (Lester Lawrence Lessig — but fear not, my parents really did love me.)

juchmis1 karma

It seems that more and more that people are turning away from political ideologies, but particularly in the US. Rather than voting on a concrete philosophical idea to which a politician will turn when deciding how to deal with a new question of policy, it seems to end up being more or less random in the US.

Is there any discernible reason either of you have noticed which explains this lack of ideological consistency in US politics? Abroad, politicians seem to be much less "per issue" about how they vote. There generally seems to be a prevailing idea to many of the parties. In the US we don't have this. The platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties are a disaster of logical inconsistency and double standards, and I'm genuinely curious if there's some kind of cultural reason for it. I've talked to online friends, at least in Europe, about this and it doesn't seem to be the case overseas.

On a similar strand: Will your PAC have any sort of guidelines for candidates other than supporting campaign finance reform? Will you just support the one who does, and is likely to win in a certain voting area? I ask because of the ridiculously divisive "issues" among US voters (abortion rights, marriage equality, social safety nets).

Thanks much

lessig2 karma

I think all inconsistency = ƒ($$$). On the money issues (e.g., deregulation of wall street), there's one party. On the social issues (gay rights, abortion) there are two extremist parties. That's a perfect mix for maximizing the money both parties can raise.

lessig2 karma

I think all inconsistency = ƒ($$$). On the money issues (e.g., deregulation of wall street), there's one party. On the social issues (gay rights, abortion) there are two extremist parties. That's a perfect mix for maximizing the money both parties can raise.

nextbaron0 karma

Do you think that after Hillary Clinton becomes President she can work to reform democracy itself?

lessig6 karma

Yes. And she'd be the perfect person to take the lead.

liberal_logic-1 karma

Who do you think is the most corrupt politician currently in office right now?

lessig7 karma

Don't know and really don't care. I'm not focused on bad souls. I'm focused on good souls. This isn't a problem that will be solved by telling people to "Be ethical." It will be solved by changing the incentives of the system — by changing the way elections are funded.

nextbaron-3 karma

Do you think that Softbank can improve US internet data speed? Or are you not interested in its issue?

lessig5 karma

We will only break the broadband monopolies when we end the influence of $ in politic$.