Lessig's personal path of giving up his work copyright reform as his "issue" to focus on corruption is exactly this understanding - that this needs to be treated as the core problem before any progress can be made with net neutrality, immigration or other issues.
For this reason I'm very surprised that the tech community, who is so loud about net neutrality, isn't speaking up more about this corruption. Sure, there are different approaches to fighting against it, but I think Lessig's experiment is a great one and definitely worth our money.
2. The pressure point is "re-election". You don't have to recall them, you just have to make it known to them that your continuous support requires certain kind of voting.
The correct solution is to decentralize power; it easier to win one election instead of 50. And to reduce the amount of activity the government does, less pork spending and less market distortions.
No they're arguing Super PACs distort and limit healthy, democratic speech; that Super PACs are detrimental to speech.
The corollary to your assertion is that Super PACs increase speech. But this 'increased speech' can similarly be 'increased' by foreign political donations, which highlights the absurdity of these 'speech' claims to anyone interested in reclaiming a properly functioning democracy.
Lessig gives specific examples of possible policies to illustrate that it's actually an increase in speech rather than a decrease in it, here: https://mayday.us/the-plan/#fundamental-reform-in-the-way-el...
People are not equal and we need to recognize that; some are famous - their speech is hear by more people than mine, some are rich, some are well connected, some are beautiful, some own a newspaper, etc. Not everyone has the same voice, and that's ok.
If money is speech, especially with regard to politics, lack of money is the stifling of speech (and to an extent, indirect disenfranchisement). Ergo, through not giving those without money any funds with which to perform their speech, the government is violating the first amendment.
This reducto ad absurdium is meant to illustrate that money, while necessary for a bullhorn, is not speech in and of itself.
The only way to implement any solution - whatever solution you think is needed - is to implement Lessig's solution first.
(Clearly there's a simple argument against MayDay PAC itself, that it might be unsuccessful in its mission, but that's a much weaker argument.)
As far as I understand it, there are four main arguments for money in politics:
1) Money is speech; protecting free speech is important, and protecting political speech (and thus financial donations to campaigns) is probably the most important form of protected speech.
2) The utilitarian argument: if money is taken out of politics, groups with less economic power but greater organization and numbers will become dominant. (I'm not sold on pure democracy either). Control of "large audiences" without control of money to reach the public might become important; I'd rather live in a world where I can donate hundreds or thousands to EFF to influence policy vs. a world where Pat Robertson or Oprah are the only people who can influence voters.
3) The implementation argument: if this eliminates a fairly accessible form of financing (the PAC), those who control smaller but more enduring forms of money for political contribution will rise in power. IMO, those people tend to be much more objectionable than people who contribute to PACs. Or, if companies are kept out of politics, but unions are allowed to continue donating, etc.
4) Priorities: this might NOT be the most important issue right now. Maybe immigration is. Maybe not going to war in Iran is. etc.
I don't know how valid these arguments are.
The argument when it comes to PAC's is not that "money is speech." It's "speech is speech." Donations to PAC's are spent independently on fundamental, protected political speech: advertisements, etc. Functionally, they are no different than Sierra Club or any other advocacy organization: they just support causes the internet hive-mind doesn't like.
Also, if you limit PAC's, then you suddenly give rich individuals tremendously more power: they're now the only ones that can bring large amounts of money to bear on supporting a candidate. That is, unless you straight up destroy the first amendment by telling even individuals that they can't make this or that movie or political ad.
Now, maybe that's a restriction that we want to impose but it's disingenuous to say it's not a restriction.
Absolutely not! Money is one of the most obvious forms of power in society, and therefore any group that has a lot of money to spend, is, by definition, already a significant part of the power structure. "Outside groups" with money are never true outside groups.
You have restated my position quite succinctly; FEC campaign regulations are a way of preventing "well funded challenger[s]".
One of the strongest arguments against FEC limits on
speech is that many (very long-term) incumbent politicians
So, in my public speeches to voters I would claim I was 100% in favour of campaign finance reform - I'm concerned, just like you! I don't like these million-dollar donors, I got into politics to represent normal Americans like yourself! Unfortunately until the system changes I have to go along with it, obviously, so I will be taking some million-dollar donations. Once elected I'll get on that reform as soon as I can, honest! First I have to fix the economy/ensure national security/balance the budget/ban guns/fight terrorism/take on the banks/fix the college tuition bubble/deal with income inequality/reform patents/fix contraception access/educate more scientists/fix agricultural subsidies/reduce our dependence on foreign energy/reform immigration/fix the DHS/stand up to Putin/bring peace to the middle east/kiss this baby. As soon as those are done, campaign finance reform will be my top priority.
Hence, I'd get the money of the big donors without alienating regular voters by publicly supporting the current (messed up) state of campaign finance.
New ideas, and real change... like the death of net neutrality. Great!
I really don't see how anyone could consider what you just said there logical considering that the people with (virtually) unlimited money (to donate to campaigns) historically always represent a very close overlap of the people who want to maintain the status quo that continues to earn them unlimited money.
Most American voters aren't PAC contributors, at least in any meaningful way. Is their speech less important due to less cash in their pocket?
The current people in Congress were elected under the current system and thus must be at least slightly wary of a different system. Despite this, there is some support in Congress for these sorts of reform. Perhaps those who support it do so because they think it is the right thing to do, perhaps merely because they think they can do well under the new system.
But you don't have to change the campaign finance rules to start with. By concentrating money in a few places on a single issue, i.e. using the current system, you can elect or help elect members favorable to the new system. If that works, you kick it up a notch and try to get more elected. At some point it's either going to peter out or it's going to have some sort of permanent success.
This is not to imply that it's a walk in the park, but there is a road to success here. Trying to effect significant change on other issues which run counter to big money seems to me to be less realistic, but that's just my opinion.
The question is: What is the most effective thing we can actually do to allow us to get to the point where we can choose the kind of government we want? I don't mean to say that I want the same kind of government that you do, or that either one of us will necessarily be in the majority if things ever reach that happy state, but how do we get there in the first place?
There is very little evidence that there are consistent correlations between money in politics and success in politics. For example the Sunlight Foundation found that all the extra outside spending in 2012 (post-Citizens-United) had no measurable correlation with who won election.
Arguments that it is a problem typically center around this or that "bad" law; but there is no guarantee that a representative democracy will make every citizen happy.
Focusing on money also ignores the many other potential influences in politics, like regional culture, religion, ideology, gender, sexism, racism, etc.
This study tries to approach the question more numerically:
Similarly, none of the following are speech, yet all are essential to it: telephones, computers, servers, printers, megaphones, and pens. If the government bans spending by certain groups, it is preventing them from acquiring the means to advocate for their ideas, which is the essential (and primary) purpose of political speech.
The "money is speech" phrase is a straw-man put forward by opponents of the expansion of 1st Amendment rights to non-media organizations.
If you want an example of how this might affect groups you support, consider that many courts have ruled blogs to be non-media activities, thus they could be banned from engaging in any politically related speech by the Federal Electoral Commission, if you accept Solicitor General Verrilli's arguments. The government could also ban groups and individuals from sending letters to newspaper editors by preventing the purchase of stamps to send the offending messages, or it could simply declare that uncompensated services (such as letter-writing, or petitioning) by groups like unions or other advocacy groups should be evaluated as a contribution, and limited or banned.
If it does seem likely that restrictions on spending _could_ restrict free speech, do you think that they _will necessarily_ restrict free speech? Maybe it just means we need to be careful in our implementation so we restrict the bad parts of unlimited spending while allowing the good stuff. I hope so, although I'd love to hear good evidence pointing either way.
And just to bring this back to the context of Lessig's plan, they don't want to restrict spending at all (https://mayday.us/the-plan/#fundamental-reform-in-the-way-el...), at least not until they try more important stuff first. They just want to make it more desirable to raise money from the many instead of the few.
In other words, had the FEC been given the power to regulate all campaign spending, they may or may not restrict one or another sort of spending, but I am not willing to take the chance that they might silence important voices.
With respect to these "matching" systems, I do not believe that anyone should be forced to support (through taxes,) campaigns they do not support. For one thing, this disenfranchises the people who expressly refuse to support any candidate, and necessarily helps people who have positions which give them access to the subsidies (such as members of the Republican and Democratic parties).
I can appreciate that. It's infuriating to feel like our tax dollars are going to things we don't support. I guess ultimately it seems to me like a question of net result- if some of my tax money goes to support campaigns I hate, but the overall result is a system that works better and is able to solve more problems effectively, that seems like a worthwhile trade.
An analogy might be public schools. I have my share of complaints about how many public schools do things, and sometimes my tax dollars wind up supporting crappy school policies, but ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to go to school seems like a net win, so I don't want to prevent my tax dollars from going there.
(As a side note: I'm open to replacing the public school system with something else that does the job better, but to bring the analogy back to our government, I don't know of any more promising approach to fixing government.)
> For one thing, this disenfranchises the people who expressly refuse to support any candidate,
I think the voucher system doesn't do that. You could always chose not to give your vouchers to anyone.
> and necessarily helps people who have positions which give them access to the subsidies (such as members of the Republican and Democratic parties).
I don't see how this would happen under either system proposed on https://mayday.us/the-plan/#fundamental-reform-in-the-way-el.... Can you elaborate?
>"I think the voucher system doesn't do that. You could always chose not to give your vouchers to anyone."
Do you get a refund when you refuse to give any politician the voucher? If not, then your tax money is actually going towards paying for other people's vouchers, whether you like it or not. You have been effectively disenfranchised.
>"I don't see how this would happen under either system proposed on https://mayday.us/the-plan/#fundamental-reform-in-the-way-el.... Can you elaborate?"
People operating in the existing parties will get the great majority of the voucher money, as most voters pay little (if any attention) to the political process (operating largely on name recognition). These voters will automatically donate to members of their own parties (especially if faced with limited choices), or simply the incumbent, while the little-known third party candidates and non-partisan causes will fall even further behind where they already are. This problem may be alleviated (though not solved) by allowing the vouchers to go to any political cause, including charities, lobbying organizations, and think-tanks.
On the other hand, if someone has no money with which they can enable their political speech, they are effectively disenfranchised.
Does that follow? At all?
Of course it does follow. If you look at how the FEC regulates campaigns, they do so by creating intricate and/or vague rules, which they can subsequently enforce against any speakers or type of speech within their purview. When any government agency is allowed to regulate something, they are given a great deal of deference by the courts and the legislature, this administrative discretion "necessarily allow[s] the FEC to selectively silence any group or type of speech they dislike".
Only if you know anything about the history of campaign finance regulation and First Amendment jurisprudence in the U.S., which I guess you do not.
The Supreme Court ruled that you can't restrict any organization from using money to influence elections, because that infringes of the fundamental rights of people to organize, and pool their money to get their message out.
Lessig's strategy as a result is not to restrict money in politics, but rather to augment it with some fashion of public funding (for instance, vouchers given to all registered voters.) This shifts the balance of power away from the big players with narrow interests, and makes the money game itself more democratic. It's a much more pragmatic approach than the campaign finance restrictions that have been tried in the past.
I personally think that Citizen's United was the correct legal decision, but it struck down a necessary law. To me that means that it was just the wrong mechanism to bring about reform. Lessig's is much better.
In the U.S., there's a long-standing propaganda campaign to get people to believe that limiting the ability of billionaires to buy elections is equivalent to coming to your house and cutting your tongue out at the roots. Pretty much exactly the same thing. No difference.
I agree that it's pretty baffling to the rest of the world. Has anyone here written a seven figure check to influence a particular political campaign? If not, this movement is a net positive for you. If so, then this movement is a net negative for you. But very many Americans think of themselves as temporarily embarrassed billionaires.
Two issues alone, Net Neutrality and the NSA overreach directly impact your ability to operate or expand globally and should be of major concern to smaller US-based technology companies.
It's not like Lessig is some nobody. If anyone has the ability to truly pull this off, and make change, I'd put my money on him.
It's very easy for me to understand the anger. But my pessimism makes me skeptical of yet another political group asking for money to change politics.
I was very disappointed that their website homepage really didn't list any of the details or the specifics, it just detailed the anger. It also had the usual array of celebrity endorsements around that anger. I dunno, at its face this looks very similar to the splinter group party stuff on both sides.
Again. I'm just not someone super versed on this stuff and am looking for info. What makes this different and why will this work?
If you are interested, Republic Lost by Lessig is a great read on the reality of campaign finance.
As is, I donated anyway, because I believe in Lessig's commitment, but I want to see some specifics soon.
I know that part of why they can't name specific races they're entering for example is because they don't know how specific midterm races are shaping up. They also need to be very careful at this stage to avoid alienating donors from either party by outright stating they're targeting an incumbent from their party (or worse, district). I just want them to start doing their research on these imminent races and start releasing this info to the public. Otherwise they will be forgetting that the only thing the growing populist sentiment in America hates more than moneyed interests, it's secrecy.
I wish them the best. And as is, they're likely to get it: they raised over a million dollars in the past four hours.
I'm not sure if anyone remembers it, but they were great at raising money online. They had a lot of good ideas and frankly they were right on a lot of issues that helped win Obama the election when the rest of the Republican party was still gunning for more war in the Middle East the public no longer supported. Oh, and the economy.
Here's what happened...
Even with millions raised, the Republican nomination went to John McCain who brought us Sarah Palin. Months after a sound defeat, Fox News and Glen Beck co-opted the Ron Paul/Tea Party movement, which they previously spent 2 years making fun of, into the corporate political machine that it is now. The Tea Party of current times has little in common with the Tea Party that tried to get Ron Paul the nomination, twice.
This is a very long winded way of saying I've seen political movements pop up online before and they tend to fizzle and die, or have the energy co-opted into something that is not the same thing at all.
I fully expect if this becomes a big enough deal for some Democrats and Republicans to once again crow about campaign finance reform (because it sounds good, just ask John McCain), that it will get co-opted by big money into somehow reinforcing the current system or otherwise giving big moneu politics further advantages.
I'm not sure that any of us fully grasp how much money truly controls the political process at every level. There is so much money it's basically impossible to expunge it no matter how hard you try.
It's nice to see the excitement around this, even if I don't think it will pan out.
These groups still have money and still have an agenda, and they will work to the very limit of the law (and possibly more) to exercise that agenda. I can see this pac achieving their goals only to find out the top spenders dramatically increase their employee bonuses with a wink and a nod as to how it should be spent. I'm sure they can be more creative than that.
I wish that this reform would work but it won't. I'd rather go after term limits or combine the two. Its much harder to influence a politician who won't be around next term.
It feels like we are doomed to repeat ourselves.
Maybe that's stupid, but I really think this is the fundamental issue facing America today. If there's even the smallest chance something like this could be effective I want in.
Does anyone know who is providing the matching funds?
I'm sorry, but this just seems like another in the long line of Lessig projects with laudable goals but will ultimately amount to very little. Remember Rootstrikers?
> The funders of campaigns are holding our democracy hostage. We want to pay the ransom and get it back.
This analogy only works if the campaign funders also see themselves as holding democracy hostage. But guess what? They don't see themselves that way.
The moneyed elites see themselves as exercising their right to free speech on the issues important to them. And they have the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives in agreement with them on this issue.
And this is where Lessig errs. As his diagnosis for what ails our democracy is wrong, his treatment cannot be successful.
Lessig sees our political system as a small cabal of wealthy black hats thwarting the will of the people while he fights on the side of the white hats trying to revive small-d democracy in America.
But how do the "black hats" in this scenario see it?
They'll see it as this other moneyed interest group trying to stifle their First Amendment right to free speech. And they'll fight like hell to prevent Lessig's group from being successful. They're not going to just "accept the ransom" and slink back to their mansions.
And because of the terrain Lessig has chosen to fight this on ("Fight money in politics with more money in politics! Embrace the irony!") we're back to square one: One group of moneyed interests fighting another group of moneyed interests. Exciting, right?
Only now, the "white hats" face a distinct disadvantage. The "black hats" can raise $5 for every $1 raised by the "white hats." Sheldon Adelson can drop tens of millions like that. How do you like them odds?
What's my suggested fix? Well, to quote The Wire: "The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play."
Stop trying to beat the wealthy at their own game. Change the game entirely.
Look around, people. The whole system is beyond repair and has been for years. We're way past the point where a SuperPAC will fix a goddamn thing.
Nothing short of wholesale, violent revolution and a complete re-structuring of our society and economy will suffice. We have to utterly smash the bastions of privilege and power if we want any hope of a fair and democratic society in our lifetime.
Happy Fourth :)
... then we end up with violent revolutionaries in control. What could possibly go wrong?
Congress has an 80% disapproval rating. The President rains death from above via flying robots and secret kill lists. The Supreme Court routinely stacks the deck in favor of the powerful. Inequality keeps rising and more and more people keep falling behind.
> ... then we end up with violent revolutionaries in control.
You mean like how the United States itself was founded?
> What could possibly go wrong?
Not sure. Maybe we'll have a lot of parades in 240 years.
Or maybe the Khmer Rouge? When was the last time that a violent upheaval turned into a peaceful democracy?
[edit: Let's also be honest with ourselves here. The American Revolution did not overthrow a government. They didn't overthrow the British government. They drove them out from occupying a far-away land. I think that the American Revolutionaries would have had a much harder battle if they were attempting to overthrow the entire British government, even with the support of France.]
> Not sure. Maybe we'll have a lot of parades in 240 years.
The only downside to a violent revolution is 'parades in 240 years?' If you want to think that a violent revolution of the United States government will turn out all ponies and rainbows, that's your prerogative, but at least be honest with yourself about the risks of ending up with a less than desirable result.
Some less than desirable results:
* Skinheads or some radical fundamentalist Christian group use the chaos to seize power.
* Revolutionaries take a "either you're with us or against us approach." Conscientious objectors like the Quakers or the Mennonites are slaughtered wholesale for refusing to take part / take sides.
* Witch-hunts abound as 'revolutionaries' search out "1%-ers" to hold public executions. Anyone drawing parallels to McCarthy-ism, Nazism, or the Salem Witch Trials is branded a sympathizer and executed as well.
* The US is divided into several smaller nation-states each controlled by groups with competing interests. Years of war, bloodshed, cease-fires, broken cease-fires, border-skirmishes, etc ensue.
* Disruption of the government leads to disruption of the supply-chain feeding modern society with food. Mass starvation ensues.
* The revolution is successful, but the disruption of the US government leads to global economic depression. Foreign-relations suffer severely as the new government, spear-headed by the leaders of the revolution, is viewed as the cause of the depression, and scapegoat for all their suffering. Perhaps said global depression triggers a new, global wave of nationalism & isolationism, global relations nose-dive as a result.
You're right: I'm too sanguine on the possibilities of what "wholesale, violent revolution" could look like.
I felt after bashing Lessig, it would only be fair to offer my thoughts on the matter. But I probably should have sat it on overnight and given more thought to the last third. C'est la vie.
If I could re-calibrate my "suggestions," I would disavow the violence while still emphasizing that reformers put themselves at a disadvantage when they try to play this incremental, inside game on the elite's turf.
But, I guess we'll see. I'd love to be proven wrong on this.
I say give people something bigger to aspire to and maybe they'll be meet the challenge.
Err, this is a Rootstrikers project.