back to article Law prof Lessig vows to take cash out of politics by raising tons of money

Harvard law professor and author of internet bible Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace Lawrence Lessig is considering a run for US President on a single issue: getting big money out of America's politics. And the deciding factor in running? Whether he can raise $1m in the next month. A new website – – is …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wish him well, just....

    steer clear of grassy knolls.....well, at least make sure the driver of your open top limo does anyway.

    1. James 100

      Re: I wish him well, just....

      I'm pretty sure he'd be safe from that kind of threat: cooking up plans with zero chance of success isn't a threat to anyone.

  2. goldcd

    Why's this ridiculous?

    Futile maybe, but the idea appeals to me.

    Putting aside I'm a British citizen, the problem we face here is the same - funding has completely borked our political parties.

    Wish it wasn't the case, but without funding behind you it doesn't matter what your ideas are - you don't stand a chance. And, if you take funding (from hedge-fund to unions) they want something back and will hold the withdrawal of funding over your head forever more - your soul has been bought.

    In this context, it seems eminently sensible to raise this politically agnostic question. The only objectors are surely the donating minority?

    Sort this out - and then we can move on.

    Seems bizarre that all acknowledge 'communication opportunities' (i.e.advertising/press support) sway elections, acknowledge this requires financial support - and then make it illegal to buy votes.

    With my pragmatic hat on, it would seem more efficient in our current system just to jump to vote-purchase (take your ballot receipt to your council office for cash-back etc) - at least it would reduce the collective expense.

  3. Youngone Silver badge
    Black Helicopters


    I'm not sure campaign reform is even possible in the US any more. The Supreme Court has ruled that money is a feature of the system, not a bug, so presumably any reform attempts will need to be very carefully considered as the Court may well just rule them out as unconstitutional.

    Also TFA states that "it's not the amount of money, it's what you do with it" as if this is even nearly true. In reality it is nearly always the amount of money that wins the election. That's why Federal politicians spend their whole lives fund raising.


    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: Doomed

      The link is interesting indeed. I had no idea that retirees contribute such large amounts, although it did not come as a surprise that their money favored Romney over Obama by around 6 to 5, or that lawyers (mainly plaintiff attorneys by some reports) and the educational establishment supported Obama over Romney by a large margin. It is interesting, too, that notwithstanding the wailing, mostly by "progressives", the Obama campaign and its supporters underspent Romney's by a fairly significant amount and yet won rather handily. Money to run a campaign surely is important, but not decisive. Enthusiastic volunteers, with appropriate organization and guidance, can make substitute for a good deal of money, yet nobody ever would think to suggest either reporting or regulating their number.

      1. Sharp89

        Re: Doomed

        The overall spending in support of Obama was about 20% more than Romney. FEC filed spending is transparent by less than 23% of spending on political campaigns -- and that is LESSINGS POINT. Read his blog.

        That link is on FEC reported funding. It EXLUDES 527s and 501C4s and a dozen other methods, that have little to no transparency requirement and where Democrat funding -especially large contributions -- exceeds GOP funding by a substantial amount.

        Indeed lessing explains how this happens. Have you read lessing?

    2. Sharp89

      Re: Doomed

      Citizens United did not add 2% to US political spending. And you do realize that monies allowed under that ruling are 100% transparent and reported to the US FEC?

      All citizens united enabled donations do not add up to the monies estimated to spent by Democrat George Soros' in a score of Democrat in-house 501C4 non profits like moveon dot org. And what of 527 issues adovacy groups? 527s funded by big pharma alone spent seven times more money on political advertising in support of Democrat positions than all Citizens united enabled contributions.

      I wonder if you have read lessing's work? his own blog shows how big pharma BOUGHT the pharmaceuticals aspect of Obamacare and spent billions in politicking on behalf of Democrat candidates to do so!

      And how about unions? In my state you MUST belong to the union to participate in pensions. Surveys indicate unions are 64% Democrat, 15% Democrat and 21 Republican. Yet less than 1% of union politicking spending and contributions goes to Republicans. 98% to democrats.

  4. tom dial Silver badge

    One problem here

    is that without gutting the First Amendment, there is a pretty firm ban on regulating political activity, extending (since the Citizens United decision) to spending money for political advocacy.

    It is not clear whether this is a real problem or not, because it is not clear that this spending of money, no matter that some see it as "obscene", actually has all that much influence on electoral outcomes. Assertions about vote buying clearly go beyond what can be established.

    1. Sharp89

      Re: One problem here

      Try actually reading lessing. Citizen united enabled funding is less than 2% of US campaign funding.

      Romney out raised Obama by about 18% in transparent funding but Obama outraised Romney by over 20% in actual funding

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I think the real real problem here is that the idea of freedom of speech has become twisted thanks to the increasing speed of communication. And that, perhaps, what the Founding Fathers REALLY wanted was to ensure that everyone involved in the discussion was free to speak his (and lately, her) mind. In other words, what they really wanted wasn't so much FREE speech as FAIR speech. Take a trial, where the procedure is carefully constructed to allow each side to have equal time in. Can not an election (or even advertising in general) be construed as making a case before the public and perhaps subject to the same constraints in the name of making sure everyone gets a fair say? After all, it's hard to get one's point across if you're being drowned out by the bullhorn across the street. In fact, taken further, if one were to imply that a poll tax means an unconstitutional price of admission to vote, perhaps paying for ad spots can mean an unconstitutional price of admission to run and campaign. And AFAIK none of this would really require an Amendment; just a new interpretation on what's involved in an election.

  6. DougS Silver badge

    Don't make this a partisan issue

    I see some people sniping that the "other party" is raising more money via these new avenues than the other. Don't fall for those divisive politics - the money guys want that. We shouldn't want either the Koch brothers OR George Soros to be able to donate tens of millions to campaigns whether or not their contributions are disclosed.

    Since the Supreme Court has ruled that money = speech, it will be a long uphill climb to pass a constitutional amendment. The only possible way it can happen is if average citizens refuse to fall victim to the scare tactics from their party that changing the law will create an advantage for the "other guys". Whether or not the democrats or republicans end up with a higher percentage of a much smaller pot in the end isn't something we should worry about - no doubt that's what we'd be told if this movement starts going anywhere: Don't support this amendment, the other guys will have a veto-proof majority and it'll be [free taxpayer-funded abortions for 12 year olds without their parents being told | women forced to bear the children of their rapist even if it kills them | insert your favorite scare meme]

    Whatever the outcome, it will more about the average citizen contributing small amounts of money and having a voice, instead of a bunch of fat cats having an outsized voice while we don't matter at all which is the situation today.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019