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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Why I back the Mayday PAC

Lawrence Lessig is a cool dude, and I've talked about him before. If you want to get a little background of what I've already discussed regarding Lessig and his movement against money in politics, check out my earlier posts Rootstriker and
Fourth anniversary of Citizens United.

Lessig is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, and he is the director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He's got a BA in economics, a BS in management (both from the University of Pennsylvania), and he has an MA in philosophy from Cambridge, and a JD from Yale. Needless to say, I am jealous of his intellectual prowess. 

I met Lessig when he was doing a talk at my college in conjunction with a man named Jeffrey Clements, co-founder of Free Speech for People. He signed by book "To Faith- with hope & thanks." I appreciated the name pun. 

If you want a little background on their stance, check out Lessig's TED talk here.

Anyways, both men are against the results of Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee (2010), the results of which allow corporations and unions to create Super PACS (political action committees) that raise gross amounts of money to support specific candidates.

Recently, McCutcheon v. FEC (2014), a case closely related to Citizens United, struck down aggregate limits on independent donations to campaigns. 

So why is this a bad thing? If people want to donate their money to a candidate, they should be unable to, unhindered.

There's omitted variable bias in that statement. 

Yes, on a surface level, allowing people to spend what they want would be allowing free speech. Money talks. 

But a lot of money shouts, and it shouts down smaller amounts of money into oblivion.

What I mean by this is that oftentimes Super PAC's and large individual donations shut down the donations of everyday citizens because the larger donations allow for more advertising for candidates they support, and grassroots candidates who may not be as wealthy or connected have almost zero chance of being heard or elected.

Super PAC's specifically are dangerous because corporations will fund who they want to be elected for Congress, senators and representatives who will work for the corporations as opposed to for the people, and then these newly elected officials will pass or block legislation to help these corporations. 

Lessig calls this "dependence corruption" in his book Republic Lost (Twelve, 2011) on page 17 of this fantastic book outlining the corruption in Congress because of money in politics, and it entails that members of Congress need this funding from the "gift" economy in order to stay in power and ensure themselves a comfortable career consulting and lobbying for these large corporations in the future.

Now, the problem with corporations having so much weight in congress is that the act for profits, not for safety and equality. Just take a look at the current AgGag battle where journalists are trying to fight legislation making it ILLEGAL for journalists to take pictures of animal cruelty and pollution. Will Potter is leading a campaign against that; learn more here. Also, think about the recent GM starter fault cover-up or perhaps just start with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the bubble burst of 2008. National and transnational corporations can be reckless when it comes to the well-being of consumers.

So that's why I believe corporations should not be able to form PAC's and have such influence in our Congress and therefore legislation. 

Now, I wrote all of this to explain why I like the Mayday PAC. This is a crowd-funded PAC (over 50,000 donated), who's goal is "electing a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016." Lessig wants to elect a Congress who will pass legislation to clean up money in politics and reset aggregate limits on donations and eliminate corporate influence.

Following are the goals outlined by the website:

Our plan for reform has four stages:
  1. In 2014, we will pilot the idea of a superPAC intervening in elections to support candidates who favor reform. The objective of this pilot intervention will be to both (a) convince Congress of the salience of this issue to voters, and (b) determine how best to intervene to move voters on the basis of this issue.
  2. Based on what we learn in 2014, in 2016 we will engage in as many races as we need to win a majority in Congress who have either cosponsored or committed to cosponsor fundamental reform legislation.
  3. In 2017, we will then press to get Congress to pass, and the President to sign, legislation that fundamentally reforms the way elections are funded.
  4. After a Congress has been elected under this new system, we will push for whatever constitutional reform is necessary to secure the gains from this reform.

“Fundamental reform in the way elections are funded”

And it is already fully funded for the first steps. They raised over $7 mil. 

So, readers, what do you think? I'm down for this. 

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