Monday, October 19, 2015

The issue of campaign finance reform should be the primary issue

Larry Lessig is back in the news. Larry who?

Larry Lessig is the man behind mayday.us, a website and a political movement, with one and only one objective in mind: campaign finance reform. Larry is running for president. When he started his campaign his premise was simple. He would run for president on the single issue of campaign finance reform, and then, if elected, work towards making campaign finance reform a reality. Once that job is done, he would resign and step aside. I learned today that he's dropping that last part and will stay on as president even if campaign finance reform is implemented as law.

It's a pity that he wasn't invited to the debates. Having him there, on screen, with 5 other "normal" candidates would be a game changer. I can imagine how the conversation might go on stage:

Moderator: How would you address income inequality?
Lessig: Well, we can't fix the overwhelming inequality problem until we initiate real campaign finance reform.
Moderator: How would you address climate change?
Lessig: Climate change is a serious problem that threatens our generation and every generation that follows. But there isn't anything we can do about it until we institute meaningful and lasting campaign finance reform.
Moderator: Would you increase taxes on the wealthiest Americans?
Lessig: Again, we can't attain real reform for any problems that can be addressed by public policy, unless we solve the problem of campaign finance reform.
Moderator: You mean to say that no matter what we'd like to reform, we can't fix it until we fix campaign finance?
Lessig: Exactly. We can talk all day about public policy, but nothing is going to change until we change the way elections are financed.

I'm a big fan of Larry Lessig. I don't think he has a real chance of being elected, but I think he can help to bring campaign finance reform to center stage. I've read one of his books, many of his articles, and reviewed mayday.us and I find that he has a compelling argument when it comes to campaign finance reform. Nothing is going to change until we change the way we elect our legislators in Congress and our statehouses.

I watched the debate with Larry's words in mind and no matter what anyone said about the changes they'd make to public policy, campaign finance reform was there, making an end run in my mind. Of all the candidates, only Bernie Sanders made direct observations about the impact of campaign finance reform, but none of them made this simple statement: Unless we implement campaign finance reform, nothing is going to change.

Without campaign finance reform, the 99% will never recover the right of nomination. The right of nomination is one of the most important rights, but nominees are not selected by the people. Larry observes that the right of nomination has been secured by the top 0.5% just by making large and selective campaign contributions, either directly or indirectly through super PACs.

Mayday.us is the SuperPAC created and designed by Larry Lessig to only support candidates who make a promise to work towards implementing meanginful campaign finance reform. In his words, "it is the SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs". This is why I like Larry Lessig. He's identified the single most important issue of our time and is running for president on it.

Unfortunately, he doesn't have the publicity that Sanders has, so he's not really a contender, but he's running as a Democrat and I'd love to see him in the debates, even if only to change the scope of the debate. I think he'd make a great vice presidential running mate if Bernie Sanders were nominated.

So when I watch any debates, this is what I'm thinking. No matter what the candidates say about public policy in any part of American life, making those changes will be very difficult if not impossible, until we institute meaningful campaign finance reform.
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