December 18, 2011

Lawrence Lessig on campaign finance reform

The corrupting influence of money on politics in the US is pervasive and entrenched. I had never found any proposed solution that satisfied me. The catch with federally funded campaigns, which is favored by many reformists, is that while it might reduce the influence of lobbyists and big campaign donors, it also tends to favor the two established parties. Until those two parties face a revolt or otherwise genuine threat to their entrenched dominance, there is little incentive for them to not be corrupt.

So I was pleasantly surprised to hear Lawrence Lessig on The Daily Show suggest a reform that might actually work. I have not read his book Republic, Lost: How money corrupts Congress - and a plan to stop it but his idea is that the government would refund the first $50 of people's taxes to them in the form of a voucher that they could donate to any political campaign. In addition, each person would be allowed to donate up to $100 of their own money.

The catch is that this would require a constitutional amendment since the Supreme Court has ruled that money is a form of speech and steadily removed restrictions on campaign contributions.

The interview is well worth watching. In the first part, Lessig describes how the current system corrupts politics and in the second, he discusses his solution, as well as some other options that modern technology allows.

Part 1:

Part 2:


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Shalom Mano,

Were you there when we discussed the anonymous donor concept at Socrates Cafe?



Posted by Jeff Hess on December 19, 2011 07:32 AM


No, I must have missed that session.

Posted by Mano on December 19, 2011 09:14 AM

This idea that congressmen have a vested interest in maintaining complex regulatory structures - in order to literally extort funding from interested parties - is a significant contribution to our understanding of politics. The Tea Partiers are not the only ones who need to mull this over. Those of us who rail against the corporate oligarchy, and even the oligarchs themselves, need to refine our own conceptions of precisely how money affects policy. The quid pro quo is not nearly as simple as we thought, is it? The injection of money has introduced incentives worthy of a chapter in Freakonomics.

Posted by Richard Frost on December 19, 2011 10:11 PM

We need to stop giving the power to the corporations. I mean everyone knows the FED is the real government.

Posted by John Notredamme on January 14, 2012 07:52 PM