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The Almighty Buck Politics

Lessig Launches a Super PAC To End All Super PACs 465

Posted by samzenpus
from the biggest-fish dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Lawrence Lessig has announced plans to kickstart a SuperPAC big enough to make it possible to win a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016. From the article: 'If you can’t beat them, join them. Then take them down from the inside. That’s the basic idea behind a super PAC launching Thursday that wants to destroy super PACs for good. The Mayday PAC, as it’s called, seeks to raise enough money to sway five House elections in 2014 and elect representatives who have committed to pressing for serious reform of the campaign finance system. If that endeavor—a sort of test case—is successful, the PAC will then try to raise an enormous amount of money for the 2016 cycle—enough, PAC organizers hope, to buy Congress."
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Lessig Launches a Super PAC To End All Super PACs

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  • What is the point? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by xevioso (598654) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:09PM (#46894937)

    Anytime Congress passes serious reform, it gets struck down by a conservative Supreme Court that has no interest in reform and literally equates money with speech. The ONLY way to have serious reform that sticks is to...

    1) Make sure Clinton gets into office in 2016, so she can appoint liberal judges once luddites and philistines like Scalia and Thomas are gone / die off.

    2) Focus on an amendment to the Constitution that SPECIFICALLY says money is not speech for purposes of law.

    That is it. Nothing else will do, because it will be OVERTURNED. Why is this so hard to understand, Lessig?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:10PM (#46894947)

    What's a PAC? It sounds like it's a way of buying politicians, but surely that can't be it.

  • by Deep Esophagus (686515) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:16PM (#46895023)
    The other problem is... does Lessig really think he can go up against the Koch Brothers? How much money does Lessig have that he's willing to throw away on this Quixotic dream?
  • by atriusofbricia (686672) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:27PM (#46895145) Journal

    Anytime Congress passes serious reform, it gets struck down by a conservative Supreme Court that has no interest in reform and literally equates money with speech. The ONLY way to have serious reform that sticks is to...

    1) Make sure Clinton gets into office in 2016, so she can appoint liberal judges once luddites and philistines like Scalia and Thomas are gone / die off.

    2) Focus on an amendment to the Constitution that SPECIFICALLY says money is not speech for purposes of law.

    That is it. Nothing else will do, because it will be OVERTURNED. Why is this so hard to understand, Lessig?

    Sorry, you're wrong on many points but for the moment I'm only going to answer the cash != speech point. Money is speech when it is used to promote a political view. There simply is no other rational way to say it. The only reason the Left, of which you would appear to be one, are butt hurt about Citizens United is that the case has the effect of putting the Right on more equal footing with the Left's propaganda machine in the form of the majority of the media.

    It was all good when Unions and various Left wing groups and causes could scream in the echo chamber but once CU broke the echo chamber and everyone could play now it is a bad thing. I'd think true Liberals, in theory those in favor of liberty one would imagine, would have cheered the ability for anyone to band together and form a PAC to promote their interests.

  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:29PM (#46895173)

    If you think Hillary Clinton is going to do anything beyond furthering the status quo, you're dreaming. Even if you wanted liberal judges, there are lots of people who would do a far better job than Hillary Clinton.

    She is a dishonest person willing to lie, and mislead for personal gain. Remember when she circulated pictures of Obama in a "muslim outfit" to get racist democrats to vote for her in the primary? Remember when she claimed that she was under sniper fire in bosnia to try to inflate her foreign policy credentials?

    I am not religious, but I will be praying that she does not win the democratic nomination for 2016.

    If we want real change, we'll stop voting for the lesser of 2 evils, and break out of this democrat vs. republican false dichotomy. Surely this is easier than a constitutional amendment to stop people from spending their own money how they see fit.

  • by fche (36607) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @07:29PM (#46895177)

    "he's got more say than that 90%"

    More "say"? Equality of "quantity of speech" is a ludicrous standard. Electorally, the rich are way dis-empowered compared to the masses, whether based on simple capita counts, or contributions to the treasury, or indeed receipts from the treasury.

    "It's well known that if you don't advertise you aren't going to win anything."

    Then work on that problem: make people less gullible (if that's what you think all those proles really are).

  • by MayOne.US (3638889) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @08:05PM (#46895491)
    I think you would be surprised at what we would need to do to get real reform. By no means are we *against* speech. We just want to change the *incentives* of our politicians. In short, we want politicians to have to worry about what the voters think first, and right now they have to worry about what the funders think first.

    We can do this without banning anyone from speaking or spending money to speak, by creating viable alternatives to fundraising that don't involve members of Congress and candidates for Congress spending 30%-70% of their time on the phones raising money from a pool of about 150,000 Americans, who represent private interests. We're interested in reforms like the ones passed in Connecticut where no speech was restricted, but an alternative viable method of fundraising through small-dollar donations was implemented.

    -- Brian Boyko
    -- CTO, MayOne.US
  • A logical flaw (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sootman (158191) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @08:19PM (#46895569) Homepage Journal

    If the RIAA, for example, spent $10 million last year on lobbyists, it wasn't because they only had $10 million to spend -- it's because they only needed to spend $10 million to get the results they wanted. If they have to spend more, they will.

  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @08:20PM (#46895573)

    I think about $10 from everyone would probably do it. I don't think it's easy to get $10 from everyone, but it's not that much money per person.

    The problem is not that there isn;t enough money to go against the Koch brothers. The problem is that for the average person, they'd rather have whatever they were going to buy with that $10 than the potential to destroy super PACs.

    What would be cool is if this super PAC returned everyone's money if they don't raise the critical mass of dollars to make a difference. Ultimately that's my main worry. I'd rather donate $1000 to a cause that would give me my money back if it failed to raise enough money to make a real difference, than donate $10 that was gone forever regardless of whether it is used effectively.

    Most of my charitable donations go to Doctors without borders because every little bit goes a long way. I don't want to donate money to a political campaign that is only going to raise like half a million dollars for the same reason I don't want to donate to a new charity that may or may not get off the ground.

    Even my cousin who worked for a small charity said my money was better spent at doctors without borders or oxfam than at his small charity organizations.

  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @08:41PM (#46895721)

    This has nothing to do with the tea party. If you are a rich person who wants to spend his money on advocating for a particular political cause by buying tv spots, printing signs, etc, I don't see how a free society can make this illegal.

    Money is not speech. Money is money. But forbidding someone from spending their own money on bringing their message to more people is a limiting their freedom of speech.

    If, for example, someone tried to destroy baseball by making it illegal to purchase all baseball equipment. They might say, I'm not limiting people's freedom to play baseball, I am only regulating how people spend their money. Money isn't baseball. It's trivially true that money isn't baseball. Preventing people from spending their own money on baseball equipment is nonetheless a limitation on people's freedom to play baseball.

    "Money is speech" is a trivially false statement if taken literally and is different than "Freedom of speech entails the freedom to spend your money own money on spreading your message". I think it's unfortunate that this is how the debate is framed (or rather misframed), because it discourages people from examining the real issue, and encourages them to simply take a straw man position without realizing it.

    I am not in the tea party. I have problems with the citizens united ruling as it pertains to the personhood of corporations, but this oversimplification of "Money != speech" I find very disturbing.

  • by TsuruchiBrian (2731979) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @09:20PM (#46895959)

    I might vote for Hillary over some person typical dumb hypocrite republican if I lived in a swing state, but let me pose this suggestion:

    If you don't live in a swing state, a vote for the lesser of 2 evils doesn't really come with a benefit. I live in california. We haven't been a swing state in a long time. I very much preferred Obama to McCain, but I felt quite free in voting for a someone that was not going to continue the wars in iraq and afghanistan without any guilt that I was adversely affecting the outcome of the election.

    I think it's important to vote for something other than the status quo, especially when your vote doesn't really matter in terms of deciding the winner. None of my votes have ever really mattered in this way, and therefore every vote I have every cast has not been for the winner. Luckily it's not a horse race.

    In the San Diego mayoral race, my vote probably did have a pretty good chance of counting, but I was so disgusted with both candidates that I wrote in "None of the above", even though there was no spot to write someone in. I made my own "write in spot" filled in my "none of the above" and checked it.

    I don't know how productive this was, but it sure made me feel better than voting for either candidate or simply not voting.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @09:51PM (#46896117) Homepage Journal

    This is a stupid idea. Pick up your guns and start a revolution, or don't.

    Problem with a gun is that pretty soon every problem starts to look like a target.

    STOP FUCKING SHOPPING. Destroy the value of currency, get your country back.

    It sounds like you think it was ever your country to begin with. This is a country that was born as a plutocratic slave state. The only part people like you or I were supposed to have is to work long hours for low wages and STFU. The only reason there's anything like a notion that we have a right to a decent life and a say in things is because a riot that took place on a bridge in Chicago this week back in 1886 sparked a labor movement that ended up with a middle and working class that could expect to live with a little dignity and create lives for their kids that were a little better than the ones they had. The spearhead of the movement to take all that away was a prick with ears named "Reagan" who got to be president on the strength of his dyed hair and acting skill (not unlike a certain prick with bigger ears who sits in the same chair today). There's an effort zooming through the halls of power today to put something called the "TPP" in place that will grind what little remains of a middle class to dust for good and all.

    See, the idea is to take the money out of politics, not out of our own pockets. I have no beef with the family that owns the produce market over on Cermak Rd, and I don't have a beef with the guy who just wrote a book I want to read. I don't have a beef with the millionaire that owns the lumber yard or even the billionaire that owns my local hockey team. More importantly, I don't have a beef with the people who work for them.

    Now I'm all for strategic consumption, and strikes for all that matter, but it only works if everybody does it at once. It's why my wife and I live walking distance from our work, so we don't have to consume gasoline, and why I'm wearing a nice warm sweatshirt on this 44 degree Chicago night instead of turning the heat on. It's why I make an effort to stay healthy instead of feeding a pharmaceutical industry and it's why I engage in any one of a few dozen boycotts of certain companies (there are almost always options). Hell, it's fun not to buy shit. It's really a pleasure to cruise past a Mobile station on my bike and it's a pleasure not to have a car payment and to live in a house that's paid off when all the much wealthier people on my block have big-ass mortgages because they have to keep up some crazy lifestyle. I'm all for not shopping and only working as much as we need and only consuming what's important. But what's important is important.

    A guy comes along, like Lessig, with a proven track record of doing effective things, it might be worth a shot. Maybe for the time being, keep the gun in its (hopefully) well-secured place.

    It's better to light a candle than curse the SWAT team that's surrounding your house, waiting for you to commit suicide by cop.

    I'm sorry I got off on this rant. I celebrated International Workers Day with a toast to my dad and granddad and all my uncles who were union men (railroad, teamsters, machinists, plumbers and one teacher), who took great personal risk to make sure that working for a living meant you actually got to live with a tiny measure of dignity. And one turned into two, which is about three times my usual limit.

  • Re:It was (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dryeo (100693) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @09:52PM (#46896127)

    Another big driver of universal education was to give the now unneeded child labourers something to do as automation made them unnecessary for labour. Up until 100+ years ago kids started working at about 5 years old, on the farm originally, then in factories, mines, in the service industries etc.
    This is still going on with the expectation now that kids will stay in school until their mid-twenties with the added caveat that now the banks are making money as the kids are forced to borrow to pay for their continuing education and there is a movement to make all schools for profit.

  • by dryeo (100693) on Thursday May 01, 2014 @11:37PM (#46896615)

    We tried something similar in Canada, only individuals can contribute with a limit of about $1000 and public campaign financing based on results from the last election. Worked until the Conservatives got a majority, then the first thing they did was get rid of the public campaign financing in the name of fiscal responsibility and now through the "Fair Elections Act" they're trying to introduce loopholes, take power away from Elections Canada (traditionally non-partisan) to investigate campaign spending amongst other things including educating people about voting and a bunch of other crap to disenfranchise a good number of citizens.

  • by Pfhorrest (545131) on Friday May 02, 2014 @02:27AM (#46897157) Homepage Journal

    I'm glad to hear someone else pointing this out too. :-)

    A secondary benefit to this strategy is that if enough people follow it, if everyone in swing states started voting their true choices instead of buying into the two-party horse-race, because their votes didn't matter anyway, then their votes would start to matter. E.g. if we assume there's a lot of Californians who prefer Democrats over Republicans but would really prefer Greens, and they all start voting that way because their votes don't make a difference since the Democrat is a shoe-in anyway, then the Democrats would be weakened and the Greens would become a viable party and now suddenly it really matters who you vote for. You might (as a left-leaning voter) say that would actually be a bad outcome because then the Republicans might win California, but if the right side of the spectrum was doing the same thing meanwhile (e.g. if a lot of Californians who prefer Republicans over Democrats would really prefer Libertarians over either, and started voting Libertarian cause it's not like the Republican was going to win anyway), you could get an actual contested election with multiple viable options and a third party could possibly win the state.

    I really wish the various third parties would get together and run a series of ad campaigns in election season targeting would-be third-party voters in swings states telling them "[Liberals/conservatives] of [state], [shoe-in candidate] is in all probably going to win [state] no matter who you vote for. So why waste your vote on [them/their major-party opponent] if that's not who you'd really prefer? Why not vote for [short list of prominent third-party candidates aligned with target audience] instead? They're even more [liberal/conservative] than [shoe-in candidate / their major-party opponent], and a vote for them will bring attention to the issues you really care about like [issues the major parties are neglecting]. Vote third party this election and make your vote count!"

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday May 02, 2014 @05:04AM (#46897573)

    Another way to look at it would be if about 10% of voters gave $50 each, which is a fair bit more but still not at all out of the realm of possibility for most people. Also if you are talking house/senate elections, which is what is begin talked about here, then the actual budget isn't nearly as high.

    The point is you really DON'T need rich people to fight these big budgets, regular people can do it in large numbers, and really the numbers are in their favour.

    The eternal pessimists on places like Slashdot seem to have this view that there is just unimaginable amounts of money being poured in to this that can never be equaled. That is in fact not the case. A number like $800 million sounds just terrifyingly high but then if you spread it across, say, 20 million people you are now talking $40 per person.

    That's his point with this. If this is something you care about, you can toss in some money. Not an onerous amount, two figures is fine. However you get millions of people doing that and hey, that's serious dollars you are talking, the kind of thing that is hard to outspend.

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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