This is how we win: Every single group begins to recognize how corruption is their issue too. 

Here’s the link to the video

Every so often, but increasingly frequently, a character named “Brett Glass” returns to the twitter space to assert that I am a “lobbyist” for Google.  E.g. (and this is just a sample: this stuff goes back for years)

2014-06-01 04:09:47: @GeorgeRussert I never got the notice that Lessig speaks on society’s behalf. (He doesn’t. He speaks on Google’s behalf.) @alaskarobotics

2014-05-11 22:08:46: @VictorLicata1 @lessig, in particular, has served as a de facto paid corporate lobbyist for many years. He knows the game and participates.

2014-05-11 17:22:58: @antonejohnson Both @Vanschewick and @lessig lobbied for Google to get more funding for @StanfordCIS. Academic dishonesty. #NetNeutrality

2014-05-11 01:39:25: @mitchellkoch Oh, yes, @lessig is supported by tech. Specifically, by monopolist Google, for whose #NetNeutrality regs he lobbies.

2014-05-09 19:58:26: @livebeef Among other things,@lessig has exhibited academic dishonesty while serving as a de facto lobbyist for Google. @JoshuaStaples

2014-05-01 18:44:28: @EBagsLOLZ You don’t have to believe a thing I say about @lessig; you can follow the $ from Google to schools to him. #Rootstrikers #MayOne

2014-05-01 18:32:40: lessig And then you went to Harvard and are a fixture at Berkman, a think tank that lobbies for Google’s corporate agendas. @ebagslolz

2014-05-01 18:30:24: @lessig I watched as you spoke on behalf of #Google at the FCC’s en banc hearing at Stanford. @ebagslolz

2014-05-01 17:09:28: @EBagsLOLZ Could write a book on it. Not gonna do it in 140 chars. But @lessig is well known as a #Google shill. #Rootstrikers #MayDay

2014-05-01 16:45:37: @EBagsLOLZ Nonsense. @lessig is a lying corporate lobbyist trying to separate the gullible and their money. #Rootstrikers #MayDay

2014-04-03 16:21:1: @adamjwhitedc Corruption: When an academic such as @lessig claims to be expert in “ethics” while acting as a paid corporate shill.

it would be forgivable for someone reading this stuff to think that I get money from Google. That, after all, is the ordinary meaning of words like “paid corporate shill,” “de facto lobbyist for Google,” etc. And so have many inferred from Brett’s words, and at least some of them have written me angry emails about my “betrayal” and the like. 

In fact, however, I have never received any compensation for anything from Google at all. And what’s surprising, given what he says above and elsewhere, is that Brett knows this.

In 2011, I asked him why he was saying what he was saying. In an email to me, he acknowledged that by saying I was a “paid corporate shill” or “lobbyist for Google,” he didn’t actually mean I was being paid by Google, or paid to lobby for Google. What he meant instead was: 

You know as well as I do that Google has given big bucks to the institutions where you have worked, many of which have found their way into your paychecks. 

Even this, however, is wrong. I asked Brett what money the EJ Safra Center (which I direct) received from Google. None, he acknowledged. But Google “has also funded Berkman for many years.” Maybe, but I am not part of the Berkman Center, and certainly haven’t received money from the Berkman Center. Ok„ Brett says, but Google had given money to Harvard, and Harvard pays my salary, so Google is therefore paying me. But wrong again: Google hasn’t given money to Harvard (or at least so I was told by Harvard). So in absolutely no truthful sense of the term am I being “paid” by Google. 

But, Brett says,more than a decade ago, Google gave money to the Stanford Center for Internet & Society, and I was the director of the Center when they did. That’s true, and that’s precisely the kind of funding that we at the Safra Center are studying and if done improperly, criticizing

Yet again, Brett has the basic facts wrong. I came to Stanford with a contract that created a Center, and gave me no fundraising obligations for the Center. After I came, and again, without any tie to me or any relation to my work, Google gave money to the Law School, which it used to pay for the Center. That money didn’t affect my salary (that was set independently of the Center); it wasn’t my obligation to raise that money for the Center; I didn’t raise that money for the Center; the Center would have existed and functioned exactly as it did with or without that money. In a word, then, I was independent of that money. 

How research is funded, however, is an important issue to me. Again, it is the focus of the Lab I run at the Safra Center on “institutional corruption.” And it is the reason I first articulated the standard by which I do or do not accept money for my work. (See “Disclosure” here.) I’ve yet to see anyone argue that the standard I have set in that document is insufficiently independent. 

FInally, perhaps in an effort to update his campaign to facts less than a decade old, Brett has taken up the fight against the MaydayPAC. It turns out. in the strange world of Brett, this too is part of the grand Google conspiracy. As he wrote on 26 June (and many other times since we launched):  

@lessig uses #MayDayPAC to lobby for Google’s regulatory and legislative agendas.

Of course the MaydayPAC has no lobbyists. Neither is its aim in 2014 to lobby for anything. It’s aim in 2014 is to make 5 races turn on the issue of “fundamental reform in the way Congress funds its campaigns.” If we’re successful, then in 2016, we’ll do the same at a much bigger level, with the aim of electing a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016. If we’re successful in that, then we’ll push for that reform — and only that reform. And once that reform is passed, we will push for whatever constitutional changes might be necessary to secure the reform that we have helped to pass. 

Google may or may not like reform. I don’t know. I hope they do. I hope every right thinking sort does. But whether they do or not doesn’t make me a “lobbyist” or “shill” for Google. 

I’m not sure why — of all the causes that there are in this world — Brett has made this sort of slander his personal mission. And my ordinary practice in cases like this would be to ignore it.

But to the extent his assertions confuse people who might support our work with the MaydayPAC, I’ve got an obligation to respond to them. 

So I did. 

On my way from Colombia to SF, I land in Mexico City at 3:30am. As I had gotten on the plane, I realized the last time I was in Mexico, I receive a call from Ben Wikler, telling me Aaron was gone. (here’s the followup post) This time, when the plane landed, Aaron was back. Here’s Ben’s beautiful, wrenching, and amazing podcast, pulling together the path from Aaron to a #MaydayPAC.

The Good Fight: Episode #25

This NHRebellion sign is posted on the farm in New Hampshire where Romney announced his candidacy in 2012. The Rebellion is happening. 

This NHRebellion sign is posted on the farm in New Hampshire where Romney announced his candidacy in 2012. The Rebellion is happening. 

The guy (practically) gave us personal computing. Return the favor with a pledge

If you compare the performance of the MaydayPAC to  first quarter disclosures, we are in the top 10 for cash on hand, and top 20 in funds raised. 

And we’ve raised more than 2x what Colbert did. 

Hey #MaydayPAC followers:

Here’s the MaydayPAC YouTube channel

#1 problem with the channel: Too much Lessig. 

If you’ve got stuff you think we could use, send to

If you see stuff on that page you can share, share!


A friend is in a recount fight in Maine. She’s not a friend of some pretty powerful interests and lobbyists. She needs a good ME election law lawyer, ideally pro bono. Email me at lessig at pobox dot com if you can help? 


Twenty years ago today, Professor Thomas Nicely discovered a flaw in the Intel Pentium chip. It took a couple months, but by the end of the year, Intel had committed to fixing the flaw by replacing the chips. The cost: $500 million.

There is a flaw at the core of the operating system of this democracy. It will likely take about the same amount — eventually — to fix it.

We’re raising the first $5 million now. Join us.

If we don’t meet our goal, you pay nothing. If we do, we’re one step closer to fixing the flaw at the core of the operating system of our democracy. 

They stepped up. Now it’s our turn.

- The #MaydayPAC

We are closing the first week of of the second round of the #MaydayPAC kickstarter campaign. The conclusion of the week: Not fast enough.

  • Part of this is our (insanely hard working) team — we’ve been tinkering (maybe too much) to get higher conversion rates, and are learning too slowly that what seemed to us as improvements weren’t. 
  • Part of this is me — all of this is too me-centric, which makes my failures costly. I did a new round of videos for stage two which are all much less effective (in converting views to pledges) than the original. I’m reluctant to spend the money to try again, but this weakness has been important. 
  • Part of this is all of us (you included) – for the fact is, we are raising money faster than the original challenge, in the sense that this time we’ll cross $1M in less than 2 weeks. But because our target is so big, it doesn’t seem like that. For as our advisors advised me again and again, $5M seems way too daunting. Daunting depresses. 

But (and acknowledging this may be the total lack of sleep speaking here) I am still confident we can do this. 

  • The team has found the sweet spot — I’ve never worked with a harder working and more talented team. And with the help of literally scores of volunteers (and the amazing Optimizely), we are honing in on a much much better site design with much much better conversion rates. 
  • The project is bringing others on — we’ve got an amazing mix of new content rolling out over the next two weeks, including some fantastic new partners (to add to Jason Alexander) and new content (explaining all this better than I can). 
  • In the end, this is about the numbers — we can see how much in pledges we inspire with each view of the webpage. That translates into a target number of views. We’re rolling out a range of strategies to get us way above that target. If we can do that quickly enough, we will hit our goal. 

It might be that some big bumps are essential on the way, and that if we don’t get them, we won’t cross. Maybe only @StephenAtHome can save U.S. Maybe it’s only a comedy channel that can end the tragedy we call D.C. And so obviously, we’re doing everything we can to get within their scopes. But the strategy is as the strategy has always been: try 10 things, each of which should work, and at the same time. (The only thing I’m missing in that is an obvious technique for shutting down at night to sleep).

If you’re here, you’re in this with us. Thank you. If you’ve got ideas, share them below. But I’d be grateful if you do whatever you can to share this one thought in whatever way you can say it best:

We need you to take a chance on our democracy — now. If we don’t meet our goal, you get your money back. If we do, (there’s at least a chance that) you get your democracy back. If 100k take this chance, then we will can prove what I already deeply believe: that we can win this fight. By 2016.

Pledge here. And thank you always. 

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