A headline in Roll Call about the #MaydayPAC left me, well, scratching my head: “Super PAC for Campaign Finance Reform Swallowed by Fat Cats.”

Remember, these “fat cats” are spending their money to reduce their own political influence. If we’re successful, their investment will have lessened their power to influence politics. Not to zero, of course. And likely not to the influence of “the average joe.” But certainly much much less than they have in this SuperPAC democracy. 

I talk about the nature of this sacrifice at the end of my essay for Medium

A billionaire who spends his or her money to reduce her own influence is giving us, the People, something enormously valuable: our democracy back. It’s not that we need to be grateful for that gift. But I do believe we should respect it. We need them to make this reform possible. They need us to understand its effect, even if we can never be certain of its motive: They will have less, so we can have more.

I spent my birthday walking with the incredible team behind the CA March for Democracy. Kai Newkirk from 99Rise organized this 480 mile trek from LA to Sacramento. He had walked with us in NH, and I was eager to see the meme of walking for reform spread. 

The day gave me lots of time to think through the most difficult decision to date about the #MaydayPAC: How we raise the next $5M.

For in truth, $5M is more than 5 times $1M. The challenge — and the risk — is much much greater. Many on the team are afraid that we will get part of the way, but because this is an all or nothing campaign, we’ll lose what we get. Some were pushing me to restructure the plan into a series of $1 million campaigns — 5 in all — so that if we get just $2M or $3M, we’ll still have at least that. 

I was a tough decision, and like every such decision, one I may well regret. But it felt there was an issue of integrity here — this is what we, or I, said we would do. So to resolve it — finally — I made this 2 minute video in the field where our walk ended (after a shower, and a couple calls with friends, just as the sun was going down, and with a supersized fly (representing dark money I think) added for free).

$5M or bust from lessig on Vimeo.

If you can, please pledge. Whether you can, please spread the word: Mayday.US.

What's so bad about a SuperPAC? (Or how I came to love the (money) bomb)

There are lot of great and serious questions out there about what we’re doing with the #MaydayPAC and why. Here’s a deep dive into the theory of why this, why now, and why 2016. 

2nd stage live NOW! #MaydayPAC to raise $5M by July 4 & make #MoneyinPolitics THE issue in 5 races. Please SHARE! http://thndr.it/1wqCv3b

2nd stage live NOW! #MaydayPAC to raise $5M by July 4 & make #MoneyinPolitics THE issue in 5 races. Please SHARE! http://thndr.it/1wqCv3b

I walk with Kai, and the March for Democracy, on my birthday — 20 miles or so through central CA in the sun (and stupidly, I forgot a hat), WHILE YOU join and spread the #MaydayPAC Thunderclap. One friend for every mile — 20 at least. 

It’s almost midnight. The car leaves at 5:30 to get to the starting point. Drop the zero, and you have my true age — and the true number of people you need to recruit to the Thunderclap

Tuesday’s my birthday.

Wednesday we launch Stage 2 of the #MaydayPAC challenge: $5M in 30 days.

Impossible I know. But we’ve done impossible before, and we can again — if you help!

So here’s the one birthday gift I’m asking for: Join our Thunderclap campaign

Thunderclap is an incredible tool built by a friend to coordinate social messaging. You set the message, and it will send your message to your friends and followers at the same time it sends the message of everyone else to all their followers. Think of it as a Superbowl ad for the Internet — but free! And they don’t keep any of your personal information, and certainly don’t keep the list of your friends!

So I know you’ve not yet had a chance to get me anything. That’s ok. Really. But here’s your chance: Join by June 3 so we can launch big on June 4.

And thanks for humoring some lame birthday humor. 

[tl;dr: Please join our Thunderclap for the launch of stage two of the #MaydayPAC: kickstarting $5M in 30 days.]

Big week, next week: 

Monday:  in San Luis Obispo for the CA Citizens Congress

Tuesday: (my birthday (my ideal gift share this with 200k?) walking with 99Rise in their March for Democracy

Wednesday: the launch of stage 2 of the MaydayPAC (where we will raise $5M in 30 days, after raising $1M in 13). 

Please join our Thunderclap to help spread the word. 

I’m excited and incredibly proud of my friend Zephyr Teachout for shouldering the enormous burden of standing up to a so-called “progressive” Governor who has been so terribly weak and ineffective in his push for reform.

I’ve known Zephyr for more than 15 years. She would be an incredible and amazing Governor. And, most importantly, she would be a fierce and unbending supporter of reform.

Cuomo’s behavior — especially towards people in this movement whom I respect as much as I respect anyone in this world — has been unworthy. It is time for Democrats to unite around reform. Removing a faux reformer would be an important first step. 

The “Daily Caller” (let’s call that DC for short, since the DC style is in its DNA) gave the #MaydayPAC about 350 words Sunday — not quite aimed at the truth, but then again, the truth is not part of the business model of modern media.

The piece says we’re “an attempt to prevent political action committees – except his – from influencing elections.” Not true. We’ve attacked “superPACs” — not political action committees. A SuperPAC is a PAC that can raise unlimited contributions (the source of the problem I’ve spent endless bits trying to explain). Political action committees are a flavor of democracy. 

The piece says we will match the >$1M (we’ve raised from 13K individuals with a median contribution of $50) with “a few huge contributions from ultra-wealthy supporters he refuses to name.” “Refuses”? Where is this “refusal”: When the match is announced, the supporters will be named. Every contributor (greater than $200) will be named. 

The piece rightly points out that I’m critical of a system in which our politicians spend endless time raising campaign funds from the tiniest fraction of the 1%. But it wasn’t clear to me: Does the DC like that system? Because DC certainly does. 

But the piece does convince me that at least some need a clearer argument to understand the virtue in “embracing the irony.”

We are using the system to change the system, because we believe the existing system destroys representative democracy (aka, the Republic). 

Some think there’s something wrong with using a system you believe is wrong to fix that wrong. 

But I wonder whether those people think it was wrong for people to organize whites to extend the franchise to blacks. Or whether it was wrong to organize men to extend the franchise to women. In both those case, I would have said the existing system was wrong. But in neither case would I have hesitated to use it to achieve a system I don’t believe is wrong. 

That’s what we’re doing. We didn’t create the system in which the nation outsources the funding of campaigns to the tiniest fraction of the 1% — and now, indirectly, to SuperPACs too. It has been grafted onto Madison’s Republic. But have no hesitation at all in using that system to  restore Madison’s Republic. That is what the #MaydayPAC hopes to do.  

I’m a Hachette author. Republic, Lost was published by them. But you might have read there’s some sort of spat between the publisher and Amazon. The result: the authors lose. (Here’s Hachette’s statement; Amazon has not said anything.) 

So, e.g., Amazon reports Republic, Lost will take 2-4 weeks to ship.

Barnes & Noble reports it will take 24 hours.

Or, you can download the ccFree version in about 2.4 seconds.

Time to become a more regular Barnes & Noble customer. That market power stuff can really go to a company’s head.

Stage 2 of the #MaydayPAC challenge — $5 million in 30 days — will launch at the beginning of June. We’re trying to find the best tweet for the Thunderclap. This incredibly cool tool lets you estimate which tweet would do better. Can you spare some cycles to use it to test your RT creativity?

Here’s a seed (not very good):

Stage 2 launches! A SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs! Plz RT: mayone.us #MaydayPAC

Test your alternative against it. If you beat it, post the better one in the comments (with the % better it is). 


I continue to be astonished at the mix of citizens who stepped up to support the MaydayPAC in its first $1 million challenge. Here’s a favorite from the MaydayPAC’s inbox: 

I am happy to be part of this project. I will spread the word. I, myself, am one of the ones who does not seem to have a voice any longer. I am a women and while raising my sons alone I worked over 45 years at low paying jobs, just making ends meet each payday. Now I am 68, almost 69, retired on a low social security check and dealing with health problems. I am fortunate that our local hospital is partially state funded and I have excellent medical care there. My life is quiet and my hobbies keep me busy but I worry for my sons’ families and my older granddaughters who are now in the job market. This isn’t the life style my generation planned for our children. This isn’t what we worked all those years for. Your project gives me hope that we can improve things for the younger generation and protect my small checks as long as I need them.

This nails it. Everything we’re fighting for is about making it possible to save our kids from the disasters that we have wrought. We are wrecking the climate. But it’s our kids who will suffer the consequences of that. We are driving up an endless debt — that they, not we, will pay. Social security will be around — for us. Health care may be expensive, but our nation will be able to afford it — for us. And any epidemic in childhood obesity is not a problem for grandpa or grandma. The inability of our government to act is a catastrophic problem — for our kids, not for us. We called #Mayday for them — because we were given a better chance than the one we are handing to them. 

Stay tuned for the launch of stage 2.

Next week, in San Francisco, the Authors Alliance will be launched. The brainchild of one of copyright’s greatest scholars (and important original activist) Pam Samuelson, the Alliance will function as an alternative to the Authors Guild

As a member (until now) of the Guild, I am happy to see the launch of the Alliance. The Guild, in my view, too often seems too much focused on the narrow interests of commercially successful authors. Those interests are of course important. But not every author is a Scott Turow or JK Rowling, and the rules that might benefit them are not necessarily the rules that benefit the wide range of creators.

This Publishers Weekly story points to one clear example of how the Alliance would have acted differently from the Guild — they would not, Samuelson says, have sued to block snippet access to research library books. That (as the courts eventually concluded) was the right position, and will increase access to authors’ creativity, even long after the work is no longer in print. Wildly successful commercial authors might have gained more if access were blocked. But the vast majority of authors would not. A library is not a bookstore — which is good not just for the public but also for (many many) authors. 

This launch is good news. Here’s a link to the launch on May 21 in San Francisco. Thanks to Pam (and her incredible board, including the founding ED of Creative Commons, Molly van Houweling) for making this happen. 

Thanks to Darryl Daniels for this rendering of this first stage victory. MayOne.US.

Thanks to Darryl Daniels for this rendering of this first stage victory. MayOne.US.

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