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.
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.
Who do the other superPACs have who comes close to him?
I LOVE THE PLATFORM. The technology gives readers the chance to comment (and correct — GRATEFUL for the discovers of tiny typos) at the paragraph level. Comments are short, but that forces real comments. The idea of the platform the platform really achieves — it is the beginning of a conversation with readers, much more seamlessly and effectively than the standard post+with+flamewar+in+comment+section pattern of blogs, etc.
In theory, at least. I apologize to those who have written great comments so far. Some bug is blocking my ability to comment back (the replies are not being saved). My editor tells me they’re working on it. I’m hopeful they’ll get it fixed soon.
[UPDATE: All fixed. Thanks Medium.]
I’m going to try to produce a weekly newsletter about the stuff I think most important/relevant/least widely shared in the domain of “money in politics.”
The newsletter comes out once a week (Saturday morning). It will have three items only. No more than one will relate to stuff I’m involved with (and usually none will). The first one is below. You can subscribe below that:
Today, I launch a weekly newsletter — SHORT, just three items each week, with NO collateral asks — about the ongoing battles to reduce the influence of money in politics. I will publish the email every Saturday morning (except for the times when I’m away with my family), and in it I will collect the stories from the week that I think are particularly interesting to those who care about this cause. I read everything I can about this issue, from many different sources. My hope with the newsletter is to share what I’ve found most interesting. I promise, no more than one of the three things published each week will be related to me, and rarely will I point to even one.
This is a totally free (and ccFree) OPT-IN list. You’re getting this today because you joined Rootstrikers. But you will only get it again if you subscribe here. And that subscription list will not be used for anything else — never to solicit, never shared, never added to any other campaign. The only thing this subscription will deliver is this once-a-week email — until you say “enough already.”
I hope you find it of interest!
“Could be the most important money-in-politics campaign of the year”
That’s what a New Yorker whose views about NY politics I find most compelling said about the potential candidacy of my friend, Zephyr Teachout, for Governor of New York. Governor Cuomo (D) has been a serious disappointment to reformers. He promised, and then sabotaged (in the view of many) legislation to change the way elections are funded in New York. Had that legislation passed, it would have been a model for the nation. That it failed convinced too many that insiders can’t fix themselves. Zephyr is a law professor at Fordham Law School, who organized for Howard Dean. She is easily the most impressive young (potential) candidate for anything I’ve seen anywhere. She’s brilliant, and incredibly politically savvy. And if enough push her, she may well challenge the Governor in the Democratic primary. I hope she does, because if she does, she would make money in (NY) politics the issue in this campaign season. Her speech to the Working Family Party Convention is here. There’s a website that’s trying to convince her to run. And contributions are being taken here. Nothing is certain, and she needs to be convinced there is enough grassroots support to make it make sense (#RunZephyrRun). At a minimum, this is a race to watch — because it just might turn out that this time around, Teddy (Roosevelt) is played by a woman.
The best tool for tracking THE MONEY behind THE POLITICIANS in THE STORY I’ve seen
Nick Rubin is a high school student. His father, a longtime friend and senior lawyer at Microsoft, pointed me to a plugin Nick was building to scan the page you’re reading in a browser, and highlight the names of Members of Congress. When you hover over the name, you see from whom the Member gets his or her money, what percentage of the Member’s money comes from small dollar contributions, and whether he or she has committed to fundamental reform (drawn from the site reform.to). Easily the coolest plugin that I use, now available for free. You can get it at AllAreGreen.US. (The website concatenates the site’s great slogan: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.”)
A deep dive on Super PACs
I’ve written three books, gaggles of articles, gaggles^2 of essays, and a billion (or so) tweets about the problem with the way we fund campaigns in America today. But on the launch of our Mayday PAC, I was pushed by many to commit to writing a medium-length piece pulling the arguments together. I did. It is published, appropriately enough, on the cool new platform, Medium. You can read it here. (And if I were soliciting, it would be here I’d say something like “pledge if you can” but you see, I’m not doing that.)
That’s all for the week. If you’ve got stuff I should see, email it to email@example.com (if I use anything, I will always give credit where credit is due). And remember, you will only get this again if you subscribe here.
To subscribe click here.
Nick Rubin is a high school student. His father, a longtime friend and senior lawyer at Microsoft, pointed me to a plugin Nick was building to scan the page you’re reading in a browser, and highlight the names of Members of Congress. When you hover over the name, you see from whom the Member gets his or her money, what percentage of the Member’s money comes from small dollar contributions, and whether he or she has committed to fundamental reform (drawn from the site reform.to).
Easily the coolest plugin that I use, now available for free. You can get it at AllAreGreen.US. (The website concatenates the site’s great slogan: “Some are red. Some are blue. All are green.”)
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).
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.