We’re gearing up for tomorrow, Monday, when we fire the second stage of this "all or nothing" pledge campaign to build a citizens’ funded “SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs.”

We’re almost at 4 million for the Thunderclap campaign. Please join if you haven’t, and if you haven’t yet, please pledge at MayOne.us. The site is functioning (well) and we’re eager to make sure it is functioning perfectly before tomorrow. 

We’ve spun a lot of cycles to get this system to scale. But my pledge remains firm: 100% of the money raised through these kickstarts will go to fund reform campaigns. 

Thanks again for you help. 


John Bonifaz of Free Speech for People wrote Professor Laurence Tribe for his views about the Udall Amendment. Here (with Larry’s permission) is his response: 

John C. Bonifaz
President
Free Speech For People

Dear John,

I appreciate your seeking my input on this and would be glad to have you share this email with Senators Udall, Schumer, Reid, and Leahy and Rep. Donna Edwards, as well as their staffs and the others with whom you are working on this extremely important matter.

Without saying much (except for my point regarding transparency) about the broader question of whether this kind of constitutional amendment effort is the best place to focus political energy on protecting values of equality and democratic self-governance from the undue influence of wealth, I’d make just a few points:

Both the current text and your proposed revision fail to say what I assume they mean – namely, that nothing in the First Amendment shall be construed to restrict the powers granted by Sections 1, 2, and 4, subject to the qualification in Section 3. That omission could prove fatal to the proposed amendment’s ability to achieve much of anything as long as the Supreme Court continues to construe the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment the way it construed that Clause in Buckley, Citizens United, and McCutcheon. Relying on the Court, whether as currently composed or with new Justices, to read into the amendment what the proponents have in mind by resort to the amendment’s legislative history would be extremely risky. To the degree that these amendment efforts are motivated by a distrust for the Supreme Court’s current approach to interpreting free speech principles with adequate attention to the distorting and corrupting political influence of great wealth and the differential access it is now able to purchase, it seems strange to propose an amendment that would for all practical purposes leave the Court free to pursue that same approach without much if any change.

As drafted, the current text and your proposed revision also fail to say that the regulatory power being conferred must be exercised in nonpartisan ways that do not merely insulate incumbents from challenge or otherwise undermine the very integrity of the political processes the amendment is intended to protect. That omission could prove extremely dangerous to how the amendment would operate if it ever became part of the Constitution and could well undermine its prospects of ever being proposed to the states by Congress, much less ratified by ¾ of the state legislatures.

The qualification the current text and your proposed revision would include about not construing anything in the amendment to permit abridgment of freedom of the press, while obviously well intended, is too vague to be of much use, in my view. Whether, e.g., the Hillary documentary released by the nonprofit corporation, Citizens United, at the center of that controversy constituted an exercise of press freedom and, if not, why not, would remain puzzling.

All these considerations lead me to believe that the proposed amendment, either in the form currently being circulated or as you suggest revising it, would principally add an unpredictable set of powers to those who hold state and federal legislative office and to the Supreme Court in its role of interpreting a terribly ambiguous constitutional provision. Those weaknesses would lead me to oppose the amendment in the forms you have shared with me.

Of less significance but worth calling to your attention is the fact that the current amendment bill contains two clearly unintended redundancies, each of which involves a repetition of the phrase “for election to,” where the language available at the link you sent me says “for election to, or for election to.”

On the whole, I would much rather see energy devoted to insuring the kinds of transparency that Congress has thus far been unwilling to require by law and that SCOTUS has, by a nearly unanimous vote (8-1), repeatedly said would be consistent with the existing Constitution. Although one can in theory pursue both your approach and a legislative push toward transparency at the same time in the sense that they’re not logically inconsistent, the reality is that political energy and attention span have an economy of their own, and it’s not always the case that effort put toward one goal won’t detract from effort put toward another. I discuss many of these issues in my forthcoming book, due out on June 3, “Uncertain Justice: The Roberts Court and the Constitution” (Henry Holt and Company) (co-authored with Joshua Matz).

I’d mention one final possibility that should perhaps be considered by those who agree greater transparency is vital but believe Congress is unlikely to ensure it by legislative means. Specifically, if a constitutional amendment is to be pursued, then perhaps it should be an amendment that directly mandates greater transparency in matters of campaign finance rather than simply entrusting Congress with the task of legislating such transparency. That would necessarily entail a provision that would be partially self-executing like the Thirteenth Amendment, rather than one that merely empowers legislative action (like Sec. 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment) or simply prohibits certain exercises of governmental power (like the Bill of Rights and Sec. 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment). Although that feature of such an amendment needn’t be an insuperable obstacle, it would certainly present substantial challenges that would need more thought than I’ve yet given to this option.  

Laurence H. Tribe
Carl M. Loeb University Professor and
Professor of Constitutional Law
Harvard Law School
Hauser 420
1575 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138

Those who know my views know I don’t believe transparency is a solution to the system of corruption we face. But I do agree about the weaknesses in the current Udall draft. And I am still of the view that Tribe’s own proposed amendment — maybe complemented with a “public funding for public elections” clause — would be much simpler and much much better. 


MayOne.US is back. After an army of tech ninjas volunteered to help, the server is moved and the site is rebuilt. We are ready for anything. 

There is something about geeks. Firefighters, with code. First responders in the digital age, with an honor and humility.

The leader of the team (after Bryan was sent to the hospital with his own emergency) — Aaron Lifshin — sat down at his machine at 10am yesterday. It’s 3am (for him) and he’s just finished. With him was an pack — led by JT Olds, David Harrison, Hunter Fryer, Adam Pickering — of geeks who worked all night to finish. As Aaron wrote to me this morning: 

There was a groundswell of support and generosity that was overwhelming.  It was impossible to coordinate and take in all of the help and advice that so many people offered.  So there are many who will be missed out in the mention.  Many who came to offer, support, comfort, words of wisdom, who waited to see if a job would be found for them. 

Before the all-nighter, Joseph Mornin (who should be studying for his law school exams), and Ben Adida had also stepped in. The call had gone out. Am amazing team stepped in.

So we’ve got thousands of people pledging, more than $350k in pledges, and 29 days to go.

Let’s finish this next week. Join the Thunderclap to make that happen. 

* see this for those spared television of the 1970s.


An amazing team has stepped in. The site is working. Later tonight we’re migrating to a much bigger platform. So please feel free to share and pledge and celebrate away. And if you’ve not, join our (re)start Thunderclap for Monday. 


So the response to our Mayday call has melted our servers. I understand that’s not technically what happened, but that’s what it feels like.

We’ve got a crack team of first responder geeks deep in the bowels of the server rebuilding her, and making her better. When they’re done, we’ll be strong enough to handle anything (or so the geeks tell me). It is incredible, and I am grateful, to the volunteers who have stepped up to make this work. 

Meanwhile, I’m focused on the “lemonade from lemons problem,” and here’s my solution:

We’re going to launch a Thunderclap, to invite people to invite their friends back to the site Monday. I’m assured we’ll be fine long before then, but Monday’s the earliest we could schedule the Thunderclap. So Monday it is. 

Here’s what you can do to help. If you click here, it will take you to our Thunderclap campaign. If you join, then Monday, it will send the message you want to your followers. That will be an enormous push to our campaign. If the numbers are right, it will put us over the target after just 1 week. 

Thanks again to the first responder Geek squad. And thanks to everyone else who has pledged and spread the word. We have way to go. These have been powerful first steps. 


Today, the House of Representatives in Vermont ratified JSR 27, which calls on Congress to call an Article V convention to address the corrupting influence of money in politics. There have been a number of states passing calls for so-called-conservative reforms. This is the first on the Left. 

Here’s the testimony I gave on Scribd:

Lessig Testimony to Vermont State House by Lawrence Lessig


We set ourselves the goal of $1 million in 30 days. We’ve reached 1/4 of the goal in a single day. 

What’s significant about this is not so much the amount — which is incredible, of course, but not yet an army. 

What’s significant is how it was produced. There are many fundraising techniques in the age of Internet fundraising. There are lists to buy. There are targetted ads. There are grants to seed. 

But we did none of that. We put up a website, I did a blog entry, Rootstrikers informed its list, and we tweeted. And over the course of a day, thousands responded to the call. 

That’s not because of the graphics, or the video, or the cool Oswald font. It’s because this issue matters to Americans. We are starved for a response, for someone to take the lead. And thousands are eager to do whatever they can.

I got an email from a guy who could “only send $50” just now. But there’s no “only” in that sentence. The real potential for this movement is to recognize there are millions like him. Millions who want to do whatever they can to get this democracy back. 

We have a long way to go. If we meet this goal, the next one is 5 times more difficult. And after that, it only gets difficulter and difficulter. 

But we should recognize what we’ve done. We’ve demonstrated that this is an issue Americans want fixed. And as is so often the case, to fix it, we’ll have to do it ourselves.

If you’ve not yet pledged, please do. If you’ve not yet gotten your 25 best friends to pledge, please do. Let’s fix this now. Or at least by 2016. So we can all get back to our lives, and for me, so I can get back to the three young lives this work forces me to miss. 

Thank you. From the bottom of the endless heart we could call America, thank you. 


There are a couple times in my life when I have felt like I’ve just leapt off a tall building. On the whole, I’ve decided, I’ve not had this feeling often enough.

So today, I leap again — with certainly the biggest chance to fail of anything I’ve ever done. 

Today we launch the MAYDAY Citizens’ SuperPAC — the “moneybomb” Matt Miller wrote that we were working on about a year ago, and the “moonshot” BillMoyers.com wrote about last month. Think of it as a “SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs,” built first from small-dollar contributions, which, if we’re successful, will be matched by larger contributions. 

That’s the leaping bit: We’ve structured this as a series of matched-contingent goals. We’ve got to raise $1 million in 30 days; if we do, we’ll get that $1 million matched. Then we’ve got to raise $5 million in 30 days; if we do, we’ll get that $5 million matched as well. If both challenges are successful, then we’ll have the money we need to compete in 5 races in 2014. Based on those results, we’ll launch a (much much) bigger effort in 2016 — big enough to win.

The ultimate aim is to spend enough to win a majority in Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016. We’ve spent the last year gaming out how much that would cost. I think it is feasible and possible — if we can take these first steps successfully now. 

And that’s the leap: It is impossibly hard to imagine raising $1 million in 30 days, even as a contingent commitment (meaning, you only get charged if we hit the goal). I get that. But we’ve got to try. For if we succeed, we can change the story of this democracy; we can give people a sense that we can actually claim it back. And we can build a momentum, I believe, that no billionaire’s SuperPAC could defeat. 

Or at least, that’s the dream that inspires this leap. Help me if you can (understanding, I’ve already made the leap!). Make a pledge at MayOne.US. Or at least, share MayOne.US with anyone you believe might be willing to help. And if you have great ideas about how we can make this take off, please share them, either in email to me at pobox.com or in the comments. 

Thanks to everyone who has helped so far — especially my friend Brian Boyko who pulled the site together from scratch in 2 weeks. And thanks to all who have expressed their real and personal concern about how hard it will be to leap and fail. I don’t believe we’ll fail. There’s a frustration and hunger for reform that I really believe could matter. But if we do fail, then I’ve got three young kids, and an amazing wife, and I (think I still) have tenure at a great university (where this year I’ve had the INCREDIBLE experience of teaching undergraduates). So the worst case isn’t that bad. And the best case is the beginning of hope.

So please help if you can. Spread this far if you can.

Here’s the introductory video that I made for MayOne.US

Mayday PAC Launch from lessig on Vimeo.


I learned something cool at the CC board meeting Friday. Amazon has a program (“Smile”) that will give a portion of your Amazon purchases to a charity of your choice. Click here and you can select a charity. And you’re totally free then to select Creative Commons


We’re about to launch the MayOne.US website to kickstart the “superPAC to end all superPACs.” (See the end of this year’s TED talk).

Still struggling to find  great iconic images. We’re looking for images that capture urgent American needs — ideally black/white, but not necessarily — such as abandoned factories, broken schools, pollution, mindless bureaucracy, out of control spending, Wall St, failing hospitals, crumbling parks/monuments.

The images must cut across the political spectrum, and all be legitimately tied to a “because government is failing we have this” argument. We can license images if necessary, cc-licensed ideally. This amazing series from Time should be suggestive. 

I’d be grateful for your help. Best to link or point in the comments below.


SEE UPDATE BELOW:

Among the most important changes in the structure of this society is the rise of engineers and the ethics they make manifest. There’s an efficiency, a no bullshit this-is-how-this-obviously-should-work to them, and an incredible (and undeserved) humility to much of what they do. Steve Brill’s story about geeks who rescued Obamacare is a perfect example of the engineers’ power and place in this society — both the only effective intervention, and the one intervention Obama ignored.

When I wrote Code (here’s v2), I spent a great chunk of the book focused on the sovereigns that cyberspace would enable — geek driven sovereigns, as the law of those spaces would be code. And as a lawyer too often disappointed by the limited justice within my own field, I was hopeful that maybe here, something better would be built.

Fifteen years later, I guess I feel the story is mixed. There are of course things which would have boggled the imagination in 1999 which coders and others have built — Wikipedia at the top of that list, and to which Codev2 was dedicated.

But I have often been struck by the limited imagination these code-based sovereigns have when it comes to simple matters of simple justice. The norm is feudalism more than justice, as if its the 15th or 16th century, as if the ideals of due process or simple decency are all lost, as if right is coder-might.

I’ve drawn that sense vaguely, as I’ve watched different struggles develop. But it’s been brought home to me quite literally with a battle I’ve recently watched my 10 year old son wage, and despite my help (or maybe because of it), lose.

My son is a brilliantly focused geek-wannabe who is obsessed with a game that is everything I had hoped cyberspace would become — Minecraft. From its unlikely birth, to its incredible adoption rate, to the potential for innovation and creativity that it has made manifest, Minecraft is, in my view, one of the wonders of this (cyber) world.

One feature of Minecraft is the diversity of Minecraft servers — the company has smartly outsourced the server problem by enabling others to run their own servers. These others run either a simple plain-vanilla installation (my son did this for a bit), or they fancy it up with cool innovations that make their space differently interesting. 

In doing this, many (try to) make money. Servers sell ranks, or other bundles of goods. Some encourage users to earn goods. Not to say that every one of these models for extracting money from users is wonderful. What is wonderful is the diversity and the chance that anyone has to try to add value to either Minecraft or the ecology of Minecraft.

My son has recently tripped onto VillagerDefense, a server developed by LegendaryCraft, which boasts that it’s the “world’s highest populated online gaming community with millions of logins each month!” (Who knew!) In the particular mode he engages, the game encourages you to earn “coins.” That takes work. The father in me is cool with him working hard to earn something. So I was ok with him playing and growing his collection over many weeks. 

Then Monday, something crashed. We were on a trip together (I serving as a single parent trying to give two talks in two states, dragging him along), and he was logged in and playing while I was preparing my slides. He had about 240 coins as he logged off. Six hours later, 175 of those had disappeared. 

He was (inappropriately) devastated (given the real stakes at issue here — but he had worked for many weeks to earn those coins so I was not going to try to persuade him it wasn’t important). I suggested he raise the issue in the forum. He did. But what followed was the sort of justice that Dickens would have mocked. 

The forum moderator informed my son that there had been a bug in the system, and a bunch of people had lost their coins. He suggested my son present a “screen shot” of before and after, “proving” he had had the coins and had now lost them.

When my son reported this response to me, I was genuinely puzzled. A screen shot? Seriously? The moderator explained that people had lied in the past, so they needed better “evidence” than someone’s word. But I hadn’t realized liars couldn’t use Photoshop. Or put differently, this rule of “evidence” didn’t stop liars. It stopped people who had lost coins who were not liars (and so not willing to photoshop a coin count) who hadn’t been taking regular screen shots while playing the game (because who does, for god’s sake). 

I joined the forum and asked where the game ever announced that people were supposed to be taking screen shots of their play? And after all, why would a screenshot be necessary? The game is a database. Are there no snapshots of the database? Isn’t there a backup, or audit trail? 

The moderator wouldn’t budge. It’s screenshot or nothing — except of course he admitted that he himself wasn’t in charge. The actual owners of the site were to busy to respond to mere Villagers. His advice:

Sorry about your son’s missing coins, but for now I recommend for him to play the game some more and attempt to obtain more coins, and we will try to get the coin bug resolved to prevent similar occurrences.

This is amazing at many levels. The site knows it has a bug. That bug is removing assets from its users. To get those assets back, the owners of the site ask, “What would Kafka do?” Obviously, Kafka would require something totally absurd — like the requirement that you take regular screenshots of your game to protect the assets in your game, or photoshop screenshots to get back what you have lost. Mind you, this isn’t real money. This is a totally virtual currency, which the game could restore with no fear of general inflation. But why accept responsibility for a flaw in software when you’re dealing with mere Villagers? I mean, who the ***k do they think they are? 

This attitude is echoed in their completely absurd TOS — absurdity that begins with their coloring the font so it can’t be read. The basic thrust of the TOS: you have NO RIGHTS, villager. Get over it. And not just while you’re a villager, but “indefinitely as soon as the contract is accepted, and … even after you quit, are banished, removed, or if you leave the server/forum in any way.” (Gamer sites: Where lawyers for used car salesmen go to die….)

My advice to my son is not that he “play the game some more.” My advice is that try to find other places more eager to defend villagers that VillagerDefense. I’m sure he won’t follow that advice — being treated like a kid feels normal for a kid. But he shouldn’t feel there’s nothing wrong in what the barons of the site did. There is. Engineers especially should aspire to something more than company town justice. And gamers should reward those that do — by avoiding games that don’t.

UPDATE: 

When I got home tonight, my son told me “Admin” sent him 500 coins. That is impressively good of admin and @Minecade and I’m grateful for it (my son is more than grateful). Thanks to the decent souls who did that villager defending.

It creates a little complication for me and this blog though. I typically don’t complain in this space about issues that — if resolved — would benefit me alone. This isn’t quite me alone but it’s one click over from that. I’d like to keep to that line, but without forcing my kid to give up the coins. So if @Minecade would name a charity, I’ll figure out how much the coins are worth and donate that amount to that charity. Please email me at law.harvard.edu. 

Thanks again. 


i’m not sure where this goes
— actually, that’s not true, I know where this doesn’t go —
but I can’t imagine a day darker than this.

So many years,
So much lost.
So much at stake.

And staring me in the face
is what is most likely true: 

What if we don’t. 


The split within the GOP about transparency is growing.

Sixteen senators, led by Lamar Alexander (R-TN), have now objected to OSHA asking people submitting scientific studies in a proceeding about silica to declare their financial conflicts of interest.

Why? Says on Alexander aid: “The chilling effect the financial disclosure could have seems counter to the idea of robust inclusion of a diverse set of ideas and views to inform the rule-making.”

From my piece: 

The “chilling effect?” Seriously? What’s the chill? That the shrinking violets of the cement industry will be too afraid to hire lobbyists to present their views about the (non-) dangers in inhaling silica?

Read more here.


(this won’t mean much if you’re not at TED, but soon, whether at TED or not, I hope it will): 



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