One question I’ve gotten again and again from people I respect and even more, like, is how does the MaydayPAC relate to the work of others? What is it adding? And, most pressingly, why add something new? “Why don’t just try to create one organization,” I’ve been asked again and again, “so everything can be coordinated?”

I’ve been in this field for seven years. That makes me a newcomer, as most of the leaders are people who have been fighting for this cause for decades. Their work is, and has been, incredibly important in bringing Americans around to recognizing the urgent need — indeed, increasingly urgent need — to rescue our democracy from the corruption it now suffers. I admire this work, even where I don’t agree with it. Indeed, as I told the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign last Friday, though I don’t agree with the specific means of MoveToAmend.org, for example (state resolutions asking Congress to act seem too timid to me), I don’t think any national movement has done more than they and their allies to recruit citizens to this cause. 

One group is particularly close to our plan — Friends of Democracy. Started by Jonathan Soros, in 2012 it intervened successfully in half a dozen races. In 2014, it wants to intervene in more, though in a relatively modest amount. If it succeeds, then it will expand its work in 2016. And if succeeds, again, it will continue to grow towards a goal of an across the board victory by 2021.

Soros is a unique and incredibly valuable ally in this fight. Not because of his name, or his family’s wealth, but because of his almost single minded focus and energy, something that this movement desperately needs. He was a student of mine. As a student, he presented to me a plan for fixing the way campaigns are financed. That was long before I started my own work in this area. And his plan is exactly the form that I endorsed in my book, Republic, Lost.

We have no differences — at least among the main players in this field — about what we’re trying to do. Some are trying to do more than others — either procedurally more (as in some want to amend the Constitution, others not) or substantively more (some want a more radical change in America than just corruption reform). But we are all aiming for at least the same first steps: a Congress that will pass fundamental reform. 

The work of the MaydayPAC will only complement the other existing work to this end. Friends of Democracy will be in more races than we will be in 2014, but at lower amounts. If they’re right, that’s great news. It means we can make more progress in 2016 with less money raised. But if they’re not right, then having a more aggressive strategy at play in at least five districts will tell us whether this strategy is winnable at all. Many experiments, many eyes, till we find the one that works. 

All this leads many to ask again and agfain, Why not just one organization?

I’m against the one organization model for reform. I am against the idea of this movement finding its King (as in MLK) or Gandhi. The reasons are many, but here are a few:

  • We are a partisan nation, yet this movement must, in the end, be cross partisan. We need conservatives as well as liberals, Democrats as well as Republicans and Independents. But any single organization will eventually be seen to tilt to one side or the other. That would kill this movement.
  • We need many ideas, not a single plan. We need many leaders to inspire many different groups, not a single person who presumes to speak for a reform nation. The reason is related to the previous point: We are different, we Americans. We will be inspired and led by different sorts. Indeed, we will be led best if the structure of this movement invites citizens to lead themselves. Self-generated clusters of support are more powerful and effective than single armies, however well armed. Think: the Americans vs. The Redcoats in the Revolution. 
  • We have different ideas, and the test for those ideas shouldn’t be a vote of a central committee, but proof in play. The world is such that we can try a thousand ideas, and see which ones work. And we should encourage that experimentation, so long as the experimenters embrace the humility that uncertainty teaches: None of us know what will work, because none of us have done this before. The experts are moving small-bore reforms on Capital Hill are not the experts for this movement. The experts are simple mass organizing are not the experts for this movement either. There are no experts: There are many different souls trying many different ideas. And in my view, we need many many more. 

But won’t “many many more” dissipate our resources? Shouldn’t we concentrate our efforts so that we can deploy our troops better? 

Here again, I disagree with the model. It’s like saying you shouldn’t be kind to this person, because that will dissipate your capacity to be kind to someone else. Wrong. Kindness begets kindness. And mobilizing people to this cause increases our ability to mobilize people to this cause.

I know from the results so far that our MaydayPAC has brought in all sorts of people who say that they have never engaged in anything political before. That makes all of us stronger; that makes this movement stronger. We should be encouraging random acts of organizing, because that will make the ultimate act of organizing that much easier.

But if all that is tl;dr, then here’s one final argument, offered by mentor, the kid who inspired me to give up what I was doing, and turn to this. Speaking of the victory in SOPA, here’s what aaronsw said:

Aaron: Everyone Made Themselves The Heroes Of Their Fight from lessig on Vimeo.

If the Internet is out of control, and if we’re going to use that out-of-control-ed-ness to win, we need to practice Aaron’s ethic. If we do, we will win. 


Help us continue the incredible growth to reclaim our democracy. Fancy new servers will make it fast and simple!  http://thndr.it/1iHEYSo

Help us continue the incredible growth to reclaim our democracy. Fancy new servers will make it fast and simple! http://thndr.it/1iHEYSo


Last week the was the best of times, and the worst of times.

We launched our citzens’ funded “superPAC to end all superPACs” on May 1. The target was $1m in 30 days. In two days we had crossed $200k. (Best of times.)

And then the servers melted. (Worst of times.)

But over the weekend, an extraordinary group of geek volunteers stepped up to help, and they’ve now rebuilt the core architecture that enables our pledge engine to work. It will scale. It will carry whatever burden we create.

So we’re ready to launch stage 2. 

At noon, close to 6 million messages to social media will hit, driving people back to the newly built site. And if we’re lucky (and the Republic’s lucky), we can restart the incredible momentum, and get to our 30 day target early. 

Please help if you can. Pledge at Mayone.US. Join the Thunderclap (before noon) here. And best of all: share this idea as broadly as you can. 100% of what we raise in this crowd-funded kickstart will go to reclaiming a democracy working for all its citizens. Help us reach for that ideal. 


Dear Mr. Lessig, I was/am inspired by your TED talks. (I'm a TEDActive-ist.) I co-founded a nonprofit startup accelerator and serve on the Mayor's Innovation & Tech Advisory Board for Houston. Three years ago, I decided to "run FROM office" - friends said I should run for office, but I didn't want to win. After your talk, I now want to run in order to prove something: We CAN take the money out of politics. I want to run an all-volunteer, crowdsourced, non-corporate-funded campaign. Any advice?

findinggrace

I admire your courage. We need people like you in government. I think it is more likely we win just by getting people elected who are committed to the right reform. But if you can win outside the system, that would be really important. 


I am bringing this to Calgary, Alberta Canada. Thank you for your inspiration and may you continue to create hope for a egalitarian society. Best regards, Kati Adara

sohovoodoodoll

Thanks!


What do you mean both left & right of the Govt. Are you trying to go against Abortion reform or the gains for women that have been made.

yourtiffani

No. There are important difference between left and right on a host of issues. But we’re focused on one where there shouldn’t be a difference — the corrupting influence of money in politics. 


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.



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