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Lessig Campaign and the Change Congress Movement 409

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the real-change-please dept.
GoldenShale wrote a follow up to last week's discussion about Lessig running for congress. He writes "Larry Lessig has created a Lessig08 website, and it looks like he is getting serious about running for congress. In his introduction video he proposes the creation of a national "Change Congress" movement which would try to limit the influence of money in the electoral and legislative processes. Having a technologically savvy representative and a clear intellectual leader to head this kind of movement is exactly what we need to counter the last 8 years of corporate dominance in government."
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Lessig Campaign and the Change Congress Movement

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  • last 8 years? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Harin_Teb (1005123) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:25AM (#22487526)
    8 years? Corporations have been exhibiting control over the legislature for much more than the past 8 years... One only has to look at the copyright act extensions to see that.
    • Re:last 8 years? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by nschubach (922175) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:29AM (#22487570) Journal
      Yeah, the more I dug into Politics following the Ron Paul campaign (yeah yeah... boo hiss!! I must be a troll!!), the more I saw that changing "Congress" would have to be first. The Presidential seat in itself doesn't have enough power to bring about the changes needed to balance things out.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by arthurpaliden (939626)
        To an outsider (non US) it looks like the only power the United States President has is destroy the world. In al lesser things he is impodent.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Harin_Teb (1005123)
          unfortunately, thats fairly accurate. The primary power of the presidency is the establishment and implementation of foreign policy. Something our current president has not quite excelled at. (To put it EXTREMELY nicely).
        • Re:last 8 years? (Score:5, Informative)

          by nschubach (922175) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:39AM (#22487704) Journal
          Well, yes. In most recent years, but the Constitution strictly grants power to declare war to Congress and the power to control that war to the President. Lately, it's been the President declaring the wars and controlling them.
        • by presarioD (771260)
          ...don't you love it when any "unpleasant" truth about US is moded troll or flamebait nowdays on /.? Apparently the uber-patriots have discovered the internetS...
      • by JSBiff (87824) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:27AM (#22488352) Journal
        In high school, back in the 90's, as I watched politics, I made a fundamental observation about politics. You have third party candidates and independent politicians try to make a run for the Presidency every couple of election cycles, and they never get anywhere. Why? Because they *have no base of support*. Even if the third party/independent candidate did manage to win the presidency, it would be, to a certain extent, meaningless, because the other parties would still control Congress, and a President can't do much without congress (which is as it ought to be; the Constitution sets out a government where the parliament is the primary branch, and the executive branch is fundamentally supposed to be the servant of Congress, carrying out the will of the People).

        You won't overcome the republicans or democrats in one big presidential election. Never gonna happen. If you want to make any progress, you will have to build from the bottom up. Start getting candidates into local and state positions, and build on a track record of good governance at the local and state level to leverage your party into the House and the Senate. Once you have enough support in the House and Senate (at least 1/3rd of each), and are nationally known as a party people like and trust, then you are in an excellent position to run a Presidential candidate as a true, meaningful alternative to the two establisment parties.

        Otherwise, your just a flash in the pan.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by King Louie (211282)
          I agree almost completely with what you say, except that your interpretation of the Constitution is deeply flawed. The Constitution clearly sets out a government whose three branches (Executive, Legislative, Judicial) are co-equals. This is apparent not only from the text of the document, but also from the Federalist Papers. The Presidency is no more supposed to be a rubber stamp of the Congress than the Congress should be a rubber stamp of the Presidency.

          Each branch has different powers, but none can exerc
    • by Ravenscall (12240)
      Agreed, try the last 232 years.
    • I was going to post the same thing. What people don't see is their own fault in this case, clearly. We like to think when the leaders that we back do something that we like it's simply a matter of common sense. Most of us refuse to see the money that might change hands when legislation that we support is put into place. We like to think we're above it so we also project those kinds of ideals on the people who do change the laws.

      People have been fooling themselves for far too long but seeings as where campa
    • Re:last 8 years? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nOsPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:37AM (#22487678) Homepage Journal
      8 years? Corporations have been exhibiting control over the legislature for much more than the past 8 years... One only has to look at the copyright act extensions to see that.

      There's plenty of artists that would like to see copyright be extended as well, so don't pretend that this is merely a right wing corporate thing. There's quite a few liberals earning a living selling books, songs and movies that are delighted to know their grandchildren can inherit their royalties!
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Harin_Teb (1005123)
        Copyright was simply the example I thought most people on /. would be familiar with. The main point of my post was corporate control is not a liberal or a conservative problem, its an institutional problem.
        • by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nOsPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:42AM (#22487752) Homepage Journal
          The main point of my post was corporate control is not a liberal or a conservative problem, its an institutional problem.

          It's not Walmart's fault that people shop there and buy so much Chinese stuff. It's not Toyota's fault that Americans would rather pay Toyota and get a nicer car than have a better standard of living for American auto workers. It's not just that a banker on wall street is greedy. It is that -every- American is greedy, and therefor, we got the institutions we asked for.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            It's not Walmart's fault that people shop there and buy so much Chinese stuff.

            Mmmmm...actually, it pretty much is. WalMart uses predatory business practices, far worse than Microsoft could imagine in it's worst nightmares, to knock out their competition, brow-beat their vendors into compliance and make themselves a virtual monopoly in every small town in America. When you consider that the vast majority of Americans live in small town America, well...that means that WalMart has pretty much pwned a vast amount of the retail market.

            It's not Toyota's fault that Americans would rather pay Toyota and get a nicer car than have a better standard of living for American auto workers.

            It's not that simple. The Japanese, who do make

            • by Stradivarius (7490) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @12:41PM (#22489504)

              WalMart uses predatory business practices
              If by predatory you mean they do their best to squeeze every last drop of inefficiency out of their suppliers, so they can give their customers the best possible price, then sure, they're predatory. That's what capitalism is supposed to be - businesses competing to provide the best value to their customers.

              You don't turn a startup company into a national giant without being better than your competition. That's what Walmart has done. Some companies when they get big get lazy, and start to charge higher prices. To their credit, Walmart has done the opposite - they've used their size and influence to create even more efficiencies and provide their customers even lower prices.

              The result is that millions of Americans are better able to afford the necessities of life. And that sounds like a Good Thing to me.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by enjahova (812395)
              Have you ever driven an American car?

              It doesn't take a conspiracy theory to see why the Japanese own the car market. The truth is the American companies dropped the ball on engineering.

              Saying that every American is greedy probably wasn't meant as an insult either, but as a point about how we view economics. The common argument is that capitalism counts on each individual to make decisions that benefit themselves which results in a greater whole. The problem is that it doesn't always work out ideally as seen
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            Why does having a better standard living for USian auto workers imply that USians have to cope with less nice cars? Is there anything intrinsically wrong with the US auto industry, or is that the result of policies? Whose policies, asked for by whome, which benefited which people?
            • I've never heard of such a country as Us. Do you mean the Mexican United States [wikipedia.org]? Or are you referring to the former United States of Venezuala? You know, Brazil was a "United States" before 1968. 'Cause other folks use the word "United States", but only one country uses the word "America" in its official name (Dutch townships excepted), so doesn't it make more sense to use... you know... the correct term? The term "American" is not ambiguous, and it's not silly like "USian."
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by njfuzzy (734116)
        I am an artist first, and a techie second. Personally, I think it would be enough if I, and my children, could benefit from my works. I don't see the benefit of my great-grandchildren still having control. Worse, why should a corporation be able to be a copyright holder at all, and in that case, maintain their rights for even longer than an individual who has descendents to support?
        • by tjstork (137384)
          I am an artist first, and a techie second. Personally, I think it would be enough if I, and my children, could benefit from my works

          I think you would change your mind if live to meet your grandchildren.
    • 8 years? Corporations have been exhibiting control over the legislature for much more than the past 8 years... One only has to look at the copyright act extensions to see that.

      George Soros [wikipedia.org] is not a corporation. MoveOn.Org [slashdot.org] is a 501(c)(4).

      Everyone has an interest group and the legal organization of it is irrelevant. The biggest concern should be that politicians can be bought, not who is doing the buying. Who is doing the buying only concerns people when they disagree.

    • But how? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by JSBiff (87824)
      People like to talk a lot about changing politics, changing congress. But how? Things like McCain-Feingold are at best weak protections. If someone wants to get around them, there is always a way. From 'issue ads' paid for by PACs/Lobbyists to other even harder to track things.

      For example, there is a 'donation cap' of $2300 per person for individual contributions to a campaign or party, I believe. I could think of ways to get around such a donation cap. Most people don't have $2300 to
    • And this, sadly, is why I can't trust Lessig to do this. I really liked the guy, but then I recently saw a writing where he was talking about this as if it were a Republican problem. Seriously, anyone who thinks this has to do with the Republican party (alone) is unfit to talk about change, since they're oblivious to what's going on. Note that pork has increased with the Democrats taking over Congress.

      Anyone who thinks this is a problem of the last 8 years is either blindly partisan or not paying attenti
  • by The One and Only (691315) * <[ten.hclewlihp] [ta] [lihp]> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:29AM (#22487566) Homepage

    In his introduction video he proposes the creation of a national "Change Congress" movement which would try to limit the influence of money in the electoral and legislative processes.

    I'm all for this, but as the old spam form response says, "Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical".

    • by Bios_Hakr (68586) <xpticalNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:43AM (#22487762) Homepage
      Not to mention that when you try and "limit the influence of money" you will run into First Amendment problems. I'll agree that money in DC is contributing to corruption. However, the answer is not to limit the money; it's to punish the corruption.

      Any time we allow our fundamental rights to be legislated away, we lose...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        "limit the influence of money" you will run into First Amendment problems.

        That's ok, the supreme court has already agreed that money doesn't have rights in civil forfeiture cases where the government simply steals your stuff without a warrant or trial.

        Phrase it in that way, and either the supreme court sticks to their guns or they decide that maybe property owners do have rights after all. Either way, we win.
      • by Shotgun (30919)
        I'll agree that money in DC is contributing to corruption. However, the answer is not to limit the money; it's to punish the corruption.

        No. I disagree. That leads to the current situation where each party is constantly looking for corruption and scandal, with hearings ad-infinitum. The solution is to make the money irrelevant.

        Use the power of the FCC, which requires broadcast stations to serve the "public good". Set aside a time two weeks before each election for a debate. Nothing may be aired on any ra
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by HexaByte (817350)
      I'm all for this, but as the old spam form response says, "Ideas similar to yours are easy to come up with, yet none have ever been shown practical".

      To change Congress, we first have to change the attitude of the voters who think their CongressCritter is giving them a "free lunch" by stealing someone else's tax dollars and funding a local project. Earmarks are just the tip of the iceberg.

      How about a Constitutional Amendment requiring all money raised for a campaign MUST be raised from registered voters in

  • by MightyYar (622222) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:31AM (#22487588)
    Intellectuals make terrible politicians. You need a wheeling-dealing sort, not a thinker.

    Anyway, the only way to change the game is to play it - if the congress is run by corporate types, then you need to become a corporate type to change congress. Revolution happens, but it's pretty rare - and frankly I don't think that Lessig has it in him.
    • by nschubach (922175)
      But then you're only one corporate type fighting all the other corporate types.
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        True, but how can you fight them at all from congress?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by RobBebop (947356)

          Congressmen get to vote on issues that affect the country. They pass budgets. They make laws to regulate business. If Lessig had a voice in Congress, that would be One vote plus the number of other Congressmen his logic and arguments can influence.

          And hell... a vote FOR LESSIG is a vote for FREE CULTURE [google.com]. He wrote the book on the subject. :)

          Anybody who would vote against Lessig clearly is more concerned with stifling American Culture, then freeing it. Culture is music, movies, art, and literature.

          • by MightyYar (622222)
            I can't disagree with your post - but I still contend that intellectuals make terrible politicians. I think you'd be better off with a wheeler-dealer type that Lessig has the ear of.
    • Intellectuals make terrible politicians. You need a wheeling-dealing sort, not a thinker.
      Daniel Patrick Moynihan
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        He was one of those rare birds that was both. He was incredibly well-connected politically. It's also hard to argue that Lessig's copyright knowledge is as useful politically as Moynihan's sociology work was during the civil rights era.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by amigabill (146897)
      nyway, the only way to change the game is to play it - if the congress is run by corporate types, then you need to become a corporate type to change congress. Revolution happens, but it's pretty rare - and frankly I don't think that Lessig has it in him.

      If one does it this way, is he still in a position to change congress, or has the system changed him into yet another broken piece of the same-old?
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        The age-old question :) How do you play the game without corrupting yourself?

        'Fraid I don't have the answer, but I can't think of a congressional campaign that has "changed" congress. Corporatism is here to stay unless there is either some kind of revolution or some good people wind up in charge of the corporations and put an end to it. I don't see either as terribly likely in the near-term - though there are people out there arguing that the latter is about to happen [nakedcorporation.com].
    • Wheeler-dealer types are precisely why we are where we are now.

      One compromise after another, until eventually we're in this mess. What we *need* are people who actually have some ideals and well thought out principles and are willing to stick to them or go down in flames trying. Then we might actually see some change, rather than continued appeasement of the entrenched interests.
      • by TheSpoom (715771) *
        Amen to that. I really want to see someone who wants to be a leader not because they strictly want the power or money involved but because they actually, truly want to change things for the better, for their constituents. And not to shift the discussion or anything but that's why I hope Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination.
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        I'm not the problem - the copyright holders buying off politicians are the problem. I'm being pragmatic.

        I'd vote for him - maybe even work to get him elected. I'm just saying that it is futile. Frankly I think the best way to change copyright law at this point is subversion - get everyone to ignore it so that the whole system breaks. If the RIAA/MPAA has no money to buy politicians, perhaps common sense can regain a foothold?

        Just like I wish someone would figure out how to get corn to produce THC - just try
    • by Mr_eX9 (800448)

      Intellectuals make terrible politicians.
      Why's that?
      • by MightyYar (622222)
        It's not universal. But most intellectuals are not the pump-hands personality type. Most are not natural charmers. Most are not willing to bend their ideals very far to close a deal. Most don't have a strong "presence". Academia is a peculiar lifestyle, filled with a peculiar sort of person.

        Lawyers, on the other hand, frequently fit this mold.

        Unfortunately, you need those "qualities" to be a successful politician in the US.
  • a technologically savvy representative and a clear intellectual leader

    Seems there are 2 major obstacles which will surely hinder him from getting anywhere in politics. (I could have said "American politics", since he is aspiring to get into that, but that would disregard the universal nature of politicians.)

  • Only eight years? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Millennium (2451) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:35AM (#22487658) Homepage
    Corporate influence over Congress has been way past acceptable levels for a lot longer than eight years, even in the sphere of intellectual property. Even the DMCA is ten years old.

    I recognize the temptation to blame Bush, but this is too old and it runs too deep to pin on him alone.
  • the truth is of course that, even if lessig were voted in, lessig would be but a drop in an ocean of the entrenched financial stranglehold on washington dc. however, most of the american public would probably agree with his charge about undue influence of money in politics in washington dc

    that being the case, one has to put a stopper on the defeatist and cynical comments about his chances. simply because his fight is the right fight and every good fight has to start somewhere, no matter how formidable the o
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      your brain can say lessig is hopeless. but what does your heart say? so give voice to your heart, and shut your brain up for the moment. because heart is exactly what is needed with issues like financial influence in washington dc

      My brain tells me that Lessig is an intelligent man who understood how difficult this task was and who adopted a strategy that will be quickly giving him a lot of allies, maybe enough to win. His stance is "the current situation is not caused by evil people, it is caused by good people in a bad system". If he manages to prove that this cause alone can get one elected, a lot of already known senators will suddenly have to take a stance for or against Lessig ideas.

      He is smart, not the herald of corporate

  • Most lobbyists are working for companies who want tax laws changed in their favor.

    Implement the FairTax and the power of the politicians goes back to where it should be.

    I'd also favor a simpler flatter tax system THAT CAN'T BE TWEAKED once implemented.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Harin_Teb (1005123)
      I would favor a system that is more difficult to tweak, but would adamantly oppose a system that cannot be tweaked.

      Think of it in software terms. If you released a product (even a completely absolutely refined product) that was incapable of being patched would you be comfortable? There needs to be SOME way of fixing problems that are unforseen.

      Legislation in a lot of ways is like software. Release it early and its full of bugs and exploits, release it late and everyone complains that you are taking to lo
      • by gfxguy (98788)
        There's no such thing as unforeseen problems in tax code, though... I could write a one page flat tax code that would never need to be tweaked. You set the tax rates tied to the current year, adjust for inflation, and that's it.

        Any tweaking thereafter is merely some congressman either trying to score brownie points (like mortgage interest deductions) or trying to gain favor with some lobby.

        The people of the U.S. supported taxing income because they were told only the top 1% of income earners would ever be
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858)
          Your comment comes with certain assumptions about the nature of tax. I don't intend to debate these (although, no doubt, others will be quite happy to), but you should be aware that others do not view taxes in the same way you do. Taxes are typically implemented as the government skimming some percentage from certain flows of money (e.g. from employer to employee, buyer to seller, and so on). By adjusting what is taxed, you can create incentives causing people to favour certain flows over others (e.g. sa
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ceejayoz (567949)

      Most lobbyists are working for companies who want tax laws changed in their favor.
      And your solution is to implement the plan that favours the rich - generally, the heads of those companies? Heh.

      The FairTax is anything but.
      • by gfxguy (98788)
        If I could mathematically prove that someone living at or near the poverty level would have more spending power with the FairTax than under the current system, even if prices didn't drop, would you stop spreading that lie?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NotQuiteReal (608241)
      (Cost of Government) / (Number of Citizens) = the fair tax per citizen.

      Anything else is unfair, but necessary simply because not everyone can afford their fair share.

      The tax code boils down to extracting unfair amounts of money from whomever can pay and the way that is done is by the politics of helping friends, punishing enemies and pandering to the voters.

      So, in the US, with a $3T budget and 300M citizens, if your family is not paying $10,000 a head in federal taxes you are not paying your fair shar

  • by presarioD (771260) on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:44AM (#22487772)
    ... heh? Did Y2K reset your counter??????
  • Larry Lessig has created a Lessig08 website, and it looks like he is getting serious about running for congress.


    Who? Never heard of him, but good luck.

    Anyone know what state he's planning to run in? (The article submitter was a little thin in this area.)
    • by 3waygeek (58990)
      Larry Lessig is better known as Lawrence Lessig [wikipedia.org], the guy behind Creative Commons. IIRC, he's running for the seat vacated by the late Tom Lantos, who passed away last week.
  • No limits on money (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tjstork (137384) <todd.bandrowsky@nOsPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:53AM (#22487870) Homepage Journal
    I think it is fallacious to say money is the problem in the congress. It's not money, its the sheer greed of all involved. Congress has too much power and therefor people want it too much. If you take away the money for elected officials, there will be other, more secret levers that will be unaccountably manipulated. Decisions will be made in stealth, in secret, like the smoke filled back rooms of the old days.

    No, it is better, really, to just have money go to whomever and without restriction. That way, we can at least see whom is owned by who, and vote accordingly. Better a billionaire writes a million dollar check to a senator than the same billionaire indirectly invests into a bevy of people to work some foul valve of power in the furnaces of Washington.

    • I agree that limiting money is useless. The current limits + disclosure + federal funding regime isn't working - witness all the presidential candidates refusing federal funds because they (and their opponents) can raise more money outside the public funding system.

      The only way to reduce the influence of money in politics is to make it unneeded - to find ways of mobilizing voters without bales of cash for tv/radio/print ads.

      Maybe by 2012 it will be possible for a candidate to run with a message like this:

      O
  • by mi (197448) <slashdot-2012@virtual-estates.net> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @10:58AM (#22487930) Homepage

    You can not "limit influence of money" without trampling the First Amendment-provided right to free speech. McCain-Feingold [washingtonpost.com] did just this, but it does not make it right (it is the primary grudge against McCain, in fact)...

    Funny, how the same people, who complain about First Amendment violations almost all the time — right to sell porn, right to distribute copyrighted (by someone else) material, right to create/publish law-breaking software are all deemed protected by the same Amendment by these people — not only fail to see this trampling, but actually demand more of it... Or, rather, it would've been funny, if it weren't sad.

    I thought more of Lessig...

    • Free speech doesn't mean freedom to force people to listen. If you believe that people with more money should be able to translate it into political weight, why not go the whole way and make it a one-dollar, one-vote system[1]? Limiting spending doesn't limit your ability to speak freely.


      [1] Actually, that's a serious question. Why not just open elections to the highest coalition of bidders? At least then it would be out in the open.

  • I watched Lessig's video, and my concern was that selfish, clever people will find a way to game pretty much any democratic system. So I'm afraid that Lessig's goals are unattainable.

    For example, if campaigns are all publicly funded, then someone will find a clever way to make lots and lots of other campaign speech be volunteer, which is protected by the First Amendment. If there are limits on the sources of money, someone will find a way to sneak in money through cracks in the definitions.

    While I applaud
  • by Russ Nelson (33911) <slashdot@russnelson.com> on Wednesday February 20, 2008 @11:24AM (#22488318) Homepage
    The influence of money on government is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to the influence of government on money. If you want a corruption-free government, then you have to stop trying to regulate every business. I mean, for GOD'S SAKE, the ANGLE of the cut on green beans is REGULATED BY LEGISLATION.

    The government has exactly one job: to monopolize violence to ensure that people can make arrangements free of violence. Everything else, people can arrange for themselves through voluntary peaceful means.
  • I propose that Congress change to a "line-item" voting scheme.
    Reasons:
    1. It would provide a level of transparency into the voting patterns, hence the beliefs or opinions, of Congresspersons.
    2. It would lead to the curtailment of "pork", since everyone would be able to see which Senator(s) voted for another's "special project".
    3. It would require elected officials to read, or at least know about, any item on which they vote, which would lead to ...
    4. Reduction in the number of laws passed, since (I would think) m
  • As if the notion that campaign contributions are not bribes, here is what the National Association of Home Builders PAC has to say about their contributions to political campaigns:

    "Today, the National Association of Home Builders' Political Action Committee, BUILD-PAC, and its 150-member Board of Trustees representing all 50 states, agreed to cease all approvals and disbursements of BUILD-PAC contributions to federal congressional candidates and their PACs until further notice.

    "This extraordinary acti

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead

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