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Lessig Bets On the Net To Clean Up Government 126

Posted by kdawson
from the change-congress dept.
christian.einfeldt writes "Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig really 'gets it' when it comes to the efficacy of distributed open source code production. Now he is attempting to use distributed production methods to expose corruption in the US Congress with the launch of another 'CC' organization — this time it's called 'Change Congress'. CC (as opposed to cc for Creative Commons) would invite users to track whether US legislators are willing to commit to Change Congress' four pledges. CC will rely on users to record and map the positions of candidates who are running for open seats in the US House and Senate. Change Congress will use a Google mash-up to create a map depicting which legislators have taken the CC pledge, which have declined, and which have signaled support for planks in the Change-Congress platform. The four pledges (which are not numbered 0 through 3) call for greater transparency in government, and less influence of private money in shaping legislation."
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Lessig Bets On the Net To Clean Up Government

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  • Larry's been hanging out with us for too long. He seriously thinks that he can get legislators to sign onto a CC labeling (licensing?) scheme? And if he does, the big stick if they violate it is . . . wait for it . . . voter outrage!

    Heh. Yeah. That's been working just great for us, don't you think?
    • Re:Naive (Score:5, Insightful)

      by zappepcs (820751) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:43AM (#22819940) Journal
      Well, anyone who has been reading my posts knows that I'm all for it. Knowledge is a very powerful thing. When the voters KNOW what the people they are voting for are really doing and saying after elected, they WILL wield their votes more powerfully. With knowledge, people become rather more opinionated. I'm all for letting the constituents tell their legislators loud and clear how they want them to vote on any given issue, in real time... put more of the of, by, and for the people in it.

      Voter outrage is a bit more powerful than you seem to understand. When the politicians can control what news the people hear, they can control how those people vote. That should by now be common knowledge. When the people get to hear the truth, the will make their voting decisions based on it. yes, there will be those that will vote the party ticket always, but that will be a small percentage compared to those that will make informed voting decisions. People want to be informed, information wants to be free. The current system prevents both with regard to political information and voting.
      • Complicit in our current electoral shams are the media corporations, who have a vested interest in the current system and control what we read in newspapers, hear on the radio and see on tv. The internet is a good way to propagate information, but credibility is a serious problem. Journalistic integrity is as important as ever.

        I don't think you can ever stop the influence of big money on politics but anything that will force it out into the open is a step in the right direction.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Maxo-Texas (864189)
          Agreed-- admittedly Ron Paul had little chance of winning, but he was practically erased by both CNN and Fox.
          Even after getting a higher % of the votes than Guiliani, he was omitted from the debate and Guiliani was a allowed in.

          The local "conservative" radio station (i.e. pro wealthy people, anti-abortion types) tore him to pieces from their first question with stuff like "when did you quit beating your wife".

          The same thing happens for minor democratic candidates.

          It's really blatant some times.
          • "The same thing happens for minor democratic candidates."

            Yeah, Obama has gone nowhere. /sarcasm

            I am not from the US but RP's bullshit about dismantling the reserve bank puts him into the crackpot category, ironically he is in the same unelectable basket as those who want to nationalize everything in sight.

            "when did you quit beating your wife"

            What's so hard about answering "I've never laid a hand on my wife and I resent the implication, next question please"? If he can't dismiss impertinent quest
      • Two simple fixes would be publication on the web of any bill before Congress for at least 5 days before a vote.
        The other would be in the new 'virtual' world, have Congress meet virtually like any other organization. They could each get offices in their State complexes and keep them closer to home and make it that much tougher for lobbyists to sway votes.
        Plus you would hopefully have fewer unfaithful public servants.
        • by GigG (887839)
          As for your two simple fixes.

          1. All the bills are on the web usually much longer than 5 days before a vote.
          2. While that would probably require a Constitutional Amendment (which pretty much drops the simple out of it) what makes you think lobbyists would have any more trouble swaying votes if the congress critters were in their home districts? Also, it would make legislative oversite of the executive branch a bit more difficult.
      • I think the number one pledge needs to be:

        [ ] Support Instant Runoff Voting.

        http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=instant+runoff+voting&btnG=Google+Search [google.com]

        all the best,

        drew
        http://packet-in.org/wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page [packet-in.org]
        Packet In - net band making libre music available gratis. Enjoy.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by johnlcallaway (165670)
        One cannot assume that all knowledgeable people think PAC money is bad, and that public financing of elections will have any impact.

        I don't agree with either stand. PAC money means no Sierra Club as well as no Exxon. Lobbyists, in all of their forms, can do a much better job at 'educating' politicians than the average person can, I would rather have one knowledgable person, but biased, from the Sierra Club and one from Exxon talking to my congressman than thousands of consituents whose knowledge ranges fro
      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Are you serious? I would say that "Straight Party Ticket" makes up the majority of the voting public, and unless I see some well-funded studies that refute this with better evidence than polls of people asking "Do you make up your own mind when you vote?" ("Well, duhr, of course I do! I don't let no one tell me what to do! That's why I'm voting for the incumbant!") I'll continue to believe it. How else do you explain people who continuously vote for a candidate of a particular party, even after amazing scan
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by 7311587 (755664)
      An extension might be useful for causing elected politicians to have desired behaviour. The problem is when a politician wants votes before they are elected you can influence them but after they are elected then they are influenced by others. You need to maintain the before election influence after they are elected. Creating a contract that the politician signs before they are elected is good. This contract will constrain their behaviour. If they violate the contract then the contract becomes their officia
      • by iminplaya (723125)
        Shouldn't the oath they take be good enough? And we have impeachment procedures to remove those who violate that oath. It's up to us to make sure those procedures are enforced...with teeth. We already have a few sites with lots of info. But mass media is doing its best to keep us distracted from them, and so far it is succeeding.
        • by AgentSmith (69695)
          To impeach, one must have evidence.
          How can one have evidence without investigation and tracking?

          The best a single citizen can do is say -
          "Gee, yer honor. I know in my gut that Rep. Foobar is dirty and guilty of . . . "

          Guilty of what? Violating his campaign promises? A possible ethical violation, but hardly a crime.
          And that's if the violation is clear cut. These days of semantic, hair splitting and defining was "is" is
          you can't really see much integrity. More spin than an atomic orbital level.

          The oath of off
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by darjen (879890)
      I don't think the public cares much about what their politicians do. There must be a reason most congressmen are re-elected. They could be completely transparent in everything they do and still not be held accountable for their actions by the voters. This is because the public operates under the assumption that the government generally takes care of things people normally don't want to do. Yet, the same problems of human nature continue to occur year after year. The best we can hope for is that people begin
    • Voter outrage ended the war in Vietnam and it will end the war in Iraq as well, hopefully before my children are old enough to be sucked into that tragic mistake. You have more power than you think. Get out there and live!
  • by Stanistani (808333) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:36AM (#22819846) Homepage Journal
    This looks to be one Lessig's more long-term projects.

    I think I'll head over and sign up.

    Hand me a mop and some bleach, bro.
  • I think we all have differing ideas on what changing congress (Government) means. Lets start with something simple. Ask all candidates "what present of an individuals income should they pay in taxes?" It could even be a graduated rate. Then let government do what ever they like with that amount of "Limited" money. No limits on the money they spend seems to be the big problem.
    • Ask all candidates "what present of an individuals income should they pay in taxes?"

      If its a present can I decide not to pay if the govenment hasn't been good this year?
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      There is a simple simple way to limit government spending but it will never fly. Most government employees vote right? SO.....

      Given Budget for year is X. If spending = X + 10% then all government employee pay is REDUCED the amount of the overage or 10%. If spending = x -10% for that year then government pay goes up say 5% In plain language: cut pay when the budget is missed. One year of this and the wastrels woud be voted OUT by workers interested in the bottom line. See? told'ya it would
      • And where's the incentive for Congress to stick to their budget? If their salaries get cut 10%, they can just vote themselves a 10% "cost of living increase" or something like that.

        One way I could think of to reduce the budget: Require all members of Congress to be present and listening on the floor while the full budget, no matter how long it is, is read. Every single solitary line item. Allow the Sergeant at Arms of the Senate and his/her staff and the corresponding officer in the House to wake any Se
        • by pilgrim23 (716938)
          You missed the point. It is NOT the fact that Congresscritters are the foxes guarding the henhouse and can vote themselves a wage. The Idea is that ALL FEDERAL WORKER'S pay gets cut too. ALL Fed Wages! and THEY VOTE. Would YOU vote for someone who just cut your pay? And since Congresscritters are all about votes (or they are out of a job), they will do anything in their power to apease a voting block as HUGE as the federal employees in their district. -That last fact is sad in and of itself...
      • by wsanders (114993)
        Federal employees are a tiny faction of the US electorate.

        Are you talking about just pay for Congress? What do they care? Most of them are well off and would accept whatever fluctuations in their income resulted however lame their policies were.
    • by DittoBox (978894)
      It's not just Congress that needs a swift boot in the ass, it's the Executive branch too. No war since (and including) Korea has been declared by Congress --who is constitutionally the only body allowed to make war. For some reason being the "Commander in Chief" has gone to some peoples' heads that they go on little military adventures across the globe to fight whatever godless terror they've found (even if 20 years ago we put that godless terror there...but that's another story).

      And that's only on a part o
  • Is he serious? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by R2.0 (532027)
    I mean, really - is this a joke?

    Repeat after me - "In terms of fundamental human behavior, the internet has not, and will not, change JACK SHIT."

    Politics is the way it is because of fundamental human behavior - greed, ambition, and apathy. No "series of tubes" will change that.
    • Re:Is he serious? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Cantus (582758) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:52AM (#22820070)
      But concerted human action *can* bring about change. And the Internet allows that.

      It's not the "Internets" changing anything, it's the people using it making that change possible.
      • Please don't forget that many wrong voices don't make right. The danger of mobs is mob rule at the expense of the minority rights.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          Please don't forget that many wrong voices don't make right. The danger of mobs is mob rule at the expense of the minority rights.

          In most cases, these "minority rights" (sic) of which you speak are corporate special interests, so they don't even deserve the label "rights" in the same sense as human rights, voter rights, etc. Yet they still seem to be put first in the current system.

          In any case, this project won't force the system to change - all it does is effectively add a greater degree of transparency. Its up to the people to force the changes they want.

          • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

            by Asmor (775910)
            Like in the 1950s, when all the white people were oppressing the corporate special interests called "black people."
    • Re:Is he serious? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by esocid (946821) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:55AM (#22820116) Journal
      I have to disagree with you there. The purpose is to start some sort of grassroots campaign or a watchdog group that will monitor what your senators are doing and try to force a level of transparency with them. This isn't really going to change human behavior, I'll agree with you there, but RTFA next time. It is trying to change the way politics are done. Your citation of apathy seems to be pretty accurate since all you are doing is sitting back complacent about the sad state of politics but don't care enough to try and change that.
    • by rsborg (111459)

      Repeat after me - "In terms of fundamental human behavior, the internet has not, and will not, change JACK SHIT."

      Well, I guess I'm just going to have to refute you instead. The Internets have already changed politics as we know it, just like every other technological advance. Radio. TV. Mass-Mailing, Telephones... all changed the political fundraising and activity landscape as campaigns used these to reach their voters and to fund their campaign. In recent history, the 2004 election was dramatically change

    • Re:Is he serious? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thanatos_x (1086171) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:25PM (#22820616)
      Repeat after me - "In terms of fundamental human behavior, the printing press has not and will not change anything."

      Should all technological innovations should be ignored as they don't change human nature, nor could they influence something that does, such as education? I'll agree that humanity has changed very little in the past 2,000 years, and the fundamental nature of politics hasn't changed much - there's still deception, ambition, alliances, etc., however it has changed the effectiveness of certain aspects. Voters (a largely foreign concept 500 years ago) are now more educated, the butterfly flapping its wings on the other side of the world causes hurricanes where it was ignored before, ideas can spread to the masses very quickly, etc.

      So while maybe the fundamental nature hasn't changed, but how things are gone about certainly does. Your position is akin to saying that because the objectives of war are the same (erode your enemy's will to fight), machine guns, airplanes and the drastically increasing importance of public opinion are unimportant in war, when in fact they've fundamentally changed how it is fought, even though the fundamental goal is the same.
    • by Yvanhoe (564877)

      Politics is the way it is because of fundamental human behavior - greed, ambition, and apathy. No "series of tubes" will change that.

      Yeah, I mean it doesn't change anything that an information takes 100 ms to cross the country or 10 days. It doesn't change anything that anyone can search in news archives freely and in the blink of an eye.

      The former makes it possible to have a less centralized government, the latter makes a transparency policy possible and cost-effective. Lobbyism is called corruption in other countries. It is not an inevitable flaw of any political system, it is a correctable flaw of the US political system. Lessig t

    • by Vrst1013 (1216232)
      Why is Lessig still attracting an audience? He lost the slamdunk Microsoft anti-trust case, none of his work on copyright has amounted to anything, why is he still in the news? Aside from a killer resume and an ear for self-promotion, what's he got? He's famous for being famous, which is a cushy job.
      • by AgentSmith (69695)
        Dunno.
        Maybe it is because he's a lawyer who understands technical issues.
        He actually tries to tackle some legal issues we harp constantly on everyday at /.

        Being a David in this age of Golliaths gets you some kudos.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      This isn't about changing fundamental human behavior. It's about increasing transparency, which in turn will increase accountability. If a politician is held accountable by his constituents, it doesn't matter how greedy or ambitious he is.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by QuantumRiff (120817)
      Myamar?
      The riots of the people in Myamar earlier this year are a good example of how the internet is changing the world. Without the internet, word would not have gotten out about the huge protests, monks getting killed, etc. The country had a clampdown on all other media (and thought it did on the internet), so we would not have heard anything about it.

      Now the fact that nobody did anything other than to say pretty words is a completely different topic.
  • Hopeful (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SpuriousLogic (1183411) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:41AM (#22819910)
    This all depends not so much on what congressmen sign up as it does exposure to the general public. If you can get enough constituents to be aware of this, then you can force the members of congress into it. But unless this is somehow tied to American Idol, I seriously doubt the general American public will care. As long as they have their fast food and idiotic TV shows, they could care less about what happens in government.
    • This all depends not so much on what congressmen sign up as it does exposure to the general public

      FTFA: Candidates can signal their intentions to take any one or all of the pledges by filling out a form at the organization's web site, which then formulates code that provides a graphic that the candidates can then place on their election campaign web sites.

      This is my suggestion: Make it part of a subtle smear campaign, initially. In other words, all you need is one candidate who will be a part of this and

      • That would work too, it would just need a politician with enough clout to pull it off. Even in a tight race, it could suck in two politicians, but unless the seat had an important position, most likely would only last the election. Like most anything, it needs critical mass. And the LAST thing politicians want is to be tied to their promises.
    • Although I agree with your sentiment, I deplore your use of the phrase "they could care less".

      Realize it or not, the fact that Government is screwing the people is related to the fact that people accept lies as truth. "Could care less" means caring a lot, which is exactly the opposite of what you mean to say. It's the same kind of thing as instituting a program called the PATRIOT act to screw the citizens, or saying "we do not torture" but vetoing a ban on waterboarding. Democracy is damaged when the truth
  • What we need are solid, intelligent geeks out there running for congressional seats. We have a plethora of legal-types within our community who are faster at coming up with why things work, and why they don't, than those within Congress itself. We are the force to unify both Conservatives and Liberals. In general we like our personal freedom, but also know how to be individually free *within* a collective, and to use that collective for it's strength. We are the middle road.
  • I think taxpayer funded elections are the worst idea imaginable, because you ultimately tie the success of any candidate to a commission in government, who approves that finance. Such bodies are always politicized, and even worse, tend to favor established players and existing bodies. Nor do I think earmarks are bad.

    First, I would advocate the internet model, with transparent donations. Let anyone donate any amount of money directly to their candidate of choice, and just have full disclosure over how much and who got what. If your candidate is 'Bill Gates boy', then it will be duly noted. But at the same time, if you work for Microsoft and are from that area economy, betting on 'Bill Gates boy', might well be in your interest.

    Secondly, I have no problem with earmarks. Earmarks are comparatively small part of the federal budget and generally go towards pet district projects that generally do benefit the community from that district. If you don't like the way your Senator or Congressman does earmarks, don't vote for him or her.

    If you want to really attack corruption in Washington, it is time to really dismantle the twin industrial complexes of defense and medicare. The defense industry is hip deep in all sorts of cosey relationships with the few mega-contractors that are left, and medicare is basically a buddy boy of the pharma industry. Any time a cut is threatened on both, we are treated to visions of [fill-in-the-blank country of origin] bombs exploding over all of our cities, or, millions of people dying because they were denied the latest $1000 a day super pill that only has marginally better efficacy than a $10 a day pill.

    Sometimes, you just have to cut your risk aversion investments and focus on growth. No matter how much money we spend on security, if someone wants to bomb us, that bad, they are going to bomb us. And, people are going to die, no matter how much we spend.

    So let's cap medicare and cut defense.
    • If you don't like the way your Senator or Congressman does earmarks, don't vote for him or her.

      Many (most?) congressmen run unopposed when running for re-election. Plus it's done by just about everyone, so there's almost no one to vote for who won't do it. The only option is not to vote, which won't change anything.

      Earmarks are comparatively small part of the federal budget and generally go towards pet district projects that generally do benefit the community from that district.

      We're still talking about b
      • by gambolt (1146363)
        You really want a separate floor vote every time a federal building needs a new elevator or a post office parking lot need repaving? They would never have time for important stuff.

        Something else that a lot of people seem to miss is that pork=jobs. A congressman who brings jobs to a district with high unemployment will always be reelected.

        A lot of Americans live out in the boondoggles where there is no work and industry has no reason to build. It takes public works programs and bribing industry to relocat
        • You really want a separate floor vote every time a federal building needs a new elevator or a post office parking lot need repaving?

          Yes.

          They would never have time for important stuff.

          Right now they spend more time fundraising for campaigns than voting or writing legislation. Ideally they should spend more time doing their job than campaigning for it. Legislation should be hard to pass and take lots of votes so only "good" legislation gets through.

          A lot of Americans live out in the boondoggles where there
          • by tjstork (137384)
            Move. Welfare through earmarks or welfare through the official welfare system is still welfare. If you live where all the jobs have dried up then move to where you can have a decent job. Lots of people do it. And before someone responds with the typical, "Oh, you don't know what it's like," I've had family and friends move to other states for better housing and jobs. They're all much better off now.

            I don't think the charge would be "you don't know what its like". I think the charge would be, well, this is
          • Move. Welfare through earmarks or welfare through the official welfare system is still welfare. If you live where all the jobs have dried up then move to where you can have a decent job. Lots of people do it.

            In fact, I can give you a number of good reasons the government should allow earmarks in rural areas.

            1. National Security. In the event of a general nuclear war, all major cities and the suburbs would be completely destroyed. By having a population in the rural areas, we avoid overconcentrating ourse
            • These are all very valid arguments. Except they can all be accomplished through individual bills. This is still not a valid argument for adding pork to unrelated bills.

              With earmarks the government doesn't distinguish between economic stability and bridges to nowhere. With individual bills the good ideas can stay while the bad ones get dropped.
        • It takes public works programs and bribing industry to relocate to keep these people from starving to death.

          One thing has always bothered me about arguments like this: how did they get there in the first place? Didn't their parents need to eat? What did they eat? Why would their parents not have starved to death? When I was about 5, I saw all those starving kids in Africa and said to myself "In one generation, no more problem." There is still a problem. I think I understand it now, though: corruption and evil take food away that was once there. You are proposing that corruption puts it back. Is this really the

    • I thought it odd that public financing was on the list too. It's been discussed here in the UK, and the prevailing opinion seems to be that nobody wants taxpayers' money to be spent on the campaigns of parties like the BNP [wikipedia.org]. Every system of party campaign finance is going to be flawed, but this seems like a flaw that nobody wants to stomach.

      • In the UK, you do get some things free when you stand for election, such as one bulk mailing to everyone in your constituency and a certain amount of guaranteed TV airtime for party-political broadcasts if you field candidates in certain number of seats. On top of that, there are also strict caps on the amount a candidate is allowed to spend campaigning. The limit is around £30K per seat, which works out to around £0.50 ($1) per person in the constituency.
      • by gambolt (1146363)
        This is the US. Public financing here would be used as yet another way to lock out third parties. I'm willing to bet that funding would be tied to either how many votes a party got in the last election or

        If the result is public financing putting the Greens, Libertarians and SWP on the same footing as the Democrats and Republicans, that would be a dream come true for me. Since it's going to be the Republicans and Democrats passing any such law, I have no reason to think they are going to let go of their m
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by hyades1 (1149581)

      You misunderstand how the system works. Taxpayer funding for elections works just fine in Canada and other civilized countries. Ensuring fairness is trivially easy, and it cuts those idiotic two-year American campaigns to a matter of weeks. And our politicians actually do real work, instead of spending every moment trying to raise more money so they can outspend their rivals in the next election.

      There's still problems in Canada relating to lobbyists and special interests, and the system (though better

      • by tjstork (137384)
        You misunderstand how the system works. Taxpayer funding for elections works just fine in Canada and other civilized countries. Ensuring fairness is trivially easy, and it cuts those idiotic two-year American campaigns to a matter of weeks. And our politicians actually do real work, instead of spending every moment trying to raise more money so they can outspend their rivals in the next election

        First off, Americans actually like the elections and the democratic process, which is why we revel in it so much.
      • by TheSync (5291) *
        The funding of New Zealand's elections: Current problems and prospects for change [anu.edu.au]

        Alleged Tory Internet scheme sparks call for probe [thepolitic.com] - making political blogging illegal.

        "Stephen Harper's Conservatives are currently being investigated [blogspot.com] "by Elections Canada for allegedly orchestrating an elaborate money-laundering scheme that allowed them to spend more on national advertising than the law permits during the last election while attempting to get rebates for monies the national party hid by funnelling through Co
        • by hyades1 (1149581)

          Please don't confuse extrinsic attacks on the system with an inherent systemic problem. All democracies are prey to the former, whether the assault is by money laundering or good old-fashioned ballot box stuffing. In fact, I'd suggest to you that the lengths these parties go to in their attempts to circumvent the system prove its worth. You don't legalize murder just because you can't prevent all of them from happening.

          And although your crack about working politicians being a real problem is funny and

  • 4 pledges (Score:5, Informative)

    by esocid (946821) on Friday March 21, 2008 @11:49AM (#22820038) Journal
    Since the summary doesn't list what they all are. Here they are:
    1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
    2. Vote to end earmarks
    3. Support publicly-financed campaigns
    4. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency
    • by cdrguru (88047)
      I bet that it is possible to fund a decent lifestyle based on nothing but running a semi-successful campaign for a state office every two or four years, as long as the campaign is publicly financed. It might be possible to do this on a federal level also, which would just mean a better lifestyle. This brings up the possibility of the professional candidate who appears on the ballot every time but without ever winning enough votes to actually be elected to an office.

      Eliminating the two-party system for lot
      • by dpilot (134227)
        You just might be right, it might be entirely possible to be a "professional marginal losing political candidate."

        But if the rules are done right, while it would be possible, I'll bet it wouldn't be very lucrative. I also suspect it would be *cheaper* than what we have today, where there are fewer are involved, but their "take-home" is a heckuva lot higher.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Easy enough to fix. If the campaigns are publicly funded, then the amount of money handed out is known in advance. Then, demand that the candidates hand over invoices & receipts for the monies spent on the campaign, and all remaining monies. There: no living off the campaign funds. Sounds pretty reasonable to me!

        Actually, in Australia, I believe the bulk of campaign funds are public in origin. Unfortunately, we also permit private & corporate donations, which means we still have a certain amount

      • by leono (76178)
        It's an interesting idea, but I definitely wouldn't see it as anything like a free lunch. It takes a lot of hard work (well, if you considering shmoozing hard work like me) to raise money. Lots of traveling and staying in hotels... You'd be basically a traveling salesman, selling the idea of yourself in office.
        • by Phroggy (441)

          It takes a lot of hard work (well, if you considering shmoozing hard work like me) to raise money. Lots of traveling and staying in hotels...
          Uh, you missed the part about... well, the entire thing we were discussing: public funding. If every campaign is paid for by the government, then you don't have to go around trying to raise private funding.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ArsonSmith (13997)
      3. Support publicly-financed campaigns

      I never understood this one. Put the people worried about getting re-elected in charge of giving out money to their opponents? No room for corruption there huh?
      • Most likely, this is modeled on the British civil service. The people in charge of doling out the money will be civil servants, with no election to worry about for them. Not only that, but they can be fired for handing out more money to someone. Since this is a public office, the budget and budget allocations will be public, and the public can actually trace the handouts.

        The idea is to remove the money disparity that people achieve by promising all kinds of things to deep-pocketed corporations and PACs.

        Pers
    • by Shotgun (30919)
      1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
      So the money will have to come straight from the heads of the oligarchy. The biggest open secret about politics is that all interests are "special interests". Banning money from lobbyists and PACs is just a way to shut out large groups of people that have NO power individually. If the politicos aren't being paid, they will have no reason to listen. At the end of the day, will Elizabeth Dole (my senator) listen to the CEO of Boeing and American Airlines, or a simple
      • by lbgator (1208974)

        1. No money from lobbyists or PACs

        At the end of the day, will... my senator... listen to the CEO of Boeing and American Airlines, or... [me], when it comes to how FAA policy will affect general aviation? Without the lobbyist hired by AOPA and EAA, I would have no voice.

        You would have no voice because the lobbyists from Boeing would take over? ALL lobbyists would be banned from bribery (yours and their's). Without money to cloud her mind, your voice would be louder and clearer in the ear of your represe

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Is like a college's student members of "student-faculty committees:" useless, except for the PR.
  • Let's use the net to draft legislation as well! Senator Chris Romer of CO has proposed the idea of using a wiki as a way to have the people input their ideas into legislation:
    http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jan/29/skiers-might-get-become-citizen-lawmakers/ [rockymountainnews.com]

    I think it's a great idea. To me it's one of the greatest ideas for implementing true democracy that I've ever seen.
  • IMO the two biggest issues facing the country right now are the war and the assault on civil liberties. Neither one of those, AFAICT, has been affected in any way by lobbyists, campaign contributions, or earmarks. Individual voters wanted security theater after 9/11, and that's what they got, at the expense of civil liberties. Bush got the war he wanted, not because of lobbyists or PACS, but because Congress is too spineless to ask hard questions. They were spineless about it because the idea of going to wa
  • by vinn01 (178295) on Friday March 21, 2008 @12:11PM (#22820374)

    The formation of this watchdog group, or any grassroots organization that aspires to be a movement, assumes that people have an non-short attention span. I think that's a poor assumption and most marketers would agree. It's a long known lesson that most people are far too lazy to pay attention for even a few seconds.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'll reach for my remote control and go back to watching the pablum that network television is spewing. Change Congress? Well, maybe I'll change the channel.
  • This is continuing a hopeful trend. Lessig is aiming directly at Congress, Pete Ashdown (owner of the ISP www.xmission.com ) ran for Senate, and others are beginning to make their way into the political class. Soon enough ($DIETY willing) we will really see politicians who "get it" for privacy protection, data transparency, Open Source, and the social ramifications that those technologies bring.
  • The site is far, far better than it was when he was running for Congres, but it has a long way to go. I'm looking at it at work, and kind of enjoy the fact that it's partially broken in Internet Explorer.

    I love the idea and sincerely hop it works. I'm critiquing it here in hopes they'll improve it farther. I want this thng to work!

    I say "Partially" broken because the Google Map takes so long to load it SEEMS to not work; one would click a page link or the "back" button long before the map loaded. Perhaps I'
  • The winning candidate represents the interests and values of his district.

    That can be as simple a thing as replacing the cross-town bridge. It can as complex as providing food, medical care and housing for the elderly.

    The winning candidates delivers the goods.

    The present mood isn't for political reform as the Geek understands it.

    It is a demand for attention to pressing domestic needs and a deep-rooted fatigue with the ideologues of the left and the right.

  • by zuikaku (740617) on Friday March 21, 2008 @01:46PM (#22821742)
    1. No money from lobbyists or PACs
          While we like to think of politicians as corrupt, money-grubbing jerks who'll take money from any lobbyist in order to stay in office, the truth is that most politicians already believe in certain causes and will gladly take money from their allies in those causes. The NRA is not likely to change the mind of an anti-gun senator with promises of money. That senator is likely getting money from an anti-gun group already, since that group's aims match his own. Perhaps this would be less true of corporate lobbying, but transparency could help alleviate this by letting voters see who a politicians allies are. If a politician were known to be taking Archer-Daniels money, and that politician then voted for more ethanol subsidies, I might be less likely to vote for him next time. Long story short, I don't think there is much quid-pro-quo going on, it's more an aligning of interests between pols and PACs. This is not to mention the potential freedom of speech issues of banning lobbying. After all, everyone has the right to petition the government.

    2. Vote to end earmarks
          This is kind of like laws against profanity - "I know it when I hear it". One man's earmark is another's worthy cause. It would be ideal if we could prevent earmarks, but defining exactly what an earmark is in such a way as to make it difficult or impossible to pass another earmark without also impacting useful legislation is practically impossible. English is a rich language that lets you say one thing and mean another in some cases, and politicians are especially adept at using the language to get what they want. Transparency is the best choice here as well, since the only sure way for "obvious" earmarks to be stopped is if the people are aware that they have been attached to unrelated bills or perverted the intentions of related bills.

    3. Support publicly-financed campaigns
          To me, this is the worst of all the pledges. Why should we have political welfare for people running for office? Do we really want our tax dollars spent so that some candidates can have an election allegedly free of special interests? Remember, he who controls the gold makes the rules, so public financing could be perverted into an institution that funds only "worthy" candidates, with "worthy" defined by whomever is currently in power. Even with the currently limited system for Presidential candidates, the candidates have to raise a certain amount of money and be subject to other restrictions that they find onerous. This is one reason why many of the present candidates did not accept public funding - it got in the way of raising the real sums they needed to win.

    4. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency
          This is one pledge I can get behind, but the devil is in the implementation. Every donation to every candidate would need to be disclosed, preferably on the web, and there would need to be dire consequences if anyone was caught trying to hide a donation or the source of a donation. Every bill, including amendments and votes, would need to be available as well. All meetings would need to be open, meaning that the press (at the least) is invited and minutes are taken and made available on-line (with reasonable exceptions for things like national security issues and maybe a few others - of course, this can be perverted as well). There are numerous documents that the government has erroneously (or illegally, if it was to CYA) classified as secret which would need to be declassified, and better oversight for what can be classified should be put into place (perhaps this is a bit beyond the scope of Congress itself). Some of these things already exist, to some degree.

    • If a politician were known to be taking Archer-Daniels money, and that politician then voted for more ethanol subsidies, I might be less likely to vote for him next time.

      If a politician voted for ethanol subsidies, I would be less likely to vote for him or her regardless of where they got their campaign money from, because ethanol subsidies are stupid.

    • No! NO! NO! I only read through your second bullet. Your first was off base, but your second is unforgivable.

      An earmark is a process by which congress can "go around" the normal process of funding things. Please read a book or Wikipedia or something. This is the third post I've responded to where the parent has been way off base in their understanding of what an Earmark is. Congress, in general, funnels money into one of 13 general. These "pots" (Appropriations Subcommittees) have stated and precise

    • "The NRA is not likely to change the mind of an anti-gun senator with promises of money. That senator is likely getting money from an anti-gun group already, since that group's aims match his own."

      This is really bad reasoning, because it assumes that every issue has lobbyists and PACs for both sides of the issue, and that both sides are about equally well-heeled. This simply isn't the case, as anyone who's paid attention to politics for the past 7 (okay, 70) years will notice. Large corporations that pollut
  • Track ALL government people no matter which branch of government they are in at ALL times with Video and Audio Cameras! Only that business which is ON CAMERA and MADE PUBLIC at the time it's recorded is valid government business! POWER TO THE PEOPLE.

    REVOKE your governments powers to make war. Revoke your governments powers to make arbitrary laws that impact your rights. Revoke! Take back your government from those who are in it! Record and publish everything online in real time.

    Peace.
  • Great! So it's a big campaign to use the internet and cool tools like mash-ups and blogs and wikis, to, er ... what? He doesn't say.

    All the great reformers of history, of whatever color or background, all had a positive view of what the wanted to do. They had specific laws to pass or repeal. Or, whether you agreed with them or not, they wanted to shrink government, or use government to defined outcomes... Fine. There was a vision there.

    This sure looks and smells like a "campaign" - a great big crusade -

  • >> The four pledges (which are not numbered 0 through 3)

    Oh man... what did they do? Put the pledges in a Lua table or something?!?!

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