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Lawrence Lessig Answers Your Questions About His Mayday PAC (Video) 148

Posted by Roblimo
from the it's-the-next-best-thing-to-asking-him-live-and-in-person dept.
We've mentioned this interesting PAC more than once, including when Steve Wozniak endorsed it. The original Mayday PAC goal was to raise $1 million. Now Larry is working on a second -- and more ambitious -- goal: To raise $5 million by July 4. We called for your questions on June 23, and got a bunch of them. This time, instead of asking via email, we used Google Hangout to ask via video. Here's a quote from the Mayday website:'We are a crowdfunded Super PAC to end all Super PACs. Ironic? Yes. Embrace the irony. We’re kickstarting a Super PAC big enough to make it possible to win a Congress committed to fundamental reform by 2016. We set fundraising goals and then crowdfund those goals." Check the Mayday About page and you'll see that a whole bunch of Internet and coding luminaries are on board. You may also notice that they span the political spectrum; this is totally not a partisan effort. | Another quote from the website: "Wealthy funders are holding our democracy hostage. We want to pay the ransom and get it back." Is this an achievable goal? We'll never know if we don't try. | This is Part 1 of a 2-part video. (Alternate Video Link) Update: 07/02 23:42 GMT by T : Here's a link to part 2 of the video, too.

Tim: Larry, one of our readers has asked: What do you think if you reach all the goals that you have right now for the Mayday PAC, what will prevent lawmakers from finding other loopholes in laws that do something that’s similar but not quite the same as campaign contributions. We’ve seen it with FISA and DMCA that people can’t necessarily get some sort of legislative advantage—they’ll try it again and try it again the next year. So if you get rid of all corporate money in government, do you think that’s the only avenue for undue influence? What is the answer to someone who says that this isn’t enough to really remove that sort of influence in government?

Larry: So there is an idea good enough for government work that I think we need to embrace and understand. It is a standard way below the standard of typical technologists. It is a standard that’s hard for, I think, technologists to accept—but here’s the idea: If we change the way elections are funded, we will give Congress a chance to actually think of something other than what the big funders care about, when they make a decision. Now they could still make the wrong decision—they could still make a stupid decision. They can still make a completely biased or ill-informed decision. There is no guarantee that this creates good government. But what it does do is give them the freedom, ‘the freedom to lead’, as Buddy Roemer used to say. Because they are no longer focused on what this tiny tiny fraction of the 1% care about. So nothing we are offering is about perfection. We are offering the first necessary step. To get us out of the pathology that we are in right now.

Tim: Okay. So another critical and this one is a slightly different type of critical questions that a lot of our readers have, and I think this is also widespread, is they object to the idea of regulating the money that can be given to a political campaign, and they say that that is equivalent to speech; one reader asks, and I am going to say that this is somewhat facetiously, that aren’t you in that way, also calling for a prohibition of documentaries of the political bench, or books written by politicians who are in favor of a particular candidate? Distinguish the way money per se as a campaign contribution in that form is different from other forms of material support, and why it is that it is okay to limit contributions to a certain dollar amount for a person or group as opposed to other ways that people influence political campaigns themselves.

Larry: Great question. So the Mayday PAC is aiming at changing the way elections are funded. And the proposals that we pointed to don’t necessarily do anything directly about limiting people’s capacity to spend their money to speak.

Tim: But then we already have such restrictions anyhow with campaign contribution limits.

Larry: Right. But we are not focused on restrictions—we are focused on increasing the range of people who participate in the funding of elections. So there are two basic models that we’ve got: One is the voucher program—you can see it at reform.to—a voucher proposal, where every voter is given a voucher that they use to fund small dollar elections. The other is matching grant where you give a small contribution—it’s matched up to 9:1—that’s John Sarbanes’ proposal. Those two proposals don’t restrict anybody’s ability to contribute anything. Or don’t restrict people’s ability to spend their money speaking at all. All this is doing is making it, so candidates don’t spend all of their time literally 30% to 70% of their time, focused on the tiniest fraction of the 1%. So there are lots of people out there who are talking about much more radical changes—limiting the ability of people to contribute at all, stopping corporations from their ability to speak. We are not talking about that as the first steps of reform. We say, let’s change the way elections are funded. That is the first step. And that is the step that Mayday PAC will push into Congress.

Tim: Now that is obviously, a large and first step. Is there a 30-year plan for the Mayday PAC? What do you envision? Does a candidate it doesn’t seem like so much of a candidate-based idea as it does surely financial and organizational based. Will you organize a slate of approved candidates that are your recommendations? Or is it entirely at the policy level of who and how money is distributed?

Larry: Yeah. So God forbid, this is a 30-year project! We don’t have 30 years to fix this problem. The first step is getting our Congress to pass this fundamental reform. And we are going to make that step in two stages: The first stage in 2014 is to create the idea in people’s mind, it is kind of a Roger Bannister moment, it is like, “We can actually do this”, “We can actually elect candidates on the basis of this issue.” Because nobody in Washington believes you can. Nobody in Washington believes people care about this issue. So we are going to break the four-minute mile marker. We are going to elect people on the basis of this. Then in 2016 we are going to elect the majority of Congress focused on this issue. And then they pass this reform. Then Step 4 of our plan is, once we have a Congress that has been elected through this clean money like technique, then that Congress needs to begin to focus on the constitutional reforms necessary to preserve this independence that has been created by the statutory reform that we want to pass. Now, there are lots of reforms Congress needs. There are lots of reforms our political system needs. We are not saying this is the only—it might not even be the most important—but it is the first one. It is the reform that has got to happen before anything else can happen. Because it is the one reform that breaks the power of money to steer or control the way political policymakers function.

Tim: It’s a dependency for a lot of other things?

Larry: Absolutely. It is the first dependency for a whole bunch of other reforms.

Tim: Larry, one of our readers says: “I really like the idea of this PAC, I want to contribute, but I don’t want to undermine my other causes,” and as an example, he says, “Politician A is wrong on every issue but campaign finance reform—Politician B is right on all the other issues.” So he asks then specifically, will this PAC be promoting both liberal and conservative politicians who advocate on this one very important issue. The Mayday site says that five races will be targeted—what races and why those particular ones?

Larry: Yeah. What we know is this issue cannot be won unless we get those Democrats and Republicans to support it. So absolutely, by 2016, we’ve got to have a significant number of Republicans joining a very significant majority of Democrats, if we are going to win. And we are desperately finding and looking at candidates in the Republican Party who believe in this issue. There is a guy running for Senate in New Hampshire against Scott Brown—a guy named Jim Rubens—who has openly embraced the idea of vouchers as a way to fund elections. That’s the kind of Republican we are looking for. Now, I think I understand people looking at it and saying, “Well, this is just one issue, and I’ve got my other issues. Like I care about global warming, and so I care about global warming, and should not be worried about that issue first.” And I think that made sense for much of the 1990s and maybe the beginning part of this century. But the thing people have to recognize now is no matter what the issue is, you are not going to get sensible reform of that issue—until we fix this issue first. So the idea is not that I want to weigh this as more important than anything else. Again it is the dependency. It is: This has got to be fixed if you are going to get climate change or Wall Street reform, or simpler taxes, or deal with the debt, or student debt—all of these issues depend upon fixing this issue first. So if we fix this issue, then lots of different policies can flourish. If Republicans win or Libertarians win, then what they want to do is going to be easier once we have this change than it is right now. And the same thing with the people on the left. This is just enabling democracy to work. And then once it is enabled to work, then people will actually care enough to show up and do something in the democratic process.

Tim: When is it that people will know precisely which races are the ones that your PAC is going to choose to actually focus on?

Larry: Yeah. We have to first figure what the resources are before we pick. We can’t pick in advance. Because you don’t announce troop movements before the troops are ready to move. Like if we said, these are the five races and we want that to be engaged, then those five races will find a million reasons a million ways to attack what we are trying to do. So I get that that creates a little bit of anxiety and uncertainty. This is the only thing I can offer in response to that anxiety and uncertainty: We are in this for a long-term objective. We don’t care about winning. Five races won’t make it so that we get the legislation we want—it is not going to change anything really in Congress. Except break the four-minute mile barrier. Break the idea that this is impossible. So we want to do this in a way that it builds a movement that, in 2016, will be back with us so that we can win many many more races. So if we screw it up this year, if we pick the wrong kind of candidates, if we pick candidates that are only Liberal Democrats, or we kick out a bunch of Democrats in the name of crazy nonresponsive Republicans, we won’t be able to rally these people back with us when we get to 2016. So it is a hard choice—we’ve got about 15 people we are looking at right now. And a million dimensions to be considering. But the ultimate objective is clear—we want fundamental reform passed in 2016. And we want to be able to enable the movement to do that.

Tim: Now you’ve certainly been involved in things that are very political in nature before. You can think of the Creative Commons as having a lot of political implications. You’ve also described “law as code”—where does this fit in? I think you’ve called this “trying to change the operating system.” Can you explain a little bit about where the analogy falls when you talk about how much this sort of change affects everything else?

Larry: Yeah. I mean, I was pushed to do this, by Aaron, by Aaron Swartz. Seven years ago he came to me and he said, “How are you going to make any progress on the internet issues, or the corporate issues until we fix this corruption?” So what I recognized at that point was: All these other issues that as passionately as I cared about them, they were not going to get solved or addressed until we solved this issue. So this is fundamental. In the sense, it is the operating system. Because this democracy depends upon this operating system functioning in a way that is reliable and encourages people to participate in it. Now once you begin to think about that analogy, there is a lot that connects to the internet community. There is a great piece by Noam Scheiber in ‘The New Republic’ that basically says why Silicon Valley should care about this issue. He makes the point this is both metaphorically and actually the network neutrality debate. It is actually a network neutrality debate, because what we realize is: Unless we can deal with the money in politics problem, we are never going to have enough resources to step up and take on the cable companies and things like that. That is not the interesting point. The interesting point is: What we need is a democracy on the same model as a neutral network, right? We want a democracy that is in some sense is end to end—it is allowing people, all the people to participate in selecting the things they want. It is trying to disable the kind of entities in the middle that have the capacity to block or control how things are developing. And so, in that sense, I think that this project is fundamental to, is analogous to the work that I have always been doing in the context of internet politics. But even if it weren’t, the thing that is absolute is that: People have got to recognize that if we don’t fix this, we don’t fix anything. And we’ve got a whole slew of things that have to be fixed.

Tim: Are there any countries in the world right now that have a system that is, in your mind, close to what you are proposing? I don’t know of any countries that for instance use a voucher system to let people express what they believe in that way—I am wondering: Is there any place or country or two that actually does something like this?

Larry: Well, most other mature democracies are different in two really important ways: 1) They are parliaments. 2) They don’t have a First Amendment the way we do. Because they are parliaments, elections are not regular. So there is not a permanent campaign, there is a time when they govern, and the majority party actually can govern, and then there is an election. The election could be six weeks or two months or something like that. That’s a really important difference. And number two, no other country has interpreted their free speech provision to be as restrictive as our Supreme Court has interpreted ours. So what those two constraints mean is there won’t be any country that has something precisely analogous to what we have. But here’s the thing that every other successful democracy has, that we need—the members of parliament, or the members of those congresses do not spend 30% to 70% of their time raising money from the tiniest fraction of the 1% in those countries. In parliaments, I spoke in the Swedish parliament about Creative Commons, but I also talked about this issue. A member of parliament came up to me—in fact, he was a geek, he was a free software coder, he worked on the GNU Linux kernel, the Linux kernel, and he said to me, “In my eight years in parliament, I’ve never, literally never once asked anybody for money. Never. That’s just not what we do.” It kind of struck me, as a shocking idea. Imagine a congress filled with people who are not constantly thinking, “What does that rich fat cat want me to do so that he or she is going to fund my campaign so that I can get back into getting into power?” It seems impossible to Americans to imagine a different system. But the reality is no other democracy comes close to the craziness of this system. And it is completely trivially possible to create this alternative. If we had a voucher system, that would cost $3 to $4 billion a year. Now the Cato Institute the libertarian think tank estimates that last year the amount of corporate welfare the United States government spent was $100 billion. So if we could spend $3 to $4 billion a year, and cut that corporate welfare by 10%, we would have paid for it two to three times over, right? So this is a trivial problem to solve from a financial perspective. But it would radically change the incentives of our government to be answering to these crazy extreme crony capitalist like demands or to the bailout demands. Whatever your complaint is, it would refuse, it would remove those kinds of crazy constraints.

Tim: I think a lot of people might object in the same way that they do that they fail to check the boxes as they contribute to the electoral campaign on taxes, and say, “I will support it if I want, but I don’t want to be required to give money to anyone else’s campaign systematically. I don’t want to be part of it.”

Larry: Yeah. That’s a great great concern. And that’s why I really personally favor vouchers. The presidential campaign fund is basically a system where the federal government decides how much money each candidate gets and then writes them a check. And people aren't happy with this, right? We say, “Hey, why is my money being used to subsidize speech I don’t believe in?” And, “why does the federal government get to decide how much people get to spend on a political campaign? It seems just wrong.” Now the voucher system is fundamentally different. What a voucher system says is we are going to rebate the first, in my proposal, $50 of your taxes in the form of a voucher. And then you can use that voucher—either tear it up if you want—but you can use that voucher to find candidates who agree to fund their campaigns with small dollar vouchers and maybe contributions up to $100.

Tim: They are not using the Federal Election Commission as a sort of intermediary in that way, like the current checkoff vote?

Larry: Exactly. You, the individual, are choosing who gets the money. And it is your money you are giving to them, right? Well, people say, “No, no it is tax money you are getting back.” Now you got to embrace your inner tea party—“What do you mean tax money? It is my money. The government had it, it is giving it back to me. And I’m taking that money and I’m giving it to the candidate I care about.” And everybody else is doing the same thing. So nobody is subsidizing anything. There is no government bureaucrat who is deciding how much anybody gets. There is no equality norm that says everybody gets the same amount—it is just like voting. But instead of my resource being a ballot, my resource is a voucher. It is exactly the same idea but now extended to the funding of campaigns as well as to the selecting of a candidate.

Tim: Let me ask one more question that may also be about people’s inner tea party here: The biggest comparison people have drawn in our comments is, they say there is this effort called the Wolf PAC, and that is aiming for constitutional as opposed to legislative reform. Can you briefly distinguish why it is that you are going for something slightly different? They also have in mind fairness of elections, and fairness of the way they are paid for, but you’ve decided that constitutional reform directly is not the way to start.

Larry: So I love Wolf PAC. I work with Wolf PAC. I flung myself to every corner to the country to testify on Wolf PAC’s behalf in favor of the call that Wolf PAC is making for state legislators to vote to demand Congress created Article 5 convention—I am all for that. But we’ve got to move on a number of different fronts at the same time. Even if we got a constitutional change tomorrow that said that Congress had the power to limit the amount of money that was given to Super PACs or something like that, we still would need to pass a law to change the way elections are funded. The Supreme Court has no doubt made this problem much worse. But even if the Court had gotten every decision right, we still would have a system where the tiniest fraction of the 1% funds campaigns. So nothing we are doing is against Wolf PAC. I support Wolf PAC. But we’ve got to both change the statutory regime that makes it possible for us to have citizen funded elections where everybody is funding elections, not just the tiniest fraction of the 1%, and also back-stop that change with whatever constitutional reform as necessary. That’s why the plan that we’ve set up is four steps. The fourth step is: After we’ve got a Congress that is elected under the right way, pass the kind of constitutional reforms that is necessary to preserve the changes that we had enacted through legislation.

Tim: Do you see any irony in a Super PAC with the stated goal of removing the sort of influence that Super PACs have had?

Larry: Yeah. It’s ironic. Our slogan is “Embrace the Irony.” But it is not anything more than ironic. Because if you think of the history of reforms that have made this a more just democracy, you know there was a time when only white males could vote. And a bunch of people thought, “That’s unjust.” So they brought about an amendment that in theory at least (it took a hundred years before this was relevant) but in theory at least, that blacks could vote too. Of course, it was only black males. But there it was—blacks could vote too. Now when they did that, they used an unjust system to produce a more just system. If somebody had said, “Why do you want to use this unjust system to give blacks the right to vote?” I would have said, “Oh yeah, why not? Let’s use whatever we can to get a more just system.” The same thing when women did not have the right to vote. And then men, pushed on by women of course, but men said, “Okay, let’s change the law to give women the right to vote.” That was an unjust system being used to create a more unjust system. So too here. My view is: A system that allows people to contribute unlimited amounts of money to Super PACs is an unjust system—we need to change it. But we are going to change it using the system that exists. We are going to use whatever legal means we can to bring about a more just system. And when we get to that more just system, people will be able to create PACs, independent PACs too—they just won’t be able to contribute unlimited amounts to these PACs. Because that system produces a world like what we saw in 2012, where 132 people contributed 60% of the money spent by these Super PACs. So we need to create changes. We are going to do that in every legal way we can, including by employing this unjust device to produce a more just system.

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Lawrence Lessig Answers Your Questions About His Mayday PAC (Video)

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @04:03PM (#47353191)

    What difference does any of these efforts make if the 9-robe court thinks corporate donations and an individual's right to free speech are essentially exactly the same?

    What process defeats an over-arching fail condition like that?

    • by RavenLrD20k (311488) on Monday June 30, 2014 @04:16PM (#47353297) Journal
      That's the legislative check and balance to the court. If a congress can be bribed to make an amendment to the constitution that specifies that money, resources, or commodities cannot be equated to speech, then the verdict of the Supreme Court is nullified by the voices that represent the will of the people. The real trick is getting a congress in office that would agree on passing the amendment.
      • That's the legislative check and balance to the court. If a congress can be bribed to make an amendment to the constitution that specifies that money, resources, or commodities cannot be equated to speech, then the verdict of the Supreme Court is nullified by the voices that represent the will of the people. The real trick is getting a congress in office that would agree on passing the amendment.

        Actually, you need 2/3 of both the House and the Senate, plus 3/4 of the state legislatures. Amending the Constitution ain't easy (intentionally so).

        • Actually, you need 2/3 of both the House and the Senate, plus 3/4 of the state legislatures. Amending the Constitution ain't easy (intentionally so).

          Freedom of assembly. Freedom of speech.

          How do you tell a small businessman that others can organize and raise funds to win an election and he can't? How do you make that argument to the NRA or the NAACP? The teacher's union or the EFF?

          If a congress can be bribed to make an amendment to the constitution that specifies that money, resources, or commodities cannot be equated to speech, then the verdict of the Supreme Court is nullified by the voices that represent the will of the people.

          This is as blatantly corrupt a political argument as I have ever heard expressed.

          I don't care whether the voice comes from the right or the left.

          I do care when the reformer starts to think that because he has the money and the power, he alone has heard the voice of God --

          • Actually 3/4 of the states can call for a Convention. Congress has no option to oppose that. Its not entirely clear what their 'calling' function entails, but if there were a clear unequivocal 3/4 of the States passing a single uniformly worded call for a Convention within a stated expiry period then LONG before it got to all 37 required states Congress would pass the desired amendment to avoid the spectre of an open Convention running the country virtually as a de-facto parliament. Honestly a Convention is

            • Actually 3/4 of the states can call for a Convention.

              2/3 of the States can call a Constitutional Convention.

              Which bypasses the need for Congress to act, but leaves in place the need for 3/4 of the States to ratify any proposed Amendments.

            • "Runaway Convention" is a boogey man used by those in favor of the current corrupt big government to scare unthinking people into opposition. It didn't take a Constitutional Convention to create the horrid 16th and 17th amendments.
              • It's not a boogey man at all. It's a real risk, regardless of your political persuasion. The convention could end up deciding to repeal the 2nd Amendment, and prohibit private ownership of firearms. It could decide to ban abortion. It could decide to dramatically rein in the EPA, or dramatically expand its powers. The entire basis of our legal system would be on the table.

                • Exactly, and ChrisMaple's logic is flawed. Just because he thinks the 16th and 17th amendemnts are 'horrible' is logically unrelated to the possible character of a convention. Congress has a very limited power to propose individual amendments. A convention would be much more far-ranging since it would be much more capable of proposing sweeping changes.

                  Honestly, I don't think such a convention would NECESSARILY be problematic, but there's no reason to assume it would be any more beholden to the will of the p

                  • by Obfuscant (592200)

                    Honestly, I don't think such a convention would NECESSARILY be problematic, but there's no reason to assume it would be any more beholden to the will of the people than the existing ludicrous clown-filled House of Representatives.

                    I think the danger is that it would be MORE beholden to "the will of the people" than the current system of amendments. It is just how you define "the people" that matters.

                    It does not take a crystal ball to predict that once a constitutional convention is called, there will be people coming out of the woodwork seeking to repeal the 1st (the alleged reason for the CC in the first place) and 2nd, rewrite the fourth and fifth, and to make radical changes to the body (eliminate the electoral college, e.g.), a

                    • The greater danger in my mind is you will get a huge flood of cash into the process from the usual suspects and you'll just end up with some sort of Fascist constitution that enshrines the power of the current elite and its corporate stooges. That's all Congress is rapidly becoming anyway, with hacks like Roberts and Alito to rubber-stamp it. In a convention they'd be utterly free of any of the few constraints that still apply. If Congresspeople can't even pass patent reform or the President resist appointi

              • by Obfuscant (592200)

                "Runaway Convention" is a boogey man used by those in favor of the current corrupt big government to scare unthinking people into opposition.

                If you think that a convention writ large will not echo the same kinds of actions that plague smaller scale similar activities, then you are not very observant of human behaviour.

                It didn't take a Constitutional Convention to create the horrid 16th and 17th amendments.

                Your opinion about and the creation of those amendments is irrelevant. I was replying specifically to a call for a convention. No, it didn't take a convention to create some amendments, but a convention certainly is not limited to just the amendments you want it to create.

                I'll also point out that the amendment system is horribl

          • If a congress can be bribed to make an amendment to the constitution that specifies that money, resources, or commodities cannot be equated to speech, then the verdict of the Supreme Court is nullified by the voices that represent the will of the people.

            This is as blatantly corrupt a political argument as I have ever heard expressed.

            I agree, but I didn't feel like being Politically Correct and calling it Campaign Contributions, Kickbacks, or whatever the hell else is the in vogue term for bribing now. Th

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Our only chance is to hope Obama can replace one of the Bush appointees with someone rational.
    • by SteveWoz (152247)

      End goal: change the constitution. We need a start. It's easy to see how hard this will be and to give up early, but some of us feel the imperative to fight for it. We can change things. The vast will of the masses (corporation political donations are not equivalent to the free speech we enjoy as individuals) needs to be strategically gathered. Critical mass could take decades, as with things like gay marriage.

  • Would be to put it all in youtube videos, right?
    WRONG.

    Sure, videos have their purpose but just give me a damned transcript. I can read a transcript in much less time than it takes to watch some old guy babble, and I can search the text of it as well.
    • I second that motion!
    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      There's a Hide/Show transcript button just below the video.

      • There's a Hide/Show transcript button just below the video.

        That is not particularly useful, though. The Hide/Show transcript button displays the transcript in real-time, with the video. I can't search the text of it, and I can't go through it more quickly with my own eyes than the speed that the people in the video are speaking.

        In other words, it is mostly a waste of time. It takes the same amount of time to watch a video with transcript as it does without.

        • by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:01PM (#47353773) Homepage

          That is not particularly useful, though. The Hide/Show transcript button displays the transcript in real-time, with the video

          No it doesn't. It displays this:

          Tim: Larry, one of our readers has asked: What do you think if you reach all the goals that you have right now for the Mayday PAC, what will prevent lawmakers from finding other loopholes in laws that do something that’s similar but not quite the same as campaign contributions. We’ve seen it with FISA and DMCA that people can’t necessarily get some sort of legislative advantage—they’ll try it again and try it again the next year. So if you get rid of all corporate money in government, do you think that’s the only avenue for undue influence? What is the answer to someone who says that this isn’t enough to really remove that sort of influence in government?

          Larry: So there is an idea good enough for government work that I think we need to embrace and understand. It is a standard way below the standard of typical technologists. It is a standard that’s hard for, I think, technologists to accept—but here’s the idea: If we change the way elections are funded, we will give Congress a chance to actually think of something other than what the big funders care about, when they make a decision. Now they could still make the wrong decision—they could still make a stupid decision. They can still make a completely biased or ill-informed decision. There is no guarantee that this creates good government. But what it does do is give them the freedom, ‘the freedom to lead’, as Buddy Roemer used to say. Because they are no longer focused on what this tiny tiny fraction of the 1% care about. So nothing we are offering is about perfection. We are offering the first necessary step. To get us out of the pathology that we are in right now.

          Tim: Okay. So another critical and this one is a slightly different type of critical questions that a lot of our readers have, and I think this is also widespread, is they object to the idea of regulating the money that can be given to a political campaign, and they say that that is equivalent to speech; one reader asks, and I am going to say that this is somewhat facetiously, that aren’t you in that way, also calling for a prohibition of documentaries of the political bench, or books written by politicians who are in favor of a particular candidate? Distinguish the way money per se as a campaign contribution in that form is different from other forms of material support, and why it is that it is okay to limit contributions to a certain dollar amount for a person or group as opposed to other ways that people influence political campaigns themselves.

          Larry: Great question. So the Mayday PAC is aiming at changing the way elections are funded. And the proposals that we pointed to don’t necessarily do anything directly about limiting people’s capacity to spend their money to speak.

          Tim: But then we already have such restrictions anyhow with campaign contribution limits.

          Larry: Right. But we are not focused on restrictions—we are focused on increasing the range of people who participate in the funding of elections. So there are two basic models that we’ve got: One is the voucher program—you can see it at reform.to—a voucher proposal, where every voter is given a voucher that they use to fund small dollar elections. The other is matching grant where you give a small contribution—it’s matched up to 9:1—that’s John Sarbanes’ proposal. Those two proposals don’t restrict anybody’s ability to contribute anything. Or don’t restrict people’s ability to spend their money speaking at all. All this is doing is making it, so candidates don’t spend all of their time literally 30% to 70% of their time, focused on the tiniest fraction of the 1%. So there are lots of people out there who are talking about much more r

          • Thank you! I must have hit the wrong button, or perhaps it doesn't work correctly on my browser.
            • by MobyDisk (75490)

              You are welcome. Are you using Slashdot Beta? I am on the old one. I tried it in IN, FF, and Chrome and it did the same thing. But somehow it always serves me the old-skool design even though I am not logged-in on 2 of those 3 browsers.

              • by Roblimo (357)

                For those who don't know: At the bottom of every page there's a link from "Beta" to the real Slashdot site.

              • I just looked at it again and realized that I missed that button (a text link in my version of FF) entirely. When you mentioned it as a button I was thinking of the youtube button of the same function (which is often something of a random gibberish generator).

                Thank you
  • No Thank You (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Written answers are higher quality than spoken. I'm not interested in watching a video. (I thought we'd already covered this? Does anyone really like videos on /. ?)

  • the mega-corporations (banking cartel, big oil, defense, etc.) that have our government in their pockets won't be stopped or hindered by this well-intentioned idea. something more drastic would be needed, constitutional amendment using path of national convention and ratifying states

    • by Obfuscant (592200)

      something more drastic would be needed, constitutional amendment using path of national convention and ratifying states

      You should be very careful in calling for a constitutional convention. You should be aware that a call to remove the 1st Amendment (in an attempt at limiting who can speak on certain topics) opens the door to a removal of the 4th and 5th, just for starters. You may want to limit the debate to one specific topic, but you can be sure there will be others who will not.

      You should also accept that a constitution that provides protection to people in general is better than one that picks and chooses who and wha

      • by iggymanz (596061)

        who said anything about revoking the First Amendment? This is not an issue of freedom of religion, speech, assembly or petition.

        We are talking of corruption, of money controlling our lawmakers and executive branch. We are talking of cutting out control by large corporations who have circumvented the democratic process.

        • I'm sure they will come up with some equal double speak when they shut you down as well.

          Just because you don't like someone doesn't mean they don't get to spend their money as they see fit. No different then 100 losers volunteering their time.

          Changing the situation requires rewriting the 1st amendment. At least to clarify what 'speech like things' you don't consider speech.

          • by iggymanz (596061)

            nonsense, you invent a straw man "Changing the situatio requires rewriting the first amendment"

            no, it doesn't.

            a corporation can be stripped of any and all rights, even to exist as legal entity, just for example, and individual liberty remains.

            • by Obfuscant (592200)

              a corporation can be stripped of any and all rights, even to exist as legal entity, just for example, and individual liberty remains.

              If you think this is about removing the right of corporations to exist as legal entities, you are woefully naive.

              If you remove the right of corporations to exist because they might be created as an association of like-minded people who want to pool their money to pay for political speech, that is, indeed, a restriction on both the right to free association and the right to free speech -- the very basis of the 1st Amendment. To remove those rights requires a stripping of the 1st Amendment right, and you'r

              • by iggymanz (596061)

                I only give as example, one of many possible scenarios

                we can certainly do anything to a corporation, strip anything from it, by law, without impact on individual liberties

                • by kwbauer (1677400)

                  Not if that corporation was formed "as an association of like-minded people who want to pool their money to pay for political speech" This whole movement was started as a way to "repeal" the one decision that pointed out that this absolutely was a first amendment right. The right to associate is an individual liberty that can only be exercised in conjunction with others.

                • If you strip a corporation of its assets its value goes to zero. You thereby strip its owners, the stockholders (which may include me) of their property. That severely impacts my individual liberties.

                  Please think before posting.

            • by sumdumass (711423)

              Lol.. And as long as the corporations are not dissolved, they have the same or similar liberty as individuals do for the most part.

              And yes, you would have to dissolve all corporations because that is what the court already said, you cannot strip the right of political speech from a corporation, association, or labor union. They also said over 25 years ago in Buckley v. Valeo that spending money is political speech.

              So as long as corporations exist, you either have to change the first amendment to have a cons

              • by iggymanz (596061)

                wrong, a corporation can be deprived of any wealth or liberty or freedom by law, since they only have existence by mere law. they are very different from humans in that regard. They could be demoted to a kind of businesss not much different than mom and pop shop

                • Yes, they could.

                  And the owners could still spend their money on politics.

                  Note that stripping corporation status from a business does NOT remove its money. It just changes (possibly) who is in control of the money. And the (hypothetical) new owners of the money can still spend it on politics....

                  • by iggymanz (596061)

                    such people become more limited in what they can do without corporation and corporate rights. and there is more that can be done to individuals to fight corruption

                • by sumdumass (711423)

                  They cannot be deprived of wealth of liberty or freedom by law. They can be dissolved- corporate status can be removed, but not deprived of wealth without just compensation as the constitution says and not deprived or liberty or freedom without due process unless everyone one is because everyone enjoys equal protection under the law.

                  You are assuming that corporations have no constitutional rights. You are wrong as the supreme court already pointed out. Now, it is true that corporations can be regulated in w

        • by kwbauer (1677400)

          Yes, it is a speech issue because the talk is all about limiting the people who can speak and the avenues they can use to speak,

        • who said anything about revoking the First Amendment?

          A large group of Democrats in the United States Senate are currently working on repealing the First Amendment and replacing it with something weaker and less explicit.

          It has long been thought that the political right is the major force behind censorship, a notion reinforced by the attempts, some successful, to prohibit anti-religious and grossly sexual material. Prohibition of political communication is increasingly the realm of the political left, and it

  • Transcript Please (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheNastyInThePasty (2382648) on Monday June 30, 2014 @04:14PM (#47353283)

    Come on, guys. Post the damn transcript instead of a stupid video.

    • by oneiros27 (46144)

      I found instructions on how to get a transcript from the automatic closed captioning of YouTube videos. Unfortunately, the instructions are in a YouTube video:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

      Of course, I have no idea what they're using for the video hosting -- I just see 'Missing Plug-in'. The 'alternate link' tells me that I have to install Flash ... like hell I will.

    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      Below the video is a button that it says "Hide/Show Transcript." Clicking on that shows me the transcript. Thinking it was something Firefoxy, I just tried it in Chrome and IE too.

  • So we're going to win against the mega-corporations by outspending them? The top five companies in the US alone bring in 1.4 trillion USD/year in revenue. It would take them less than two minutes to match this new, larger goal.
  • The front page of Mayday's site says in big, bold print:

    Help us reduce the influence of money in politics!

    Right above a big, red GIMMEMONIES! button.

    That's funny.

    What's hilarious are the 2 possible motivations I see: 1) they're actually trying to 'reduce the influence of money in poltiics...' by introducing a shit-ton of money into politics, or 2) they're fleecing suckers under false pretenses.

    Maybe I just have a weird sense of humor.

    • Re:Hilarious Irony (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday June 30, 2014 @04:49PM (#47353643) Journal

      Why is it ironic? The whole point here is that money has undue influence in politics, so in order to effect political change (including the reduction of that influence!) you need money. It's trying to beat the system with the tools that are empowered by that system.

      • It's ironic because their position seems deliberately contrary, and I find the result amusing.

        It's trying to beat the system with the tools that are empowered by that system.

        Colloquially known as "fighting fire with fire."

        Which is also ironic.

        • Re:Hilarious Irony (Score:4, Informative)

          by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:23PM (#47354007) Journal

          Not really. If you want to force someone to lay down their weapon, you'll have to use weapon yourself. If the one that they use happens to be the most efficient in the circumstances, then you'd do well to pick the same. It's not really ironic, it's just the way the world works.

          • Yes, it is ironic.

            Go to Google and search for "Define ironic"

            Then read the, I think it was the second, definition.

            It's almost verbatim the rationale I posted (better be, I C&P'd most of it).

            You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts. Now please stop arguing about it, as you've succeeded in ruining the humor.

      • by Jahava (946858)

        Why is it ironic? The whole point here is that money has undue influence in politics, so in order to effect political change (including the reduction of that influence!) you need money. It's trying to beat the system with the tools that are empowered by that system.

        This reminds me of Richard Stallman leveraging copyright law to essentially enforce restrictions on liberties traditionally associated with it (Copyleft [wikipedia.org]).

        It's the strength of a vested established system that is also its weakness: it's so strong that only thing that can defeat it is itself.

  • I would not call it ironic. I would say it recognizes the fact that money is necessary for effective speech (not money==speech as many misquote the decision to mean) and this PAC is trying to do the same thing that Citizens United did -- get a bunch of people together to pool their money for effective political speech.

    I would call the attempt at stripping the rights of people to that freedom of association and speech using such a group to be hypocritical, not ironic. And I say the same thing about Move To

    • by guises (2423402)
      The point where you went wrong is when you threw in the word "effective." Freedom of speech doesn't mean that you have the freedom to do whatever it takes to persuade people to do what you want. The free speech rights of Citizen's United was never in question, the issue was that they wanted to violate campaign finance law by using money in order to make their speech louder and more effective than other peoples' speech.
      • by Obfuscant (592200)

        The point where you went wrong is when you threw in the word "effective." Freedom of speech doesn't mean that you have the freedom to do whatever it takes to persuade people to do what you want.

        That is not what "effective" means in this context. It means the ability to actually be heard. Not forcing people to hear you, that's something else. It means that your message is available to people.

        You can have "free speech" as in beer by telling someone they can stand on a soapbox on the corner. This isn't effective free speech because the range is deliberately limited. Being able to pay for the "free speech" and buy a radio spot is effective because it puts the message where people can actually hear i

        • by guises (2423402)

          So, apparently, it is ok if someone can pay for such airtime out of his own pocket, but not if twenty people pool their pockets to pay for it.

          Is this one of those, "If you can't do everything perfectly then you shouldn't do anything at all?" It's true that McCain-Feingold only dealt with corporations. It's true that it was not the end-all of campaign finance reform. So what? The law still had a big impact, and a positive one if you're someone who cares about the corrupting influence of money. Soft-money spending (outside organizational spending) tripled between the 2008 and 2012 elections.

          Your concern about "the rich guy" getting heard where t

  • So, not only did he dodge the hard questions (about the difficulty of getting money out of politics without silencing people who want to spread a message), he did it in the least accessible way!

    Transcript?

  • I don't see how their $5 million is even a drop in the bucket compared to the couple billion the big money donors will bring to field in the election. We can't fight them with money.

    • by Roblimo (357)

      Yes, pocket change in a national election. But as Larry said, they're only trying to influence a few Congressional races this year, and more of them in 2016.

  • It would be like turkeys voting for Thanksgiving.

  • by netsavior (627338) on Monday June 30, 2014 @05:13PM (#47353899)
    The only way to stop Koch brothers and various BribeLaunderingPacs from throwng hundreds of millions of dollars at elections is for it to cease to be cost-effective to do so. The first time money doesn't make a difference, it will no longer be an issue. Free flow of information is a significant step.

    300 million "average" people each donating as much as they possibly can afford, cannot even hope to match the BribePac power of a single Walton or Koch.

    It is 100% fruitless to attempt to fight them on this arena, the only thing we can hope to do is defeat them with unlimited free press (via the internet)... which is a huge longshot, but at least it isn't mathematically impossible,
    • by mythosaz (572040)

      About 120M people will turn out to the polls in 2016.

      With the Koch brothers combining for about .4BN in political contributions, each voter would have to pony up $3.50 or so to match them.

    • Interesting that you don't mention Bloomberg or any other of the left-leaning billionaires who are throwing money at politics....
  • If these celebrities and other chuckleheads really want to fix the government, they should probably start by retaking freshman Civics and learning what sort of government the Constitution sets forth.

    To wit - the word "democracy" appears at least 4 times on the main page, but the word "republic" doesn't even appear once.

  • The title of this post was, "Lawrence Lessig Answers Your Questions...", but what we got in response was a trendy video interview with generalized responses, not the promised (or at least implied by past history) direct responses.

    Is this all we can expect from this sort of post in the future? One more nail in Slashdot's coffin.

  • In the 1970s there were a bunch of laws passed that supposedly were going to greatly limit the influence of big money in elections. They all totally failed. So now you are going to try it again. "This time it's different."
    It's not true that "big money is stealing our democracy." We never had democracy. If we did there wouldn't be any big money. Also--if the problem is big money, then countries where elections are publicly financed should have "better" governments. Name one.
  • Why do people use a video these days rather than just typing answers? Moving pictures of Larry's face jabbering don't add much to the proceedings and frankly, I can read answers a lot more quickly than it takes to listen to a video. And, if I happen to be in my office, I can read a transcript without disturbing others.

    Sorry, but this is really a pet peeve. If you don't have a visually dynamic presentation of information that can't be conveyed any other way, video takes more bandwidth and adds little. So why

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