I posted yesterday the email I received announcing that Change Congress will soon be underway in earnest. I am excited and hopeful that this movement / organization will gain traction and eventually see success. My knowledge of Change Congress thus far is from Larry’s last lecture on “Free Culture.” The lecture was given on the 31st of January, 2008 at Stanford University, a recording can be viewed on the Lessig ’08 front page. It is about an hour long and in my opinion, worth watching but if you are pressed for time and only want to see the portion on Change Congress, start it at about 39:40 and catch the last 20 minutes. Basically, the idea is to remove corruption by asking current and potential members of Congress to pledge to three things:
- Abolish earmarks
- Accept no contributions from lobbyists
- Support publicly financed campaigns
Based on the few blog posts and videos of his I have read and watched, I have to say that I probably do not agree with Mr. Lessig on many points of policy. This however is one area where I do (along with the work he has done in regard to free culture). I agree with his assessment that there is “no Darth Vader,” no big conspiracy or evil master-mind pulling the strings in a systematic deconstruction of our democracy, our republic. I agree that money has given special interests the upper hand in Washington, and around the country. I do not believe that corporations are the only special interests but I know many are counted among them. I see relatively small groups of people force feeding fallacious policy to the majority through lobbyists, lawyers and of course, the undercurrent of both; money. This influence is (or at least can be) corrupting to anyone participating in the process. So while the changes that we hope to see uncorrupted Congressmen implement may be different, I do agree with Larry that the change needed now is to remove the cancerous corruption of money from Congress.
I will add that I want more conversation on the topic of publicly funded campaigns. The other two items in the pledge are quite straightforward and simple in my estimation but campaign finance reform is a complicated subject with many obstacles. I agree that drastic reform is needed and on the surface I agree that complete public financing is the best answer. It is the ‘how’ that I am concerned with. How do you create a truly level playing field? How do you silence special interests while keeping the democratic process open? How do you accomplish this with out over-legislating the procedure?