To rid politics of big money, a Harvard Law School professor is running for president, and if successful, he’ll resign.
It was a cold and fairly windy day in Philadelphia, almost four years ago in January.
Across from City Hall, activism was underway; protesters were rallying to drum up support for a 28th amendment to the Constitution.
Essentially, the activists, then affiliated with a group called Move to Amend, wanted to deny corporations the personhood which enables unlimited donations to political campaigns.
The protest, like most, included music: one act, a guitarist, reworded the classic rock song “Fortunate One” to make it “I ain’t no Corporate Son,” and the other was a singing group made up of four women who represented the four dissenting justices in the Citizens United ruling.
The messaging of that event—participants held signs that said things like “corporations are not people” and “money isn’t free speech”—was that our representative democracy was in jeopardy, if not already taken hostage by blue-chip corporations.
The sanctity, effectiveness, and in some cases, the existence of our democracy has been a talking point for activists and government reformers since the controversial ruling, and in some circles, long before that.
To an issue not directly related to the Citizens United ruling, Philadelphia City Commissioner, Ms. Stephanie Singer, whose job it is to oversee fair and free elections, went on the record recently with Techbook Online to say the City “doesn’t have a functioning democracy.”
And to an issue directly related to the court’s ruling which treats corporations like people and money as free speech, two organizations, Say No to Big Money and People For the American Way, have launched the $64,000 Democracy For All Video Challenge, which seeks “powerful videos in support of a constitutional amendment to overturn cases like Citizens United.”
The issue of money in politics is the single, most important issue to Mr. Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor who formally announced this week that he’s running for president.
Mr. Lessig, who freely acknowledges that America has a government that doesn’t function in the interest of its constituents, said if he wins the presidency, he will only stay in office long enough to pass campaign finance and election reform legislation, then hand over power to his Vice President, a unprecedented promise.
Mr. Lessig’s single issue platform, which has its critics, is similar to Mr. Bernie Sanders’ stance on money in politics. But Mr. Lessig believes he’s more likely to accomplish campaign finance reform due to his laser focus on the issues, whereas Mr. Sanders’ campaign is more wide-ranging.
The issue of money in politics isn’t just talked about by Democrats, Mr. Donald Trump, a flamboyant billionaire also seeking the presidency, frequently articulates how he has purchased many politicians, including a few who’s running against him.
Mr. Trump’s candor underscores the problem many Americans have with big money in politics: elected officials are accountable to their funders, not voters.
Talking to ABC’s Mr. George Stephanopoulos, Mr. Lessig said he wants to fix our democracy, and get it to a place where it’s possible for “government to actually do something without fear of what the funders wants them to do.”
At his formal announcement, Mr. Lessig said the greatest threat to America isn’t terrorist, but citizens “who believe there is no democracy anymore, those who have given up.”
The issue Mr. Lessig is fighting for has public will behind it, but will that be enough to get him elected? As always, only time will tell.
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