Larry Lessig's Super PAC to End Corruption On Track To Next $5 Million By Midnight, July 4
Intellectual property scholar and campaign finance reformer Larry Lessig.
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In May, Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig sent shockwaves through the democracy reform movement by creating a SuperPAC and raising $2 million—half in small online donations; half from wealthy individuals—to be spent on making political corruption a decisive issue in five 2014 U.S. House races.
Lessig is now poised to raise an additional $5 million by midnight July 4th—which he says will be matched like his first million. By 4 P.M. PST Friday, the MayDay.US PAC had raised $4,727,740 from 43,434 donors. It appears that he is on his way to having $12 million to spend in 2014.
In mid-June, AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld interviewed Lessig, where he explains his fighting fire with fire strategy. He says the campaign finance reform community has backed the wrong remedies for decades. He says Democratics missed their chance to make real reforms when it had that power. And he said why he’s optimistic that Americans—if given a change and pathway—will break the cycle of corruption that starts in fundraising.
Steven Rosenfeld: Let’s start with the basics. How much has the MayDay PAC raised? How close are you to raising the next $5 million by July 4 th?
Larry Lessig: The total so far is just over $3 million [as of June 20]. I don’t mean $3 million in this cycle. In this cycle we are just over $1 million. So we’ve got a long way to go to get to five. We’re trying to pull together a lot of things to make that possible. It’s obviously a tough challenge.
SR: If you don’t get to the $5 million mark do you still go forward?
LL: We’re definitely going forward with something, because we’ve got resources to do a significant amount already. One of the things that I am surprised about is although we set this up as a contingent funding campaign, 40 percent of the contributions have come from people who have clicked the box that says ‘even if you don’t meet your goal, keep my money.’ So think we will be in good shape to do what we’re trying to do.
SR: You have thousands of small donors and half-dozen big donors—mostly Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. What do the big donors expect?
LL: If we win, if we’re successful, the ultimate goal that they have is to reduce the influence of money in politics. So they should expect that they will have less power. But these are people who believe that the power in the system that they have right now is not doing the system or them much good. They’re spending money to reduce their influence, which is some kind of self-sacrifice, but it’s not a very big sacrifice with how little the government is able to achieve.
LL: I don’t think there’s ever been a campaign like this before. We’ve set a goal. No group has ever tried to set this goal of electing a Congress that will pass fundamental reform in 2016. The conception of what reform is—is very specific. It is tied to what the problem is: the way we fund elections right now is the problem. Literally, it’s never been the case that someone has imagined putting together a large enough Super PAC to deliver on that victory. The critical insight of the analysts who did the first estimate of what it would take to win [that kind of Congress] was that we had to run it in two election cycles. So we have this pilot campaign in this cycle—to convince people that this is an issue that people care about. And after this cycle, we will gear up for a much much bigger campaign in 2016.