Campaign Finance, Lessig, MAYDAY PAC


Lawrence Lessig

The interesting corruption is the people who live within a system where influence is peddled and reckoned and bragged about as a function of the norms of culture that have evolved.–Lawrence Lessig

Writing in the October 13th issue of The New Yorker, Evan Osnos discusses Lawrence Lessig, the Harvard Law Professor who opposes the influence of money in politics. Lessig created MAYDAY PAC to generously, significantly fund candidates committed to ending the undue influence of money in politics which he believes disenfranchises most Americans and undermines democratic government. Osnos writes:

In 2010, in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court, arguing that campaign contributions were a form of “political speech,” struck down limits on the amount of money corporations, unions, and rich individuals could spend on elections. The decision led to a surge of money greater than anyone predicted. Between 2008 and 2012, campaign spending shot up by nearly two billion dollars. Much of that growth came from superPACs, the committees that are allowed to spend whatever they want as long as they don’t work directly with candidates. In 2012, super PACs spent a billion dollars; seventy-three per cent of the money came from a hundred people. The other large source of growth has been in so-called dark money—donations from nonprofits that are allowed to keep their donors anonymous. In late August, before the midterm campaign had reached full speed, dark-money spending had climbed to fifty million dollars, according to the Center for Responsive Politics—seven times the sum that had been spent by that point in 2010.

Campaign finance is of great interest now in NY-23, where incumbent Rep. Tom Reed seems to many to be more responsive to the interests of campaign contributors than to his local constituents. Tom Reed, who voted against public financing of Presidential Elections and Party Conventions, is not known to favor reform. Democrat Martha Robertson supports reform; she writes that she “is opposed to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which did immeasurable harm to our democracy. Corporations are not people and do not deserve the same rights. She believes that we must reduce the overwhelming influence of money in politics.”

Osnos’ article, Embrace the Irony, is well worth reading.

© William Hungerford – October 2014


About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
This entry was posted in 2014, Campaign Finance, Congress, Constituents, Political, Reed's Views and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Campaign Finance, Lessig, MAYDAY PAC

  1. Anne says:

    According to my copy of the OED, the word “whore” (probably Old Norse) made its first appearance around 1100 AD (referring to an adulteress) and then sometime around 1382 or so was first used figuratively to indicate a corrupt community. Who knew that the SCOTUS actions of 2010 would yet again expand the definition of the word? Or perhaps ‘favors for money’ is simply the way of the world, and old Tom is just the current embodiment of that.


  2. whungerford says:

    Thanks for that, Anne. In case you missed it, Jim Rubens, a Republican senatorial candidate, reportedly said “Many politicians are either self-financed or they’re corrupt whores by the time they’re done with the process.”


  3. Anne says:

    Well, and we know Reed isn’t self-financed.


  4. whungerford says:

    Osnos writes: “Getting elected to the House today takes more than double the money required in 1986, so a candidate must be blunter and broader in the hunt for cash. In Georgia, a leaked memo from the Senate campaign of the Democrat Michelle Nunn advised her to spend eighty per cent of her first month fund-raising.”


  5. josephurban says:

    One of the more interesting questions raised by the Citizens United decision was completely ignored by the SCOTUS. That is the role of multinational and foreign corporations. What role , for exzmple, do the Chinese now have in US politics.
    I remember in 2000 when Al Gore, running for POTUS, was forced to give back a few thousand dollars when it was discovered that this money had been donated by a Buddhist group (I think they were Chinese or Japanese). It was a scandal ! Foreigners were not allowed to influence US elections at the time. It was illegal.
    What Citizens United has done is opened the door to millions (or billions) of dollars of foreign money to be used to influence US elections. Any foreign or multinational corporation can open a US branch and funnel campaign funds, legally, to candidates of their choice. Not only has the government been put up for sale to the highest bidder, but those bidders may be Chinese businesses run with child labor, Russian oligarch friends of Vladimir Putin, Saudi oil interests, etc.
    This opening up of the system by the SCOTUS, declaring corporations “citizens”, has really made ALL corporations, anywhere in the world, US citizens for the purpose of financing candidates. Ironically, the same folks who fear the US being subsumed under some “world government” have actually supported the concept that the US political system should be subsumed to multinational corporate interest. .


  6. whungerford says:

    Gary Shteyngart’s novel, “Super Sad True Love Story,” envisions America controlled by Chinese bankers whose austerity program (cut spending, balance the budget, pay down debt) reflects today’s Republican proposals. Few would have guessed that while some were watching for invading soldiers in blue helmets, subversion would come in the form of corrupt American politicians sold out to foreign interests.


  7. BOB McGILL says:

    what would the unemployment figures be if these foreign closed their operations in the US and moved to Canada ? If the US allows foreign companies to do business here then they should be allowed to participate in politics. We might actually learn something.


  8. BOB McGILL says:

    but illegal immigrants can come here by the millions and suck off the system.


  9. Anne says:

    This month’s Harper’s index tells a slightly different story (and I quote):
    Estimated amount of taxes and fees that Colorado has collected from the marijuana industry since legalization: $34,800,000.00
    That Texas collects from undocumented workers each year: $1,608,534,000.00


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