Reclaiming Our Republic: Striking at the Root of Political Corruption


Lawrence Lessig is a legal scholar, author, and political reformer.  Just over a year ago, he gave a TED talk outlining exactly how money has allowed political corruption to take root in our republic. He then threw down the challenge for us to join him in the fight to strike at the root of modern political corruption. Part of that challenge was to take his TED talk and remix it, making it more broadly digestible by the American rank and file upon whose activism any reform effort will rise or fall.

This remix captures, in less than 4 minutes, the essence of this most fundamental problem. It’s also entertaining as hell.

“Mr. Franklin, what have you wrought?” . . . “a republic, madam, if you can keep it.”

We’ve lost it.  Now we have to reclaim it.  An overwhelming majority of Americans agree the influence of money upon our system is crippling and warping it.  A majority also believe there’s nothing we can do about it.  They’re right about the first part and wrong about the second.  We own our government, and if we can push through the apathy and resignation of the current moment, choosing to keep our republic rather than give it away to endemic political corruption, a better future awaits.

Earlier this year, Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) introduced the Government by the People Act (H.R. 20) as a legislative catalyst toward that future. This sensible, straightforward legislation would:

● Encourage the participation of everyday Americans in the funding of campaigns by providing a refundable $25 My Voice Tax Credit. This would bring the voices of the broader public into the funding side of campaigns and democratize the relationship between money and speech.

● Establish a Freedom From Influence Matching Fund to boost the power of small-dollar contributions. To be eligible for these matching funds, a candidate would have to agree to a limit on large donations and demonstrate broad-based support from a network of small-dollar contributors. Amplified by the Freedom From Influence Matching Fund, the voices of everyday Americans would be as powerful as those of big donors.

● Provide candidates with an opportunity to earn additional resources in the homestretch of a campaign so that the voices of the people are not completely drowned out by super political action committees and other dark-money interests. In the wake of Citizens United, this kind of support is critical to ensuring that citizen-backed candidates have staying power.

I hope you’ll agree and get involved in the most important political issue of our time by writing, calling, emailing, tweeting, and facebooking your representatives and telling them to support the Government by the People Act.  Let’s reduce the incentives and focus currently tied to fundraising and start taking back our government.

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Read more about HR20 here.
Watch Lessig’s original TED talk here.
Download a copy of Lessig’s book “Republic, Lost” for free here.
Join Rootstrikers by navigating here.
Read another recent JQP article on this subject here, also published in the Harvard Law Record.

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