How Do You Fight Big Money in Elections? With Big Money and a Benevolent Twist
The Supreme Court has clearly stated that it equates money given in the form of campaign donations as political speech. Starting with declaring corporate campaign contributions are free speech and expanding those free speech rights to individual monetary campaign contributions last month, American elections have become more about fundraising than the issues. While everyone is still limited to only one vote, the power to influence policy now lies with those who have the most dollars to give.
A Harvard law professor has decided that the best way to fight big money is with… big money.
Like most Americans, Harvard law school professor Lawrence Lessig wants to take big money out of politics. A proponent of campaign finance reform he has come up with an idea to fight back against big dark money interests. His solution involves a Kickstarter campaign, matching donors, and the American people.
Lawrence Lessig is creating a political action committee of the people, by the people, and for the people.
On May 1, 2014, he launched MayOne, which he bills as a “citizens’ funded and crowd sourced super PAC to end all super PACs.” A Kickstarter campaign was launched on May 1, with two separate goals of $1 million and $5 million. When each of the goals are reached, it will be matched “from the top down” by a donor that has yet to be named. In the end, the PAC will have $12 million dollars to spend in the 2014 midterm elections.
How they will spend it is a bit more complicated.
As a super PAC, MayOne can spend the money it collects independently of any campaign. They will hire campaign managers for both Democratic and Republican campaigns to focus on the core issue of “fundamental reform” on campaign finance. They will start in five carefully selected congressional districts. While the goal is to elect candidates who will commit to reforming how campaigns are financed, MayOne cautions that the 2014 election cycle will be a learning experience to determine what messages do – and do not – work. It will also be the testing ground to see if they can get candidates elected and set them up for a larger campaign in the 2016 election.
The ultimate goal is to elect a majority of candidates that support campaign finance in both the House and the Senate.
The irony of trying to fight big money with, well, big money is not lost on Lessig. However, he says that if we don’t do something, we’ll have to face a new normal of “10,000 families in the United States” funding our elections. With the MayOne PAC, it allows millions of Americans to fight back with what he envisions could be $700-$900 million worth of free speech. For now, he feels that $5 million is enough to get started.
On May 13, MayOne reached its first target of $1 million – 18 days early.
MayOne notes that 100 percent of the pledges will go to fund campaigns, with MayOne’s overhead costs paid via separate contributions. For now, only Democratic and Republican candidates that commit to reforming campaign finance will be considered. They feel that there is no independent candidate currently running that could win on a national level – and winning elections is the goal.
MayOne has not yet announced the name of the matching donor, which will make the total $2 million raised thus far.
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