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 professorLawrence 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 thecore 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.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson3 years ago

Hummm... Sign me skeptical...

Alvi Mana
Alvi Mana3 years ago

@Eric L. --

Don't discount other factors, such as: low turnout on mid-terms, voter apathy, and expectations that Cantor was a shoe-in. However, we can't underestimate the power of grass-roots movements.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

The defeat of Cantor is proof that grass roots people power can defeat big money without also spending big money.

He was an Establishment Congressman like most of the career politicians in Congress from both parties. He was defeated by grass roots people power not money. Hopefully this is a trend of people finally saying enough is enough and demanding real change.

"Cantor, the House majority leader, raised nearly $5.5 million during the cycle, bolstered by investments from the American Chemistry Council, the American College of Radiology, the National Rifle Association, and the National Association of Realtors."

"Cantor never lacked for cash, with a donor roll that read like a who’s who of Beltway power players. Once seen as a top contender for House speaker, he had the support of 377 political action committees representing almost every major corporate and special interest from all sectors of the economy, including airlines, telecom, energy, food, and manufacturing groups."

Donna F.
Donna F3 years ago

I gave $ to a superpac funded by the general population, w/goals like finance reform and anti-corruption--I just thought I'd give it a chance. people all across the U.S. gave $, and May One reached its' $1,000,000 goal 18 days early. I don't really have $ to give, but I wanted to give May One a try.

Sharon D.
Sharon D3 years ago

“The end of democracy and the defeat of the American Revolution will occur when government falls into the hands of lending institutions and moneyed corporations.” ― Thomas Jefferson"

Edith B.
Edith B3 years ago

This sounds like a good idea, but too few of us have money to donate to anyone.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

The system is riggeg against all challenges to the Establisement. Look at how hard it is for a 3rd party to even be a part of the debate. Or how hard the media works to discredit any threat from Occupy to the Tea Party.

The tide is slowly turning with 42% now identifing as indepentant. I think this is largely due to the freedom of knowledge that the internet has given us.

We are at a pivotal point in the USA, do we return to liberty or fall to Tyranny? Do we save the Republic or let it collapse causing a global upheaval?

Let's find common ground and change the discussion to address the heart of the problem before it is too late.

Eric Lees
Eric Lees3 years ago

Nothing will change as long as we think we have to choose between the Democrats and Republicans. The elites do not care who we vote for as long as we continue voting for the lesser evil. Money has always bought power, the only way to change is to limit the power that politicians can sell.

@Lynn Do realize that rhe Teaparty is in a fight with the GOP over the future of the Republican party? And your delusional if you think the Democrats are better. Why is Harry Reid opposed to bringing the Audit the FED bill to a vote?

Education is the key, getting people to see the big picture. 2016 may be our chance for real reform if we can get a strong 3rd independant candidare and 2 weak establisement candidares.

Maria Teresa Schollhorn

Thanks for sharing.