It was a good talk, and for fans of Lessig, it was an abridged version of the PowerPoint presentation he’s given across across the country.
Lessig’s points about campaign contributions are worth listening to, as well as his solution.
If you need evidence for the problem, just pay attention to what’s happening in Congress. This week, Republicans forced a provision into the payroll tax cut extension that will, if enacted, kill 20,000 Americans by some estimates. Industrial lobbyists and the GOP managed to slip in language that prevents the EPA’s new life-saving mercury rules. There’s a ton of other “riders” in the bill, many of them horrible like one pushing the Keystone XL, which you can read about here. Obama has issued a veto threat, but we’ll see what happens.
Why block already watered down regulations on boilermakers, even when doing so would kill Americans and risk infant brain damage? Because doing so will open the flood of campaign cash from polluters and transnational oil companies to Republican campaign coffers. Its that simple. The media is complacent to this dynamic, dishonestly making this a duel between competing ideologies and politicians — rather than calling it what it is, an effort by a small group of companies to game a legislative fight so they don’t have to retrofit a few industrial boilers and save many lives (and create jobs!)
Here’s the clip of Lessig:
Look, Lessig does not have all the solutions. His campaign finance reform plan doesn’t touch the problem of outside political campaign groups, like 527s, 501c3s, 501c4s and SuperPACs, or the multibillion dollar public relations industry, or its sister astroturf industry, the big business-backed think tanks and corruption in academia, the K Street cocktail culture of DC or the revolving door. But Lessig provides a great start at diagnosing the ill that is destroying our republic. America’s descent into kleptocracy, into Third World status for the great majority of its inhabitants, continues every day. The more people talk about the problem, the more folks join social movements addressing the problem, the better.