Monday, March 10, 2008

Lawrence Lessig on Political Corruption

Lessig talks about money and politics.
NRO: Tell me more about your plan to remove money from politics.

Lessig: I wouldn’t call it a plan to remove money from politics. The idea is to really get us back to an earlier place, but the strategy would be that members or candidates would make a pledge. And the pledge would have three components. One, you’re not going to take lobbyist or PAC money, whether it’s PAC money from corporations or PAC money from unions. Number two, you’re going to vote to abolish earmarks. Hard to do to figure out exactly how you’d structure such a proposal, but that’s the commitment — you want the economy of earmarks to disappear. Three, you would support public financing of campaigns. And that’s very vague because I don’t think we actually know right now what would work best or how to do it.
Of his three pronged approach, I don't really like proposal 1 since PAC money is "clean" in that it is well known and documented as to who is giving the money. If a candidate wants to forgoe the money though, that is his or her choice and it is not without precedent. I really don't like option three at all. I can't conceive of any formulation of public financing that would either be 1) affordable for taxpayers or 2) justifiable as a means of countering "corruption." Plus you have the added burden of subsidizing activity, which almost always makes it more expensive.

I would like to see candidates pledge to end earmarks, so in that respect I agree with Lessig. PAC money is open and other features of campaign finance are open and public. You can see, track and make some (not necessarily accurate) inferences about the influence of said funds. Earmarks are usually unseen, unaccounted for and largely unknown. That is their problem. I don't have a problem with appropriations that are included in the bill from the start, vetted in the normal legislative process and are claimed by a Member. But the insiduous earmark, the one added in a conference report, unclaimed by any Member really galls me.

Still, Lessig has been successful on his other endeavors and here's hoping he can get somewhere with earmark reform.

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