Change Congress

Lawrence Lessig is pushing for a constitutional amendment to change the campaign financing system. You can sign his petition over at

I think Lessig is right that campaign financing is broken. Elections for national office are very expensive. Politicians spend a lot of their time fund-raising. Jesse Unruh was probably reasonably accurate when he said, about lobbyists, “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, screw their women and still vote against them, you have no business being up here” (apologies for the sexism, I’m just quoting). And of course many politicians raise most of their money from small donations. But many do not, and of those who do not, they are far more likely to be elected in the first place if they hold views which are congenial to people who are willing to spend a lot of money on politicians. That increasingly means corporations rather than individuals. That leads to a increasing focus of government on the needs of the wealthy rather than on the needs of the general population. And that leads to an increasing distrust and dislike of government by the general population. And that doesn’t do anybody any good, regardless of one’s political position.

I also think that Lessig is right that the only way to fix campaign financing is a constitutional amendment. The Supreme Court was willing to overturn a hundred years of precedent in their recent decision permitting unlimited corporate speech. Clearly ordinary laws are insufficient. And while the amendment process is obviously very heavyweight, the constitution does after all provide a right of free speech, and campaign financing laws are indeed a limitation on speech; an amendment does not seem inappropriate.

Unfortunately, a constitutional amendment must be voted in by politicians. They would basically be voting away their present support and their future income (many politicians retire to become lobbyists themselves). Passing such an amendment would require overwhelming popular support, and I’m skeptical that that will happen.

1 Comment »

  1. ncm said,

    January 28, 2010 @ 12:42 am

    It wouldn’t even be so bad if government focused on the needs of the wealthy. What we have is a government focusing on the addled delusions of the wealthy. You might note that it will necessarily focus on somebody’s addled delusions, regardless. You would misses that the wealthy can afford to become far more addledly delusional than normal people can, and do.

    Politicians have been known to do surprising things. Perhaps there will never be a better time than the next year to make a change of this sort, as the present crop of politicians looks on the likelihood that, without action, the next crop won’t be them.

RSS feed for comments on this post · TrackBack URI

You must be logged in to post a comment.