Let me be frank. Everyone is tired of getting scammed. Not a day went by in the two months before the November election without a dozen urgent messages in my Email inbox pleading for campaign contributions. Every single day – that includes Sundays. The candidates want to get elected, but the peripheral machinery he hired is all about chasing the money. After a record breaking election, in terms of cash collected, the significant record broken in the last election was the lowest voter turnout, by percent of registered voters, since WWII.
Getting voters to believe in anything or anyone is an uphill battle. A lot of people won’t check into The Democracy Club or any of the reform groups because they detest being conned. It’s not the money or a lack of patriotism – it’s the frustration of trusting and then being disappointed. So I suggest we look critically at the reform groups and their leadership. I have been on the mailing list for these groups for over a year, and they do let me know what they’re doing – but they’ve never asked me for money.
Rootstrikers is perhaps the hub of the reform movement. The founder of Rootstrikers is Lawrence Lessig, who heads the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. He’s a political paradox – as a lawyer he was a law clerk for Justice Scalia (who is NOT famous for his liberal views). Lessig was a libertarian and remains cautious about government intervention but tends to self-identify as a liberal. A diverse political background may be why Lessig can cultivate friendships and associations with conservative and liberal leaders who oppose the corrosive effects of corruption in Washington.
Lawrence Lessig wrote the book on political corruption. The title is ‘Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress – And a Plan To Stop It’. That’s the title – I think he gave away the whole plot in the title. When I read the book, I felt vindicated that so many of my conclusions about the dysfunction in DC were shared by a dignitary with enough degrees and honors to sink a ship.
Lessig proposed four different reform strategies. The other reform groups who are listed on the home page, WolfPAC and Represent.US have each pursued different individual approaches to the four proposed strategies. Rootstrikers endorses an ‘all of the above’ philosophy and Lessig actively supports the focused efforts of the other groups without committing Rootstrikers to any one approach.
This cooperative relationship is how the groups were brought together for a conference in San Francisco. That’s where I heard all the leaders speak. I think (opinion here) that the armies of an uncoordinated, cooperative war on corruption attacking on several fronts simultaneously will be invincible. I also think that partisan squabbling and competition between the separate groups will doom the reform movement to failure. (end opinion)
Cynk Ungar has the largest TV show on the Internet, The Young Turks. He’s liberal, by the way. Some of you may remember his stint on mainstream TV. As I heard the story, the network wanted to ‘script’ Ungar’s comments, as he was inclined to rail against democrats who indulged in stupidity, and the network wanted Ungar to limit his commentary to protest stupid republicans. The decision Ungar made was to return to Internet media, rather than become a mouthpiece for liberal doctrine.
Ungar’s group is WolfPAC and they are promoting an Article V Convention to write a Constitutional Amendment which would prohibit corporate interference in elections. An Article V Convention is a way of circumventing Congress completely and changing the US Constitution. This can be done by the states without Congress ever voting on it and without the signature of the President. It almost looks like the founding fathers anticipated that the traditional way of amending the Constitution through Congress would not work if the problem which required an amendment to the Constitution was Congress.
If you are a state’s rights kind of person, this strategy should appeal to you. Some media talking heads will try to frighten you away from supporting an Article V Convention with scare stories. Please, PLEASE be informed and think for yourself! Here’s a summary from Wikipedia of the process.
“According to Article V, Congress must call for an amendment-proposing convention, “on the application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States,” meaning 34 state legislatures would have to submit applications. Once an Article V Convention has proposed an amendment or amendments, then the amendment or amendments would have to be ratified by three-fourths of the states (38 states) in order to become part of the Constitution.”
The procedure is safe – 34 states have to call for the convention and 38 states have to ratify what the convention proposes. If an Article V Convention proposed (for example) that we replace our democracy with a monarchy, I doubt that 38 states would ratify the proposal. Hysteria about a ‘wildcat’ convention making extreme changes without the consent of the governed is ridiculous. Expect to hear it anyway from ‘reliable’ sources.
The other approach is legislation which could be passed by the US Congress. That’s the strategy of Represent.US – I’m not going to list the provisions of the Anti-Corruption Act. The link to their site is on the menu to the right and their site links to the actual Act – there’s nothing hidden.
The Anti-Corruption Act was designed by Trevor Potter, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission. He’s a lawyer from Chicago, but I doubt he has much else in common with President Obama. Trevor Potter was the General Counsel to the presidential campaigns of John McCain in 2000 and 2008. (I don’t think he would describe himself as a liberal.) The Anti-Corruption Act will work – the trick is getting it passed by Congress, when the primary function of the Act will limit the campaign contributions that have corrupted the electoral process. It will take a HUGE wave of public support and at least one election cycle where voters overwhelmingly endorse reformist candidates of both parties.
A key provision of success is a ‘no-amendments’ agreement from reformists. Based on the past actions of a corrupt Congress, the Act, when overwhelmingly demanded by the public will be passed, but only after it’s completely castrated by changes called amendments. Make no mistake – The Anti-Corruption Act must be passed ‘as-is’ to work.
The politician who promises reform and ‘likes’ the Anti-Corruption Act but won’t commit to a ‘NO-AMENDMENTS’ stance is a con man with a strait-edge razor planning the type of surgery that will convert real reform legislation into a paper eunuch. Let me take this one step further – the local press MUST press every candidate for Congress on this point and publicize that they either DID or DID NOT take a ‘NO AMENDMENTS’ stance on the Anti-Corruption Act. There is no middle ground. If the local press prominently reports the answer to that question (as in headlines), the voter can be trusted to make a good decision on election day.
(Local Media – If you want to compete with the networks, and some of you are competing just to survive, be relevant! Demand that candidates from YOUR area give straight answers on reform. The networks will NOT do this and the voters want to know!)
There’s a separate page on The Reform Project in this site. The group was started by Buddy Roemer, former governor of Louisiana. Without repeating what’s there, Buddy, a banker by trade, ran for president with a unique distinction. He refused to take PAC money and he would not accept individual contributions over $100. In other words, he refused to sell out. As a result, he was shut out from televised debates and shunned by the media as not serious. He’s one of the most convincing speakers on campaign corruption that you will ever hear.
The groups I mention, Rootstrikers, WolfPAC, Represent.US and The Reform Project are headed by successful people. I’m not suggesting they don’t have financial needs or won’t accept contributions but none of them is out to hustle you for your hard-earned money. The leaders have all got paying gigs, with Harvard or an independent media group or as a banker. IMO, they all ‘get’ that democracy is at risk and they’ve taken the formidable challenge of restoring the authority of government to the rightful heirs of power – the people.
Which brings me to a group and person I haven’t mentioned. The group is ‘The Civilist Papers’ and it’s ‘my’ group. At least I am the co-founder. We are pursuing a non-partisan electoral strategy of recruiting and electing to Congress those candidates who commit to reform whenever the incumbent won’t make that commitment.
IMO, the Anti-Corruption Act will succeed if it is passed intact and if it’s not struck down by the Supreme Court. The best way to prevent a constitutional challenge to anti-corruption laws is to amend the US Constitution so that those laws are protected. At the Civilist Papers, we have plans to participate in the reform movement without competing with any of the other groups.
Earlier in this post, I suggested we look critically at the groups and leadership. ‘The Civilist Papers’ was founded by a couple of mailmen. After my flight, I may be an unemployed mailman. If you look critically, I’m the leader without a paying gig outside the movement. If you would consider joining ‘The Civilist Papers’ as a member and supporter, you should consider that I’m the guy who is dependent on my group for my financial survival.
On the other hand, I’m the leader who put my life on the line to put a spotlight on the solutions to the critical problem of institutional corruption in the nations capitol. The spotlight is on the greater movement and the full spectrum of solutions. My flight, the fight, and this site are about restoring democracy. It’s what we all believe in.