“Yes, we want to spend big money to end the influence of big money ... Ironic, I get it. But embrace the irony,” says Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig of his endeavor to influence campaign finance legislation. In May of 2014, Lessig started his own Super PAC to end all Super PACs: “Mayday,” named for the distress calls that evoke a sense of urgency and moral obligation.
The New Republic senior editor Noam Scheiber provides an account of Lessig’s plan and some pragmatic reasons why Mayday is the last good chance to prevent current parameters from becoming irrevocable.
There is an existing irony in campaign finance reform: no one capable of making a change is interested, and no one bent on reform is wealthy enough to make it happen. Limiting the influence of money doesn’t appeal to those who have a lot of money. Scheiber recognizes the need for an intervention from big money itself — every cause must have support from a wealthy interest group in order to survive. For Mayday, Scheiber proposes Silicon Valley as its redeemer.
He claims that, because techies are “ideologically sympathetic” to Mayday’s mission, they are the most likely sector to match funding. Scheiber also differentiates Silicon Valley by its distance from Washington. Tech companies have grown extremely wealthy in the past decade without really establishing a relationship with Washington. Techies already have a tendency to invest in things that are simultaneously high-risk and high-reward — Mayday matches these criteria with a mission that is more ambitious than likely.
Lessig and Scheiber agree that campaign finance reform must precede any other reform; keeping money and political power so closely tied will produce politicians motivated by self-interest, and an environment in which little can be achieved.
The window for change is closing, Scheiber argues. The tech bubble will inevitably burst, taking with it any Silicon Valley Billionaires interested in using their spare cash to change the status quo. You might be skeptical of Mayday, but, says Scheiber, “it would be a crime to let the moment go to waste.”
The Source: “The One Way to Harness Silicon Valley’s Self-Interest for the Good of the Country,” by Noam Scheiber, The New Republic, June 3, 2014.
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