February 28, 2008  ·  Lessig

As some of you know, I helped the victim of child abuse win a pretty big victory in the New Jersey Supreme Court establishing clearly the right of victims to hold institutions responsible for abuse. As some of that some of you know, that led to the revelation that I too had been abused at the same school. (See also “Living with Ghosts“).

Both somes mean I now get email from victims of sex abuse all the time, asking for help in finding a lawyer. I have done what I can, but I don’t begin to have the right resources to identify good lawyers or other professionals to help these victims.

I realize, loyal blog reader, that this is beyond your usual scope. But if you could spread the word to others you might know, I’d be grateful. At this moment, I’m looking for someone good in Missouri. But again, I’d like to build a database with good recommendations beyond that. I’m not looking for a lawyer referral services, of which there are many, and many of which are very well run. I’m looking for one step beyond that — people who have experience in this field who have actually worked with others whose work they respect highly.

Please send any recommendations to advice4victims@pobox.com. Thanks.

February 25, 2008  ·  Lessig

So just off the phone with Bill Foster, a physicist from Illinois, Democrat, running in a special election to fill Dennis Hastert’s seat. When I started to think about this run, Foster was a model. A former researcher at Fermilab, and entrepreneur, he is precisely the sort a changed Congress would need.

“Seven hours a day” on the phone raising money. And with a Special Election just 10 days away, they’re pushing to raise a final $200,000 to run an endorsement ad from Barack Obama.

Seven hours a day. Wow.

February 25, 2008  ·  Lessig


Theora|MP4

With lots of mixed feelings, I have decided a run for Congress would not help the Change Congress movement. I explain the thinking in this 5 minute video (a new record for me!). First question: What happens to the contributions to Lessig08? As explained on the ActBlue page, all will go to (the yet to be established) Change Congress organization.

Thanks to everyone who helped me make this decision — and especially the many friends in the harshest way told me it would be a mistake.

February 21, 2008  ·  Lessig

So as we consider this seriously, I realize we need some serious advice and help with federal election law (amazingly, it turns out federal law is not terribly clear about some stuff). I’d be grateful for any volunteers. Send an email with some of your experience to lessig@lessig08.org.

February 20, 2008  ·  Lessig

A bunch have written asking whether one can consistently oppose taking money from “PACs” while accepting contributions through ActBlue — a PAC. In my view, there is a difference, since every dollar given is directed to a candidate directly by an individual, and the problem with “PACs” is that it allows a single entity to leverage a number of donations. (Compare: It is not legal to take money from corporations. But if you have a PayPal account, you get a check from PayPal — a corporation — whenever you withdraw the money. But obviously, there’s no problem in that.)

But no reason to create confusion, so as we move through the alpha/beta of our site, this may be an issue to reconsider.

I’ve spoken some more to the people who decided we would use ActBlue. The FEC has permitted ActBlue to function as a payment processor — e.g., exactly like PayPal. Any contribution through ActBlue is recorded as a contribution from the person making it, not ActBlue. So, no, in the relevant sense, ActBlue is not a PAC.

February 20, 2008  ·  Lessig

So I’ve been flooded with email advising me about this decision I need to make. Most of it is enormously generous. Some of it has been extremely strong — both in the sense of right, and in the sense of strongly stated and felt.

Again, in the spirit of what I think a race for public office should be, I will be commenting upon a bunch of this in this blog. Let me start today with the one interesting disagreement this question has raised, and about which I have strong feelings myself.

A bunch of people have asked (and some in the strongest way possible) that I not run because somehow, as a progressive (the pc word for “liberal”), it is wrong to challenge another established progressive. That there’s something unseemly about a primary contest between two or more progressives. That, as one person said, “Jackie has earned her dues, and she deserves it.”

There a bunch of ways in which I think this is mistaken. Here are just a few:

  1. I reject the idea of “dues” and “desert.” In my view, it you want a guaranteed job for life, become a law professor. Instead, I should think progressives would want to encourage a debate and choice by citizens in a district. We get too little of this. I can’t see the sin in pushing for more of it.

  2. I also reject the idea that only “bad” politicians should be challenged in a primary. Indeed, I think the opposite. Of course, bad/corrupt/sleazy politicians should be challenged. But so too should politicians be challenged who have a view about public matters that a challenger in good faith disagrees with. Let politics for once be a battle about something other than “character.” Let it be a battle about ideas, and which ideas matter. I take it that was the justification Jackie had for promising a primary challenge to a long-established incumbent. I agree with that justification.
  3. But I do believe that a challenge to a good politician — a challenged based solely upon a difference in values or ideals — should live up to a certain ethic. And if I ran, I would never deviate from this ethic. I honestly have enormous respect for Jackie Speier; I believe she was a strong and very successful state senator. Nothing in a campaign I would run would ever criticize or attack anything except the differences in either policies or experience. Those are the terms upon which a choice should be made. Those are the terms upon which I would frame the debate.
  4. I might think differently about this in a district in which there was a real risk that a candidate with radically different views would be elected because of the primary contest. It is for this reason that I criticized Nader in 2000 — or at least his decision not to withdraw after it was clear he was not going to win. But CA12 is a strongly Democratic district. It will elect a progressive Democrat. There is no realistic possibility that choosing one or the other will lose the district. Choosing one or the other will simply help define what “progressive” means.
  5. And this, in the end, is the most important issue for me: if I do this, I would do this because I think it is time for progressives to take a clear stand about money in politics. Too much of our rhetoric is about criticizing bad money (meaning money from corporations) while welcoming good money (money from unions, etc.) But until we shift the significance of money in the political process, we will not be able to avoid (in some cases, catastrophic) policy errors (catastrophic: global warming). Here, I believe, we should draw a line: Progressives should commit to giving up PAC/lobbyist money. And any candidate who fails to so commit should be disciplined in the way the framers imagined — through an open, free election, where people debate and vote on the basis of their values.

February 20, 2008  ·  Lessig

At lessig08.org, you can watch a 10 minute video explaining the launching of a Change Congress movement, and the decision I am trying to make about whether to run for Congress. That decision will be made soon. I’ve been spurred to consider it seriously by the enormous support of many at draftlessig.org and facebook (and by the cool swag at zazzle). Those three I had nothing to do with. But this I do.

This is a very difficult decision. In the coming days, I’ll reflect a bit about it here. Thank you to everyone who has tried to help — both through very strong words of encouragement and very very strong words to dissuade.