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.

  • Jim Sanders

    Well, there is one thing that has to change, huh? Did you see Bill Moyers piece on “earmarks” Friday night? Patty Murray in Seattle (a “good person”) became a poster girl for how not to raise all the money needed to compete.
    –Sanders–

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Yup. That’s what US(?) politics IS. Raising money. All day, every day.

    You’ve waded into something that’s not going to be fixed by website badge or a cool widget (though I suppose the snazzy tech won’t harm anything).

  • http://civilities.net/people/JonGarfunkel Jon Garfunkel

    But for the grace of God and your pollster… did you forget somebody?

    Like your community here? It seemed like your in-district fans sowed enough doubt. Not saying your investment in a pollster wasn’t money well spent; I suppose you couldn’t well trust the “cheerleading of crowds” (of the Facebook-based, out-of-district variety). Here, on your own blog, you could have had the wisdom of Gabe Wachob.

    One point on PACs, man — reviewing the 2006 data from the FEC data, the average challenger (or open seat candidate) takes in $69,000 from PACs. That goes up by an average factor of ten for an incumbent. Take the cleanest-whistle freshman representative, and the one thing PAC money *may* do is relieve them from some of the exhaustion of doing personal fundraising.

    Also, the verbage of “Change Congress” is an oddity for someone who seemingly supports Democratic causes– with a new Democratic Congress just finishing their first term.

    I’m looking forward to what’s on your agenda. I have two mild suggestions. One, obviously the big news last week was McCain getting zinged for his association with a lobbyist eight years ago. Old news, but why don’t we have a scorecard which tries to examine the reasons for individual lawmaker votes? Did they vote out of conscience, or following the district, or following their backers? Seems like it could be a fun data-plugging project for thousands of volunteers (when they grow past rehashing the same arguments in the DailyKos threads).

    Two, it still seems like patent reform is a fight worth fighting. AT&T is seen as big evil corporate goliath among the net-neut crowd, yet even they prostrated themselves before Ron Katz, patent troller. And patent reform is yet another area where– as Seth F. has voiced on many occasions– it isn’t quite the people vs. the powerful. It’s one set of interests vs. another set of interests. You might, if you’re lucky, find the one True Incorruptible Genius RuleMaker who weighs all the evidence and says “The Law Must Be Thus.” But you’re not going to have 535. They’re going to check in with the interests.

    Call me old-fashioned, but I’m looking for a legal blog which patiently examines the issues of the day, ignores the partisan B.S. and intellectual sloppiness which creeps into blogs, and prepares some remedies for dealing with these sorts of problems.

  • Grant Walmer

    Does Bill Foster want to be part of the Change Congress initiative, or has he already taken money from lobbyists/PACs? Secondly, Larry, are you endorsing Foster, because I don’t see you on his long list of endorsements..

  • http://wideaperture.net Josh Braun

    I dunno which would be more ambitious—winning in CA-12 or getting rid of financial influence in national politics. I guess both was too much to hope for, but I’m certainly wishing you the best with the Change Congress movement, and will happily support it best I can on a grad student salary and schedule.

  • Velvet Elvis

    Part of the reason why it costs so much to run for office is because candidates have to buy airtime and do mass mailings to get their message out. Reinstating something like the fairness doctrine would go a long way towards reducing the cost of campaigning by forcing the news media to present factually accurate information about all candidates in the race. Candidates should not be forced to spend huge sums of money in order to communicate with the electorate.

    Indirectly, our good friends the media conglomerates bear a lot of the responsibility for the ballooning cost of running for public office. There are plenty of places where a Change Congress movement could overlap thematically with existing critiques of the media content industry.

  • http://wideaperture.net Josh Braun

    Jon & whoever else might be interested: Regarding the political scorecard, two sites to check out that are already in existence:

    http://politicalbase.com

    (I recommend looking at the Wiki pages for individual candidates, not just the blog. They’re quite impressive.)

    And, from across the pond:

    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/

  • http://www.socialsecuritybullshit.com Steve Baba

    “forcing the news media to present factually accurate information about all candidates in the race.”

    Mainstream media has always presented information on all candidates on the ballot, but the problem was that few people bothered to read the information in newspapers or listen to debates. Today, one can even look up all candidate websites for free.

    The problem is that 30-second advertisements work because disinterested voters fail to read or listen to most political information unless it’s shoved in their face with a 30-second commercial. Google “rational ignorance” or “paradox of voting” for a more academic explanation.

    Some people like being politicians, who are a necessary evil in my opinion, like lawyers.

    Rehashing the old campaign-finance free-speech argument, it’s not that easy or maybe even possible to separate the two.

  • http://civilities.net/people/JonGarfunkel Jon Garfunkel

    If anyone’s still reading here– it seems to have quieted down– can someone follow the oversight hearings on the USPTO tomorrow in the U.S. House of Representatives? That should be of some interest to the cyberlaw community, I believe.

  • http://emergingbillion.com/blog/ Emerging Markets

    People don’t read details about the platforms of potitical candidates, so that’s why the politicians spend money on all these marketing ads. They do work!