January 27, 2009  ·  Lessig

Breaking news from The Huffington Post:

Three days after receiving $25 billion in federal bailout funds, Bank of America Corp. hosted a conference call with conservative activists and business officials to organize opposition to the U.S. labor community’s top legislative priority.

Participants on the October 17 call — including at least one representative from another bailout recipient, AIG — were urged to persuade their clients to send “large contributions” to groups working against the Employee Free Trade Act (EFCA), as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans, who could help block passage of the bill.

…Donations of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to Republican senatorial campaigns were needed, they argued…”If a retailer has not gotten involved in this, if he has not spent money on this election, if he has not sent money to [former Sen.] Norm Coleman and all these other guys, they should be shot. They should be thrown out their goddamn jobs,” Marcus declared.

Not only are some of the most non-trusted companies in America blatantly trying to buy off Congress, but they’re using our bailout money to do it.

This will ONLY change when elections are citizen funded. Join our strike4change to (1) starve the beast, (2) just say no, or (3) fix this absurd system — now. No money until a candidate commits to citizen funded elections.

  • http://hodges-model.blogspot.com/ peter jones

    Dear Sir,

    You and your readers may appreciate the following:

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    A book review of Gary Hall’s “DIGITIZE THIS BOOK!” UoMP

    Gary Hall’s “DIGITIZE THIS BOOK!: The Politics of New Media, or Why We Need Open Access Now”. A detailed review of this important book concerning the state of academic publishing, open access archives, the theory, practice and ethics of new digital media.

    Many thanks

    Peter Jones
    P.S. Must read your most recent title!

  • http://www.intellectualeconomy.wordpress.com Bradley Hall

    While I enjoyed Mr. Hall’s book, and recommend it, I do not see how spamming it here fits the topic at hand.

    I can’t say that companies using bailout money to buy more congressmen surprises me. Next time they’ll be able to get a trillion dollar handout.

  • http://saltpepperketchoop.com JP

    Prof. Lessig,

    With all due respect, I think this isn’t exactly the best example. The Huffington post article is rather misleading, in that Bank of America and AIG appeared to have played a trivial role in the referenced conference call, at most. Bernie Marcus, CEO of Home Depot, who is quoted above, seems to be aiming more at persuading investors in various retail entities to give money in order to strengthen an anti-union stance for his company and others. Marcus, of course, didn’t receive any bailout money, and there’s no indication here that anyone at BofA or AIG acted on Marcus’s comments. I’m sure that bailout money is being used left and right to market these corporations and buy the right people off, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the case here. BofA hosted the conference call but it sure seems like their involvement wasn’t much beyond that.

  • James

    It’s odd to see companies in effect defending the basic democratic principle of a secret ballot while the supposed worker representative organisations want to eliminate that basic requirement of an intimidation-free voting process. Not an impressive showing by organised labour in the US. Should at least be doing a better job of appearing to be acting in the interests of employee free choice.

    At least the stronger measures against employers doing the intimidating are a good thing. Shame it opens the door to more union intimidation,though.

  • Jardinero1

    You should be asking why they are getting bailout money in the first place.

  • DQKennard

    This “lijit” thing blocks text on your blog. In this case, I can barely see the “N” of the News link and the “ine” of the Whine link, and there’s a chunk of the first two paragraphs of the entry covered up.

    Just so you know.

  • Justen

    I am also have that problem with the “Lijit” widget.

  • Justen

    I am also haves bad grammar.

    yuck. my apologies.

  • DB

    How is this any different than a public school district using taxpayer dollars to lobby the federal government on education bills? Oh right! You probably agree with the education bills. If you want to take a stand against taxpayer-funded lobbying, go right ahead. But at least be consistent…

    http://www.americansforprosperity.org/files/PolicyPaperTFL2008.pdf

  • http://www.laduidefenseteam.com JT

    Unfortunately, this game is being played by both sides, and the bank probably sees it as a business investment. Spending ten million dollars now may profit the company 100 million dollars later. In which case, you can’t really fault them. The problem is that anyone with a million dollars can influence the system and Congress rushed too quickly to pass a bail out bill that didn’t have a fraud or checks/balances provision.

  • http://drinian.org drinian

    While the bailout funds are clearly being abused to allow these banks to just keep on with business as usual, I fail to understand why EFCA has any support at all, given that it takes away workers’ right to a secret ballot.

  • dave

    Hey DB,

    If you’re going to call out Professor Lessig, at least do it on the grounds of something he’s actually done. Your accusation is ultimately hollow; hyopethical hyopocracies?

    Give me a break. Quit being a DB.

  • anon

    Why does Change Congress support public financing of elections?

    Do politicians need welfare?

    I like many of the ideas behind Change Congress, but I just don’t see how public financing of elections is a good idea. Can someone elaborate why it’s a good idea? I’ve reviewed the Change Congress site, but from what I’ve read, it just assumes public financing of elections is self-evidently a good idea without explaining why…

  • http://www.shamptonian.org Scot Hampton

    Call me naive, crazy, etc., but I think there should be NO financing allowed for running in an election. Everyone is created equal and thus, in running for office, should remain that way. You shouldn’t need money to run for public office. It shouldn’t even be allowed into the equation.

    Of course, all of you will ask, “well, who’s going to pay for the mailers, flyers, phone calls, street signs, workers??! You’re crazy!” Well, yeah, but truth aside, it is time for an entirely new equation, and it could be that the removal of financial incentives that may offer the most radical and progressive change. But hey, prove me wrong!

  • Josh

    How am I supposed to read the story with this lijit thing over the words?

  • Josh

    How am I supposed to read the story with this lijit thing over the words?

  • Jardinero1

    Some fundamental questions for Prof Lessig and the other “fundamental changists” to consider:

    What about the data to date? We have thirty-five years of campaign finance law and matching funding to review. Has any of it reduced corruption in Congress? Will more of the same change anything?

    What incentives or distortions do government matching funds create in the system?

    What incentives or distortions do limiting donations create in the system? Remember the Clinton’s bundling scandal?

    Why would any sane person allow those in power to determine who gets the funding to rise to power? How is that a reform? Sounds like an aristocracy to me.

    How is more public financing “fundamental change”?

    What about the first amendment?

  • http://fora.tv Heidi

    Here’s Lawrence talking about his new book on Fora.TV
    http://fora.tv/2009/01/14/Lawrence_Lessig_Remix

  • http://fora.tv Heidi

    Here’s Lawrence talking about his new book on Fora.TV
    http://fora.tv/2009/01/14/Lawrence_Lessig_Remix

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

    That stupid widget has been blocking my view of your text also.

    I thought I was just too stupid or did not care enought to find the minimize button.

    Seems to be a flaw with open source systems – not checked for compatiablitity.

    Didn’t Obama already promice/sell out to the unions on the employee “free” choice act. The same unions bailed out with the automotive companies. I am shocked, shocked that business and Repblicans would do the same.

    Seems like the unions are worried that Obama will not stay bought since the unions are now running advertisements encouraging Obama to keep his campaign “promice” although Obama’s promices all seem to have many conditions.

    Too bad for the Unions, Obama no longer needs them, but Obama needs the median voter.

  • André

    Sorry, I don’t get it. Why can’t the US have party financing as in the rest of the world, based on election results. Why can’t the US have strong programmatic parties? The whole concept of citizen funded elections is flawed as an economist would tell you. I can explain you why.

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

    Where is the outrage over Dashele? Aside from not paying taxes, not the biggest deal, but he just gets “car service” because out of the goodness of his friend’s heart??

    You could not make this stuff up. A perfect example of the problems with money and politics yet a “reform” organization is blind to it because it’s not Republicans doing it.

  • Frank

    You can’t tell me that anyone here is actually surprised to hear this! The bailout was a joke from conception and managed to do nothing but waste tax dollars. Just one more great example of a lousy chess move made by our government.

    Frank
    Real Estate Jobs

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