February 14, 2013 · Lessig
“There’s another challenge that we must address and it is the corrupting force of the vast sums of money necessary to run for office. The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself.”
No, that’s not a quote from the President Obama’s State of the Union address. But it is from a recent speech by the newest member of his cabinet: John Kerry.
We both were struck by Kerry’s candidness and eloquence on the matter of money in politics as he gave his farewell address to the Senate, where he has spent the last 28 years of his life.
We were so struck, in fact, that we – and our good friends at HuffPost, including Arianna – need your help.
We’re calling it the On the Record Project.
We need to get every member of the House and Senate on the record about the force “that threatens to steal our democracy itself.”
We can no longer afford to have our public officials remain silent on this crucial issue. They should no longer be allowed to duck it, or to act is if there is no mandate to fix the problem.
In fact, the mandate couldn’t be clearer. Year after year, poll after poll has shown that we, the people, are sickened by the way in which money corrodes and corrupts our democracy. In a Gallup poll last July, 87% of us said that reducing government corruption should be an “extremely important” or “very important” priority for the president. It ranked second on a list a dozen – from improving education to strengthening national security — just below job creation (which came in #1, at 92%).
Corruption. It’s a strong word. But that’s how vast majorities of us see it, and now Secretary o State John Kerry confirmed that we’re not nuts: “I’ve used the word ‘corrupting’ and I want to be very clear about it. I mean by it not the corruption of individuals but a corruption of a system itself that all of us are forced to participate in against our will: The alliance of money and the interests that it represents, the access that it affords to those who have it at the expense of those who don’t, the agenda that it changes or sets by virtue of its power is steadily silencing the voice of the vast majority of Americans who have a much harder time competing or who can’t compete at all.”
We Americans are not the type of people who have ever allowed our collective voice to be steadily silenced. Other countries may have a higher tolerance for such muting of the masses, but not us. And it’s time to speak up, and to get every one of our elected representatives to speak up, too. Do they agree or disagree with 87% of us? Do they think John Kerry’s reflections, informed by three decades of service on Capitol Hill, are accurate or not?
To help manage the On the Record Project, HuffPost has set up a system for all of us to help get every member of Congress on the record.
It’s simple enough, but will require some guts and persistence to pull it off.
Here’s what we need you to do:
Go to a gathering that your representative or senator is attending and ask him/her:
What is your view on campaign finance?
Do you believe that the “unending chase for money” has corrupted politics?
Record their answers to both questions on video. Use your cell phone or whatever device you want and then post it with the other videos so that we have an exact record of what they said.
Upload your audio to SoundCloud and tag it #campaignmoney
Or, send us video clips through SendSpace.
Or, send files to us directly at email@example.com
The goal of this project is not merely to get every one of them on the record, but then to use what they say to help propel them to act – to reform the system — or to hold them accountable when they either fail to act or fail to acknowledge the crisis of corruption.
Acknowledgement of an illness is the gateway to wellness. As it is with alcoholics, the first step to sobriety is publicly admitting the addiction.
And on that front, once again John Kerry was very clear: “We should not resign ourselves, Mr. President, to a distorted system that corrodes our democracy, and this is what is contributing to the justifiable anger of the American people. They know it. They know we know it. And yet nothing happens. The truth requires that we call the corrosion of money in politics what it is – it is a form of corruption and it muzzles more Americans than
it empowers, and it is an imbalance that the world has taught us can only sow the seeds of unrest.”
Indeed, they do know it. And they do know that we know it. And, yet, nothing is happening in Washington.
At least, until now.
Let’s get every politician to take a stand – either for the status quo or against it — so that we know who’s on what side. Doing so will help all 87% of us democracy-loving Americans draw the battle lines for the future.
Please, join the cause. Become a part of the On The Record Project now.
Questions on this project? Let us know in the comments below. We will update this scorecard with your responses.
(Original post on HuffPo)