November 10, 2008  ·  Lessig

A Change Congress supporter writes:

“I am a supporter of your Change Congress movement and have followed your work for a long time. I am also an Obama supporter. I am writing to urge you to share your thoughts with your blog readers about what an Obama administration might entail for the Change Congress movement, and whether you think Obama is committed to government reform….”

Great question. I think many of us are so used to disappointment, we’re looking for it, and so not even a week after that extraordinary night, many are beginning to wonder what “change” here will really mean?

But I think we need a certain kind of understanding, or patience here. Imagine, by analogy, a loved one has cancer. She decides to get chemo-therapy to deal with the cancer. But on the way to the hospital, imagine she gets hit with a bullet from a drive-by shooting. (Dark, ok, but you’ll see the meaning here in a second). Now an ambulance comes and races this gun-shot victim with cancer to the emergency room.

This sad story is a picture of us just now. The “change Washington” rhetoric of this campaign is the analog to the cancer. The financial collapse is the analog of the shooting. And just as with the cancer patient, the collapse is an urgent, immediate problem that must be solved before the more fundamental, long term problem can be addressed.

This means we have to be a bit patient before the more fundamental issue gets addressed. Not that one shouldn’t be critical of decisions that will make it more difficult to cure the cancer. But that the lack of an immediate push on that problem is not inconsistent with the design to cure it.

I only hope they recognize that as with the gun-shot, cancer victim, there needs to be essentially two teams thinking about these two different kinds of problems. One focusing immediately on stabilizing the patient. The second on how the stable patient can be treated for the cancer. The skills of the former team are not necessarily the skills of the latter. And if Obama is to be the transformational president he can be, building a strategy around that transformation will be essential.

Update: A good sign: Podesta:

“I’ve heard the complaint [that] we’re leaving all this expertise on the side, because we’re leaving all the people who know everything out in the cold. And so be it. This is a commitment that the American public expects, and it’s one that we intend to enforce during the transition.”

November 5, 2008  ·  Lessig


From the CC site:

Pop star Gwen Stefani and her husband, rocker Gavin Rossdale recently welcomed a baby, Zuma Nesta Rock Rossdale, into the world. Many celebrities contract with a magazine to arrange an exclusive photo session that debuts mother with newborn. But Stefani and Rossdale took a different approach and hired their own photographer and put the photo online for the public under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND license, along with some additional terms that allow all print magazines, newspapers, and blogs to use the photo – even commercially, with some restrictions. You can download a high-res version of the photo (and check out the additional terms the photo is available under) at Stefani’s site.

October 19, 2008  ·  Lessig


Just over 6 months ago, I agreed with Joe Trippi to help start a movement for fundamental reform in Congress. We understood that this was a long term project. But as we felt then — and as the events of the last 6 months only confirmed — we face, as Al Gore has put it, “a democracy crisis.” And until we fix this, we won’t fix any of the critical problems that face our society.

Many of you urged me to do this. And so I’m asking now for a favor in return. We’ve started. We’ve made important progress. But we need you now to help us make an important mark before this election comes to an end.

Our first project has been to get Members of Congress as well as candidates for Congress to take a stand on our issues of reform. We don’t demand that they agree with any particular reform (yet). We simply call upon them to have the courage at least to say where they stand.

The five people you see pictured above are the first five Members of Congress to take a stand: Barney Frank (D-MA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD), and John Tierney (D-MA). Four Democrats, and one Republican have signed a pledge to support planks in our platform for reform. These 5 are joined now by more than 150 challengers who have taken a stand.

That’s a start. But it’s not good enough. And so I’m asking again: please help us get Members and candidates to take a stand. You can join our “pester” campaign by clicking here, and we’ll make it extremely easy for you to write, or call, or email members or candidates who have not yet taken a stand.

This should be a simple thing in a democracy: Tell us, candidate, what you believe. It should be a hard thing to hide from. Yet in the politics of today, the simple thing is to hide. Help us make the simple hard.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to the latest version of the Change Congress talk.

October 16, 2008  ·  Lessig

Here’s what I was instructed to spam my friends with by the ever-vigilant Change Congress staff. I’m spamming my blog readers instead:

Dear Friends,

My organization needs your help.

Change Congress is asking candidates for Congress and current members of Congress, their stance on key reform issues from earmark reform to taking money from lobbyists and PACs. The goal is to provide a user-friendly map of where our politicians are when it comes to these key reform issues.

We’ve setup two ways people like you can help with our new iPledge Project:

1. Pester Your member of Congress:
Simply by going to the website below you can actually find your member of Congress as well as candidates in your district/state and drop them an email, letter or a phone call asking them to tell us where they stand on our issues. We provide scripts and all you have to do is press SEND.

2. TAG a politician
Stumble upon an article or press release where your member of Congress says they support earmark reform? We’re asking folks to attach these articles to the individual webpages of each politician by “TAGGING” it. This will let the community see what each politician has stated publicly on each of these key issues.

We’ll be meeting at our offices every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evening through October between 4PM – 7PM. Please join us for drinks, snacks, and laptops!

Change Congress
543 Howard Street (btween 1st and 2nd)
5th Floor
San Francisco, CA 94105

The future of democracy will not simply rely on grassroots but also on the “netroots” — bands of internet users sharing and creating information with each other through websites.

I hope you can help!

Thanks so much,

September 11, 2008  ·  Lessig

SusanG at the DailyKos has a callout for John Cole’s post about earmarks. As Cole put’s it:

The total national debt, as I write this, is $9,679,000,000,000.00 (nine and a half trillion).

The Budget for 2008 is close to $3,000,000,000,000.00 (three trillion).

Our budget deficit for this year is going to range in between $400-500,000,000,000.00 (four hundred to five hundred billion, give or take a few billion).

The total value of earmarks in 2008 will be approximately $18,000,000,000.00 (eighteen billion).

In other words, when McCain talks about earmarks, he is talking about 3% of our annual budget deficit, .6% of our annual budget, and a number too small to even report when discussing our national debt. Or, put another way, he is talking about two months in Iraq, something he wants to keep going indefinitely.

Not only are they lying about Palin’s involvements with earmarks, they are just not being serious about the horrible economic problems we face. These are not serious people.

I think this is missing the point. True, earmarks are small potatoes. But the problem with earmarks is that they’ve become an engine of corruption. The explosion after the Republicans took over under Newt was because they were a newly deployed source of influence, designed (too often) to induce or repay a gift (or what others call, a campaign contribution).

Liberals should be as upset with this as conservatives (though for different reasons no doubt). And we should especially (imho) resist the “if McCain believes it it must be wrong” trope. McCain is right to criticize earmarks. Whether he (or Palin) can do it credibly is a separate matter.

August 28, 2008  ·  Lessig

Obama has famously (and rightfully) refused money from lobbyists and PACs. After he became the presumptive nominee, the DNC did the same. But both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee still accept money from lobbyists and PACs.

As this issue of reform is (sadly) increasingly invisible in this campaign, we at Change Congress are launching a campaign to get the Dems to be consistent about this.

Ideally, the DSCC and DCCC should follow Obama’s lead, and swear off lobbyists & PAC money. Or at the very least, both should promise to do so if the Republicans do.

We’ve started a petition. Please help spread it.

August 11, 2008  ·  Lessig

Readers of these pages will have been burdened with version after version of my talks about corruption and the Change Congress movement. This Wednesday, in San Jose, I’ll give a final 20+ minute spin on this, and then release the source material at for others to take and build upon.

The live event will be at the Commonwealth Club, San Jose. Here’s the link for information.