And I don’t mean literally use a whip to lash your representative. When party leadership in one of the houses of Congress wants to support a bill, they “whip” support by counting supportive votes in their chamber and urging undecideds to come on board. Lawrence Lessig wants you to take a minute to join ordinary citizens in our own whip operation to whip your representative in favor of the Fair Elections Now Act.
I had the great fortune to be able to see Larry Lessig at Netroots Nation last summer. Lessig is something of a information policy guru, always looking for ways to leverage new lines of communication to broaden the impact we can have on society. He helped create the Creative Commons license, a form of copyright that allows the creator to choose the level of copyright protection they wish to afford their creation. Now he’s turned his attention towards improving the political process, and with others on both the left and the right, he’s come up with Change Congress.
Lessig explains in this great slideshow presented at Netroots Nation (Lessig begins at about 6 minutes in) that when large amounts of money flow toward a decision maker, those outside the decision making process have a very difficult time trusting that the decision was made fairly. In many cases, money, or the fact that big donors have greater access to those making a decision, leads directly to a verifiably wrong decision slanted in favor of those who hand out the cash. The ultimate outcome is a set of flawed policy outcomes and a public deeply distrustful of its elected leaders. As an astute commenter noted in response to yesterday’s post on public financing in Missouri, it really is a fundamental reform that makes it easier to pass other progressive reforms.
So now, Change Congress has put together some tools to help people pressure Congress for reform. They have a new click-to-call tool to make it easy for you to call your representatives in Congress and urge them to support the Fair Elections Now Act, a public financing system for members of Congress.
Basically, the bipartisan legislation sets up a fund that matches small contributions at a 4 to 1 ratio as long as the candidate doesn’t accept contributions of more than $100 per donor. This creates a powerful incentive to stay in the public financing system and seek out small contributions from as many people as possible. So instead of spending five hours a day calling big donors and begging for money, a candidate can spend his or her time talking to their prospective constituents.
Remember, if you take a few minutes to call your representative now, that will help make it possible for him or her to spend more time listening to you and a lot less time listening to the executives of AIG, Bank of America, etc.