You might know Lawrence "Larry" Lessig if you've recently taken a constitutional law class at Harvard, or if you were among his graduating class at Trinity College, Cambridge; Wharton; or Yale Law. If you never got around to accessing the highest reaches of academia, you might know him as the guy who founded Creative Commons, a more flexible alternative to the current copyright system. But if you haven't heard of any of that, then all you need to know is that he's a smart guy who really, really, really doesn't like big money's influence in politics. He thinks that money has so corrupted our democracy that he is considering a run for the presidency to get, as he said on Democracy Now! yesterday, "our democracy back," by passing a single bill. Once that bill passes, he'll resign and let the vice president take over. (He says he likes Bernie or Elizabeth Warren.)
He's calling the bill The Citizen Equality Act of 2017, which he says will accomplish three things. It will (1) establish citizen-funded elections (2) end gerrymandering, and (3) end systems that encourage people not to vote. Under this act, Election Day would become a national holiday, campaigns would be funded by citizens who've been given voting vouchers or who participate in a fund-matching system.
He's billing himself as the first Referendum President, a guy who's going to accomplish one thing: change the way we fund elections. Until we address that issue, he claims, we'll never be able to move forward on any issue—be it climate change, breaking up the banks, criminal justice reform. Doing this, Lessig believes, will make the government responsive not just to monied interests but to everybody.
Of course, Bernie Sanders wants to overturn Citizens United, and even Hillary supports a constitutional amendment to favor people who just have a voice and a vote and not millions of dollars. Perhaps critiquing one of Bernie's talking points, Lessig argues that, "America is not yet of the view that we can become Sweden," but the idea of getting our democracy back might resonate.
None of his proposals are new, Lessig admits. He's simply producing a package of concerns and prioritizing them over the rest because campaign funding, for him, is the big clot of hair in the drain that's blocking up the bathwater of democracy. But he won't run unless he raises a million dollars by Labor Day. As of this moment he's sitting on: $597,846.