America’s political system has been bought and paid for, making it nearly impossible to get anything done that goes against the interest of deep-pocketed funders. Activists often say that fixing this legalized corruption may not be America’s biggest problem, but it is the most urgent. Author and activist Lawrence Lessig quotes Henry David Thoreau to put it another way: “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” The many challenges facing American democracy today are the branches, Lessig says, but money and politics is at the root of it all.
To combat its influence, Lessig founded the Rootstrikers Campaign. Here are some ways you can get involved:
Get politicians on the record about corruption: In his farewell speech from the Senate, John Kerry said, “the unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself.” Call your representatives and ask them how they feel about the sway money holds over the political system. Then add their thoughts to a crowdsourced database put together by Rootstrikers and The Huffington Post.
Join the Campus Remix Challenge: Are you a student? Rootstrikers is having a competition to find the best, most inventive way of describing how this problem affects your generation. The campaign organizers ask for students to submit any kind of creative presentation about the corrupting influence of money in politics before July 22. The creators of their three favorite submission will receive a bit of tuition assistance.
Learn about fair elections legislation in New York State: Do you live in New York? The state is considering an election reform act that is similar to laws already in place in Maine, Arizona and Connecticut, and could be a model for other states. The “fair elections” legislation has passed the State Assembly, and is being considered in the Senate. Supporters of the bill are encouraging citizens who want campaign finance reform to tell their legislators that they support fair election legislation.
Make corruption your issue: Lawrence Lessig’s TED talk spread far and wide, and although he’s stopped doing it before audiences, it will live on online. The Rootstrikers campaign encourages you to pick up the torch by making the message your own and sharing it with your friends, family and social networks.
Petition the FEC to investigate corruption: Call on the Federal Elections Commission, which oversees political fundraising, to investigate the various abuses that lead to government corruption, including single-candidate super PACs.
Also worth noting: Lessig has a plan for a super PAC to end all super PACs, an organization he calls the “money bomb.” Lessig is looking for about 50 billionaires who, in the name of American democracy, will be willing to give between$20 million and $40 million dollars each, which will then be spent raising awareness about ways to get money out of politics, like grassroots public funding of campaigns. His super PAC idea will be something to keep an eye on.