Fight Corruption at Its Roots

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Lawrence Lessig TED talk: We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim

Lawrence Lessig giving a TED talk called 'We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim'

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.

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  • Char Nelson

    Absolutlely, unequivocally, one of the best shows that tells us what we need to do to preserve our democracy.

  • Rick Shepherd

    This “money bomb” idea could work — or just ratchet up the money “arms race.”

    An alternative would be to institute some version of sortition, the random selection of representatives, which involves no campaign financing at all. I believe a reasonable goal would be an amendment to create a third house of Congress, all of whose members are chosen randomly from the US citizenry. This house should have a large amount of power to set the agenda for the other two houses. Solving the serious unemployment/underemployment issue could actually gain priority this way, for example. The people who would best represent many (maybe even most) of us would be the people who would never voluntarily pursue such an elected position. It would be wise to try such a mechanism on the state level first, however.

  • Scot Mc Esler

    The Framers of the Constitution crafted the “system” that serves the elite, rich, powerful who own and always will own Congress. Moyers/Lessig show superb as it is, trying to stop/reform the money will not succeed as the Moyers Lessig show proves. Can you keep bees away from the Hive?? This website is not a political party. It is non partisan as it affects all ideology equally. This website proposes the solution, all be it a long road.

  • Anonymous

    Hey – Mr. Moyers;

    How about leading by example and helping U.S. stop one of the largest organized criminal enterprises; which is openly demonstrating federal corruption without remorse or relent?

    You know what Marc Dreier Fraud (Dreier doing 20 years), Rothstein/Discala Fraud (50 years in Prison), Tom Petters Ponzi (50 years in Prison), Okun 1031 Group (100 years in Prison) and Stanford (Tagg Romney deal) – they all have in common?!?!?!?!


    And Paul Traub is the secret attorney for Mitt Romney!

    (proof is public docket records/ federal archives)

    Mr. Traub, Colm Connolly and myself are the “real” reasons that Mitt lied upon his campaign finance form about when he retired from Bain Capital.

    His “retroactivity” is purportedly from August 2001, back to February 1999.

    Colm Connolly was a partner at MNAT law firm that SAME EXACT period of time (where The Learning Company, Stage Stores, Kay Bee and eToys frauds transpired).

    They offered a bribe – to look the other way in eToys. When it was turned down (and reported) – Colm Connolly became the United States Attorney in Delaware (who then refused to investigate and/or prosecute Romney and his RICO Gang for 7 years).

    When an insignificant such as a victim/whistleblower tells these facts – no one cares; but if you just state the facts (and ask simple questions) – Everyone will listen.

    You have the power to make a difference!

  • Anonymous

    By the way, the bribe offer in eToys was only $850,000 (and a partnership for the future with the big guy). So – in Kay Bee Toys – Michael Glazer got $18 million (the truth is, that kind of money would making anyone take “pause”). Glazer (CEO of Kay Bee) also paid Bain Capital $83 million (before filing bankruptcy of Kay Bee).

    Now, you would be correct – in the premise that this is bankruptcy fraud. But that would be in a “bound to the Law” realm of justice.

    Romney, Bain and Paul Traub are Above the Law!

    You can see a detailed discussion of Stage Stores in Rolling Stone Sept 2012 cover story “Greed and Debt”. Where Taibbi informs U.S. have judicial corruption helped form Stage Stores from Michael Milken’s Jund Bond Fraud monies.

    What Taibbi missed (cancelling our conference call right before the story broke) – is the fact that Romney owned Stage, Jack Bush and Michael Glazer were his “Directors” and Barry Gold was the “director’s assistant” (who then hired Paul Traub).

    In eToys, MNAT lies to become eToys counsel (hiding Bain connections to this daY) and Traub lies to become eToys creditors counsel. (This is CONFESSED by the way).

    Then, MNAT and Traub (illegally) insert Barry Gold as CEO of eToys (who then sells eToys to Bain/ Kay Bee for almost nothing).

    In Kay Bee case – MNAT represents Bain Capital on the $83 million and Paul Traub asked to be the one to prosecute Glazer and Bain (again LYING about his connections to the parties)

    Colm Connolly (another Romney/ Bain secret attorney) – refuses as United States Attorney in Delaware – to investigate and/or prosecute the crimes.

    All this is Public Docket Record!

  • Tiamat1

    If it is TRUE that the ‘air waves’ belong to WE THE PEOPLE and that the FCC is chartered to “serve the public interest (aka OUR interest)” along with regulating the use of the People’s Airwaves for whatever FEE the FCC takes in for it’s own non-profit administrative efforts, if all of that is so – then by all means, and quickly so, I am willing to sacrifice100 (no make it 200) of the cable programs and channels for the purpose of ALL POLITICIANS – state and federal – to have FREE AIR TIME – on me, one of the people!!! Especially since I am already paying for the mgt. of same and considering what runs on ‘the people’s ariwaves’ as ‘worthy’ (so not!) – I would GLADLY sacrifice 300 channels to save my country from the MONEY GAME that rots our country , our very Democracy. For my children’s grandchildren GLADY will I give up cable channels that do not ‘serve public interest’ but rather play on the worst in us as a people and a species. Make it 400 channels for FREE aire time to politicians!!!! No more corruption by means of ‘prostitution’ via the telephones for our politicians. No need for money to campaign – when they have our FREE air time. There – all grown up and back to work again! IMAGINE…………Can do? FASTER then an amendment, speedier that a supreme tap dancing, etc., etc.

  • Miki

    He’s very clear and plainspoken in saying our democracy is broken. That’s obvious but no one seems inclined to say so openly. But once the cat’s out of the bag maybe we can fix this thing. If not, then indeed, this is the new century of China because they might not be nice but at least they’re smart and strategic.

  • Waldo

    Why can’t we have a plebiscite to eliminate paid private influence peddling and begin to approximate a representative form of government?

  • Healthy Bastard

    This is it in a nutshell – but more specificly we need a constitutional ammendment that once and for all takes the money out of politics! It will take 20 years but in the end we will have the real deal!

  • Mandy Sue

    The problem is money IN politics rather than money and politics. Politics would be a lot better (fairer, more effective, transparent) without the influence of money.

  • cruellamad

    Right on Healthy Bastard…..But that’s going to take all the 99% collectively. First we need to go state by state. Lobbying, in any form shall be illegal; any elected official who is found guilty shall be removed from office and pension forfieted. AND No outside entity shall take part, in any way, shape or form, the making of Local, State, and Federal law. This is a call to arms. Forget occupy Wall Street. Let’s Occupy America and take back our government.

  • George Elgin

    Who is going to implement the laws for all of that? The state legislatures are just as corrupt as the Federal. Take a look at the following website.
    Then download the White Paper OK? It can work!

  • George Elgin

    I am saying so openly! Take a look at the following website.

    Then download the White Paper OK? It can work!

  • George Elgin

    I have proposed a much shorter road, and i WILL work ! Take a look at the following website.

    Then download the White Paper OK?

  • George Elgin

    Please! Take a look at the web sit below!

    Then download the White Paper OK? It can work! It just needs a lot of people working together!

  • George Elgin

    Your Right! Please! Take a look at the web sit below!
    Then download the White Paper OK? It can work! It just needs a lot of people working together!

  • George Elgin

    The TV networks just love Big Money Politics. In the 2012 election, The Huge corporations spent over 3.8 BILLION dollars on media ads in support of, or against Congressional candidates. Most of it went to the TV Networks. They don’t want to see us take the money out of politics. It’s now legal for any corporation to spend corporate funds on politics, as long as they don’t give it directly to a candidate. I’v been working on a way to fight this corruption since before the 2012 election. it’s not as glamorous as other ways, but my way will work — with everybody helping! – – Go to my website and download the White Paper and read the whole thing. It’s only 6 pages! – – –

  • Anonymous

    George, that website seems to be a zombie (active, but empty). I guess the organization is not active any more?