21 March, 2008

The Change Congress movement

Lawrence Lessig announced the official launch of the Change Congress movement yesterday in DC. Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, is an outspoken crusader for reform of the political process. More specifically, he is a leading mind in the effort to understand the phenomenon that is institutional corruption. Whereas individual corruption is more or less straightforward (you give me this suitcase full of money and I vote the way you tell me to), institutional corruption refers more to the current regime of incentives and disincentives that skews public policy away from rationality and accountability. For quick primer on Lessig's basic take on the whole situation, I recommend this video.

The whole motivating philosophy behind the Change Congress campaign is that of using the participatory nature of the internet to hold elected officials accountable and organize a broad grassroots consensus for change. The four major tenets of the movement are as follows:

  1. No money from lobbyists or PACs (political action committees)
  2. Vote to end earmarks
  3. Support public-financed campaigns
  4. Support reform to increase Congressional transparency

The idea is that candidates running for office will register with Change Congress and pledge their support for some or all of the above reforms. This way, citizens will be able to track which candidates are committed to what tenets, and Change Congress will track their votes and fundraising to verify to what extent congresspeople have lived up to their promises.

Anyway, as an official member of the Change Congress movement, I wanted to give my plug -- and I urge all of you to take a look and think about joining, even if you don't agree with all of the tenets. In this coming election cycle, what happens in Congress will be at least as important as who wins the presidency -- with 68 seats currently contestable (a number which may rise as more and more incumbent Republicans decide to jump ship) and Democrats in what appears to be a very strong position (as evidenced by the startling Democratic upset in Illinois) there is an historic chance to put a lot of reform-minded candidates in office.

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