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Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Project Attempts to Return Political Power to the People

The Change Congress project's first mission is to diminish the influence of money in the legislative body by influencing the outcome of the 2008 election campaigns of 67 members of congress which are up for grabs. As the Change Congress project founder Larry Lessig noted in the project's launch Thursday afternoon, there haven't been so many seats open up for challenge in more than a decade.

"The problem we face is ... the problem of crony capitalism using money to capture government," he said on Monday during the launch of his project in Washington, DC. "The challenge is whether in fact we can change this. The political experts tell you that it can't be done, that process always win over substance."

The professor wants legislators to promise to do four things which he says will reduce the influence of money on policymaking: To promise not to accept money from lobbyists and political action committees; support public financing of elections; commit to passing legislation to permanently ban the funneling of money to their districts' projects of questionable worth; and to commit to "compel transparency in the functioning of congress." The project will rely on engaged voters to record and map responses by candidates who are running for open seats. The idea is to make what seems like an abstract idea visually tangible through a Google mash-up.


This is the type of "outside the box" thinking we need in this country to loosen the grip of powerful lobbying groups in Washington D.C. It's true that the internet has made it possible to accomodate many voices on multiple issues. The next question will be how to harness that power in a meaningful way. In the past two election cycles we have seen candidates on both sides of the aisle tap into that collective power base with suprisingly good results. This new found grassroots movement has been gaining steam in recent years and looks to continue that trend in the future. Candidates like Ross Perot, Howard Dean, Ron Paul and Barak Obama have proven that this is a viable option for voters who feel their voices simply put, are never heard above the din of the big money lobbying machines.

With any luck, the Change Congress will take hold and affect a change on both sides of the aisle. If nothing else, if successful, it will give us an effective yardstick to determine which candidates are truly commited to real change in Washington.

Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress

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