This edition: How Public Power Can Defeat PlutocratsTweet
This week, Lawrence Lessig and Zephyr Teachout return to talk further about the corrupting influence of money in politics, a subject both have studied as scholars and fought against as reformers.
Government has become a clearinghouse for corporations and plutocrats with deep pockets to buy the politicians who grease the wheels for lucrative contracts and easy regulation. It’s all pay for play, and look the other way. Consider this from the watchdog Sunlight Foundation: From 2007 to 2012, two hundred corporations spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions. And they received more than $4 trillion in government contracts and other forms of assistance. That’s why K Street is lobbying’s road to Paradise. Now that the midterm elections are over, it’s payback time, with the newly elected Congress ready to deliver to those who invested well in their chosen candidates.
Lawrence Lessig teaches at Harvard Law School and made his reputation as an expert on the Internet. He started the Mayday SuperPac, raising millions for congressional candidates who vowed to fight for campaign finance reform. All but two of them lost – but the fight continues. He tells Bill Moyers, “When we look at the systematic way in which our representatives are responsive not to the people alone, but increasingly to the funders exclusively, then that is an obvious corruption… This is not a Democratic issue. This is not a Republican issue. This is an American issue.”
Zephyr Teachout, who teaches at Fordham Law School, ran for Governor of New York, trying to rouse the public against corruption in state government. She got more than a third of the vote in the Democratic primary. Teachout also is the author of Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United. “When you talk about the corruption in Congress, people are talking about the same thing that Madison was talking about,” she says, “this sense that our public servants are just serving themselves. They're running away with the resources of our country.”
Lawrence Lessig Professor of Law & Director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, Harvard University; founder of Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society
Zephyr Teachout Associate Professor of Law, Fordham Law School