Business

Creative Commons creator is crowdfunding a project to end political corruption in America

Creative Commons co-founder Larry Lessig believes the Internet masses can overcome political corruption in America.

He’s crowdfunding political races in five congressional districts to elect representatives who will make campaign finance reform their political priority. His idea has already raked in $447,546 in 4 days.

“We’re aiming by 2016 to win a majority in Congress committed to fundamental reform. Our objective is to learn enough in the five elections we’re in to map how to do it in a much much bigger way in 2016,” Lessig wrote to VentureBeat in an email.

In other words, there’s enough online small-donor cash to outmatch the political whales (wealthy individuals, special interest groups, and corporations) that typically steer campaigns.

The crowdfunding campaign, MayOne, states that if the organization raise $1 million in 30 days, it will be matched with an additional $1 million. Then, if it can raise $5 millionin another 30 days, it’ll get matched again, for a cool $12 million total in the bank.

While that may sound like a lot of money, it just gets Lessig in the door. Over the past two decades, the cost of winning a seat in the House of Representatives has skyrocketed from around $360,000 to $1.6 million.

voting_by_income 130711125838-congress-campaign-finance-story-top

These estimates could be radically antiquated due to the recent court decisions overturning existing campaign finance law. Just last month, McCutcheon Vs. FEC expanded the number of candidates that wealthy donors can max out their contributions to.

Lessig, a Harvard professor who became an iconic legal scholar in the tech community for his work on open source intellectual property reform, shifted gears in recent years to focus on ending the influence of money on politics.

To be sure, not everyone is convinced that money is the main cause of corruption, including the (unelected) lifetime members of the Supreme Court who struck down campaign finance laws. The rich, for instance, also vote in much greater proportion, and congressional reps themselves often come from privileged backgrounds.

Oligarchy is baked into the system in all sorts of ways. Even if Lessig succeeds, it’s unclear how exactly our democracy will change. Though it’s hard to argue that it will change for the worse if there’s less money in politics.

Learn more about the campaign here.


Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile app analytics. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.