In the summer of 2007 free-culture guru
announced he’d be undertaking a project focusing his academic work and activism on understanding and fighting corruption. He founded
to help create an online grassroots constituency for the kinds of pro-democracy reforms that would reduce the influence of big money on legislative outcomes (see “Mr. Lessig Goes to Washington,” June 16, 2008). But while Change Congress slowly built an e-mail list and raised money, its first year was relatively low-key, at least partly because of an amorphous mission and an overly broad set of objectives.
But in preparation for the 111th Congress, the group has doubled its staff from two to four, bringing in
, two veterans of
. It has also focused its operation on bipartisan clean elections bills that will be reintroduced in the House and Senate this term. The Senate version, co-sponsored by
would provide public funding for Congressional elections, paid for by a broadcasting fee.
And as this issue went to press, Lessig (who recently moved from Stanford to Harvard) was scheduled to appear on
The Colbert Report
to announce Change Congress’s most ambitious campaign yet: a donor strike. Lessig is urging supporters to pledge not to donate any money to politicians who have not signed on as co-sponsors of the pubic-financing bills. “You can help your democracy and do your civic duty by giving nothing,” says interim CEO Green, “which is a perfect message for this economy.” CHRISTOPHER HAYES
THE KAINE SCRUTINY:
On January 21
will step down as chair of the
Democratic National Committee
and Virginia Governor
will step up. An early endorser of Barack Obama and a prominent campaign surrogate, Kaine was once on the shortlist for veep. He’s a safe pick to lead the DNC, though he’s not without controversy. Kaine angered progressives in Virginia by supporting coal-fired power plants, repealing the estate tax and opposing stem-cell research and a woman’s right to choose. He didn’t want the DNC job in the first place and won’t take over full time until he leaves the governor’s mansion in January 2010, raising questions about the passion and attentiveness he will bring to the position.
That said, Virginia Democrats thrived under Kaine, picking up two US Senate seats, flipping the State Senate, adding seats in the House of Delegates and turning the state blue for Obama. Kaine saw firsthand the value of Dean’s fifty-state strategy, which poured money into his gubernatorial election in 2005 and made Virginia a pilot state. He should therefore be predisposed to renew the fifty-state strategy; the DNC’s contracts with nearly 200 field organizers expired after the election.
While Kaine tends to his business as governor, the real work at the DNC will be undertaken by new executive director
Jennifer O’Malley Dillon
, a top field operative for Obama who previously ran Iowa for
. The Atlantic‘s
predicts that under Dillon, the DNC “will significantly expand its campaign organizing capacity and probably its staff,” resulting in “Dean’s 50 state strategy on steroids.” Let’s hope so. For now, Kaine’s selection doesn’t tell us a whole lot about what Obama has planned for the party. ARI BERMAN