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A Tale of Two SuperPACs

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( – promoted by lowkell)

Lessig MAYDAY SuperPAC launchThe Koch brothers are planning to spend over $125 million supporting conservative candidates through their main political organization in this year’s midterm elections, as reported in Politico today.

The Arlington, VA, based Koch-funded group Americans for Prosperity will have unprecedented funds available for a private group in a midterm election. The group will engage in an aggressive grassroots organizing campaign promoting conservative and libertarian causes – chief among them a further dismantling of an already woefully insufficient campaign finance system.

It would seem massive political donors will win the day again, all at the expense of the average American unable to pay the fee to participate in democracy. But some are finding new and innovative ways to fight back.

On May 1st, reform activist and scholar Lawrence Lessig launched his newest venture – the MAYDAY PAC, a SuperPAC to end all SuperPACs. The idea is bold: With an eye towards 2016, Lessig wants to crowd-fund American democracy and raise enough cash from small donors to counter the influence of entrenched special interest groups.  

To gauge enthusiasm for the project, he has set an initial fundraising goal of $1 million by the end of May (to be matched in funds from larger donors if the goal is met). In just nine short days, he has raised well over $700,000. If the May goal is reached, he will actively fundraise for $5 million by the end of June (again to be matched by larger donors).

With those funds, Lessig plans to target just five congressional districts in 2014, optimizing the message and strategy necessary to get pro-reform candidates elected. The real goal, however, is 2016. If the plan can work, Lessig wants to crowd-fund enough cash to get a reform-minded majority elected to Congress.

Without a doubt, it’s a moonshot plan. But many say it might be our last best hope. Lessig himself acknowledges the irony in using a SuperPAC to counter the influence of SuperPACs in a post-Citizens United and McCutcheon world. His message is simple, let’s “embrace the irony” and use all tools at our disposal to change the system in fundamental ways.

Lessig is not the only one choosing this strategy. A Soros-funded SuperPAC, Friends of Democracy, shares a similar goal.

But without a doubt, these efforts are up against large foes. The Arlington group Americans for Prosperity is willing to spend nearly limitless funds on elections large and small across the country. (They recently were criticized for blanketing Franklin County, Ohio, with ads and pamphlets opposing an increased tax levy on the ballot to pay for an expansion of the local public zoo).

Yet if anyone has the power to organize untapped activists at a national scale, it might be Larry Lessig. Through his immensely popular TED Talks on the issue as well as his famous book, Republic, Lost – Lessig has gained a national following of individuals passionate about meaningful campaign reform. And while it is early days still, the immensely positive response in just nine days to the MAYDAY PAC offers just a bit of optimism for the fights ahead.

Check out the PAC's launch video here.

  • Another Scott

    Lessig is a good Joe.  I kicked in a little.  Here’s hoping it’s a success.

    It’s unfortunate that the URL doesn’t match the name of the group – that may cause some confusion.

    MayOne.US is the URL.

    Cheers,

    Scott.