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.
I’m a relatively new transplant to the Northern Virginia community, but I understood from the start how fortunate this place is to be filled with such strongly progressive voices. Battling climate change, expanding access to affordable health care, pushing for compassionate immigration reform – the residents of Virginia’s 8th congressional district are guided by staunchly progressive values.
But as Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard often says – while each of these issues is deeply important, they cannot be the first issue. The first issue is tackling the systemic corruption that has engulfed the American political system. Special interests and the power of money in our political system have rewritten the rules.
I have been following the race to succeed Jim Moran with interest. This is a field of remarkably qualified candidates, each ready to profess their progressive credentials. But from the very start, I have been shocked at how rarely political reform issues have been raised.
Virginia needs to be ground zero of this debate. The values instilled in the 8th district bleed into the perspective of the greater Washington community. On a state-wide level, the desire for real ethics and campaign reform are on the rise. In many respects, this state will come to represent the challenges in framing these issues across the nation leading up to the midterm elections this year.
Let’s stand up and make these reform issues our issues. Let’s actively shape the debate.