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To Larry Lessig: Never get into a squirting contest with a skunk

Striped_skunk

Mayday PAC, started by Larry Lessig, unfortunately is misguided, naive, and doomed to fail. Politics cannot be cleaned up creating a “Super PAC to end all Super PACs.” Saying corruption in politics can be stopped by more PAC money in politics is akin to believing heroin addiction can be cured with more heroin.. Lessig is honorable and wants to end political corruption. However, his approach is deeply wrong-headed.

Lessig’s PAC raised $10 million, and made a great show of being grassroots. However most of the money came from a few deep-pocket Silicon Valley supporters. How is this different from any other PAC? Last Tuesday’s election was Mayday’s initial attempt and it got clobbered. Almost all its candidates lost. Instead of pondering whether their approach makes sense the PAC is instead storming ahead (assuming the big contributors keep ponying up money.)

When it comes to financing multiple high-profile political campaigns, $10 million is essentially chump change. More than a few donors on all sides of the political spectrum can bring in that much money without much trouble. So, $10 million is bringing a knife to a gun fight, when the gun fighters are seasoned professionals and you’re an amateur. You probably aren’t going to win.

Lessig’s post-mortem is surprisingly banal. It took $10 million to figure out the following?

First, reform is important, but partisan loyalty is more important when voters see control of a legislative chamber at stake.

Second, it is easier to win voters in safe seats than in partisan battle ground seats.

Third, transparency has its costs: MAYDAY.US committed to full transparency about its donors (over $200). {Disclosure of their names was used against them].

Fourth, reform requires a candidate: We were proud of the candidates we supported, but the strongest races were with candidates willing to openly and vigorously champion the issue we pressed.

Fifth, victory is not the only motivator: We entered the races we did to win, but we obviously recognized with at least some of the races we entered that victory wasn’t likely.

Sixth, and finally, bandwidth is limited: However difficult it was to persuade voters, it was just as difficult to get the media to understand the strategy of our campaign.

That’s because the strategy of the campaign doesn’t make sense.

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