[permaculture] Lessig [creator of Creative Commons open source copyright] launches Change Congress - Boing Boing || Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress | from Wired.com

Lawrence F. London, Jr. lflj at intrex.net
Fri Mar 21 04:34:38 EDT 2008


Of course this would present an opportunity to link in all the
Permaculture Wikis and all the permaculture activism contained therein.
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<http://www.boingboing.net/2008/03/20/lessig-launches-chan.html>
Boing Boing - A directory of wonderful things
Lessig launches Change Congress
Posted by Cory Doctorow, March 20, 2008 5:17 PM | permalink
Larry Lessig has offcially launched Change Congress, his followup to Creative Commons -- a movement to end the 
corrupting influence of, well, influence on Congress:

     ... once this wiki-army has tracked the positions of all Members of Congress, we will display a map of reform, 
circa 2008: Each Congressional district will be colored in either (1) dark red, or dark blue, reflecting Republicans or 
Democrats who have taken a pledge, (2) light red or light blue, tracking Republicans and Democrats who have not taken 
our pledge, but who have signaled support for planks in the Change-Congress platform, or (3) for those not taking the 
pledge and not signaling support for a platform of reform, varying shades of sludge, representing the percentage of the 
Member's campaign contributions that come from PACs or lobbyists.

     ...

     What this map will reveal, we believe, is something that not many now actually realize: That the support for 
fundamental reform is broad and deep. That recognition in turn will encourage more to see both the need for reform and 
the opportunity that this election gives us to achieve it. Apathy is driven by the feeling that nothing can be done. 
This Change Congress map will demonstrate that in fact, something substantial can be done. Now.

Link to Wired article, Link to Change Congress
posted in: Civlib

Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress | Threat Level from Wired.com
<http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/03/stanford-law-pr.html>
Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Bets 'Wikipedia' Approach Will Transform Congress
By Sarah Lai Stirland EmailMarch 20, 2008 | 3:39:25 PMCategories: Politics
Lessig_630x
Stanford law professor Larry Lessig plans to use collaborative software to change Congress.
Courtesy Larry Lessig

A prominent Stanford law professor on Thursday launched an ambitious project that aims to use collaborative software to 
harness the extraordinary levels of pent-up political energy and dissatisfaction that voters have shown over the past 
two years with their members of congress.

The Change Congress project's first mission is to diminish the influence of money in the legislative body by influencing 
the outcome of the 2008 election campaigns of 67 members of congress which are up for grabs. As the Change Congress 
project founder Larry Lessig noted in the project's launch Thursday afternoon, there haven't been so many seats open up 
for challenge in more than a decade.

Lessig, known for his decade-long role in trying to loosen the entertainment industry's vice-like grip on popular 
culture by shaping copyright law, is betting that the energy and dissatisfaction exhibited by voters against the 
status-quo in Washington DC, and the emergence of collaborative software that enables vast numbers of 
geographically-dispersed citizens to become politically active on their own schedule, will enable a new kind of 
transparency and accountability in political campaigns.

"The problem we face is ... the problem of crony capitalism using money to capture government," he said on Monday during 
the launch of his project in Washington, DC. "The challenge is whether in fact we can change this. The political experts 
tell you that it can't be done, that process always win over substance."

Lessig and Joe Trippi hope that their project will bring the beginnings of this change by getting voters to challenge 
their members of congress to commit to Change Congress' four pledges. The project will rely on engaged voters to record 
and map both the responses by, and the positions of candidates who are running for open seats. The idea is to make what 
seems like an abstract idea visually tangible through a Google mash-up.

The professor wants legislators to promise to do four things which he says will reduce the influence of money on 
policymaking: To promise not to accept money from lobbyists and political action committees; support public financing of 
elections; commit to passing legislation to permanently ban the funneling of money to their districts' projects of 
questionable worth; and to commit to "compel transparency in the functioning of congress."

Candidates can signal their intentions to take any one or all of the pledges by filling out a form at the organization's 
web site, which then formulates code that provides a graphic that the candidates can then place on their election 
campaign web sites.

The Change Congress project hopes that citizens will track congressional candidates' positions on these issues by 
reporting on them at the web site. The project will then map these results onto a Google map. Writing in The Huffington 
Post this morning, Lessig explained:

     ... once this wiki-army has tracked the positions of all Members of Congress, we will display a map of reform, 
circa 2008: Each Congressional district will be colored in either (1) dark red, or dark blue, reflecting Republicans or 
Democrats who have taken a pledge, (2) light red or light blue, tracking Republicans and Democrats who have not taken 
our pledge, but who have signaled support for planks in the Change-Congress platform, or (3) for those not taking the 
pledge and not signaling support for a platform of reform, varying shades of sludge, representing the percentage of the 
Member's campaign contributions that come from PACs or lobbyists.

     ...

     What this map will reveal, we believe, is something that not many now actually realize: That the support for 
fundamental reform is broad and deep. That recognition in turn will encourage more to see both the need for reform and 
the opportunity that this election gives us to achieve it. Apathy is driven by the feeling that nothing can be done. 
This Change Congress map will demonstrate that in fact, something substantial can be done. Now.

Lessig says that the project will, down the road, model itself on Emily's List in that it will recruit contributors to 
finance candidates who make reforming congress a central part of their campaign.

When the Democrats re-took congress in 2006, they won on a platform built by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's mantra of 
being against the Republicans' culture of corruption.

Yet the Democratic-led congress' current job approval rating is in the low twenties. This apparent dissatisfaction 
suggests that a large body of people might be ready and interested in volunteering for the Change Congress project.

So far, senator Barack Obama's campaign for the Democratic nomination for president has surged on this theme of bringing 
change to Washington, DC. The Illinois senator's seemingly magical combination of inspirational rhetoric, off-line 
community-organization strategies, combined with the smart design of online social networking  tools have fostered high 
levels of engagement.

The question facing the Change Congress campaign is whether Lessig and his colleagues at the Sunlight Foundation can 
motivate a bi-partisan electorate to become similarly engaged without -- at first at least -- the funds and advertising 
budget that's powering the Obama campaign.

In an interview, Lessig says that for now, he's going to focus on motivating people to volunteer their time to research 
members of congress' positions on transparency, accountability and public  financing of campaigns.

"If you give them a big vision, and talk about all the good things that will come out of it, then I think a lot of 
people will be willing to do the wiki work [at home] in their pajamas," he says. "The hard thing is getting them to go 
to rallies and getting them to call their congressman."

Lessig says that his goal is to raise $500,000 to fund the project for the year by May 1. He hopes to hire a couple of 
staffers in the San Francisco bay area and an executive director.

The project has bipartisan appeal -- Republicans took over congress  in 1994  with similar promises of sweeping change. 
As National Journal has thoroughly documented, many of those promises were not fulfilled.

This time, it could be different  -- now that an engaged electorate has software and an open reporting system to hold 
their members' feet to the fire.

Update: In answer to the reader below's question on what happens if a member of congress takes a pledge and doesn't 
follow through, Lessig says that he anticipates that each district will have voters who will monitor their members' 
activities and report on them.

"If you violate the pledge, you've created a huge opportunity for people to attack you," he says.

See Also:

     * ETech: Lessig Calls for Geeks to Code Money Out of Politics
     * Digital Culture Shift: Lessig Leaves IP Battle
     * Is the Obama Campaign Really Different?
     * Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig Explores Bid for Congress
     * Lessig Won't Run for Congress After All






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