Larry Lessig Thinks He Can Save Democracy, So He’s Running for President

The campaign finance reform advocate is looking to throw his hat in the 2016 ring.

Larry Lessig by  via Flickr with Creative Commons

Larry Lessig by Doc Searls on Flickr/Creative Commons

Campaign finance reform advocate Larry Lessig got his clock cleaned in the 2014 midterms but that is not stopping him from going another 12 rounds in the political arena in 2016.

Lessig announced on Tuesday he is exploring a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In a lengthy exploratory campaign video, the Harvard professor trumpets campaign finance reform as the most important issue of our time. It’s more important than income inequality, he says.

Lessig is comparing his campaign to Senator Eugene McCarthy’s unsuccessful 1968 run for the presidency and his opposition to the Vietnam War. “We need to challenge this rigged system like McCarthy challenged the war,” said Lessig of the five time presidential candidate.

One problem for any Lessig campaign, though, will be making a lot out of an issue that voters rarely seem to care about. War is an issue a broad swath of the electorate tends to care about while campaign finance is not. The other problem is that all the Democratic candidates currently in the race have said they believe in campaign finance reform and want to overturn the controversial Citizens United ruling with a constitutional amendment. Lessig believes that once the campaign finance system is reformed progress, at least from the left’s perspective, can finally be advanced in Washington, D.C.

Lessig, along with GOP operative Mark McKinnon, went all in on an effort in 2014 to jump start campaign finance reform by organizing a “super PAC to end all super PACs” called the May Day PAC. The $10 million effort was a major failure with only two  of the group’s eight candidates winning. Lessig was routed and the post-mortems of his campaign efforts were harsh.  Still, he presses on. He’s a happy warrior and has pushed hard on the campaign finance reform front for years but his actions are not always seen by activists as helpful.

Lessig’s 2016 hopes are now pinned on one thing: his ability to raise $1 million from small donors before Labor Day. If Lessig can raise that tiny sum by presidential standards before then he will run. He is running as a “referendum” candidate and would step down as president once the campaign finance reforms he desires are implemented.