In an op-ed piece published in the New York Times, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig argues that limiting corporate contributions in politics doesn’t do enough to actually lessen their influence. It’s time for congress to go big or go home:
…At some point, Congress has got to muster the courage to say what every sane reformer recognizes: that we won’t solve the problem of “big money donors” until Congress begins to say yes.
Yes to what? More money in the system in the form of financial support from sources that don’t have corporate interests in mind:
So long as elections cost money, we won’t end Congress’s dependence on its funders. But we can change it. We can make “the funders” “the people.” Following Arizona, Maine and Connecticut, we could adopt a system of small-dollar public funding for Congress.
Lessig proposes a system that reduces your taxes by up to $50 if you spend as much on a political donation. You could give it to any candidate you like, so long as they promise to only accept funds from the public, not corporations. $50 per American would be $6 billion dollars combating the distorting system we have in place:
Less than 1 percent of Americans give more than $200 in a political campaign. No more than .05 percent give the maximum in any Congressional campaign. A career focused on the 1 percent — or, worse, the .05 percent — will never earn them the confidence of the 99 percent.
By replacing the financial clout of the top tier of donors with public money, their influence disappears. Suddenly, politicians would have a pretty compelling reason to start listening to the rest of their constituents.