Yesterday, I managed to catch Larry Lessig’s latest “Change Congress” Power Point presentation at the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) here in New York City. Addressing the distorting effects of money on goverment policy (oil industry influence on global warming research, pharma money at the FDA, the sugar lobby on recommended caloric intake), the Stanford professor’s performance was easily one of the more rousing presentations that morning and sparked a discernable buzz from the bloggers gathered in Rose Hall, the home of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
It doesn’t appear Lessig has posted yesterday’s version on YouTube just yet, so I’ve gone ahead and included one that’s pretty close. However, one notable bit of information missing in April’s presentation at UCSB posted below are the numbers he cited from MAPlight.org (where he’s a board member). Released yesterday, the organization points out that of the House Democrats who changed their votes from March to June clearing the way for a FISA bill with immunity for the phone companies to pass, on average, those politicians received $8,359 in PAC contributions. Specifically:
Comparing Democrats’ Votes (March 14th and June 20th votes):
Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint gave PAC contributions averaging:
$8,359 to each Democrat who changed their position to support immunity for Telcos (94 Dems)
$4,987 to each Democrat who remained opposed to immunity for Telcos (116 Dems)
88 percent of the Dems who changed to supporting immunity (83 Dems of the 94) received PAC contributions from Verizon, AT&T, or Sprint during the last three years (Jan. 2005-Mar. 2008).
Now, no one can say those contributions caused recipients to change their votes. But it certainly doesn’t project the appearance of an open, honest, and accountable government for the people.