by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Has there even been a potential presidential candidate like Larry Lessig that has gotten as much attention, even though he has nearly zero chance of becoming president? And if he wins, he has promised to immediately quit, hopefully one day after getting sworn in, if he gets one, favorite, bill signed into law.
Lessig’s signature issue is to, well we are not sure exactly, because he is campaigning on a bill that no one has written yet. But one element of the measure is to put politicians on welfare, where they don’t have to work hard to raise money to campaign. That, and not letting anyone else say much about the candidates who run for office.
Lessig is a Harvard Law Professor whose reason for running is to stamp out the First Amendment’s protections for political speech compared his candidacy to … Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 run.
What makes the comparison bizarre is that Democratic Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy forced LBJ out of the Democratic nomination for President in 1968 by raising unlimited amounts of money from just a few wealthy donors, about $10 million in today’s dollars, and pouring nearly all of it into New Hampshire’s first in the nation primary. In 1976, McCarthy was the co-plaintiff, along with Conservative Party Senator from New York James Buckley in the landmark Supreme Court case Buckley v. Valeo that struck or limited the reach of large portions of the Federal Election Campaign Act.
A critic of so-called campaign finance “reform,” McCarthy would later credit the lack of contribution limits for his success in 1968. “We had a few big contributors … And that’s true of any liberal movement. In the American Revolution, they didn’t get matching funds from George III.” Later, McCarthy would say that limits on contributions to candidates violate the constitution.
Last year, former Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig launched the “Super PAC to end all Super PACs” under the slogan “embrace the irony.” At this point, Lessig hasn’t just “embraced” the term, he’s living it.