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John Wellington Ennis

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With Republic, Lost, Lawrence Lessig Takes Center Stage

Posted: 12/29/11 03:39 PM ET

In this pivotal year of public uproar over the consequences of money in politics, Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig has attracted considerably more attention to his work in devising a constitutional road map for reform. Yes, that was the former Supreme Court clerk and Stanford copyright expert rousing The Daily Show's studio audience, whose followers Jon Stewart suggested be dubbed "Batmen." His Twitter followers seemed to suddenly jump from several thousand to over 168,000.

With good reason. Of late, there has been a productive discourse articulating the sources of corrupting money in politics and visualizing how our democratic model should work. But the intransigence of those empowered to any meaningful reform is the real problem, and it is in his new book Republic, Lost that Lessig outlines the larger workarounds to our pay-to-play system.

In this exclusive video interview, Professor Lessig discusses the central problems in approaching a Congress that got there by a system they are reliant on. For one, the identification of the top 1% is off the mark considerably -- maxed out campaign contributors account for .05% of the population.

In our culture of expectations for re-election contributions, what develops is a form of extortion, Lessig explains, that has become systematic. What's more, the offices of Congressional workers are so personally influenced by the promise of working for K Street for huge salaries, those staffers are working to please those employers, despite the dismal public opinion of Congress, still at an all time low.

Republic, Lost offers the blueprint many are searching for, with chapter titles such as "How So Damn Much Money Defeats the Left," and "How So Damn Much Money Defeats the Right." Lessig further evokes the highest ideals of the founders in his appeal that despite some core ideological differences with those on the Right, there is widespread support for getting the corruptive influence of corporate money out of the decision-making process of our government. If abolitionists and slave owners could set aside their fundamental differences to author the U.S. Constitution today, and succeed as a nation despite the odds, then that lesson is one we can continue to learn from.

Follow Lawrence Lessig on Twitter at @lessig.

John Wellington Ennis is documenting how to reclaim our elections from the highest bidder for his upcoming film PAY 2 PLAY: Democracy's High Stakes.

 

Follow John Wellington Ennis on Twitter: www.twitter.com/johnennis