Watch: The Bare Knuckle Fight Against Money in Politics

11/17/2014 12:08 pm ET Updated Jan 17, 2015

Previously published on BillMoyers.com.

In this turbulent midterm election year, two academics decided to practice what they preached. They left the classroom, confronted the reality of down-and-dirty politics, and tried to replace moneyed interests with the public interest.

Neither was successful -- this year, at least -- but on this week's show, Bill talks with them about their experiences and the hard-fought lessons learned about the state of American democracy.

Lawrence Lessig, who teaches law at Harvard, is a well-known Internet activist and campaign finance reform advocate. This election cycle, he started a crowd-funded SuperPAC aimed at reducing the influence of money in politics. Lessig tells Bill: "Our democracy is flat lined. Because when you can show clearly there's no relationship between what the average voter cares about, only if it happens to coincide with what the economic elite care about, you've shown that we don't have a democracy anymore."

Zephyr Teachout, a professor of constitutional and property law at Fordham Law School, ran against New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary. She received more than a third of the vote and carried 30 of the state's 62 counties, surprising everyone -- including Cuomo. "When you talk about the corruption in Congress, people are talking about the same thing that Madison was talking about. This sense that our public servants are just serving themselves," Teachout tells Bill.

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