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DocDawg: Why Not Just Trust Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday Super PAC?

Why not just trust Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday Super PAC? Blogger DocDawg has a few reasons. You can read his full essay here, but here are a few excerpts:

“Lessig’s flirtation with the concept of Using Big Money in Politics to Get Big Money Out of Politics isn’t new. In his previous effort he served as a member of the Board of Advisors to and vocal public advocate for 2012′s most quixotic and shady (and failed) political adventure,Americans Elect (AE), the not-a-party political party (and corporation) that aimed to appeal to teh kidz by staging an online primary to choose a “centrist” presidential candidate that AECorp would subsequently provide, for ‘free,’ with 50-state ballot access. That kind of technology development and ballot-access petitioning doesn’t come cheap, and AECorp brought serious money…$35 million…to the effort.”

“Unsurprisingly, throughout its short intense life AECorp categorically refused to divulge the names of its millionaire and billionaire donors.  Despite its dark origins, unsavory leadership, and impenetrable plutocratic funding, Lessig was an active and vociferous champion of AECorp.”

“Vitally important in our effort to measure Lessig’s judgement in matters concerning his pet cause is also the issue of AECorp’s ‘how’: how it proposed to select its non-party third-party presidential ticket. On the surface, this was egalitarianism itself: anyone could nominate either himself or someone else, and the surviving nominee through multiple rounds of online voting would be the recipient of AECorp’s hard-won 50-state ballot access. But, below the surface, careful readers of its Bylaws and rules discovered just the opposite: the corporation’s Bylaws reserved to its unelected and self-appointed Board of Directors “extraordinary power and authority to take or compel any action,” including arbitrarily disqualifying candidates whom the Board did not favor, and even including rejecting the primary-winning ticket and crowning a ticket of the Board’s own choice, instead, leading some wags to re-christen Americans Elect as “Ackerman Selects,” since chairman Ackerman selected the Board’s members who, in turn, had the power to select the corporation’s nominee without reference to the convention balloting. Additional anti-egalitarian measures enshrined in AECorp’s rules set the bar for winning the online vote several times higher for ‘nobodies’ than for Board-sanctioned ‘somebodies’ such as congressmen, senators, CEOs, large university presidents, and high military brass.

“With his vociferous support for this sort of pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain legerdemain blotting his judgement’s reputation, it seems fair to insist that Lessig has some ‘splainin to do when he proposes to found and lead his own crowdfunded SuperPAC.”

For DocDawg, trusting Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday Super PAC comes down to a question of trusting Lessig’s character in light of his past choices. There do seem to be some legitimate questions about Lessig’s judgment, particularly when considering his choice to put fellow Americans Elect leaders Kahlil Byrd and Mark McKinnon in charge of the Super PAC.  But would this kind of effort be made better simply by putting someone supposedly more wholesome at the head of the Super PAC? I’m not sure that’s the case. How many entirely wholesome people do you know? Each and every one of us has some unsavory tendencies; this is what makes humanity both interesting and occasionally dreadful. This is why heroic politicians put forward as champions for the right and good in the world inevitably disappoint; power corrupts and we all like our little nibbly bit on the side.

Lawrence Lessig’s intentions and character are not perfect. But even if Lessig were an absolute angel, his Mayday Super PAC gathering money to influence people to get rid of the influence of money could so easily run into trouble if it weren’t set up to clearly deflect corrupting tendencies. Transparent rules and procedures have the effect of thwarting nefarious machinations in political campaigns. Opaque rules and procedures have the effect of drawing out our sneaky sides. This is why Lessig’s “just give me the money first and trust me to give it to the right people” approach should attract questions.

Four days ago, I asked Lessig some questions:

Question 1: What are the Guarantees that Mayday PAC will Actually Do What it Says it Will Do? The mayday.us website features a frequently asked questions page and a general, informal essay about the PAC’s plan. But there are no firm commitments. No adopted bylaws. No document explaining exactly who is making decisions and how. This is from an organization that’s asking you to surrender $500, $1000, or $2500 of your own money to be used at its discretion. Is that appropriate without verification?

Question 2: Do Big Money Donors get a Big Say in Mayday PAC Campaign Spending? One way to think of the “matching funds” idea behind Mayday PAC is that a very small number of people are funding half the Mayday PAC operation — a very small group with very unusual financial interests. Did these big money matching donors secure any agreements from Mayday PAC as a condition of their participation? Do the big money donors obtain unusual access to Mayday PAC leadership? Do they play a formal or informal role in making decisions about how Mayday PAC spends its money?

Question 3: How Will Mayday PAC Choose the 5 Recipients of its Spending? As its own FAQ concedes, there are many more candidates than just five who support campaign finance reform. How do donors know that their money won’t be used for big spending on behalf of candidates who say they like campaign finance reform … and an end to environmental regulation? Or who like campaign finance reform … and tax breaks for multinational corporations? The Mayday PAC declares that when sorting out possible candidates to support, its leaders will avoid extremists “by selecting people who otherwise seem trustworthy and reliable.” But who decides what’s “trustworthy and reliable?” There is no clearly articulated standard by which this highly subjective decision will be made — and there should be.

He hasn’t gotten back in touch or answered my questions on his website yet.  Instead, posting my question has gotten me signed up for his PAC e-mail blast list.  I’ve received multiple solicitations for money instead.  I hope that Lessig answers the questions, and will let you know if he does.  Until then, the Mayday Super PAC bears close watching.


UPDATE, 7/8/14: The Mayday PAC has responded with answers to my questions, which you can find here.

America Inc. Tries To Buy America For God And Corporations

What is America?

Some say it’s a pair of continents. Some say it’s a nation. Some say it’s a state of mind.

Does anybody think that America is a corporation?

america incorporated

L. Brent Bozell The Third seems to think that America is a corporation, and he fancies himself at the head of it. He chairs a political action committee called America, Inc. – as if he has the power to claim the word America as his own commercial trademark. As you see in the America Inc. graphic above, he’s even trademarked the bald eagle, just to show that America is all his.

Actually, spreading the America, Inc. trademark seems to be at the core of Bozell The Third’s zeal. He’s using America, Inc. as a PAC to funnel money to prop up political candidates who agree with his own trademarked form of political extremism.

Bozell The Third’s trademarked political mission, as described on America Inc.’s web site, is “to reinvigorate the American people with the principles of American exceptionalism: personal freedom, personal responsibility, a commitment to Judeo-Christian values, and a strong national defense.” America Inc claims to “believe in limited government with Constitutionally-enumerated powers only,” but seeks to use the power of government to impose Judeo-Christian values on all Americans, whether they’re Judeo-Christian or not. Apparently, Bozell The Third’s vision of “personal freedom” doesn’t extend as far as the first line of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion”.

So, if L. Brent Bozell The Third gets his way, and replaces the United States of America with America Inc., what kind of leaders will be allowed to hold power in the new theocracy? Not leaders like David Perdue, apparently.

David Perdue, who is currently challenging Jack Kingston for the Republican Party’s nomination to one of Georgia’s seats in the U.S. Senate, isn’t Judeo-Christian enough for America Inc. and L. Brent Bozell The Third. They slam Perdue as “the wrong choice for Georgia.”

Come to think of it, though, how Judeo-Christian is America, Inc.? Does the Christian Bible ever say that its followers should form political action committees to funnel money to control democratic elections? I don’t remember any such passage. What I do remember from the Bible is a passage that admonishes, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and another that advises, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

If I had written the Bible, I might have included another passage: Let he who is from Georgia decide which politician is the wrong choice for Georgia. America Inc. isn’t from Georgia. It’s headquartered in Reston, Virginia, and has hired Virginians to conduct its anti-Perdue campaign.

Then again, what the Bible says as a book and the ideology that Christianity actually seeks to impose upon the world are often not in synch.

The theology of America Inc. and L. Brent Bozell The Third is less about the Bible than it is about replacing democratic power in the USA with theocratic and corporate power. The Bible is just a prop that Christian theocrats can thump in order to suggest that their political agenda has the endorsement of the supernatural realm. In practice, they’ll use whatever tactics they can to bully their way to the top.

A Picture Of Progress

image

This is what progress looks like to me. What does it look like to you?

Your Belief is Myth and My Belief is Real

image

Maybe we’re all myth makers.

Fake Grassroots PAC From Maryland Interferes In Michigan Democratic Primary

Astroturf was originally the term used for fake grass, made out of plastic and other synthetic materials, installed as a replacement for turf in highly-used sports fields. These days, the term is more frequently used to describe political operations that pretend to be grassroots efforts organized by the rank and file as a result of popular demand, while they’re really top-down inventions created through big spending by wealthy individuals or corporations.

An awful lot of astroturf has been spotted this year in the area around Southfield, a suburb to the northwest of Detroit, and a hub of power in the 14th congressional district of Michigan. The Democratic primary in the district takes place in just one month, and one organization that has involved itself in the political battle there is the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC – known as GOALPAC for short.

The 14th district race is attracting a great deal of attention, because the incumbent, U.S. Representative Gary Peters, has decided to run for U.S. Senate rather than to seek re-election. There are four different Democratic politicians competing for their party’s nomination for the seat.

goalpac astroturfOne of these candidates, Rudy Hobbs, has attracted the support of the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC. Just yesterday, the organization spent over $42,000 to promote the Hobbs for Congress campaign.

Where did the money to that GOALPAC used to support Hobbs come from? Was it from typical rank and file Democratic voters in Michigan, as the name Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading suggests?

Far from it.

First of all, the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC isn’t really a Michigan organization. It’s a political operation that’s run out of the nation’s capital, with a mailing address in Bethesda, Maryland, and a bank account set up at a branch located at 730 15th St NW, Washington D.C. The accountants who keep books for GOALPAC work out of an office at Suite 590, 1050 17th St NW, Washington D.C.

Second, the sources of the money that the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC spends are anything but grassroots. Top contributors include:

  • J. Eric Gould, of the Florida lobbying firm Thurman Gould
  • Melanie Nathanson, of the Virginia lobbying firm Nathanson & Hauck
  • Anthony Podesta, of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm The Podesta Group
  • Beau Schuyler and Charles Brain of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Capitol Hill Strategies
  • Arshi Siddiqui of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Akin Gump Strayss Hauer & Feld
  • Steven Champlin of The Dubberstein Group… yes, another lobbying firm based in Washington D.C.

    Also contributing big checks to GOALPAC are the political action committees of:

  • The American Association of Orthapaedic Surgeons
  • BAE Systems
  • DaVita Health Care Partners
  • DTE Energy
  • The Investment Company Institute
  • The National Association of Realtors

    The cash is not coming from the salt of the earth, so the heavy involvement of lobbyists and corporate PACs in propping up the congressional candidacy of Ruby Hobbs should lead discerning Michigan voters to ask: Exactly who will Ruby Hobbs owe favors to, if he is elected as the 14th district’s next representative in Congress?

  • Scapes Aplenty

    Although I’ve gardened for some years, I didn’t start planting garlic until three years ago. Living in the desert, I couldn’t grow garlic without an unseemly amount of irrigation. Living in the South, so many grand oaks grew around my home that I was restricted to shade gardening. Now that I’m in Maine and have a sunny hill, I’ve been learning through experience about growing garlic.

    Two summers ago, I eagerly pulled up my first garlic crop but was terribly disappointed by the measly bulbs I found. I asked around and quickly learned my mistake: I hadn’t clipped off the flower growing at the tip of each plant, and all the plant’s vitality had gone there instead of to the bulb. Last summer, I clipped off the garlic tops and tossed them in the compost; my bulbs came out big, lovely and smelly.

    It wasn’t until this year (Just today as a matter of fact) that I learned the name and use of the top part of the garlic plant. The tops are called “scapes,” and apparently you can cook with them, just as you might use green onions.

    20140703-170340-61420121.jpg

    These are going into a stir fry with loads of ginger and a teriyaki sauce tonight. Yum, yum.

    What do you do with your garlic scapes?

    Arizona Keeps Killing Condors

    A big thumbs down goes to the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, for its efforts to continue the poisoning of california condors, the largest bird in North America. California condors are an endangered species that very nearly went extinct a generation ago. People have struggled to reintroduce the california condor into the wild, and to establish viable populations of the bird.

    california condorThe Arizona Department of Game and Fish doesn’t seem to care much about that, though. The Department is opposing efforts to end the use of lead ammunition within the borders of the Kaibab National Forest in Arizona, on the grounds that hunters in the National Forest should be left to voluntarily choose whether or not to use lead ammunition.

    The california condor is a scavenger, and feeds upon the bodies of dead animals it finds. Large numbers of these dead bodies are animals that human hunters have killed, but failed to retrieve. Many of these corpses contain ammunition from the guns of the hunters who shot them. Much of that ammunition contains dangerous amounts of lead. When california condors feed on these animals, they often die.

    In Arizona 15 of the endangered birds have died as a result of lead poisoning in the last five and a half years. During the same time, 11 of the condors have died in California, even though California has a larger population of condors.

    Replacing lead ammunition used by human hunters with copper ammunition saves the lives of california condors, but the Arizona Department of Game and Fish wants to keep its current lax approach, despite the evidence of problems. National Forests are public land, and hunting on them is a privilege, not a right. When hunters go into National Forests to kill the animals they find there, the least we can do is to require them to use ammunition that doesn’t spread toxins into the ecosystem, killing wildlife that the hunters weren’t even aiming at.

    Questions About the Mayday PAC

    Leaders of the old privatized presidential election corporation called Americans Elect have gathered again to form the Mayday PAC, a political group that avowedly describes itself as a “Super PAC to end all Super PACs.” The Mayday PAC asks visitors to contribute money to stop the influence of money in politics:

    Mayday PAC solicitation: help end big money politics with your donation of money

    Contributions of up to $2,500 per person to the fund are suggested. When Mayday PAC gets $6 million in internet donations, it says it will obtain an additional $6 million in matching funds from as-yet unnamed sources — although the first $1 million of that $6 million in matching funds has been ponied up by big business interests: “LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman; PayPal cofounder and libertarian activist Peter Thiel; author and TED curator Chris Anderson; Bay Area venture capitalists Brad Burnham, David Milner, and Fred Wilson; and tech investors Joanne Wilson and Vin Ryan.” That’s 6 rich people from the financial sector and 2 media executives.

    It’s important to be fair here: while Americans Elect did almost precisely the opposite of what it promised to do, that doesn’t mean that a Mayday PAC run by Americans Elect leadership will do the same. People change now and then. Perhaps the Mayday PAC really does mean to use big money expenditures in political campaigns to end the dominance of big money expenditures in political campaigns. Perhaps. But given the Mayday PAC’s organizational background, it’s reasonable to ask some questions about the Mayday PAC before you pull out your checkbook:

    Question 1: What are the Guarantees that Mayday PAC will Actually Do What it Says it Will Do? The mayday.us website features a frequently asked questions page and a general, informal essay about the PAC’s plan. But there are no firm commitments. No adopted bylaws. No document explaining exactly who is making decisions and how. This is from an organization that’s asking you to surrender $500, $1000, or $2500 of your own money to be used at its discretion. Is that appropriate without verification?

    Question 2: Do Big Money Donors get a Big Say in Mayday PAC Campaign Spending? One way to think of the “matching funds” idea behind Mayday PAC is that a very small number of people are funding half the Mayday PAC operation — a very small group with very unusual financial interests. Did these big money matching donors secure any agreements from Mayday PAC as a condition of their participation? Do the big money donors obtain unusual access to Mayday PAC leadership? Do they play a formal or informal role in making decisions about how Mayday PAC spends its money?

    Question 3: How Will Mayday PAC Choose the 5 Recipients of its Spending? As its own FAQ concedes, there are many more candidates than just five who support campaign finance reform. How do donors know that their money won’t be used for big spending on behalf of candidates who say they like campaign finance reform … and an end to environmental regulation? Or who like campaign finance reform … and tax breaks for multinational corporations? The Mayday PAC declares that when sorting out possible candidates to support, its leaders will avoid extremists “by selecting people who otherwise seem trustworthy and reliable.” But who decides what’s “trustworthy and reliable?” There is no clearly articulated standard by which this highly subjective decision will be made — and there should be.

    It’s tempting to jump on the Mayday PAC bandwagon because it uses nice phrases like “money out of politics.” Time and again, though, American political groups have demonstrated a tendency toward spin, deceit and occasional downright chicanery. Mayday PAC should not be surprised to find that people who feel burned by the American political system have some reservations when they’re approached by groups asking for another donation that, this time, really, will fix everything.

    I’m going to pose these questions directly to the Mayday PAC right now. I promise to share any answers I receive with you. If you don’t see any posted answers, you’ll know I haven’t gotten a response.


    UPDATE, 7/8/14: The Mayday PAC has responded with answers to my questions, which you can find here.

    Keep Conservatives United PAC Encourages Conservatives To Attack Each Other, And Robots

    In a little bit less than two weeks, Republicans in the 6th congressional district will have the chance to vote in a runoff election to make a final choice of a candidate to represent them in the general election this November. It’s rarely easy to decide how to vote, but this year, 6th congressional district Republicans are getting some assistance from a group that calls itself Keep Conservatives United.

    With a name like Keep Conservatives United, what kind of help do you think they’re offering?

    If you guessed that Keep Conservatives United is a political action committee that is running advertisements by Republicans against Republicans, you’re right. So far, the Keep Conservatives United PAC has spent $76,788.06 on advertisements attacking conservative Republican congressional candidate Mark Walker. “Mark Walker is a fatally flawed candidate,” says the PAC. “Mark Walker is either delusional or a liar… a reckless candidate who comes unglued.”

    Why is the PAC so concerned about a candidate who comes unglued? Keep Conservatives United supported Michele Bachmann in 2012.

    This isn’t the first round of advertisements that Keep Conservatives United has made in the 6th congressional district this year. This spring, the PAC was sued for libel for making false accusations against Bruce VonCannon, another Republican candidate for the seat, in what local reporters called an “increasingly virulent campaign”.

    Even from up here in the North, I can smell the unity that growing among North Carolina’s 6th district Republicans. Keep up the good work, Keep Conservatives United!

    kay hagan robotAs a final piece of political genius, the Keep Conservatives United PAC has accused Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan of being a robot. Presumably, Keep Conservatives United intends to remove Hagan from the Senate with a giant magnet.

    Will There Be A Chinese Attack Against America Before July 4th?

    In April this year, a guy who goes by the pseudonym “Truther” predicted that there would be a terrorist attack at a conference called Moogfest. That terrorist attack never happened.

    Yet, “Truther” has continued to pump out predictions of doom and gloom at a steady pace. His latest claim is that the CIA will engineer a series of Chinese attacks against the United States:

    1st against American military operations in the Philippines.
    2nd at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii
    3rd through a hacking of U.S. attack drone aircraft
    4th with an attack in California

    It is now two days before the 4th of July, but no genuine sign of an impending Chinese attack against the United States has yet been seen. As with Truther’s previous predictions, the warning of an imminent war between the US and China appears to be nothing more than hot air.

    So, if China does not attack the United States before July 4th, will Truther finally admit that his predictions are worthless? There’s not much chance of that.

    Truther has come up with a loophole to justify all of his failed predictions, while sustaining the belief in his ability to predict the future. Truther puts a disclaimer on the end of all his prophecies, which begins, “Terror alerts and warnings made by Truther.org DO NOT necessarily imply that these terror events will transpire in reality…”

    So, you see, China might really be preparing to attack the USA at the behest of the CIA… just not in reality.

    Truther goes on to assert that whenever he predicts an attack against the United States, he simultaneously prevents the attack he has predicted, because when the evildoing conspirators read Truther’s articles, they realize that their plans have been exposed, and must be abandoned.

    The brain that can believe in this kind of weird conspiracy that exists without really existing, but is stopped anyway whenever conspiracy theorists without any credibility write about it, is capable of holding many contradictory thoughts at once.

    It ought too come as no surprise then, that Truther has also come out with the following two points of advice for how to foil the Illuminati:

    - Return to Nature – Abandon the City Life & Quit The Rat Race
    - Love One Another Unconditionally – Realize That We Are All One

    If we are supposed to love one another unconditionally, how could we abandon all the cities in the world, categorizing them as automatically worthless?

    If we are all one, how could we possibly quit the Rat Race? Aren’t Rat Racers in the city also part of the One?

    If everyone in the cities abandons the cities, won’t their settlements out in the countryside become new cities?

    Such questions as these only matter to people who have yet to realize that, because we are all One, there is no difference between city and country, between quitting and continuing, between love and abandonment, or between the United States of America and China.

    We are all One… one deluded paranoid conspiracy theorist sitting alone, coming up with implausible prophecies of doom. If you don’t realize this, it’s only because you’re a dupe of the System.

    Is that clear? Abandon all hope and start a prepper hideout in the countryside, while maintaining your quality time with the cities. You can have it all!

    Contraception and Insurance and Race and Military Recruiters and Campuses and Lunch Counters

    As you’re probably aware, the Supreme Court has ruled that some American corporations are free to deny insurance coverage of contraceptive costs to their employees on religious grounds. Think about your opinion regarding this issue.

    As you might also be aware, the Supreme Court has also ruled that American colleges and universities must accept military recruiters on their grounds despite religious or philosophical objections. Think about your opinion regarding this issue.

    As you’re almost surely aware, the Supreme Court long ago ruled that American restaurants are not free to turn away customers on the basis of the customers’ race. Think about your opinion regarding this issue.

    In what ways are these cases similar and different? In what ways are your opinions of these cases similar and different?

    I’ve been mulling over this myself but have found it difficult to settle on a firm conclusion. I’d like to know what you think.