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Change Congress

March 21, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

With more congressional seats open in 2008 than at any time in the past decade, Larry Lessig has begun assembling a nation-wide, bi-partisan “wiki army” to help fill those seats with candidates who are serious about ending corruption.

On Thursday, Lessig officially launched his “”http://change-congress.org/“>Change Congress” movement, which calls on congressional candidates to announce their support for any combination of four fundamental planks of reform: a promise not to take money from lobbyists or PACs, a vote to permanently ban earmarks in the congressional appropriations process, support for the public financing of campaigns and a commitment to making Congress more transparent.

The Change Congress movement is essentially collaborative — an undertaking designed to harness both the broad support for fundamental reform and the participatory nature of the Internet. Here’s how it will work:

>Once a candidate or Member selects the planks he or she supports, the site will give the candidate code to embed that pledge on the campaign website. Citizens too will be able to take a similar pledge, promising to support candidates who match their own vision of reform. When they do, they will be linked back to reform organizations that support each plank.
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>But the real contribution of citizens will reach far beyond simply making a pledge. Beginning in April, we will launch a second stage to the site: in a Wikipedia-inspired manner, wiki-workers will track the reform-related positions of candidates who have not yet taken a pledge. If a candidate, for example, has endorsed Public Campaign’s bill for public financing, we will record that fact on our site. The same with a pledge to forgo money from PACS or lobbyists, or any of the other planks in the Change Congress pledge. And once this wiki-army has tracked the positions of all Members of Congress, we will display a map of reform, circa 2008…
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>What this map will reveal, we believe, is something that not many now actually realize: that the support for fundamental reform is broad and deep. That recognition in turn will encourage more to see both the need for reform, and the opportunity that this election gives us to achieve it. Apathy is driven by the feeling that nothing can be done. This Change Congress map will demonstrate that in fact, something substantial can be done. Now.
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>Finally, the third stage of Change Congress will provide financial support to reform candidates. Following the model of Emily’s List, we will recruit contributors to support Change Congress candidates, both Republican and Democratic, who make reform a central platform of their campaign. Individuals will be asked, for example, to contribute $10/month to five Change Congress candidates. That support will make it easier for those candidates to spread the message of reform, and to define at least one central part of their candidacy to be about reform.

Lessig officially launched his movement yesterday during a lecture at the National Press Club as part of Sunshine Week. You can watch an archived webcast of the event here.

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