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Hayes on Lessig

May 29, 2008 - by Donny Shaw

In the latest issue of The Nation, Christopher Hayes has a great profile of Lawrence Lessig and the core ideas driving his Change Congress movement. The article outlines Lessig’s unique path as he transitions from working within the system of Washington on reforming intellectual property laws, to working on reforming Washington itself before corruption steers the system into making some very dangerous policy decisions. “What gives Lessig a unique credibility as he embarks on his new career as process reformer is his former life pursuing substantive reform,” Hayes writes.

What also makes Lessig’s Change Congress movement unique is its use of the social Web to connect more people, more intimately, to the cause than other process reform organizations have been able to.

>"There have been all sorts of DC-based organizations that have tried to crack this nut, and I think they’ve hit the limit of what the ’Let’s send out an e-mail to our 100,000 members and tell them to write their Congressmen’ model can do," he says. “We have an opportunity—and it won’t last long—to take advantage of the uncertainty that Congress has about how the Net actually works. They don’t get it right now. And while they’ve learned how to ignore 1,000 e-mails, they haven’t quite figured out what to do about fifty blogs talking about various legislation or meet-up events. So there’s an opportunity to leverage the technology and the irrational insecurity of members of Congress, who look at any objectively insignificant resistance as something to be dealt with immediately.”
>Ellen Miller, a veteran of campaign finance reform battles, who co-founded the Center for Responsive Politics and Public Campaign and now runs the Sunlight Foundation, says “there was some skepticism” among campaign finance activists toward Lessig’s initiative. But, she says, “organizing around issues happens differently than any of the old-line reform groups ever thought it did,” pointing to “the online-offline combination, using social media to build a community of people that might have already existed out there [that] Common Cause and Public Campaign couldn’t figure out how to reach. He can figure out how to reach them, how to create communities that would have been impossible to find before.”

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