The corrupting effects of “money in politics” – campaign finance and lobbying – are a frequent target for political reform. The underlying idea for this agenda seems to be that elected officials promote particular interests because they expect monetary reward, either as contribution for their re-election campaigns or, through some other channel, to their personal pockets.

Lawrence Lessig, law professor at Harvard, has now announced a presidential campaign that he presents as being based solely on the notion of tackling the corrupting influence of money in politics. Lessig seems to believe that a wide consensus among US voters can be created around this issue and that this issue would be compelling enough for voters to de-prioritize other issues to support this one since – as Lessig presents things – the issue of money in politics is preliminary to all other issues because until it is dealt with the corrupting influence of money makes progress on other issues unfeasible.

Lessig’s presents three items in his reform agenda. Two of those items – changing the way electoral districts are created, and reducing obstacles to voting – are commonplace electoral reform items and seem not to have much to do with money in particular. The third item is about pouring more money into electoral campaign – either by using public-funded matching or by using campaign funds vouchers. Those are presumably supposed to decrease the corrupting influence of money because the additional campaign funds are not a-priori unequally distributed.

Lessig seems to believe that with his activism and with this campaign he is striking at the root of the problem of modern politics. There are several reasons to infer that he is misguided.
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