“The Only Realistic Way to Fix Campaign Finance”

Larry Lessig NYT oped:

The solution proposed by some, notably Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Graham and Mr. Sanders, is amending the Constitution.

It sounds appealing, but anyone who’s serious about reform should not buy it. For a presidential candidate, constitutional reform is fake reform. And no candidate who talks exclusively about amending the Constitution can be considered a credible reformer.

This is not because we don’t need constitutional reform. Of course we do. No sane constitutional designer would have picked the mix of restrictions and rights that our Constitution has been read to embrace. And with due respect to the Supreme Court, neither did our framers. Amendments will be essential to restoring this democracy, just as a healthy diet is essential to the recovery of a patient who has suffered a heart attack.

Nor is this because a constitutional amendment is impossible. No doubt it is ridiculously difficult to amend our Constitution. The veto of one house in just 13 states — representing as little as 5 percent of the American public — could block an amendment. But in the last hundred years we’ve added 10 amendments to our Constitution, with an average ratification time (excepting the most recent, which took 202 years) of less than 16 months. We’ve done it before; we can do it again.

Nor does this mean that the many reform organizations pushing for a constitutional amendment are not themselves true reformers. Of course they are, and their work is the most important force building the essential political movement that real reform will require.

But even if we could pass amendment to reverse Citizens United soon (and not since the Civil War has an amendment been adopted with support from just one party), it would not solve the problem of money’s influence in American politics.


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