Democratic presidential candidate Larry Lessig’s populist campaign to change federal election law is running into a political problem: the Democratic Party seems to be trying to keep him out of the race.
“We’re fighting to be recognized by the Democratic Party as a campaign,” Lessig told Breitbart News in a wide-ranging interview in which he described Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz as being “too busy” to welcome him to the campaign trail.
“We tried to reach out to them. I made my announcement the ninth of September. [Wasserman-Schultz] set up a call then canceled it.”
The 54-year old Harvard law school professor is staging an unconventional campaign focused on the issue of campaign finance reform. He recently took his underdog candidacy to the New Hampshire party convention, where he saw a hopeful sign: protesters chanting for more Democratic debates when Wasserman-Schultz took the stage.
Like many on the Left, Lessig wants to make changes to the system to get Big Money out of politics. Should he win, he might resign the presidency as soon as he passes a campaign reform bill. It’s a little odd, sure, but Lessig is dead serious about it, and he’s putting everything on the line.
“When I announced I was a candidate I had to stop taking money from Harvard because they’re a c3,” Lessig said. “I can’t get money from the campaign until November. So I can’t get income right now. I can’t get a loan. This is a system that makes it easy for the politicians and the rich and famous to get in.”
“I’ll go as far as I possibly can” in the race, Lessig said. “We raised one million dollars in one month. We’re lucky that in the last week our campaign’s been taken over by Steven Jarding, who worked for Daschle. We brought in Drew Westen, who’s kind of the Democrats’ new message man. Bill Hillsman, who was Paul Wellstone’s ad man. And Richard Dickerson, who worked for Al Gore and John Kerry. These are very senior people. Jarding said to me, you have a real shot if we can make you credible in the race. And we’re credible.”
“The failure to welcome me to the race led many of these news organizations not to consider me a serious candidate,” Lessig said. “It’s hard to see how you can have a debate with Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb onstage and not me.”
“It doesn’t make sense, considering the way the Democratic Party presents itself. Democrats present themselves as a party that considers this a fundamental issue. So why don’t they let the leading person in the race talking about this issue on the debate stage?”
On the issue of campaign finance reform, it’s actually a certain self-funding Republican who garners some of Lessig’s praise.
“What Trump did by calling out the other candidates is very important. If you’re Jeb Bush and you take a million dollars from somebody to your Super PAC it’s impossible to make a decision that isn’t influenced, at least in the back of his mind, about that donor’s interests,” Lessig said.
As for his own party? Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders aren’t up to snuff.
“She’s taking tons of money from Wall Street,” Lessig said of Clinton. “She’s not committed to solutions like Glass-Steagall.”
Bernie is perceived as an outsider to Washington even though he’s been in Washington for 25 years. He’s taken a consistent policy line that hasn’t always been popular but it’s popular now on the progressive left. My criticism is that he’s out there promising the moon and the promises are just not possible. They’re not credible in the current environment until we change this corrupted democracy first.
“I asked him, how are you going to fix this problem first? Otherwise none of your other promises are credible. I don’t think any of them have a plan to fix this problem first.”
The problem is we’ve allowed a deep inequality to evolve in our system. One way that manifests itself is the money in campaigns, the ridiculous gerrymandering of congressional districts to the point where a whole cross-section of Americans have no representation in Congress. We’ve betrayed the basic idea that Madison had about representational government. To solve the extortion of Washington, we have to attack this inequality.