October 28th, 2010 5:33 pm | by Jacob Pierce News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, Politics, City Hall, Legislature

A Public Campaign Finance Expert's Views on Portland's Program and "Shape Shifters"

Lawrence Lessig

Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig told Portland voters today they have an opportunity in the Nov. 2 election to continue making a difference in election reform.

Lessig, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics, came to Portland State University this rainy Thursday afternoon at the invitation of supporters of city initiative 26-108. Lessig talked about the benefits of publicly financed campaigns in general and more specifically about 26-108, which asks voters whether to continue the city's 5-year-old program of public campaign financing for city candidates who qualify for the assistance.

Lessig, co-founder of fixcongressfirst.org, told the crowd of more than 100 people at PSU that big money and corporate interests play an unfair role in legislators' agendas. And he contended that publicly financed elections, like Portland's, even the score for candidates who can't raise enough money privately.

Lessig called seasoned politicians "shape shifters" who have developed a sixth sense for what issues interest large money donors.

Lessig expressed frustration with The Oregonian for its editorial opposing Portland's publicly financed campaigns. He acknowledged that the plan is not without flaws but that it's far better to improve the program that's existing than to kill it entirely.

Using a multimedia presentation that included video from Casablanca (the one professing shock that gambling is occurring)


and audio from the Talking Heads ("same as it ever was") to argue the corn, banking and health care industries have all benefited from excessive lobbying by money interests.


As an example of the connection between money and influence, Lessig said the healthcare reform bill went soft on the very companies it should have been regulating because of their large donations to politicians.
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