Published May 02, 2016
Lawrence Lessig, a campaign adviser for Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, is threatening a White House run of his own.
But the Harvard Law School professor is making an unusual vow, even by Sanders standards: if elected, he'd pass a single voting reform law and resign the same day.
"Here's the idea we're going to test -- a referendum president, a candidate who runs for president making a single promise," Lessig says in a video announcing his plans. "Once that reform is passed, this president would step down. ... The candidate is the referendum."
Lessig, who wants to be that "referendum president," is specifically concerned with elections and campaign finance. His sole objective would be to pass what he calls The Citizen Equality Act of 2017. After that, he says, he would step down from office and let the vice president take over.
“At the core of our democracy, there is a basic inequality,” he said in the campaign video. “Not the inequality of wealth, though that is a problem, or the inequality of speech, though some think that a problem too, but the inequality of citizens.”
Lessig isn’t technically running yet though he put out a statement touting his plans. He has set up an exploratory committee to assess a potential run, but says if he can raise $1 million by Labor Day, he will enter the Democratic race.
So far he has raised $175,000.
The Sanders campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Lessig’s reform proposal is a combination of elements from other election reform bills. It has three goals: making voting easier, changing congressional district rules, and overhauling campaign finance. Among the law’s proposals are moving elections to a national holiday, ending gerrymandering, and funding campaigns through small-dollar citizen vouchers and matching funds.
That proposal is currently in outline form. If the campaign does launch, Lessig says he will “crowdsource a process to complete the details.”
Some have pointed out that Lessig’s platform strongly resembles Sanders’. According to Lessig, though, he’s the only Democrat talking seriously about a major overhaul.
“Yet though every major candidate in the Democratic primary for president has acknowledged this corruption, so far every one of them just puts it to one side,” he said in the video.