By Travis Nyhus
The corruption in the U.S. Government is in the fundraising, a Harvard law professor said when he spoke as a part of The Forum series in Schofield Auditorium on the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire campus.
“There is a critical problem at the core of our government, and it is Congress,” Dr. Lawrence Lessig said.
In his speech, Republic Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress- And a Plan to Stop It, Lessig, a onetime presidential candidate said to a crowd of more than 300 people, that equal representation has been lost.
There are three problems that Lessig sees. The first problem is that there is an unequal freedom to vote, Lessig said.
“Ten million Americans had to wait more than 30 minutes to vote across America,” Lessig said. Having to wait in long lines to vote prevents citizens from participating in the government. Working class citizen don’t have the time to wait in lines in order to vote. This is a “poll tax that America just can’t afford,” Lessig said.
The second problem Lessig addressed was gerrymandering, which is favoring a political party by influencing boundaries. This allows parties to draw, “safe seats,” Lessig said. Safe seats are those in which the majority party has no fear of losing their seat in the House of Representatives.
Of the 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, “probably 345 at least are safe seats”, Lessig said. The minority party doesn’t have a chance to take the place of the incumbent congressperson. In only 90 districts is there competition for who will take the representative seat.
“We’ve created a system in America where the politicians pick the voters, rather than the voters picking the politicians,” Lessig said. The biggest funders are able to support politicians of their choice.
Lessig went on to discuss how a minority amount of people are able to influence who the majority is able to elect to represent them. The first stage of selecting candidates is being affected by wealthy donors who are able impact eligible candidates. Super PAC’s, “which have been the most perverse input in this cycle of corruption,” Lessig said. Too much of candidate funding comes from a low number of people or families.
Eric Jennings, a faculty member at the university, said that the speech was informative and that Lessig had a lot of very important things to say. “He is trying to remove the partisanship and I think that this is a very positive thing,” Jennings said.
The key to restoring representative democracy is an equal vote and equal representation, Lessig said. The U.S. representative democracy was one that was dependent on the people alone and we have lost that republic, Lessig said. Lessig went on to mention that no amendment is necessary to make a change.
“We need a government that works for both the left and the right,” Lessig said. In order to fix other problems our country faces, the first issue needs to be fixed.
The first issue is the corruption of the U.S. Congress, Lessig said.