‘Paying it backward’

Last modified: 8/26/2014 8:46:37 AM
Before walking the late Doris “Granny D” Haddock’s practice course from Dublin to Hancock, Lawrence Lessig thought it was a “sacrifice.” Granny D of Dublin would walk the hilly 10 miles to prepare for her over 3,000-mile walk from Southern California to Washington, D.C., in 1999 to advocate for campaign finance reform. She was 88 years old when she started.

Lessig, after completing 6 of those hilly miles, told the crowd of about two dozen that walked alongside him that it wasn’t much of a sacrifice. “It was beautiful,” he said, grinning.

Lessig, a constitutional law professor at Harvard and a political activist, planned the walk with his organization N.H. Rebellion, which advocates for campaign finance reform. They organized a walk of about 180 miles from Dixville Notch to Nashua in January. Carol Wyndham of Peterborough approached Lessig in July about planning Saturday’s walk.

In Hancock on Saturday, Lessig said this tribute to Granny D was “paying it backward” to her and continuing her battle against money’s corrupting influence on politics.

Lessig said New Hampshire has a “unique opportunity to set the tone and progress” for the 2016 presidential elections. New Hampshire’s Republican primary election is on Sept. 9.

“Here’s what it needs: Recognition. It’s your job to make it happen,” he said.

The evening before, Lessig spoke at the Amos Fortune Forum, which invites speakers of note to the Jaffrey forum throughout the summer. At the Forum, Lessig said Granny D gave “birth to a movement that inspires and continues to inspire. What would it mean to live in a democracy?” At Granny D’s mention, the crowd that flooded the Jaffrey Center Meetinghouse erupted in cheers and applause.

Earlier in the lecture, Lessig said 0.05 percent of Americans fund politicians and the government through private contributions, and politicians spend 30 to 70 percent of their time fundraising. Lessig asserted this fraction of Americans contributing money to politicians leads to inequality, corrupting America’s democracy — this government represents the interests of a minority, instead of the whole country, he said.

To overturn this system, Lessig and his organizations, N.H. Rebellion and MayDay PAC, plan to donate to Congressional candidates who are in favor of campaign finance reform. If enough of these candidates are elected, Lessig said Congress could pass legislation to reform how politicians can receive contributions.

MayDay, a crowd-funded political action committee, raised $12 million from January to July to sponsor candidates in state elections across the country this year. MayDay’s website bills the group as the “Super PAC to end all SuperPACs.” It will continue to raise money until 2019, when Congress passes this legislation and protects it from any amendments, Lessig said.

On Saturday, when asked about what New Hampshire can do in the upcoming elections in September and November, Lessig said the public can ask “tough questions” and support candidates who are for reforming the system.

If these candidates sweep the elections, Lessig said, that will carry over to the 2016 presidential election. New Hampshire has the first presidential primary in the nation.

“That’s why New Hampshire is such a critical state,” Lessig said.

New Hampshire GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Jim Rubens of Hanover was at Saturday’s walk. He is the only Republican candidate in the country openly supporting Lessig’s campaign. Rubens said the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 was “written by Wall Street.” The law, in part, stops taxpayer-funded bailouts to prevent banks from becoming “too big to fail.”

But, Rubens said this law is obstructing small businesses in New Hampshire from making and obtaining loans.

Rubens said U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Scott Brown accepted $1 million and $3.4 million donations from securities and investments groups. The website, opensource.org, confirms Ruben’s claims.

“Who are these people representing?” Rubens said.

In the race for the N.H. 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Annie Kuster (D-Hopkinton) raised over $400,000 in the 2nd quarter of 2014. Of Kuster’s Republican challengers, Marilinda Garcia raised $135,000. Gary Lambert of Nashua raised $103,000 and Jim Lawrence raised $5,227, although he announced his campaign with less than three weeks until the end of the filing period. Lessig said Kuster is a known supporter of campaign finance reform.

Kath Allen, a Peterborough Democrat running for state representative, said Friday evening during the reception following the Amos Forune Forum that although Kuster may be in support of campaign finance reform, she is still operating from within the system.

On the walk, Allen described the mood as “mellow,” and said a lot of the participants had thoughtful conversations.

Another candidate running for state representative as a Democrat, Patricia Martin of Rindge, wearing a straw-hat-pin on her shirt to honor Granny D, said Friday at the reception that PACs can spend on whatever they want, including negative campaigns.

Friday night Lessig, wearing all black in the dimmed hall with the Apple of his laptop glowing, started his lecture relating the campaign finance reform to African-Americans struggling for equality. Lessig concluded, saying this is a struggle across partisanship, across classes and across America. It’s a movement that is beginning right here in New Hampshire, he said.


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