CREDIT: Joi Ito Flickr/ Creative Commons
The 2014 midterm election is on track to break dark money records. The very wealthiest Americans are enjoying even more options to influence elections this year, thanks to a recent Supreme Court decision striking down aggregate contribution limits. All this is too much for campaign finance reform activist and Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, who announced Thursday he’s starting a new Super PAC to end all Super PACs — the Mayday PAC.
Lessig vows that 100 percent of the money will go to candidates who want to reform campaign finance, and all overhead costs will be paid by the directors. Lessig hopes to use the maritime and aeronautical distress signal, “mayday”, as a call to action to end the growing influence that the 1 percent holds over American politics. “Our democracy is held hostage by the funders of campaigns. We’re going to pay the ransom, and get it back,” Lessig said in the launch video. “We want to build a Super PAC big enough to end all Super PACs.”
Recent studies have found that wealthy Americans’ influence over politics has grown significantly over the past few decades. Just a few hours after the launch, the Super PAC had raised nearly $50,000 — 5 percent of its $1 million goal.
Mayday PAC is not Lessig’s first venture into campaign finance reform. In 2008 he founded Change Congress, a grassroots campaign finance reform movement that is now a part of United Republic, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. that supports anti-corruption laws. Lessig was also an avid supporter of the Occupy movement, saying it was “striking at the root” of the problems in our representative democracy. Post-occupation, Lessig is apparently now looking to bring down the system by working within it.
The 2012 election broke records for outside spending on elections, with over $300 million spent by outside groups that do not have to disclose donor information. The 2014 election is likely to surpass even that sum. On 2014 Senate elections alone, advertising spending is already 45 percent higher than the previous cycle — and nearly 60 percent of ads are funded by outside groups, according to an analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project. Over two-thirds of ads supporting Republican candidates were bankrolled by outside groups. Democrats are not far behind, with outside groups funding almost half of pro-Democrat ads.
It is worth noting that Mayday PAC is not the first Super PAC formed to take on dark money in elections. It joins America’s Super PAC For The Permanent Elimination of America’s Super PACs (ASPFTPEASP) and Friends of Democracy in playing the big money game in order to end the influence of big money.
Mason Atkins is an intern for Think Progress.