Mayday Critic Questions Lessig’s Claims of Effectiveness, Agrees with Goal

Solid breakdown with good conclusion, but the author starts with the assumption that the only way to demonstrate progress is through a win.  Lessig’s broader point is that he demonstrated that campaign finance can a be relevant issue in campagns.

“The two races on which Mayday spent the most money were the New Hampshire Republican senatorial primary, where it backed Jim Rubens against Scott Brown, and the 6th Congressional District in Michigan, where it supported Paul Clements against incumbent Fred Upton. In both cases, Lessig seriously overstates Mayday’s accomplishments.

“In New Hampshire, Rubens secured only 23.5 percent of the vote. But more important than the low percentage of the vote that he received was the fact that only 37 percent of voters thought reducing ‘the corrupting influence of money in politics was a major factor in their vote.’ Clearly it is an overstatement to say, as Lessig does, that in New Hampshire, Mayday ‘was able to mobilize people passionate about this issue to turn out to vote….’

“Over and above that faulty assessment is the lesson that Lessig draws from the Michigan senatorial race. Mayday’s candidate, Clements, was defeated 56 percent to 40 percent, but Lessig’s judgment is nonetheless favorable. He states that Mayday’s intervention forced Upton ‘to double his ad buy [during] the campaign.’ Lessig uses this race as one of four in which Mayday’s ‘intervention was a significant tax on our opponent, forcing him to spend significantly to neutralize the effect of our campaign.’ According to Lessig, ‘The threat of that tax will motivate other candidates to avoid the risk of a similar fight.’

“With all of this said, it nevertheless remains the case that Lessig’s basic political instinct – that campaign finance reform requires engagement with the political system – remains sound. He is also right in arguing that ‘victory will require Zephyr-Teachout-like candidates [who are] passionate on the issue and a willingness among [those] candidates to force the issue into the campaign.’

“But victory will require more than committed candidates. Voters must turn out at the polls to elect them, something which at the moment and despite Lessig’s optimism, they are not prepared to do. For that to happen the electorate will have to be convinced that publicly funded candidates will be responsive to the needs of the middle class and low income groups in ways that the current cohort of privately funded elected officials are not. To win, reform candidates will have to combine their call for public funding of elections with the promise to enact policies that materially improve voters’ lives by, for example, increasing the income and employment of those who have been most shut out of the country’s economic gains. Such campaigns will require a massive field operation. People will not be convinced by television ads that politics really can be changed. Person to person persuasion will be needed.”

Good Fight Host on Mayday: Moved the Needle and Plans for the Future

Washington Post The Switch: Worth a full read

“My reaction the day after the election was similar to Larry Lessig’s, which was: “Okay, we see the election returns. Mayday didn’t defy all the laws of political physics and make a handful of races move in the opposite direction from the rest of the country.” But the real question is what happens when you dig into the numbers underneath that. And it seems like they did move a bunch of voters.

“Reading the data they’ve generated since the election, we know that in all the targeted races, there was a double-digit percentage of voters who said that money in politics was their top voting issue, and those people were significantly more likely to vote for Mayday’s endorsed candidate.

“The other thing is New Hampshire, where they poured several million dollars into the primary, Scott Brown, six weeks after the primary, was still viewed as a lobbyist and bad on money and politics by significant, a really big chunk of the electorate.

“I don’t think Mayday has claimed victory in the New Hampshire general election race — they didn’t do any expenditures in the general — but it seems like they played a role in Scott Brown being defeated in a state where it could have gone the other direction.”

Plans for the future:

“Mayday’s laying its plans right now, and there are a couple of avenues for that. There’s this army of people — almost 70,000 people now — who donated to Mayday in the last round. And they want to basically work with that group to turn them into citizen lobbyists and storm all these members of Congress and ask them to sign on.

“The second thing is, one of the big lessons Larry drew from this cycle is that partisanship trumps almost everything else. So if you’re a Republican, you’re not going to vote for a Democrat because of your concern about a particular issue, and vice versa. There are almost no Democrats who would vote for a Republican simply because the Democrat is bad on campaign finance. What does that tell you? That tells you you should work in primaries. There are lots of primaries where this is potentially a dividing line.”

Anti-Reform Group Accuses Mayday PAC of Failing to Use Required Disclosure Language in Ads

Free Beacon: “‘Paid for by Mayday PAC. Not affiliated with any candidate or campaign,’ the group disclaimed in eight of its New Hampshire radio ads. A compliant disclaimer would’ve said that the group “is responsible for the content of this advertising.”

“Small changes to disclaimers in ads also allowed MAYDAY to reduce the time in 30 or 60-second spots devoted to satisfying the FEC’s disclaimer requirements. That allowed the group to devote more airtime to the actual contents of the ad.

“‘Mayday PAC saved approximately 10 percent of its advertising costs compared to other non-candidate speakers’ by illegally abridging disclaimers on two New Hampshire television ads, CCP said. ‘This amount is not trivial.'”

“After publication, Lessig directed inquiries about the complaint to this statement on his website: ‘To be clear: Every Mayday.US ad fully identified Mayday.US as its sponsor. And unlike Super PACs that accept dark money, Mayday.US discloses every contribution (over $200) as well. None could be confused about whom the ad was from, and anyone who cared could identify whom the PAC was funded by.'”

My take: appears that Mayday may have made some mistakes here, but hypocrisy is a bit far – Lessig doesn’t support the current disclosure rules, he wants to eliminate the need for them altogether.