How to Think About Change Congress

Well, Change Congress is up and running, and I’ve neglected it so far. Fortunately, Julian Sanchez and Dave Weigel have the bases covered.

So many things come to mind, but check this out:

The most interesting part, so far, has been Lessig’s argument to conservatives for why we need public financing. First, the idea he semi-endorsed is not full public campaign finance. It is public financing for incumbents, an idea he credits to Paul Begala and James Carville. Incumbents would be prohibited from raising any money, at all, period. Their funds will come from the U.S. Treasury and be a function of how much their opponents raise. If Challenger Jones raises $1 million, Congressman Smith gets a check for $800,000.

I hadn’t realized this was Lessig’s position, probably because I haven’t been paying close enough attention. But I actually suggested something like this in February, when it briefly looked as though Lessig would actually run for Congress.

The two proposals that appeal to me closely related: the first is from James Carville and Paul Begala, and the second is from David Cay Johnston. Both are zany and possibly daft, particularly the Carville and Begala proposal, but both come from people who know political corruption inside and out and both ask the right questions about the sources of corruption.

Um, this is clearly a leap on my part, but wouldn’t it be neat if Lessig actually read that post! (In truth: Highly unlikely).

For the record, here is my “badge.”

Change Congress

While Weigel focuses on the political-ideological angle, Sanchez explains the open-source architectural principles undergirding the effort.

Jeff Jarvis has a neat blog post on some related notions, which go well beyond a narrow reading of the Change Congress agenda yet are entirely compatible with it. Definitely worth a look. I particularly like the GovernmentStorm concept.

So if I were Mark Benioff at Salesforce, I’d offer his storms to any government agency at any level (for free, because it would be a generous gift back and it would also distribute the functionality as a standard of such conversation). And then the wise politician will open up, invite ideas, and hold conversations with constituents there (this won’t work if the politicians don’t engage in that conversation and don’t take action based on ideas there; then it’s just another brick wall). So if I were my governor, Jon Corzine, facing the need to make huge cuts in government — and only more cuts as the economy worsens — I’d ask citizens for theirs ideas. It wouldn’t be a magic bullet but maybe some ideas and themes (though not consensus) would emerge.

Speaking of efforts to engage the public, I spent some time earlier today with “A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq,” a kind of high-tech petition drive coupled with a very vague non-plan plan. I was fully expecting a plan, and was wondering if it would track the Korb-CAP redeployment proposal or something else. To be sure, it makes sense to be vague — you want as broad a coalition as possible. But they were promising a responsible plan! Not a placeholder for a responsible plan, which would be a different thing entirely. Seriously, see for yourself. It’s a head-scratcher.