Staging what they have dubbed "the New Hampshire Rebellion," a group lead by Harvard intellectual and activist Lawrence Lessig set out for a 185 mile journey across the "live free or die" state on Saturday, calling attention to what they see as one of the most important issues in U.S. politics today—the dire need for campaign finance reform.
"On Saturday, we begin a walk across the state of New Hampshire, to launch a campaign to bring about an end to the system of corruption that we believe infects DC. This is the New Hampshire Rebellion," states Lessig in a recent op-ed.
The march will pay homage to a similar attempt by famed activist Dorris Haddock, or "Granny D," who, fifteen years ago at the age of 88, marched across the United States from Los Angeles to Washington DC with a sign reading “Campaign Finance Reform” across her chest.
"Haddock is credited with helping to galvanize public will around the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act," Al Jazeera America reports, "which was signed into law in 2002." However, two months after Haddock passed away at the age of 100, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of big donors, and the politicians who use them, in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, "which undid many of the limits put in place on campaign finance and heralded a new era in unprecedented spending by special interests and corporations."
Lessig said he expects over 100 people to join him along the way as they stop in over a dozen towns over the course of two weeks. The group will hold events and public discussions centered around the issues of big money in politics—and how to cleanse such influence from the democratic process.
Citing the importance of New Hampshire in U.S. presidential elections, being the site of the first presidential primary, the goal of the walk will be to convince voters to pressure candidates on the issue of campaign finance reform.
"Along the way, we will recruit everyone we can to do one thing: We want them to ask every presidential candidate at every event between now and January 2016, this one question: 'How will YOU end the system of corruption in DC?'" Lessig writes.
A system of corruption, not particular crimes. Our focus is not Rod Blagojevich; it is the system of campaign funding in which fundraising is key, and the funders represent the tiniest fraction of the 1%. That system, we believe, corrupts this democracy. (We, and 71% of Americans according to a recent poll.) And until that system changes, no sensible reform on the right or the left is possible. Politicians may continue to play this fundraising game. We believe that New Hampshire can change it.
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As this question gets asked, we will record the responses. Literally. And post them. And through allied campaigns, we will put pressure on the candidates to surface this issue — and if we’re lucky — make it central to their campaigns.
The walk begins in Dixville Notch, NH, the place the first 2016 presidential ballots will be cast and will end in Nashua, NH, on the day Granny D was born.
The activists embark Saturday January 11th, exactly one year after the the suicide of internet activist Aaron Swartz, a close friend and colleague of Lessig's.
"I wanted to find a way to mark this day," Lessig writes. "I wanted to feel it, as physically painful as it was emotionally painful one year ago, and every moment since. So I am marking it with the cause that he convinced me to take up seven years ago and which I am certain he wanted to make his legacy too."
Lessig talks about the New Hampshire Rebellion: