Money's Influence Called Villain of Our Times

By DaParma, Ron | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 26, 2008 | Go to article overview

Money's Influence Called Villain of Our Times


DaParma, Ron, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Money and its influence -- on politicians and on corporate executives -- are the prime reasons for the nation's financial crisis and the pain and suffering of the American public, says anti- corruption crusader Lawrence Lessig.

That doesn't mean capitalism is the problem, but it does mean political leaders can't let business interests control their decision-making via campaign contributions and pressure from lobbyists, the Stanford University professor said in a talk Thursday at the University of Pittsburgh.

"We have a Congress that fewer than 10 percent of the people believe is doing a decent job. There were more people who had faith in the British Crown before the Revolution than that," said Lessig, who also is a noted expert in copyright law.

He has been making stops throughout the country pushing for a "Declaration for Independence" -- a campaign to eliminate the chances that political candidates and government leaders can be swayed by "improper influences."

Public financing for elections is the best way to do that. A close second would be radical reform of earmarks doled out by politicians for constituents, Lessig said.

"I believe in capitalism, but what we need is a little more critical thinking," he said in an interview. "It's not about what the citizens want. It's what they (politicians) have to do to continue to raise money to stay in office."

The banking crisis is a great example of that, he said. Lobbyists for financial institutions contributed millions of dollars to politicians, with the result being eased regulations.

"When you look at the financial crisis, when you look at Enron, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the crash on Wall Street, the one thing that links these all together is the extraordinary deregulation that has happened in the last eight years," he said. …

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