The good news for Chris Christie is that some of the country’s most prominent pundits believe that nearly three months after the George Washington Bridge scandal first broke, the New Jersey governor is in good shape.
“You go around and you talk to Republicans, and they like Chris Christie more today than they did three months ago … other than Jeb Bush, he still has the clearest path to this nomination,” said“Morning Joe” host and Politico columnist Joe Scarborough last Tuesday, apparently not as an April Fool’s joke. Scarborough reasoned that the liberal media’s Christie pile-on might have endeared the governor to some conservatives put off by his post-Hurricane Sandy embrace of President Barack Obama.
The bad news for Christie is that unlike some pundits, federal prosecutors are not persuaded by white-shoe law firms’ “independent” investigations or confrontational press conferences during which politicians are said to have regained their “mojo.” Political pundits don’t tend to think like lawyers; they’re focused on the horse race. It’s no wonder the narrative thus far has downplayed legal liability.
I noted this divide in January, when I predicted that Christie’s real problem was legal, not political, and that he would ultimately be brought down not by Bridgegate itself but by an unrelated investigation stemming from it in the same way that Monica Lewinsky had nothing to do with an ill-fated Arkansas land deal called Whitewater and Al Capone went down for tax evasion. Federal prosecutorial tentacles would make an octopus envious. And so despite two marathon press conferences, a 360-page report produced after an internal investigation by Christie’s lawyer Randy Mastro and beheadings for much of his inner circle, Christie is actually in worse shape than he was in when the scandal first broke.
The first reason for this is simple. As I know all too well, having gone to prison for charges related to campaign finance violations, years can elapse between the time federal agencies first begin probing a target and the time they actually bring charges, and the deliberate, exhaustive nature of federal investigations is legend. (To take one example, when I reported for my post-conviction interview with agents, they knew the dates I had visited a casino and amounts of money I had withdrawn from an ATM a decade earlier, despite this being totally unrelated to the investigation.) Just ask Vincent Gray, the soon-to-be former mayor of Washington, D.C., who has been on the defensive after a multi-year federal investigation into his campaign finances. The recent lull in the Christie case (briefly interrupted Friday afternoon by the appearance of Christie press secretary Michael Drewniak before a grand jury) may be just an illusion—a glassy ocean surface with vicious activity occurring in the depths. No one who talks to the feds would breathe a word, for multiple reasons, from the obvious (prosecutorial orders/fear of an obstruction of justice charge) to the more subtle (the shame of snitching on a beloved boss and patron).
Christie’s continuing travel and exceptional fundraising as Republic Governors Association chair and likely presidential candidate is aimed in large part at combating the impression of a weakening governor with all avenues of political advancement quickly closing. But given the length, breadth and opacity of federal investigations, this is like a surfer in the eye of the hurricane exhorting his pals, “Rain’s stopped – surf’s up!”
Perhaps there’s even a whiff of denial on Christie’s part: If I just pretend that everything’s back to normal, and wow the national Republican audiences who like me more than ever, maybe this will all fade away.
I know the psychology well: After the feds knocked on my door the morning of my re-election kickoff fundraiser, I gritted my teeth, raised $100,000 that night (on the advice of counsel, who recommended that I proceed as if nothing were amiss) and wished the successful event could make it all go away. (I ended up returning all the donations.) But while a federal target is traipsing around with billionaires in Orlando and Las Vegas, the gears of justice continue grinding away with a singular focus. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail; and for federal prosecutors focused on public corruption, the bigger the public figure, the larger the scalp. Of course, the only thing sweeter than bringing down a front-running presidential candidate would be nabbing one who made his name prosecuting public corruption as a U.S. attorney.
The second reason Christie may be in worse shape now is the accumulation of troubling information about David Samson. The Christie-appointed Port Authority Commission chairman’s continued silence in the face of emails suggesting that he wanted to “retaliate” against Port Authority staff who re-opened the lanes is disturbing enough. In another e-mail, Samson accused the authority’s executive director, Patrick Foye (who was appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat) of “stirring up trouble” by talking about the lane closures. Both of these contemporaneous emails strongly indicate that if – as Christie has maintained – Samson denied knowing the reason for the lane closures, he was lying. If Samson, per the emails, knew the truth then and told Christie, the governor has been lying. Neither option suits Christie, which may explain why the internal investigatory report essentially ignored the emails.
But far more problematic from a legal perspective are the myriad conflict of interest questions raised by the involvement of Samson’s law firm, Wolff & Samson, in Port Authority business. First came Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s allegation that New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno, a Christie ally, threatened to withhold hurricane recovery aid to Hoboken – one of the state’s hardest hit cities – unless Zimmer agreed to support a billion-dollar development project spearheaded by a Wolff & Samson client. Guadagno strenuously denies that accusation as “false” and “illogical,” but MSNBC’s Steve Kornacki obtained emails related to the project sent from a Wolff & Samson attorney representing the developer to a Hoboken city attorney, pressing Hoboken’s attorney to speak with Samson and copying him on the email. If the Port Authority chairman’s law associate was trying to muscle the city into green-lighting a development—and keeping him in the loop on his activities—that would obliterate the line between Samson’s personal business interests and his public role as chairman.
Read the rest of…
Jeff Smith: Chris Christie is Toast
In my latest column for The Daily Beast, I discuss what I believe was the greatest speech of the 20th Century. Here’s an excerpt:
America is the story of improvisation.
From the ad hoc debates that framed our founding documents, to the native jazz syncopations that power our cultural soundtrack, to the deeply American notion that we all deserve second chances – our national fabric is woven together by motley patches of spontaneous innovation, creativity and reinvention.
It’s no wonder that we cherish the myth that our history’s greatest oration was scribbled furiously on the back of an envelope during a train ride to a Pennsylvania battlefield.
But while Lincoln’s words were more planned and deliberate, the most significant speech of the 20th century was indeed improvised, a spontaneous burst of prose and poetry in the immediate wake of national tragedy. And much as the Gettysburg Address forever redefined the Founders’ promise that “all men are created equal,” Bobby Kennedy’s extemporaneous eulogy to Martin Luther King, Jr. — delivered 46 years ago today — can offer a path toward a more just, compassionate second act for our country.
It was the evening of April 4, 1968, and a bitter, black nightfall had descended on one of our nation’s grayest days.
Rejecting the impassioned urging of local officials who feared imminent violence, Senator Robert F. Kennedy ascended the back of a flatbed truck in a vacant lot, surrounded by dilapidated public housing units, in the heart of the Indianapolis ghetto. Hair tussled, wearing the old overcoat of his fallen brother, Bobby stepped up to a single microphone before a growingly angry African-American audience that had waited hours in the freezing cold to confirm what many had already heard: that Martin Luther King, Jr. — their Voice — had been permanently silenced. And without notes, speaking directly from his heart, a heart that ached from an unimaginable half-decade of grief — grief for a brother, for a comrade-in-peace, for a nation in turmoil — Robert Kennedy improvised the speech of his life.
Click here to read “RFK and the Healing Power of Improvisation.”
And watch RFK’s moving oratory below:
As a young boy my list of grown-ups I idolized included a long list of what you’d expect with any typical boy—athletes, political figures, a few movie stars (the character more than the actor, of course).
But when I was about 12 years old I was in a hotel room with a friend watching a movie that we were able to get through the hotel. It was Love and Death by Woody Allen. It played in the background while I played with my friend. But I kept trying to watch it. The humor was quirky and absurd. And when there was the scene of the view of a battlefield from the perspective of the generals (which was a pack of stampeding sheep instead of men fighting for their lives on the battlefield), I started laughing uncontrollably. I guess I thought it was brilliant and silly at the same time but it hit my funny bone from an angle and with a velocity I had never experienced before –and I stopped my playing with my friend altogether to watch this unusual and hilarious movie. And watched again a second and a third time before I stopped ordering it for fear my parents would get angry when they saw the bill.
A few years later I asked my mom to drive me to see the movie Manhattan. I heard Woody Allen had written it and starred in it. The same guy who wrote and starred in that hilarious movie I saw at the hotel when I was 12.
I didn’t like Manhattan as much as Love and Death, but left the theater a bona fide Woody Allen fan.
In high school, there were no VCR’s yet, but Louisville did have The Vogue and The Uptown art theaters which often played older and less commercially popular films, and I got to see many of the older Allen movies—Bananas, Take the Money and Run, and of course, Annie Hall, which I adored.
I wouldn’t let other kids in high school know about my Woody Allen fetish but I felt like he “got me.” Or at least, “I got him.” I was a smallish and philosophical kid that didn’t fit into any of the traditional groups or cliques in high school. Woody Allen’s humor provided a refuge for me. A sanctuary where I didn’t feel like as much of an oddity—and the pressure to be like everyone else would temporarily evaporate as long as the movie played, and I could even feel a surge of pride for being a humorous oddball who saw the world through a neurotic lens. Woody Allen helped me feel I wasn’t alone…and wasn’t defective or inferior.
As a college student living in Los Angeles for a year and a half and majoring in philosophy at USC — and still a smallish and slightly neurotic guy— I purchased a VCR and depended even more on Woody Allen’s worldview. I watched all of his movies at least several times. Some probably 10 or 12 times. They continued to provide me comfort in a world that wasn’t receptive to self-questioning, nervous, guys like me.
I also read his books: Without Feathers and Side Effects and Getting Even. And actually read each all the way through. Something I rarely did with any book even though I was a college student at the time. And I didn’t even get college credit for reading Allen’s books! And I bought a rare cassette of his early stand-up routines. Which I also found uproariously funny as well as finding a kinship with the humor. It wasn’t just comic relief any more but absorbing chunks of Woody Allen’s philosophy at life by this juncture of my fanhood.
I saw Woody Allen once at about this time in my life. My stepmother, Phyllis, was working for CBS news and living in New York. I visited her one weekend and we went to Elaine’s restaurant. Phyllis kept trying to introduce me at our noisy table to Pat O’Brien who was a sports colleague at CBS. But I couldn’t take my eyes of the two gentlemen seated quietly in the corner talking thoughtfully between themselves, Woody Allen and Dick Cavett.
Again, I was too self-conscious to mention—especially to a sports loving crowd at our table—I wanted nothing more than to meet Woody Allen. Inside I felt like one of those screaming teenage girls you see as the Beatles get off the plane for their first trip to the US. But outside I tried to pretend I was listening to a funny sports story I couldn’t care less about and laugh along with everyone else.
That same weekend in NY after everyone in my family was asleep I played a Woody Allen movie I had rented. My father woke up and got some ice cream and sat down with me and asked what I was watching. I told him and hoped he’d watch a few minutes and find the scene we were watching as hilarious as I did. He chuckled awkwardly as he had before when I tried a Woody Allen joke on him. I asked him why he didn’t like him more. He said, “Woody Allen reminds me of eating cauliflower. It just didn’t look very good and I never bothered trying it.”
In his defense, my father was never a very self-conscious person who would appreciate Allen’s humor and we just had very different taste in film. The night before I took my father to see the movie “The Gods Must be Crazy.” But we left after about 25 minutes when my father said it was too slow and he couldn’t figure out what it was about.
By the time I reached my 20s, I started coming into my own as a person and began to feel it was safer to acknowledge my Woody Allen infatuation. I read a piece—maybe in the New Yorker—about a young woman who secretly wanted to be Woody Allen, only a female version, who snarkily and with wry and sophisticated humor poked fun at others around her for being shallow. It was safe to come out of the Woody Allen closet.
When Allen was awarded the Cecile B Demille award for lifetime achievement at the Golden Globe awards last month. Of course, as always, he didn’t attend to receive his award. I felt like I had been vindicated in my adoration of Woody Allen’s work. But moments later I read about a series of Tweets from Mia Farrow and Ronan Farrow bringing up old accusations about child molestation charges about Woody molesting Farrow and his adopted daughter, Dylan, when she was 7 years old.
Initially, I am disappointed to report, I thought, “Oh, please. Enough already. Let the man receive this well-deserved award for his art without going there…..”
The next few days and weeks became a full-blown rehash of a shocking episode in Allen’s career that had stayed publicly buried for nearly 20 years where he and Farrow broke up after Woody fell in love with their then adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn and later married her. It was an ugly public battle and shook my worship of Allen to its core at the time. But I somehow mustered the denial and distinction between one’s art and personal life give him the benefit of the doubt to eventually continue my admiration for Woody Allen, although it would never quite be the same as before.
But this time –over the past few days—sifting through the sordid accusations and factual details again as an older and wiser man, I can’t deny that something outrageous and wholly inappropriate happened between Woody Allen and his young adopted daughter over 20 years ago.
I acknowledge that fact and am saddened to learn that you are never too old to become disillusioned with those you place on a pedestal. Or even find part of their life—which is inextricably part of who they are—despicable. And that is true even if you are a 50 year old fan and moved on from hero worship many years ago. But it still stings…and still hurts, too.
So, no, I won’t defend Woody Allen art or try to distinguish it from his personal life. But please don’t expect me –just yet anyway– to line up behind his ex-wife and adopted daughter and pile on Allen either. I would like to say that I won’t be doing that because it is a personal matter and should be handled in private. But the real reason is there is still a part of denial in me that my childhood hero was capable of doing such inexplicable things. And since I am only a fan—and not a direct player in this drama—in my defense and in defense of all similarly situated Woody Allen fans, I ask that you understand it is not the grieving of the public death of a man’s reputation that makes us unable to be objective right now. It is the grieving of the private death of part of ourselves.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Think Wildstein a distraction now. If he had the goods he’d be giving em up below radar. The ones feeling real heat likely Baroni/Samson.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Immunity grant Wildstein seeking pie in sky. 5K.1.1 letter in which feds request lenient sentence aftr substantial cooperation more frequent
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
The impt thing about Wildstein letter isn’t anything in it. It’s degree to which it may motivate others to flip while they still have value.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Once the feds have the dude you were gonna rat out, you’re useless – and your cooperation agreement evaporates. Thus the potential rush here
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Federal targets are like poker players: the weak hands act strong, while the strong hands stay quiet. So Wildstein may be in real trouble here
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Interesting to see Wildstein beg for attn. Feds have likely moved on to others with more/better cards to play on non-Ft Lee issues.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Big Christie problem now: tenuousness of power position renders notion that he’ll “take care” of allies who eat it increasingly implausible.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Smart- Legal survival trumps politics MT @lis_Smith “Christie has not taken q’s at a news conference for 21 days.” http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/01/31/nyregion/for-christie-a-governor-under-fire-super-bowl-brings-glee.html?from=nyregion … …
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 2
Bridgegate fed crimes a stretch. No breach of honest services statute post-Conrad Black. W/ WH hopes fading,obstruction for pol reasons nuts
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 3
Silly how pundits write, “just as things were calming down for Christie…” Things were heating up, not calming; most US Attys aren’t sieves
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 3
Pundit silliness #2: suggesting Wildstein’s letter indicates “heating up”. Media confuses letter aimed at them for actual event of import.
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 3
We knew from Day 1 Wildstein itching to sing; his letter impt only insofar as it might goad waverers to sing before their info made redundnt
Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO Feb 3
A snitch can give the Feds every morsel he’s got, but if they already have it or if it’s not on the guy they want, he’ll get zilch for it.
A second week into Chris Christie’s soap opera, one sign of trouble is pretty hard to dispute: subpoenas and inquiries from federal prosecutors almost never end well for politicians, and the newest allegation, of conditioning access to federal grant money on a political favor, fits the four corners of federal criminal statutes much more neatly than the traffic tie-up element of the affair. And of course, if the legal side of the equation unravels, the political side collapses with it.
Assuming that the worst case doesn’t transpire, the Christie camp ought to still fear something else, and it goes beyond the conventional wisdom that Christie looks petty, vindictive, and guilty of fostering a culture of retaliation. That risk is obviously real enough, but probably more likely to rub off on insiders than Republican caucus and primary voters, and may not ultimately prove more damaging to voters than Ted Cruz’s embrace of obstructionism or the more exotic pieces of Rand Paul’s profile.
In fact, there are already early signs that Christie is being insulated with Republicans for the simple reason that his sharpest inquisitors are a left-wing cable network and the ever disreputable beast in Republican circles, the mainstream media.
And therein lies the more subtle danger to Christie—the possibility that his effort to armor himself by donning the hardware of conservative resentment remakes the governor into the partisan warrior he has so assiduously avoided becoming. To put this in perspective, consider that the general election promise of a Christie candidacy has always had two related components: (1) that he is not the kind of Republican who revels in pseudo theories about socialist conspiracies being cooked up in Washington and (2) that his best (and shrewdest) critique of Barack Obama has arisen from a high ground that is not terribly partisan, namely that five years of liberal ascension have contributed to rather than softened the country’s divisions.
That profile explains how Christie has so effectively assailed liberal interest group politics in New Jersey as a threat to the common good without seeming overly ideological. It is also what enabled Christie to practice a genuinely coalitional reelection strategy last year, which was stunningly effective in splintering the Democratic voting base, from Latinos to blacks to suburban female professionals.
It is hardly that Christie is some anodyne, passionless figure who keeps votes in play by saying little and offending no sacred cows. Instead, the Christie persona has been that he is the rare Republican whose anger seems less directed at lost cultural ground, or Obama’s presumptions, or dark fantasies about diminished liberty, and more at the dysfunction and smallness of the current political landscape.
Can that image survive if Christie’s mainline of defense is that he is just another Republican under siege by the left? How much is left of Christie’s national appeal if he is about to morph into another Fox Republican? And even in the context of the Republican nomination, just how sustainable is the path of conservative warrior for a politician who has been known to bristle at right-wing orthodoxy on guns, the environment, and healthcare?
Assuming that Christie’s fingerprints aren’t found any places that they shouldn’t be, I would still bet that the verdict on the governor’s character and political style will end up being rendered by the primary voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, not the thirty-somethings at MSNBC and Politico, much less a handful of government lawyers. But Christie’s center-right admirers ought to worry that the tactics of survival don’t end up erasing what made Christie worth admiring in the first place.
Yes, folks, once again it’s time for a male politician to introduce us to an outlandish character, in the course of either sending indiscreet texts or making tone-deaf remarks about women. And for the record, I am NOT taking Mike Huckabee’s remarks out of context – I know he was saying that he believes Democrats are the ones ‘making women believe they are helpless without Uncle Sugar providing them a prescription for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government.’ You know, because the Democrats’ real war on women is forcing us to make our own decisions and denying us mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds . . . ? (Not to mention an apparently confused idea of exactly what birth control pills do . . . )
At any rate, it was yet another example of why men of either party should stay away from sex – from talking about it, from texting about it, and certainly from making up middle-school-worthy aliases. Fortunately, I was raised by a feminist mother (which had some disadvantages – I was never allowed to have a Barbie because my mom disapproved of the unrealistic body image expectations generated by a doll whose real life measurements would be 39-21-33, who would be 6′ and weigh 100 lbs. . . . . . but I digress). Anyway, as an unpopular late-blooming geeky high school sophomore (whose real life measurements at the time were approximately 24-24-24), I came in for a fair amount of name-calling and teasing. One day I complained to my mother about the football captain in my physics class who constantly leered at me, “Hey, Mayer – your place or mine?” and made his buddies erupt in raucous laughter. (Remember, this was way before anyone had heard of ‘sexual harassment’ – it was only a couple of years after girls were finally allowed to wear pants at my school!) Mom suggested I try joking back (reminding me of the scene in A Tree Grows In Brooklyn where Francie is ostracized by the other girls at her first job until she laughs at something . . . like I said, I was a geek!) So the next day, when he re-used the same joke for the 47th time (and confirmed that he was a jock and no scholar-athlete), I retorted, “How about my place tonight and yours tomorrow, if you’re man enough?” His friends laughed, he turned beet red, and that was the end of the teasing. And I learned a valuable lesson!
In other words, Mike Huckabee just wrote my next song for me . . .
Nothing is ever quite the same after you wake up to the feds pounding on your door. Trust me: I learned the hard way.
Which is why most of the media response to the “Bridgegate” scandal and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s handling thereof feels off to me.
The optimists, including Time and Washington Post political analysts, have asserted that after his “virtuoso” press conference performance, Christie remains the 2016 Republican frontrunner. Somewhere in the middle are Politico and Slate columnists, who acknowledge that this episode may affect the governor’s 2016 prospects. Others less enamored of the governor say that despite his mistakes, the media’s infatuation with him will keep him afloat.
The most pessimistic analysts contend that Christie’s presidential hopes are finished because this episode has highlighted his famously overbearing style, or would force him to change it, which may be beyond his ability and/or cost him support. A few even think his governorship may be in jeopardy based on Bridgegate or the more recent revelation that he awarded a contract to the highest (as opposed to the lowest) bidder for ads featuring his own visage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
But other than New York’s Jonathan Chait, who recognized the cumulative weight of multiple investigations at multiple levels of government, most commentators are focusing on the wrong thing: the politics of recent revelations. The few who are focused on the potential criminal violations by Christie aides (and perhaps Christie himself) are focused on Bridgegate and, to a lesser extent, the tourism ad kerfluffle. Was wire fraud committed by anyone who used email to further an illicit act? Do state crimes of willful negligence or public corruption might apply here? Was a federal crime of interfering with interstate transportation committed?
What these pundits forget—and, as Christie, a former U.S. attorney, knows as well as anyone—is the old saw that federal prosecutors can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. They don’t need a bulletproof case. And once they have a target, they aren’t limited to investigating the matter that caught their attention; public corruption probes often widen as new information emerges. Federal prosecutors rarely have just one attack route. Remember, they brought down Al Capone for income tax evasion, not bribery, bootlegging, or murder. The Fort Lee incident may be merely a bridge, if you will, to other Christie administration misconduct. As a former target of a federal investigation that started in one place and ended in a very different one, I’m all too familiar with the unpredictable directions in which these things can go. What piques a prosecutor’s interest during plea negotiations may be totally unrelated to the original crime.
Read the rest of…
Jeff Smith: Yes, Chris Christie, the Feds Are Out to Get You
Just in case you haven’t seen Avenue Q or studied German, Schadenfreude means “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others,” which makes it sound like sadism or bullying. But combine it with hubris – in case you haven’t studied Greek or read op-ed pieces about Anthony Weiner, hubris is “extreme pride, arrogance and overconfidence.” So when someone displaying great hubris has a spectacular public failure, one could make a pretty good case for ‘justifiable schadenfreude.’
For example, have you ever enjoyed the delicious satisfaction of seeing a driver pulled over for speeding who a few miles earlier cut you off? Or isn’t it fun to hear someone telling a clearly fabricated story get tripped up by a question he or she can’t answer? It’s not that we are relishing the pain of other people, but occasionally it is sure nice to see someone get caught (often referred to as ‘hoisted by one’s own petard,’ which is a Shakespearean phrase meaning lifted by one’s own explosive device, and that makes me seem kind of mean, but ‘getting one’s just deserts’ makes it look like I’ve misspelled a bakery title . . . but I digress).
Anyway, Chris Christie may have had nothing directly to do with ‘Bridge-gate,’ as the flap over the GW Bridge closure has come to be known. And maybe it doesn’t strain credulity that several senior members of his staff planned an enormous revenge plan without consulting or informing him. However, despite his press conference performance as a mild-mannered clueless mayor sad about being lied to and betrayed, he does have a bit of a track record for being vindictive and combative. Plus in the past few months he’d made any number of disparaging, sarcastic remarks about the reporters and state legislators looking into the whole thing. So is it any wonder that plenty of people are taking just a little, teeny tiny bit of joy in his discomfort?
Incidentally, it looked for awhile like Christie had achieved the impossible – creating bipartisan agreement, since both Republicans and Democrats were criticizing him. But apparently most Republicans got the GOP memo on the subject, so they’re now all talking about the left-wing media witch hunt, and why aren’t we as critical of Obama not knowing about the IRS conspiracy to cover-up the security situation in Benghazi to distract from the health care website rollout, or something along those lines.
So now that we’re back to ‘business as usual,’ I’m indulging in comedians’ favorite form of ‘justifiable schadenfreude,’ which is finding comic relief in a politician’s self-imposed difficulties:
A “rebellion” is about to begin the second day. I am tracking its progress on the Internet.
Staging what they have dubbed “the New Hampshire Rebellion,” a group led by Harvard professor, author and activist Lawrence Lessig set out for a 185 mile journey across the “live free or die” state 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.
Lessig recently wrote in The Daily Beast:
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.
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,” “which was signed into law in 2002.
However, since then, the Supreme Court, has ruled in favor of big donors, and the politicians who use them. In 2010, in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, and in 2013, in McCutcheon vs FEC many of the limits put in place on campaign finance has been overturned, paving the way for a new era of unprecedented spending by special interests, corporations and individuals.
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 Washington?
A system of corruption, a 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.
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 began in Dixville Notch, NH, the place where the first presidential ballots are cast and will end in Nashua, NH, on the day Granny D was born, January 24th.
The activists embarked 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:
The walkers current location, Akers Pond Inn, Errol, NH. Distance Traveled: 10 miles. Distance To Go: 175 miles.
How would YOU end the system of corruption in Washington? Send responses to email@example.com. I will summarize them in a future article.