On why I am not running


With lots of mixed feelings, I have decided a run for Congress would not help the Change Congress movement. I explain the thinking in this 5 minute video (a new record for me!). First question: What happens to the contributions to Lessig08? As explained on the ActBlue page, all will go to (the yet to be established) Change Congress organization.

Thanks to everyone who helped me make this decision — and especially the many friends in the harshest way told me it would be a mistake.

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71 Responses to On why I am not running

  1. Devan says:

    Ultimately, I think it is a good call. You (Lessig) have always had your eye on the bigger picture, on the long-term struggle and I am glad we have you fighting on our side. Looking forward to participating in the Change Congress movement. Thanks for everything.

  2. Shaun Dakin says:

    Good decision. You can do much more, over time, building a movement to change congress OUTSIDE of congress than INSIDE.

    I would suggest focusing a lot of energy on the redistricting process across the nation and making it one that is nonpartisan and data driven rather than the current highly partisan gerrymandered districts that make up the majority of the nation’s congressional districts.

    Shaun Dakin
    CEO and Founder
    The National Political Do Not Contact Registry

  3. Jeremy C. says:

    Sad to hear it, LL! But trust we will be in strong support of your efforts, no matter what the format. I suppose Congress will still be around whenever you come around to making a run. I’m sure you’ll probably get more down outside of those halls anyway!

  4. Tom Poe says:

    http://connectednation.org/economic_impact_study/index.php reports California rejected 17.2 billion dollars last year, and that number does not represent literally billions in added revenues created by utilization of digital recording studios at the individual, neighborhood, community level. When government officials reject such numbers, out of deference to corporate special interests, it’s time to send elected officials who represent the voters to Washington. Having announced your interest in running, and now choosing to not run, it would seem you’re obligated to meet and discuss the report, and report to the public which candidate you feel understands the clear implications of the report and help inform the public.

  5. David Durant says:

    I agree with many who have said that Mr Lessig is in a better position to influence those in Congress from the outside.

    Speaking as someone who hails from the UK I would still like to add my voice to the Change Congress movement but, as it stands, it seems that it will be limit to those that can vote in the US (the need to enter a US zipcode on the site). Will there be “affiliate membership” for those who wish to take part but don’t happen to be US citizens?


  6. Matt Agnello says:

    Although I highly supported you running for Congress, I’m glad you’ve chosen not to. I think you can do a lot more and be a lot freer to affect change outside of the system than inside of it. As my video expressed subtly, I wouldn’t want your candidacy to end up like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

    I’ve signed up for CCongress, and I hope it’ll be as successful as CC. Also excited to see how RemixAmerica pans out, too.

  7. Brit Butler says:


    I’ve been a lurker on your blog for a while and enjoyed both Code and The Future of Ideas. I had the knee jerk reaction of joining the Facebook group supporting you when I heard about it. Of course, the blogosphere has had no end of comment both for and against. Matt Asay, though I often disagree with him, was the first person to suggest that you would do better and be more effective out of Congress and the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with his assessment. I am glad you have taken the time to make your own careful judgment and will continue to support your efforts.

    Best Wishes,

  8. Mike says:

    And freedom wins again.

  9. Gregory T says:

    Would’ve loved to have seen the run, but your reasons make perfect sense. Just be sure to keep up the good fight from the outside.

  10. Ken Kennedy says:

    Though it’s disappointing, I certainly see your point from the video, Larry. Win the battles that you can, and grow the movement…makes sense. Already signed up at Change Congress, and looking forward to many discussions on how we make things better.

  11. JD Lasica says:

    The first rule of politics is to pick your fights, so while a reform candidacy would have been exhilarating, this was just one means toward an end, and not the only way to make an impact.

    I hope the Change Congress movement gains momentum and achieves extraordinary results in the months ahead.

  12. David Hornik says:

    Congratulations on your thoughtfulness, as always. Perhaps there will be another chance at another time for us to rally behind you. Until that time, we will certainly look forward to helping you make Congress a better, more representative place.

  13. ttrygve says:

    Umm, I don’t mean to be rude, but that seemed like kind of a cruel tease. Was one week even enough to look at anything in sufficient depth? If it was, then why bother announcing that you were considering before hand, why not just wait a week?

  14. Steve says:

    Probably for the best. In my little idealistic dreams I had this vision of you coming into Congress and waking up a lot of them to the problems with the way copyright works today, etc. In reality you probably would have bloodied your skull against that particular brick wall :).

  15. Gabe Wachob says:

    This was the right decision for the right reason. Congratulations on making a good first step in the long trek that will be change-congress.org!

  16. Somehow I hoped that Larry would have been inspired to say Yes by the Nader candidacy announcement yesterday… Peccato!, as we say in Italy. But of course this is a thoughtful decision here & now. The will be other occasions similar to this, and let’s push forward the Change Congress movement. Grazie for your continuing efforts!

  17. Philip Hunt says:

    This may be for the best, but I’m still saddened that you’re not running.

  18. I want to thank you for beginning this movement. I think we’ll find that Jackie Speier will be an ally for the Change Congress movement. She knows how to play the game as it stands, but she’d be just as effective under a system that better enables grassroots activism.

    I hope that we will see Change Congress becoming very active in the coming weeks, months and years.

  19. Silence is Golden says:

    Why did you choose this terrible blip.tv system to publish your videos? They are slow and take ages to load in the background. Awful.

  20. pudge says:

    Glad you’re not running. I like you, and a lot of what you stand for — I too have devoted much of my goals toward freedom and liberty, especially in regard to information — but could never support a “progressive” for Congress. They ignore far too many of our liberties.

  21. HH says:

    The public Internet is more important than Congress. LL will be remembered for his service to the people of the world, not just to a Congressional district. The American Founders did not approach their task from the perspective of changing the British Parliament. LL needs to find the right fulcrum for applying the leverage of his powerful intellect.

    What ever happened to the 10-year anti-corruption project?

  22. the Weir says:

    What David Durant said. Can we participate from Scotland?

  23. Tom Hayes says:

    Larry–Given that we are only 1000 days from the Jump Point that will present this nation’s greatest challenge in a generation, it is very disappointing that you will not be able to raise the critical issues unique to your candidacy.

  24. EricaJoy says:

    Please consider becoming the CTO for the Obama campaign.

  25. More of the Same says:

    I just feel complete dejection from this video. When will the cycle end? When will years of just doing enough, or it’s too much of a battle to accomplish anything?

    I can’t speak to any end on either Tom Lantos or Jackie Speier but when will the continued failures of these administrations finally find reason to involve real results, not just entitlement, not just keep on keeping on.

    I mean maybe I’m off on this, maybe there are good reasons to keep ineffective leaders in familiar places, because the state of our country or of our districts or just our own image of what America has become.

    Is this why Americans are selling away our country, is apathy our solace to the harsh stupidity of general populace. We need a different direction, and I just don’t see entrenched life long politicians providing that direction.

    I don’t know… perhaps I’m too young, perhaps the world of politics is just that… a world of politics, not a representation of our our country. I just feel dejected, like Kerry losing in ’04.

  26. Jim Sanders says:

    We have to respect your analysis. Losing the first battle ever to show your flag would not be helpful. I know that you will inform us how we can help in the long haul.

  27. Mark Kraft says:

    Hi Larry.. I agree with your conclusions. Change is never easy.

    (Besides… I’ve always seen you as my ideal for a Supreme Court Justice one day.)

    You’re a strong, intelligent advocate for change, and change isn’t always as instantly sweeping as we might like. It is usually done brick-by-brick.

    I agree with the Change Congress movement, and will support it and hopefully try to be a part of the larger discussion as to what it entails.

    I *DO* hope that you will do what you can at the grassroots level between now and early March to help mobilize your readers and supporters, calling upon them to help Barack Obama surpass his goals right now… he needs people calling into Texas and Ohio, and his campaign is asking for donations of as little as five dollars to meet his goal of over 1,000,000 contributors to the campaign… and he needs that kind of help ASAP, before the end of the month, so that it will give the media some very powerful, overwhelming, compelling news to report in the days just prior to the Texas and Ohio primaries as to the strength of the movement for change.

    Right now, the Democrats need a strong final victory for Barack Obama in Texas and Ohio so that we can stop the mudslinging and start pulling together for a sweeping national victory… a rising tide that will raise all boats.

    Due to circumstances, you may not be able to ride on that tide to public office, but through focusing on specific things we can all do to help, and through effective calls to action, we can certainly help raise that tide, until, one day, justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

    My sincere respects to you, and all the best to you and your family.

    Keep making us proud! –

    Mark Kraft

  28. Mark Forman says:

    Larry-I respect your decision and expect great things from the Change Congress movement. You continue to make me feel hopeful in this skewed political/economic world we live in.

  29. Noel Kirshenbaum says:

    Your message is a great inspiration; it is truly a long-needed breath of fresh air. Each day it becomes more evident that change is necessary if Congress is not to continue sinking into a worse morass. I trust you will be widely heard and that your articulate format will be convincing to the electorate; doubtless you will gain support for your future intentions.

  30. Larry,

    I think you underestimated how many people would have walked precincts for you and turned the norther half of the district, at least, into a total carnival for thirty days.

    That said, I understand your decision, but also look at Jerry McNerney’s two runs that it took him to get into congress. (the first time the Democrats wouldn’t give him a dime to go after Pombo.)

  31. /pd says:

    Now i am this is Lessihg V2.0 !! :)-

    We are all here for you !!

  32. bemused says:

    Glad you had a dose of good sense. Why would you run against Jackie Speier who singlehandedly got the California privacy law passed?

  33. Tony Leach says:

    While I must say I’m disappointed that one of my heroes will not fill a seat in Washington, I agree with many of the commenters here that you can probably do more outside of Congress than in it. I look forward to hearing more about how we can help with Change Congress!

  34. Jin Sup JUNG says:

    I’m happy to hear that you did a good decision.
    We, all the members of CCKorea, need your help and leadership
    as the founder of CC and the global feature of creative commons movement.
    In Korea, we are preparing the 2008 CC Korea Conference,
    and waiting for your visit on 14th March.

    We hope you can make success with Change Congress, too.~
    Thank you very much~ and See you soon~

  35. gurdonark says:

    I believe you made a wise choice, because you will make more impact where you are currently placed in getting your points across than you would have as a Congressman.

  36. Saskboy says:

    It sounds like you made the correct choice. Hopefully you can recruit the victor of this election you speak of, into your movement.

    (captcha was “forfiet brain” – a requirement for entering Congress?)

  37. John says:

    You are correct that you would have lost big against Jackie Speier. I attended her official announcement in Foster City – and there were an incredible number of public officials supporting her there attending. The video I took of the event:

    Foster City Mayor at Jackie Speier’s announcement

    Anna Eshoo at Jackie Speier’s run for Congress, pt. 1

    Anna Eshoo at Jackie Speier’s run for Congress, pt. 2

    Jackie Speier announces run for Congress, pt. 1

    Jackie Speier announces run for Congress, pt. 2

    Good luck with your future endeavors!

  38. Sean Malone says:

    Well thought out and no doubt difficult choice, Larry. You’ll have plenty of supporters when it’s time.

  39. quux says:

    At the moment, I’m glad. Because I have no idea what this ‘chage-congress’ movement is for or against. Would it be a single-issue movement, bent only on changing copyright and guarding the principles of the enlightened techie? At the moment, signs point to yes, but I await further explication of this so-called movement. Maybe it’s more. But single-issue candidates aren’t my cup of tea, and change is a great buzzword but it’s just the crust of a good pie. Still needs some filling if you want anyone to be attracted to it.

    I’ve voted for ‘change’ before. Since then, I’ve learned: ‘throw the bums out’ isn’t a good platform. I need to know what my elected public servants will work *for*, not just who they want to toss out.

    Lawrence, you’re a well spoken, articulate guy. So I hope to hear some articulation about this Change Congress movement!

  40. Regret? Yes indeed.

    That said, I see the wisdom of your decision to focus your substantial resources elsewhere.

    You’ve my full support, dear man, whatever you decide to do.

    As for many others, you are a personal hero; it’s my hope that together we can help you become the public hero as well.

  41. candace says:

    Good move. I admire your work and support the Change Congress movement, but even if you could win it just didn’t make sense to run against Jackie Speier. She’s one of the good people. I agree with Brian and others that she could be an ally and hope that you have talked to her.

    Perhaps you could use this election season to reach out to other decent candidates — such as Charlie Brown in CA 04 — who are challenging in red districts where the incumbents are deeply entangled with lobbyists. Get the potential freshmen class to commit to Change Congress and see if you can help each other.

  42. JimD says:

    “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

  43. Winghunter says:

    We can start by looking at our mistakes and avoiding future manipulations by liberal fanatics;

    How the Republican Party Committed National Suicide By JB Williams

    Who Hijacked the Primaries? by Brett Winterble

    The Death of Conservatism? 43 Mistakes and the GOP’s Dobson’s Choice

  44. TLB says:

    I didn’t watch the video, but if Lessig wants to have a major impact, let me suggest that he does what I’ve previously left in comments and at his wiki: encourage others to go to campaign appearances and ask the questions the MSM won’t.

    If Lessig could get 100 people to ask real questions* at public appearances and then upload the responses to video sharing sites, that would a) encourage politicians to stop lying so much, and b) show up the MSM and perhaps force them into asking real questions.

    * “Real” is defined as a question having to do with policy and not involving a rant. They’re best when asked by those who a) are very familiar with a topic, and b) are familiar with asking adversarial questions that can’t be answered with stock replies. For examples, see the ones here.

  45. Dear Professor Lessig, I’d like to share my true disappointment for your decision not to run and the subsequent elimination of the possibility of a really unique representation of the values that you brought on the spotlight in the US congress. However, and while I recognize your arguments aρε simply valid, I need to wonder: Weren’t these very arguments equally valid the week before? Why did you need to announce your interest on running (and spread hope till Athens, Greece, where I live), when the final decision was known before, at least as your ultimate arguments indicate? (all these are said with the greatest of respect, by default)

  46. Travis Kalanick says:

    Great video. Great marcomm.

    Weak reasoning for dropping out.

  47. Ernesto says:

    No matter, this has been a great publicity stunt for the Change Something Campaign.

    People have signed up even though they have no idea what they’re signing up to. A stroke of pure genius – who says Law Professors can’t do great PR?

  48. Foster P. says:

    I’m from outside California, so I don’t know who Jackie Speier is, though apparently she is highly thought of by many people including Lessig. But it bothers me that she managed to get a train named after her. Her wikipedia page says Caltrain named this train after her following $127 million in funding that Ms. Speier as a state senator secured for Caltrain. It didn’t come from a big greedy corporation, but isn’t this an example of the quid-pro-quo that Lessig is against? Second only to money, politicians *love* it when things are named after them. I think we need Lessig now more than ever!

  49. Professor Lessig,

    Keep working to share information with others.

    See you on Facebook!

    Theo Karantsalis, Librarian
    Miami, Florida

  50. Judith says:

    Selfishly, I am saddened that you won’t be running, simply because I would have loved a candidate I was actually voting FOR, rather than picking the lesser of two evils. Your thoughtful, considered approach to this decision is yet another reason why many of us would like to see you running, winning, and setting an example for the folks in DC.

  51. Attin says:

    Thanks for your taken by the good decision. Congratulations on making a good first step in the long trek that will be Change Congress movement.

  52. LeeofElGranada says:

    This election was a great opportunity obscured by the shdow of a mere day to day deal making politician.

    Just one election and no intervening primary contest between Larry and a seat in Congress!

    Just 60 days to campaign.

    The leading candidate is a politician right in the profile that a Change Congress movement would identify as a politician who takes huge sums of money from the interest groups she regulates as an elected official.

    The process of identifying and approaching interest groups with a competitive position statement is precisely the legwork that must be done by any serious office holder. That positon paper development work is properly a campaign expense

    For me, back to supporting the Green party. Some of Larry (and my) concerns are already Green issues. Copyright reform needs to be added to the Green agenda.

  53. Pat Safford says:

    When I first heard of your plan to devote yourself to addressing the strangle-hold that special interests have on Congress (and on all of us), I was elated. I wanted to join the fray that was sure to come.

    Then, published reports that you was thinking of joining the crowd vying for the Congressional seat of the late Tom Lantos. What a let down for me. An indication that you do not grasp today’s political realities. And do not truly recognise one of the “good guys” (Jackie Speier) in the vital struggle you plan to join.

    No one in Congress today, and I do mean no one, is untainted by the undue influence of special interests in the past decades. Our elected officials simply cannot function today without dealing with this reality.

    But we the public collectively, can do something. We can join together to shine a light on the impact this “business as usual” has had on every single one of us. On our energy costs, food costs, medical costs. On employment, the military, foreign trade, the budget deficeit and on education for our children. It can be done and we can do it.

    And we will need all of the “good guys” to work with us to address these challenges and the cooperation of all of the “not so good guys” to carry out true lobby and campaign reform… and the wisdom to not tell either group which is which.

  54. I am glad that you thought hard about this decision and did your homework. I think you have made the correct decision (in not running). However, I know that you will have a huge impact — indeed a bigger impact — from the outside.

  55. WHY CORNER says:

    Yes, the choice should always be yours!

  56. David Miles says:

    Sorry to hear of your choice not to run, but I can see why you would be reluctant. You will be more effective working outside of Congress. The sad thing is the realization that we are all pretty much outsiders to the institution that supposedly represents us. Changing this state of affairs will not be quick nor will it be easy. I only hope it’s not too late.

  57. Adriaan says:

    Is there no transcript for the hearing impaired? I’m assuming the video has a voice over since it does not show much visual information.

  58. Ian W. says:

    I, for one, am glad. Now I can continue to hope that once Obama is elected, Lessig will be Attorney General. That might help to change congress.

  59. Sanford says:

    I have learned a lot from your website and your writings. I wish you all the best in your future projects. In my opinion, you will be most effective if you create alliances with leading progressive journalists and thinkers, such as Nick Kristof (NYT) and Chris Hedges (Nation Institute). “Change” is a great buzzword, but it must be backed by content and concrete examples. You will have to take a stand, sooner or later, on such contentious issues as immigration. gun control, respect for international law, the pro-Israel lobby, civil rights, death penalty, and others.

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