Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard Law School and author of Republic, Lost, suggested that the moneyed persuasive power of special interests has insinuated itself between the people and the lawmakers.[125][126][127] He quoted congressperson Jim Cooper who remarked that Congress had become a "Farm League for K Street" in the sense that congresspersons were focused on lucrative lobbying careers after Congress rather than on serving the public interest while in office.[128] In a speech, Lessig suggested the structure of incentives was such that legislators were tempted to propose unnecessary regulations as a way to further lobbying industry activity.[129] According to one view, major legislation such as proposed Wall Street reforms have spurred demand for "participating in the regulatory process."[90] Lessig suggested the possibility that it was not corporations deciding to take up lobbying, but Congress choosing to debate less-than-important issues to bring well-heeled corporations into the political fray as lobbyists. As a result of his concerns, Lessig has called on state governments to summon a Second Constitutional Convention to propose substantive reform.[127] Lessig believes that a constitutional amendment should be written to limit political contributions from non-citizens, including corporations, anonymous organizations, and foreign nationals.[130]


Why has there been so much resistance from the government to enact a law to limit political contributions from donors in the U.S.? I remember a lot of discussions were had, but nothing was ever done to limit contributions from donors. What are the barriers and the incentives that prevent the government from taking any significant actions in this regard?

  • 7
    Because it is a major source of income for them? – Joe W May 27 at 1:43
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    You give a long quote followed by a short question. The quote answers the question: the barrier is that such a law would be unconstitutional. – Ben Crowell May 27 at 14:21
  • Further, not everyone (even among those who are not politicians) agrees on what constitutes the public interest, and would likely view such a law as simply an attempt by people of simliar mind to Lessig to make an end-run around the public. – jamesqf May 28 at 3:59

There are already limits on political contributions

It is false to say that there is resistance to passing laws that limit political contributions, because there already are laws that limit political contributions.




Additional limits are not Constitutional

The reason Laurence Lessig wants a Constitutional Convention to change the Constitution to allow the limits he would like is because the limits he would like are regulations on political speech, and therefore are not permitted thanks to the First Amendment.

Indeed, part of what he wants to do is limit political contributions from corporations, which were ruled to be protected speech in Citizens United vs FEC (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._FEC) The reason the Supreme Court ruled this way is that existing regulatory powers given to the FEC about "in-kind campaign contributions" effectively gave the government the ability to ban books and movies with political content if they were released before an election, which goes against the entire spirit of free speech.

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