Lawrence Lessig on Overturning Citizens United

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Answers by Lawrence Lessig, Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, on Quora.

A: It's my view that the really awful consequence of Citizens United -- SuperPACs -- can be overturned without overturning Citizens United. SuperPACs were created by a lower court decision, grounded on Citizens United. That lower court decision is vulnerable. I predict the Court will overturn that when it gets the chance, and that will remove 90% of the problems created by Citizens United.

To overturn Citizens United will require either a change of the Court (not implausible, if a Democrat wins, not possible for a generation, if a Republican wins), or a constitutional amendment (unlikely through Congress, possible through an Article V convention).


A: It took a long time to convince people about the need for Net Neutrality. The core of that debate took off in 1998, I wrote about it in 2001, Tim Wu coined the term in 2002, and then activist groups started effectively translating it soon thereafter. But with campaign finance, the problem isn't getting people to understand the issue. The problem is to get people to see that there's a solution to it that we need to be fighting for. This campaign has done little to convey that fact. That's unfortunate.


A: Not without changing the way campaigns are funded. Look, we already have a pretty effective system of term limits -- it's called, leaving Capitol Hill to become a lobbyist. That's a lucrative alternative for many in Congress, and it only makes Congress more dependent on special interests. I'd favor term limits (if members had a chance to learn how the place runs, etc.) But I don't favor term limits before we change how campaigns are funded.

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