|Area served||Nationwide (US)|
|Focus(es)||Reducing the corrosive influence of money in politics|
Rootstrikers, or sometimes Root strikers, is a self-described nonpartisan grassroots activist organization created by Harvard law school professor Lawrence Lessig and political activist Joe Trippi (a Democratic campaign worker and consultant) for the purpose of fighting political corruption in the United States and reducing the role of special interest money in elections. According to Lessig, who has called for a Second Constitutional Convention, the idea is not to hack at the branches of the problem but rather focus on its root, which Lessig views as a corrupt campaign finance system, and hence he named the organization rootstrikers.
Rootstrikers was founded in April 2011. In November 2011, Rootstrikers, along with Change Congress and Fix Congress First, became a project of United Republic, a non-partisan 501(c)(4) organization. In September 2012, Rootstrikers reorganized under the umbrella of Fund for the Republic, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to challenging the undue influence of well-financed special interests over American politics and government. As of July 2013, Rootstrikers became a project of Demand Progress, an organization founded by Aaron Swartz, an internet activist. The organization plans to use technology to help engage people.
The name "Rootstrikers" is based on a quote from the first chapter of Henry David Thoreau's book Walden: "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root". In December 2011, Lessig appeared on The Daily Show starring Jon Stewart and suggested that the public needs to strike at the root of money in politics; Stewart advised Lessig "You need a better term than rootstriker." Lessig credits the line quoted above from Henry David Thoreau's book Walden for inspiring the name.
In his 2012 book One Way Forward, Lessig proposes what he termed the Anti-Corruption Pledge. Lessig launched the Pledge as a project of Rootstrikers on February 24, 2012 on MSNBC’s show Morning Joe. The pledge is available for people to sign to show their support for the fight against corruption. The Pledge has four provisions:
- publicly funded elections
- political expenditures which are limited and transparent
- ending the revolving door between Congress and K Street
- reaffirmation that when the Declaration of Independence spoke of entities “endowed by their Creator with unalienable Rights,” it was speaking of natural persons only, and not corporations.
Over the weekend of October 29, 2011, a coalition of Rootstrikers and the conservative Tea Party Patriots held a "Conference on the Constitutional Convention" in hopes of proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution by means of a national convention called by the state legislatures of two-thirds of the existing states, thus bypassing the United States Congress. While this procedure for proposing amendments is provided for under Article V of the United States Constitution, all 27 amendments ratified as of 2011 had been proposed not in the state legislatures, but by two-thirds majorities of both houses of Congress.
Rootstrikers is one of 15 organizations in the Money Out / Voters In coalition that sponsored "A 28th Amendment" conference at the UCLA School of Law, Saturday, November 17, 2012. Lawrence Lessig was the keynote speaker. The agenda included presentations by other experts, including Greg Colvin, who provided a dozen questions that he thought should be answered for any proposed amendment on this issue. The conference web site also includes a comparison chart of 21 alternative amendments, 18 that have already been introduced in the US congress plus language proposed by Free Speech for People, Greg Colvin, and Move to Amend. Of the proposed amendments, five were identified as primarily attempting to limit the constitutional rights of corporations; the other 16 were described as dealing more with campaign finance, though there is overlap. The conference ended with breakout sessions and a call to further action.
- Lawrence Lessig (December 20, 2011). "The Great Promise of Super-PACs". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 4, 2012. "Founder, Rootstrikers"
- Greenwood, Arin (March 20, 2012). "Jack Abramoff Does Not Know How He Will Pay Back $44 Million, Will Not Go On 'Dancing With The Stars'". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
- Lawrence Lessig and David Segal (September 30, 2011). "Report from the Conference on the Constitutional Convention". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Stempeck, Matt (February 27, 2012). "Lawrence Lessig on Politics and Awakening a Sleeping Giant". PBS. Retrieved June 5, 2012. "...Lessig led with this Thoreau quote that inspired the name of his Rootstrikers campaign: "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root."..."
- "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.". Yahoo! Answers. June 4, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2012. "Henry David Thoreau (author of quote)"
- Ratigan, Dylan (December 15, 2011). "On Our Way to Climbing Everest". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Mitchell, Greg (December 14, 2011). "The OccupyUSA Blog for Wednesday (Dec. 14), With Frequent Updates". The Nation. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Halliday, Josh (April 28, 2011). "Guardian Activate 2011: Live coverage from New York: Guardian Activate summit makes its overseas debut in the Big Apple, featuring an extra-special array of speakers primed to change the world through the internet". The Guardian. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Mornin, Joseph (16 November 2011). "Rootstrikers and United Republic: A letter from Lawrence Lessig". United Republic. "Again and again, I have been driven back to a favorite line in Thoreau’s Walden ..."
- Scarborough, Joe. "Morning Joe". Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Homan, Nate (May 21, 2012). "Tom Ashbrook and a Panel Discussing Pushing Back on Money Politics, 2012". Concord Patch. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
- Antle, W. James III (2 November 2011). "Rebooting the Republic". The American Conservative. Ron Unz/The American Ideas Institute. "Rootstrikers, a left-wing group dedicated to the proposition that corporate money has a malign influence on American politics, and the conservative Tea Party Patriots had banded together to organize a Conference on the Constitutional Convention. The progressive left and the populist right would spend two days together studying Article V of the U.S. Constitution."
- "A 28th Amendment?". Retrieved November 21, 2012.
- Colvin, Greg. "How to Choose? So Many Constitutional Amendments". Retrieved November 21, 2012.
- "FreeSpeechforPeople.org". Retrieved November 21, 2012.