Change Congress is an American organization that aims to end perceived corruption in the United States Congress by reducing what it considers the distorted influence of money in that legislative body. Founded by Lawrence Lessig and Joe Trippi, Change Congress aims to organize citizens to push candidates to make commitments on the following issues: take no money from lobbyists or PACs, vote to end earmarks, support publicly financed campaigns, and support reform to increase congressional transparency. Since January 9, 2009, Change Congress has been focusing its efforts on promoting citizen-funded elections, mainly through its Donor Strike campaign and support for the Fair Elections Now Act.
Lessig had considered a run for Congress in 2008 under the Draft Lessig movement, but decided against it. An exploratory committee and a private pollster determined that there was "no possible way" for Lessig to defeat Jackie Speier, and that Lessig would lose in a "big way". Lessig conveyed that while he did not fear losing, he did fear that losing would be harmful to effectively displaying the importance of the Change Congress movement.
Change Congress's main aim is what he sees as "institutional corruption" in Congress, as opposed to cases of personal financial corruption and bribery, whereby the influence of money has an uneven, distracting, and detrimental pull on the United States Congress.
Change Congress operates in three phases: get candidates to embrace the reform platform; build a wiki-based map of reform candidates; and financially support the reformers. The first phase is similar to Lessig's alternative copyright strategy campaign, Creative Commons. As of January 9, 2009 this three stage strategy has disappeared from the Change Congress website as the site is now dedicated to the Donor Strike campaign. There is no indication whether or not this strategy will be reimplemented or not.
Citizens are able to get a badge that customizes which Change Congress causes they support. They are then given code so that they can place their pledge on their own website. Candidates are given the same choice. Change Congress' website mentions plans to compile an ongoing list of citizens and candidates, and which cause(s) they support.
As of January 9, 2009 the citizen and candidate pledge pages and tags are inoperable and no longer exist on the Change Congress website. There has been no indication made by Change Congress as to if or when the pledges will be supported again.
Change Congress hopes to use volunteers to create a comprehensive list of members of Congress and where they stand on issues of lobbyists, earmarks, public financing, and increased transparency in government.
As of January 9, 2009 the candidate tracking feature no longer exist on the Change Congress website. There has been no indication made by Change Congress as to if or when candidate tracking will be available again.
Change Congress also hopes to change citizens' campaign contribution habits by giving people the option of only supporting candidates who pledge to honor some or all of Change Congress' pledge commitments.
As of January 9, 2009 the political donation feature has been removed from the Change Congress website due to the Donor Strike campaign.
The Donor Strike is an attempt to gain support amongst congressmen for citizen-funded congressional campaigns and in particular the Fair Elections Now Act. By signing up for the strike, supporters pledge "not to donate to any federal candidate unless they support legislation making congressional elections citizen-funded, not special-interest funded." The campaign hopes to strong-arm congressmen into supporting citizen-funded elections by withholding campaign donations.
- Press Release: Strike! Strike! Strike! (1/9/09) Archived February 25, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Newmark, Craig (2008-03-20). "The "Change Congress Project" with Larry Lessig, Sunlight Foundation, and Omidyar Network". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
- Change Congress Project Launch Video at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on March 20, 2008
- Lessig "On why I am not running" (video) Archived August 15, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
- Gross, Grant (2008-02-26). "Lessig decides not to run for Congress". Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-20.
- Baumann, Nick (2008-03-20). "Lessig Launches "Change Congress" Reform Effort". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- Koman, Richard (2008-03-23). "Change-Congress, an open source strategy for political reform". ZDNet. Retrieved 2008-03-24.
- Rootstrikers and United Republic, Lawrence Lessig, United Republic, November 16, 2011
- Cached Example of a Change Congress: Citizen Pledge
- Lawrence Lessig on The Colbert Report 01/08/2009
- Change Congress: About
- Change Congress: Main
- Candidates Threatened With Fake Money to Reform Campaigns