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Rootstrikers logo lg.png
FoundedApril 2011
FounderLawrence Lessig
TypeNonprofit organization
FocusReducing the corrosive influence of money in politics
Area served
US (nationwide)

Rootstrikers is a nonpartisan grassroots activist organization run by Demand Progress and created by Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig[1][2] 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.[3] According to Lessig, the idea is not to hack at the branches of the problem but rather focus on its root,[4] which Lessig views as a corrupt campaign finance system, and hence he named the organization rootstrikers.[5][6]


Rootstrikers was founded in April 2011. In November 2011, Rootstrikers, previously known as 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 influence of money in American politics. As of July 2013, Rootstrikers became a project of Demand Progress, an organization cofounded by Aaron Swartz, an internet activist.[7] The organization plans to use technology to help engage people.[8]

The name "Rootstrikers" is based on a quote from the first chapter of Henry David Thoreau's book Walden:[1][9] "There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root". In December 2011, Lawrence Lessig appeared on The Daily Show[5] 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."[6] 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.[10] 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[11]
  • political expenditures which are limited and transparent[11]
  • 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,[11] 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 generating support for the calling of a national convention to propose proposing amendments to the U.S. Constitution.[12] Such a convention, also called an "Article V Convention", is one of two ways processes authorized by Article Five of the United States Constitution whereby the Constitution, the nation's frame of government, may be altered, and must be called by the United States Congress upon the request of two-thirds (presently 34) of the state legislatures. Amendments may also be proposed by Congress itself with a two-thirds vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.[13] Thirty-three amendments to the U.S. Constitution have been approved by Congress and sent to the states for ratification. (Twenty-seven of them have been ratified and are now part of the Constitution.) As of 2016 the convention process has never been used for proposing constitutional amendments.[14]

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.[15] 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.[16] 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,[17] 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.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Lawrence Lessig (December 20, 2011). "The Great Promise of Super-PACs". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on May 13, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2012. Founder, Rootstrikers
  2. ^ 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. Archived from the original on 2012-06-24. Retrieved 2012-06-04.
  3. ^ Lawrence Lessig; David Segal (September 30, 2011). "Report from the Conference on the Constitutional Convention". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on December 11, 2011. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  4. ^ Stempeck, Matt (February 27, 2012). "Lawrence Lessig on Politics and Awakening a Sleeping Giant". PBS. Archived from the original on May 31, 2012. 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."...
  5. ^ a b Ratigan, Dylan (December 15, 2011). "On Our Way to Climbing Everest". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on June 5, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  6. ^ a b Mitchell, Greg (December 14, 2011). "The OccupyUSA Blog for Wednesday (Dec. 14), With Frequent Updates". The Nation. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2014-07-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ 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. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  9. ^ 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 ... {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  10. ^ Scarborough, Joe. "Morning Joe". Archived from the original on June 27, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  11. ^ a b c Homan, Nate (May 21, 2012). "Tom Ashbrook and a Panel Discussing Pushing Back on Money Politics, 2012". Concord Patch. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved June 4, 2012.
  12. ^ Antle, W. James III (2 November 2011). "Rebooting the Republic". The American Conservative. Ron Unz/The American Ideas Institute. Archived from the original on 19 April 2013. Retrieved 12 June 2012. 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.
  13. ^ "The Constitutional Amendment Process". The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Archived from the original on November 21, 2015. Retrieved November 17, 2015.
  14. ^ Korte, Greg. "Balanced budget amendment push sparks debate" Archived 2018-11-19 at the Wayback Machine, USA Today (November 29, 2011).
  15. ^ "A 28th Amendment?". Archived from the original on November 16, 2012. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  16. ^ Colvin, Greg. "How to Choose? So Many Constitutional Amendments" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved November 21, 2012.
  17. ^ "". Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved November 21, 2012.

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