Buying congressmen, Constitutional conventions, living in China

This morning’s Slate carries the following item:

A Constitutional Amendment on Campaign Financing?”

“During his State of the Union last month, President Obama voiced his opposition to a recent Supreme Court decision to overturn campaign finance laws. He’s not the only one who doesn’t agree with the SCOTUS decision. Yesterday, academic and political activist Lawrence Lessig announced a call for a constitutional amendment to overturn it, launching the Web site Lessig writes, “We should begin the long discussion about how best to reform our democracy, to restore its commitment to liberty and a Republic, by beginning a process to amend the Constitution through the one path the Framers gave us that has not yet been taken—a Convention.” On the main page for the site, which is subtitled “A movement to restore our democracy,” it is written that: “Our Congress is broken. Even at a moment of extraordinary crisis, Members spend an endless amount of time simply raising campaign cash. We need Congress to focus; to address the problems that burden America; to do its job.” The site urges any supporters of reform to help pass the Fair Elections Now Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation that would drastically alter campaign financing by providing funds to candidates who raise small-dollar donations but reject big-dollar special interest money.” Read original story in Call a Convention (5 Feb. 2010).

That’s one opinion. Here’s another, from “How America Can Rise Again”, James Fallows’ excellent article in the Jan.-Feb. 2010 Atlantic. (Fallows and his wife have recently returned to the States after three years in China.)

 ‘In principle, the United States could call for a new constitutional convention, to reconsider all the rules. That would be my cue to move back to China for good—pollution, Great Firewall, and all. As a simple thought exercise, imagine the fights over evolution, an “official” language, and countless other “social” questions. “I am perpetually disappointed by our structural resistance to change,” Gary Hart told me, “but can you imagine what would be put into a drafting session for a constitution today?” Kevin Starr said, “You would need a coherent political culture for such a session to occur”—and the lack of such coherence is exactly the problem—“otherwise it would turn into a food fight from Animal House.”’