August 21, 2002

DEALING WITH BIG MEDIA: Larry Lessig has a suggestion for how to reduce the power of Hollywood and the RIAA over Congress:

Here's the simplest thing we could do: identify 2 luddite members of Congress -- one Republican and one Democrat. Organize and defeat them in November. If Congress saw bad ideas cost seats, they'd begin to do something about their bad ideas.

Doc Searls likes the idea. Dave Winer agrees, and suggests Joe Biden as one. I just wonder how vulnerable Biden is. The ideal candidate is one who is (1) in Hollywood's pocket; and (2) vulnerable, with a realistic challenger. Any suggestions? Comments are on.


How about "Torch" Torricelli?

Posted by: Tom at August 21, 2002 10:12 PM

Torricelli deserves to go for other reasons; his defeat probably would not be seen as a message for those in the RIAA's pocket.

Posted by: Jeff Cooper at August 21, 2002 10:17 PM

Beating Joe Biden would be great for a variety of reasons, but beating an incumbent Senator is very tough. I would suggest setting the target a bit lower at first, in the House.

Start with Wisconsin Republican James Sensenbrenner who is one of the signers of a letter (along with Biden) sent to the Justice Department calling for the criminal prosecution of those who allow files to be downloaded on peer to peer networks and California Democrat Howard Berman who introduced legislation that would allow the entertainment industry to legally do what others are sent to prison for: hacking computers.

They may not be the biggest fish in the pond at this time, but it would send a message. Question is, how do we get something like this going, and is there enough time to do it before the elections this fall?

Posted by: Jay Caruso at August 21, 2002 10:19 PM

No chance against Biden. I'd love to go after Berman, but it would never fly either.

How about Paul Wellstone from MN?

Posted by: Carskadden at August 21, 2002 10:26 PM

It sounds like that we need an organization that does regarding pro-Hollywood members of Congress what the Club for Growth does regarding members of Congress that are for higher taxes and expanded government.

Posted by: Andrew at August 21, 2002 10:33 PM

Yeah, the Club For Growth model is a pretty good one.

Posted by: Glenn Reynolds at August 21, 2002 10:59 PM

Well, I'd nominate Biden for the honor of being targeted if only to increase the IQ of the Senate by 20 points, but Berman is really the best - very obviously Hollywood.

Posted by: Robin Roberts at August 21, 2002 11:13 PM

A hard run would also send a message, especially if the opponent got a _lot_ of anti-RIAA money to campaign with. If the incumbent has to sweat out an election he thought was in the bag, he might think over his allegiances.

Posted by: Michael Walters at August 21, 2002 11:32 PM

It just happened in Georgia.

Posted by: Tim Gannon at August 21, 2002 11:35 PM

Cozying up with Hollywood? Let the strategizing begin to defeat the posterchild in 4 years: Hillary Clinton.

If you want urgency, something can be done in a few weeks: Martin Sheen & Janet Reno, sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

Didn't Torricelli date Bianca Jagger?

I like the idea of house members, though.

Posted by: West at August 21, 2002 11:36 PM

surprising that biden would be against copying material, considering his sound bite when he was running for president. i thought he was deplorable during the bork hearings as well.

he wont be getting my vote, but i doubt that he will lose come election time up here

Posted by: k miller at August 21, 2002 11:44 PM

Doesn't Biden have a, er, history of paper-to-paper copying?

Posted by: West at August 21, 2002 11:47 PM

Here is a place to start:

Look for congressional races on the hit list where the money for the challenger is close. There are also some early handicapping going on right now.

Posted by: John Robb at August 21, 2002 11:56 PM

Does anyone have a definitive list of congressmen that support the Berman and Biden bills as well as those that signed the Biden letter to the Justice department??

This is probably a good list to use too:

Posted by: John Robb at August 22, 2002 12:12 AM

Sensenbrenner is Republican and so is Coble.

We need a Democrat and a Republican.

Posted by: Dave Winer at August 22, 2002 01:29 AM

#1 in the Senate, #2 overall, Max Cleland (D-GA) took $137,524 from the legalized monopolists, and is already a White House target in trying to reverse Jeffords' Senate coup.

#5 in the House, #10 overall, Rahm Israel Emanuel (D-IL) is an ex-Clintonite whose $66,600 of Hollywood connections could and hopefully will make him a bit uncomfortable in the fall (remember where Monica came from?).

Of course, Open Secrets doesn't show whether these politicians are actually helping the monopolists restrain trade, or whether they're taking the money without a pro quo. Anybody know where to research that? It's something we'll need to rank if we're going to have an effect.

Posted by: Mark White at August 22, 2002 01:45 AM

Granted it would be hard, but I can't believe that no one has thought about targeting "Fritz" Hollings. Yes he is an incumbent from South Carolina and yes he is next term, but why go for the small fry when you can gun for the champ.

Now, having said that - it would be virtually impossible. Lets target a House member first. I would much prefer to donate to a worthy candidate for a seat in the House.

Posted by: Gene Hoffman at August 22, 2002 02:28 AM

I was going to mention Hollings myself--if only for his absolutely awful ideas on guns in the cockpit. It's bad enough that he opposes pilots having weapons, it's even worse that he is so bad at expressing any potential arguments that may be out there. And then, of course, there is his blatant suck up to the entertainment industry. The man is a living insult to American intelligence.

Another reason I just truly despise Hollings is that he is one of the rudest, most uncouth members of Congress. I know that is not the greatest of reasons, and policy does come first in any calculation of Hollings as being one of the legislators most in need of removal, trust me. At the same time, I have to wonder whatever happened to the gentleman legislator who might disagree with your ideas, but who would give you the time and the courtesy to make your points, and who would resolve to be friends after 6 p.m. (per the philosophy of the late Tip O'Neill)? Hollings has been known to berate fellow Senators and witnesses at committee hearings, make utterly rude and insulting comments, and utter cheap innuendo and engage in demagoguery of the worst kind by making allegations and accusations without a shred of evidence to back them up. The man even guffaws loudly at fellow Senators when they speak in his committee. This surpasses even partisan shrillness typically seen from politicians. Again, policy is the first and foremost reason to get rid of Hollings. But if ever a Representative or Senator deserved to be removed because of bad manners alone, it would be ol' Fritz.

Besides which, wouldn't it be funny if Thurmond outlasted Hollings, and if Fritz's career ended with him remaining as a junior Senator?

Posted by: Pejman Yousefzadeh at August 22, 2002 03:58 AM

Maybe the folks at can help?

Posted by: Steven Vore at August 22, 2002 07:22 AM

Hillary! is the one...she has been methodically injecting Hillpac money into dozens of Democratic warchests across the country in anticipation of payback when she decides to run for the White House...

One Republican/One Democrat sounds fair and balanced at first blush but may be a waste or precious time and effort since philosophically, Dems love regulation and central control, while Reps just want government off their backs.

Posted by: Sisyphus at August 22, 2002 07:43 AM

Re Hillpac: "When you start doing that, you are setting up something akin to a political party," said Kent Cooper, co-founder of Political MoneyLine, which tracks campaign finance.

Posted by: Sisyphus at August 22, 2002 07:53 AM

You'd need a crowbar and a minor miracle to get Biden out of office. They'd vote for the guy if he was a corpse.

Posted by: Ricky at August 22, 2002 08:09 AM

Joe Biden not only copied political speeches, he got into quite a bit of hot water while at Syracuse University's College of Law when he plagiarized large portions of an academic paper.

Personally, the amateur psychologist in me thinks that Biden is lashing out against a world that has punished him for his copying transgressions.

Links about Biden's "copying problem":
Nuts and Bolts, UH, and Even grade school kids know what Biden did is wrong

Posted by: The Comedian at August 22, 2002 08:49 AM

If this is realpolitik and not just amusing ourselves, it's much more important to pick someone it's possible to beat than to pick someone we dislike. Winning is what counts here, because that's the message we want the other politicians to hear: side against the people's rights to use technology and we'll vote you out and we know how to organize and do that.

There's nothing magic here. Pick a few vulnerable targets and start collecting money. I'd suggest that we should make sure that the opponent we want to back (1) has a reasonable point of view on our issue and (2) knows what to do with the money.

Posted by: Amy Wohl at August 22, 2002 09:27 AM

I would second Wellstone. He hasn't sponsored a pro-Hollywood agenda bill AFAIK, but he has a history of getting support from Hollywood in the form of personal contributions. Unfortunately, OpenSecrets doesn't appear to break down the "Hollywood" system. For some reason it also doesn't mention that there are 2 other candidates running against the incumbent.

The Republican candidate is certainly pro-business and would, I suspect support Hollywood given the chance, but the Independence candidate might offer an opportunity to make the voter's voice heard.

The problem is, at least in Minnesota, the two major parties have polarized and pandered to the extremes, which leaves the "sensible middle" unattended.

I don't believe electing a Democrat or Republican will change things in the slightest. There needs to be a strong education project on the voting public, who see none of the dangers of a closed system - either in Washington or their electronic wares.

Posted by: A Zimmerman at August 22, 2002 09:44 AM

I just want to know where the PayPal button is!!

Posted by: Doug King at August 22, 2002 10:57 AM

I hate to be the wet dishrag on this little ember of hope, but y'all don't realize how difficult it is to fundraise on the basis of putting an incumbent US Senator out to pasture... much less on a complicated, high-concept issue.

The ousted jagoffs in the primaries were high-visibility races in primaries with redistricting, cross-party voting, and US House seats, not Senate. In the case of McKinney, $1.2 million was required to defeat an incumbent who had made statements that the majority felt were truly anti-American. The Senate would require much, much more money.

If that much money were in play, it would probably make more sense to fund the EFF. Attack the problem from the legal side instead of the legislative side. Consider that money spent on a losing political race is money down a rathole...

Posted by: Undertoad at August 22, 2002 11:11 AM

I second Amy's comments. Picking somebody like Biden sounds nice but is a ridiculous suggestion from a political standpoint. Anyone who knows the politics of Delaware -- which tend to be polite and not unruly at all -- would agree. This is why grassroots campaigns are truly difficult to organize and sustain, a fact that I don't think some of the more well-known people supporting this notion recognize. The Club for Growth model is in fact a great one and highly effective, but I would argue it is effective because it mostly works in primary elections first, where it's easier to be heard and make a difference. Waiting until August or September to mount a campaign to dislodge an incumbent up in November is pointless. Club for Growth started as a PAC in 1999 and had some success in the 2000 elections. But it also has a large list of wealthy donors, which enabled it to have an influence without a large grassroots component. It also uses soft money to buy expensive television and radio time, something that requires deep pockets and sophisticated knowledge of which races to play in. If people are serious about doing something similar, they need to do some homework before throwing out names of potential targets. If the goal is to flex some muscles and send a strong message to incumbent politicians, backing a Libertarian against Howard Coble is a bad idea, based simply on the political situation. Ms. Grubb may be a fine person, but this is late August and she appears to have no infrastructure. Coble has the backing of a party, with all the advantages that come with it. If I were going to try to oust an incumbent, I'd pick a vulnerable one, go to his or her opponent and offer to help - or just get involved without consulting with the opponent. But the first thing I'd do is pick a serious, credible opponent. That would give my role a greater chance of being recognized by the political establishment.

Posted by: derek at August 22, 2002 11:12 AM

If you need a slogan:

"The RIAA wants to break into your house!"

Posted by: James at August 22, 2002 11:34 AM

OK. I did the analysis. Here it is.

Tight races. The incumbent took Hollywood's money.

Posted by: John Robb at August 24, 2002 11:54 PM