One of the most intriguing panels at Netroots Nation was the one on campaign finance; more specifically, the need for publicly-financed elections and the strategies for obtaining them.  Professor Lawrence Lessig delivered a devastating presentation on how our government has become distorted and corrupted by the chase for corporate money.

Not only are members swayed by campaign contributions that help them stay in office, but also by the promise of lucrative lobbying jobs after they leave it.  Indeed, the promise of post-congressional soft landings probably makes it easier to risk the electoral ire of betrayed constituents.

As Lessig pointed out, and it’s not exactly news to anyone here, this corporate capture of our political system is the reason we so often get reform in name only.

Need to slash greenhouse emissions to prevent the ice caps from melting?  You have to do it without hurting the energy companies.

Need to rescue the economy and reform the financial system?  You have to do it without hurting Wall Street.

Need to make healthcare affordable and available to everyone?  You have to do it without hurting the insurance companies.

Need to reform campaign finance?  You have to do it without diminishing the influence of the corporations or the advantages of incumbency.

It is virtually impossible to achieve meaningful reform within such nonsensical parameters.

And yet, despite all the deck-stacking, 60 representatives chose to listen to their people and their consciences instead of corporate money, and stood up against the latest attempt to pervert a much-needed reform for the people into a corporate giveaway.  For the first time in months, I can actually envision a world where Obama doesn’t get to sign the Captive Market For Insurance Companies Act and declare victory.

Jane, NYCEve, Slinkerwink, Dave Meyer, Marisa McNee, Mike Stark and everyone else who pushed progressive representatives to take the pledge deserve our praise and our thanks – and so do the 60 representatives.  If you haven’t already (or even if you have), please go donate to one, or some, or all of them.  Show them that their courage is appreciated, and that doing the right thing has its rewards.  And hopefully they’ll all remember this when Rahm starts swearing at them in 3… 2… 1…

UPDATE: Here’s the video of Jane’s Appearance.