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In Change of Plan, Lessig Says He Would Stay on As President

Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig
Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig
By Meg P. Bernhard, Crimson Staff Writer

In response to widespread confusion and disapproval surrounding his unconventional bid for the United States presidency, Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig has fundamentally altered his campaign strategy, pledging to remain in the position instead of vacating it as he had previously promised.

Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig
Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig By Madeline R. Lear

Lessig, who officially launched his campaign last month, previously said that, if elected, he would aim his presidency at passing a set of reforms to change how campaigns are financed and elections are conducted. If he passed those reforms, Lessig said he would immediately step down from the presidency and relinquish power to his vice president.

But in a candid essay published in The Atlantic on Saturday, Lessig wrote that “[f]rom the start, the idea hit a wall—or at least part of the idea did.”

Now, Lessig wrote that if elected, he will remain in the position “to make sure the reforms stick. I will work with Congress to assure they are implemented. I will defend them against legislative or legal attack.”

Lessig wrote that the resignation idea “weakened the credibility of the campaign” and that people and national media outlets were not sure whether he was actually serious about running for president or simply wanted to promote a message.

The Democratic National Committee, which has not officially recognized Lessig as a candidate, “took advantage of this skepticism.. and fueled it,” Lessig wrote. He was not invited to the first Democratic debate last week. Nor did a number of national election polls, like the Fox News or CBS News include his name on their favorability polls until only recently, if at all.

But now, Lessig has changed the nature of his campaign to better clarify his message about mitigating the influence of big money in elections. Because Lessig said he intends to remain in the position if elected, he will need to convince the American public of his ability to perform other presidential functions as well, he wrote.

Lessig, known for his work in copyright law and government reform, is not new to politics or campaign finance reform. In 2008, he briefly considered to run for a vacant seat in California’s 12th congressional district. In 2014, he created a crowd-funded political action committee called Mayday PAC, aimed at electing candidates to Congress who would pass campaign finance reform. He also helped found the New Hampshire Rebellion, a grassroots organization dedicated to campaign finance reform.

Lessig officially announced his bid in early September after raising $1 million in crowdfunded donations to kickstart his campaign. He is currently on leave from the Law School to focus on his campaign, traveling across New England and the country to meet with voters.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.

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