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Law School’s Lessig Drops Presidential Bid

Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig
Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig
By Andrew M. Duehren, Crimson Staff Writer

Following unsuccessful efforts to earn a spot on the stage at televised Democratic presidential debates, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig has ended his unusual bid for president of the United States.

In a YouTube video released Monday entitled “The Democrats have changed the rules,” Lessig said he was no longer running for the nomination, pointing to new restrictive rules for participating in the debates.

Without the chance to stand behind a podium next to more mainstream Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton, Lessig, who has focused his campaign on election law and campaign finance reform, said that his chances of election had all but vanished. By the Democratic rules, Lessig’s polling numbers were not high enough to qualify for the second Democratic debate, he said.

“It is now clear that the party won’t let me be a candidate, and I can’t ask people to support a campaign that I know can’t even get before the members of the Democratic party,” Lessig said in the video. “Or to ask my team or my family to make a sacrifice even greater than what they have already made.”

Lessig’s candidacy began over the summer, when he announced his intention to run as a “referendum” candidate to reform campaign finance and election laws. Under Lessig’s original plan, he campaigned on his narrow election reform platform, hoping to pass wide-scale legislation when he took office and then resign the presidency to his vice president. A long-time reform activist, Lessig launched a political action committee in 2014, called the Mayday PAC, to support candidates fighting the influence of big money in politics.

When Lessig raised an initial $1 million by Labor Day, he formally launched his campaign, taking a leave of his absence from his day job as a Harvard Law professor and hitting the trail in New Hampshire.

Soon, though, Lessig’s campaign ran into issues as voters and the media questioned his plans to resign the presidency. In an Oct. 17 essay published in the Atlantic, Lessig changed one of his campaign promises in hopes of increasing his credibility with voters, announcing that he would stay on as president if he were elected.

“If the Democrats won’t take seriously a candidate with a viable, credible, and professionally managed campaign just because it includes a promise to step aside once the work is done, then fine,” he wrote in the essay. “You win. I drop that promise.”

Now, less than a month after his strategy overhaul, Lessig has ended his bid for the Democratic nomination all together, though he promised he would stay committed to the issue of campaign finance reform.

“I must today end my campaign for the Democratic nomination and turn to the question of how best to continue to press for this reform now,” Lessig said.

—Staff writer Andrew M. Duehren can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.

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