Congressional Corruption: Reforming the Broken Branch

Thomas Mann and Lawrence Lessig of Stanford Law School appeared on to discuss ways to restore public trust in Congress, and its failure to engage in responsible and deliberative lawmaking, to police the ethical behavior of its members, and to check and balance the executive.

Thomas Mann: Well Larry Lessig of Stanford, this is Thomas Mann of Washington. Well, Larry why don’t you begin.

Lawrence Lessig: Great, thank you Tom. So this topic is going to be a topic, a discussion about a movement that we just launched called the “Change Congress” movement. And the motivation for this is a recognition that there is a bipartisanship sense of support for some fundamental reforms in the way Congress functions. To increase trust in what Congress does, confidence in what Congress does, and to reduce the impression whether accurate or not that what Congress does is really driven by concerns over money, concerns over the goodness of its public policy. So we started this movement to build a grassroots or netroots recognition around this issue and to get candidates and members to sign on. And the hope is that we will be also developing ways to help fund candidates who support a movement of reform and over a number of election cycles, build enough support inside Congress to get something substantial accomplished. So that’s the objective.

Thomas Mann: Well listen, I’m engaged in this subject with a colleague of mine, Norman Ornstein in the summer of 2006. A few months before the election, we published a book called The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How To Get it Back on Track. As long time observers of Congress and often times, defenders of the institution, we became really discouraged with its performance, its failure to oversee the executive, to deliberate in serious fashion, and to police the behaviors of its members. So we too are engaged in, concerned about the problem of a healthy first branch of government. So Larry, I commend your effort, but what I wanted to do is to draw you out on what it is that you think is wrong with Congress and the particular steps you have in mind taking to ameliorate those problems.

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