SAN FRANCISCO, June 23 A group of influential
Internet moguls aim to fix what they refer to as the "big money
problem" in Washington politics by, well, raising cash.
Forming a Super Political Action Committee (PAC) called
Mayday, the executives hope to raise $12 million by the midterm
elections in November in hopes of supporting candidates who are
committed to changing how elections are financed.
Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak joined the campaign late last
week, alongside Union Square Ventures' Fred Wilson; Paypal
cofounder and libertarian activist Peter Thiel; and LinkedIn
cofounder Reid Hoffmann.
Their approach - using big money to fight big money - may
seem odd, but the organizers note on the campaign website that
they "embrace the irony."
"You have to work with the system you've got," said Harvard
law professor Lawrence Lessig, who along with Republican
strategist Mark McKinnon came up with the idea to form a Super
PAC. "I don't think it makes sense to back out to play the
The organizers plan to use the funds to support five
political candidates who will push for campaign finance reform.
Lessig said he is considering both Democrats and Republicans to
ensure the effort crosses party lines.
As a Super PAC, Mayday can raise unlimited amounts of money
to bankroll political campaigns or causes so long as it operates
independently of the candidates they support.
The organizers have called Mayday "the Super PAC to end all
Lessig, a founding board member of Creative Commons and
former board member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told
Reuters the objective is to find a way to change the way that
elections are funded. In its first two weeks, the imitative
garnered $1 million from grassroots donations.
In addition, Thiel and Hoffmann, venture capitalists Brad
Burnham and Fred and Joanne Wilson, and Chris Anderson,
organizer of the TED conference, agreed to donate $1 million
apiece. Lessig hopes to raise an additional $5 million by July
If successful, Mayday will launch a much larger campaign in
2016 to reverse laws that have granted undue political influence
According to Lessig, the goals for the campaign are
"narrow." Mayday is not a veiled effort to advance the tech
agenda, he repeatedly stressed.
"If we're successful, some of our donors will have less
influence than they do now, personally and through their
corporations," he added. "They are spending money to reduce
their political influence."
This wouldn't be the first attempt to curb the explosion of
outside spending. A similar effort, dubbed Soros' Friends of
Democracy, is being run by Jonathan Soros, son of billionaire
financier George Soros.
"Until we fix the root problem - the big money problem -
we're going to keep dealing with attack after attack on a free,
open and innovative Internet," Wozniak said in a video to
promote the Mayday campaign.
(Reporting By Christina Farr; Editing by Ken Wills)