Politics & Policy

Lawrence Lessig Ends Democratic Presidential Bid

Blaming the Democratic National Committee (DNC) for preventing him from gaining any traction, Harvard professor and campaign-finance–reform activist Lawrence Lessig dropped his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination Monday.

Though all the Democratic candidates now rail against “dark money” in politics, Lessig made the issue the centerpiece of his two-month campaign. But on Monday, he accused the powers that be of forcing him out of the primary.

“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, or to ask my team or my family to make a sacrifice even greater than what they’ve already made,” he said in a video released by his campaign. “I must today end my campaign for the Democratic nomination and turn to the question of how to best continue to press for this reform now.”

To participate in a DNC-sanctioned debate, candidates were previously required to earn at least 1 percent support in three national polls released during the six weeks before the event. Though polling below 1 percent in most national polls, Lessig had passed the 1 percent threshold in two such polls already, leaving him one poll shy of a spot in the second Democratic debate on November 14.

“We were well on our way to qualifying for the second debate — then the Democrats changed the rules,” read a brief statement accompanying the video. Lessig accused the DNC of reneging on their earlier plans at the last minute, issuing a revised requirement that candidates pass the 1 percent threshold in three polls conducted at least six weeks before the debate.

“Unless we can time travel, there is no way that I can qualify,” he said, explaining that he would’ve needed three polls showing him at one percent before the beginning of October. “Under this new rule, I am just shut out.”

#share#Lessig first launched his campaign in early August, after a successful crowd-sourcing operation that saw him raise $1 million through small donations. But though he is something of an Internet celebrity for his work on net neutrality, he struggled to break out of that niche. The Lessig campaign viewed debate inclusion as an essential way to introduce its candidate to the broader electorate.

#related#“From the start, it was clear that getting into the Democratic debate was the essential step in this campaign,” Lessig explained. “I may be known in tiny corners of the tubes of the Internets, but I am not well known to the American public generally.”

Though he’s had nice things to say about Bernie Sanders, Lessig has been critical of Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. In August, he said she wasn’t ready to be his vice president and came “from a different era.”

The DNC was equally cool to Lessig during his run. The committee refused to recognize Lessig’s candidacy, and chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz ignored multiple calls to allow him a spot in the first Democratic debate last month.

— Brendan Bordelon is a political reporter for National Review.

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