Lawrence Lessig, founder of image-sharing site Creative Commons and a Harvard professor, is indirectly throwing his hat into the presidential ring as a contender for the Democratic bid. With the help of crowdfunding, Lessig, 54, hopes to raise $1 million by Labor Day, with the sole intent of using the money to launch the race for a "referendum candidate."

"We need a campaign that is more than a bipartisan squabble," he states in a video. "We need a campaign for a referendum – a referendum that speaks our mandate clearly: end this inequality and corruption, and give us a government free from [money], give us a government free to lead."

In Lessig's first video, he invokes the memory of Eugene McCarthy, who challenged incumbent nominee Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1968 Democratic nomination on an entirely anti-Vietnam War-based platform.  

He then harkens to the idea of a referendum president: one who runs on a single issue, and remains in term as long as it takes to see a "fundamental reform" to completion. In Lessig's case, this such reform is "citizen's equality," i.e., the Citizen's Equality Act featured on his website, whose three major tenets include the "equal right to vote," "equal representation," and "citizen-funded elections."

According to Lessig, the aforementioned, hypothetical referendum president – i.e., Lessig himself – would then resign office, allowing the vice president to take his or her place. 

Of course, Lessig doesn't outright say that he will be running for president if the crowdfunding target is hit – he suggests that the people will ask one of the existing candidates to step up to the plate, and if no one does, he will run in their stead. However, the likelihood of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders volunteering for this particular experiment in the electoral process is, well, pretty unlikely.

"This campaign is not about a person," says Lessig, "it's about a principle." 

Lessig, who got his start as a law clerk for Justice Antonin Scalia after graduating Yale Law in 1989, is a self-professed liberal. Since then, he's worked as an academic at Stanford and Harvard. He has also been a notable political and Internet activist, rallying against privatization and strict copyright laws and for free and open-source software, and for general net neutrality. In 2014, Lessig was also featured in the documentary Killswitch, which heavily featured hacktivist Aaron Swartz, Lessig's mentee, who was charged with multiple federal counts of wire fraud, computer fraud, and obtaining information from a protected computer in 2011 after allegedly downloading a number of JSTOR files on the MIT campus. Swartz committed suicide in 2013.

Watch Lessig's first campaign video below.


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