Last week, Alexi Giannoulias, who is considering a run for the Illinois senate seat currently held by Roland Burris, announced he would forgo taking money from federal lobbyists and corporate PACs if he does run in 2010. Giannoulias, who is currently the state treasurer of Illinois, narrowly led in a March poll that pitted him against state Comptroller Dan Hynes and Burris. I asked Lawrence Lessig, the publicly funded elections advocate I interviewed last year, about Giannoulias' decision. Lessig writes in an email:
It is an important and valuable statement. But more important is to build a coalition of support for a more fundamental reform—citizen funded elections—as many simply have no such opportunity, and many more will follow this example only to be defeated because of the enormous power of this money.
It's a crucial point. While Giannoulias has garnered praise for his decision, real change won't happen without congressional action. That's why passing the Fair Elections Now Act is so important for good government campaigners. Lessig's organization, Change Congress, has a tool that allows you to track the bill's supporters and how much money they've lost from Change Congress' donor strike. You can even "whip" votes. Check it out.