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Watch Out Plutocrats, the Progressive Pro-Democracy Movement Is Savvy and Gearing Up to Take on Citizens United

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It didn't look like the movie Lincoln, which opened the same weekend. Instead of crusty men in musty rooms, half the speakers were women and the setting was a bright modern law school auditorium. But the challenge at hand was equally great. In Lincoln's day, it was the 13th Amendment to end slavery. Today, it's repairing American democracy for the 21st century.

Last Saturday in Los Angeles saw the most detailed, ambitious and encouraging discussion of exactly how to approach campaign finance and lobbying reform that I've seen in two decades of reporting on the decline of American democracy. There were constitutional solutions-not one but several-for the problems created by the Supreme Court. There was a long list of what Congress, the White House, federal agencies and state legislatures could do now. And there was growing evidence that millions of Americans of all political stripes want a renewed democracy-as surely as those multitudes who waited hours to vote on November 6.

A century ago, Progressive reformers reshaped American democracy by using every avenue available to them to take away power from that era's robber barons and political insiders. Today, after the most expensive American election ever, democracy advocates have launched a modern counterpart with a bold agenda, new strategies, new coalitions and a growing grassroots base dedicated to unwinding political corruption's many facets.

"A cancer does not cure itself. And this won't be cured by dinky little reforms, tiny little ideas, tinkering, crumbs at the table, who are being proposed by people who think if we just do a little switch we will magically change this system," said Harvard Law School's Larry Lessig, opening A 28th Amendment? conference at UCLA Law School. "What it needs is a movement unlike any we've seen since the Civil Rights Movement or the Progressive Movement, taking on a corruption greater than anything we have seen since we ousted George III."

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