Lessig Ponders Congressional Run

The Stanford law professor and proponent of Internet open access principles may pursue the seat vacated by Tom Lantos' death. 

Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig is considering a run for Congress to fill the vacated seat of former U.S. Rep Tom Lantos, D-Calif., who died Feb. 11 of esophageal cancer.

Lessig, an author of several books on Internet law and culture, is an outspoken advocate of open access principles for the Web and a staunch supporter of online civil liberties. Lessig surprised many colleagues in January when he said he was shifting his focus from the Internet to corruption in Washington.

"I have decided I want to give as much energy as I can to the Change Congress movement," Lessig wrote in a blog post Feb. 20 on his new lessig08.org site. "I will decide in the next week or so whether it makes sense to advance that movement by running for Congress."

If Lessig decides to run for the Democratic nomination for Lantos' seat, his opponent will be Democrat Jackie Speier, a popular former California state senate member. Lantos, who announced he would retire last year, endorsed Speier to succeed him.

Lessig said his decision to consider a run is based on early online support. "I've been spurred to consider it seriously by the enormous support of many at draftlessig.org and Facebook," Lessig wrote. "Many friends have weighed in on that decision-both strongly in favor and strongly opposed."

Since rumors first began to swirl last week about a possible congressional bid by Lessig, almost 3,000 Facebook members have signed on the nascent campaign. A fundraising site put up by Lessig has collected about $3,500.

"This is a very difficult decision. In the coming days, I'll reflect a bit about it here," Lessig wrote.

His Change Congress movement is based on the theory that too much money is corrupting Congress. Lessig is seeking a coalition of politicians to pledge they will take no money from lobbyists or political action groups. Lessig also wants to ban earmarks in the appropriation process and supports public financing of campaigns.