Buying of the President

Published — September 6, 2015 Updated — November 2, 2015 at 4:36 pm ET

9 things to know about Lawrence Lessig


Update, Nov. 2, 2015: Lawrence Lessig has decided to end his 2016 presidential bid.

Yearning for a most unconventional presidential candidate?

Then you’ll love Lawrence Lessig, who promised to run if his exploratory effort raised $1 million by Labor Day. (It did.)

The Harvard University professor and political campaign finance reformer enters the Democratic primary pledging to — if elected — resign the presidency as soon as possible.

Say what?

Indeed, Lessig says he’d serve as what he’s calling a “referendum president” — occupying the White House only as long as it takes to win passage of a bill that would, among other things, reform the nation’s elections and end congressional district gerrymandering.

Once accomplished, he’d join Richard Nixon as the only other president to quit, tossing the keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. over to his yet-to-be-named vice president. (Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jon Stewart and Joe Biden are on his short list.)

“Every issue — from climate change to gun safety, from Wall Street reform to defense spending — is tied to this ‘one issue.’ Achieving citizens equality in America is our one mission,” Lessig says.

While Lessig enjoys a passionate following, he faces both the political juggernaut that is Hillary Clinton and another populist campaign finance reformer in Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont who, of late, has watched his campaign crowds grow and poll numbers rise.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, former Sen. Jim Webb are also running, while Vice President Joe Biden continues to think about it.

Here are nine things to know about Lessig’s financial and political background:

Sources: Center for Public Integrity reporting,, Federal Election Commission,

Read more in Federal Politics

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