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Thanks to everyone who recommended Monday's diary about The Huffington Post's eye-opening news about special interests trying to buy influence in Congress. I wanted to give an update.

First, for those who missed it, recipients of the taxpayer-funded bailout such as Bank of America and AIG joined anti-union activists and corporate executives to discuss funneling "hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars" to groups and "vulnerable" senators to influence the vote on the Employee Free Choice Act.

In the wake of Monday's news, thousands of new people joined Change Congress's "donor strike" where small-dollar donors are leveraging the clout gained in the 2008 election and are giving politicians a choice: You can have our money or special-interest money, but you can no longer have both.

If you haven't already joined the strike, please join us here.

We're pledging not to give a penny more to congressional candidates who don't support the Durbin-Specter bill to fundamentally reform our congressional elections so they are citizen-funded, not special-interest funded. Once a candidate is a co-sponsor of the bill, the strike on them is over.

Last night, we passed the $500,000 mark for contributions withheld -- based on contributions last election cycle. That's a stunning number, and it's growing by the hour. Thanks to all who joined and will join.

Also last night, The Huffington Post broke some more news:

Reform groups are blasting letters to congressional committee chairs and the head of the Congressional Oversight Panel, urging an investigation into whether bailout recipients used taxpayer money to benefit political candidates or organizations.

The letter -- signed by officials with U.S. PIRG, Change Congress, Public Campaign, Public Citizen and Democracy Matters -- builds off a Huffington Post report...

"We're calling for Congress to investigate whether Bank of America, AIG, or other recipients of billions in bailout money used taxpayer dollars to send 'large contributions' to any political organizations," reads the letter. "Congress has a responsibility to oversee the $700 billion bailout of the financial services sector. That means making sure that these taxpayer funds are used transparently, and in ways that benefit regular people -- not special interests."

The full letter is posted here. And Public Campaign's blog post about it is here.  If you believe an investigation is warranted, please call 202-224-3121 to let your representatives and the key committee chairs listed on the letter know your opinion. If you get a noteworthy response, post it in the comments below.

That's for the short term. For the long term, we need to reform the system.
Too many Americans believe money buys results in Congress, an idea that heightens cynicism about our democracy and weakens civic engagement.

If ever there were a time to push for big reform, this is it. Please join thousands of others in supporting the "donor strike" and let your friends know too. Together, we can bring change to Congress. Thanks for helping to make it happen.

(Digg it or Reddit.)

Originally posted to Lawrence Lessig on Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 09:51 AM PST.

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