Fifteen years ago, an 88-year-old woman named Dorris Haddock sensed that something was seriously amiss with the way campaigns were financed in the United States. Affixing a sign that said simply “Campaign Finance Reform” to her chest, she embarked on a 3,200 mile walk across 12 states to rally support behind measures to rid the political system of corruption and influence.
Haddock is credited with helping to galvanize public will around the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act, which was signed into law in 2002. Nonetheless, two months before she died at the age of 100, the Supreme Court handed down its landmark decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission decision, which undid many of the limits put in place on campaign finance and heralded a new era in unprecedented spending by special interests and corporations.
Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig hopes to take up Haddock's unfinished business Saturday as he starts off on a smaller version of her walk. Lessig will trek 185 miles in Haddock’s home state of New Hampshire, hoping to convince voters there to catapult campaign finance to a top-tier issue in the 2016 presidential election, where the Granite State plays an outsize role as an early primary state. He has dubbed the effort “the New Hampshire rebellion.”
Hoping that the frigid temperatures of the last two weeks let up, Lessig will start his march on Jan. 11, the first anniversary of the suicide of his good friend, Aaron Swartz, the famed Internet activist who first turned Lessig onto the issue of corruption in the political system. The “New Hampshire rebellion” will end in Nashua at a birthday party for Granny D, as Haddock is known, on what would have been her 104th birthday on Jan. 24.