Segments in this Video

Corruption in America (01:19)


Bill Moyers relates King Louis XVI giving Ben Franklin a gold snuff box. Today, gifts to politicians are called "contributions." Corporations spent $6 billion lobbying Congress and received $4 trillion in government assistance.

Business as Usual (01:36)

David Primo states that Congress members implicitly threaten businesses and cater to corporate lobbyists. Moyers outlines the GOP's privatization agenda and Democratic allegiance to Wall Street.

Corruption Experts (00:53)

Moyers welcomes law professors and campaign finance reformers Larry Lessig and Zephyr Teachout.

"Quid Pro Quo" Corruption (00:59)

Chief Justice John Roberts calls for regulating the direct exchange of an official act for money. Teachout outlines the constitutional framers' concern about politicians serving corporate interests.

Fight against Big Money (00:50)

Teachout links modern political corruption to the framers' definition and argues that Roberts has a false understanding of history when he strikes down campaign finance reforms.

Systemic and Systematic Corruption (01:43)

Lessig explains that Congress answers to Big Money, despite the framers' intentions for it to represent the people. He thinks Citizens United is galvanizing the political reform movement.

"Wealth" Primary (01:29)

A tiny fraction of the U.S. selects candidates. Lessig believes campaign finance reform should be framed not in terms of equality of speech, but in terms of citizenship equality.

Public Campaign Finance Model (01:29)

Teachout outlines how public fundraising could have improved her chances for New York governor. Journalists will only cover candidates with a certain amount of money.

Corporatist Ideology (00:47)

Voters must choose among candidates representing donors. Teachout argues that a nondemocratic vision motivates the current Supreme Court.

Inspiring Voters (00:43)

Lessig describes response rates to Teachout's campaign. He believes it is possible to pass reforms and gain a majority in Congress.

Plutocracy Debate (01:04)

Lessig points out wealthy politicians do not win on all issues, and argues that they would also benefit from system reform.

American History Lessons (01:41)

Teachout cites William Jennings Bryant as an example of how grassroots movements can triumph over plutocrats.

Citizens vs. Corruption (01:04)

Lessig argues that many wealthy politicians do not benefit from the system, and calls for reframing the fight as an American issue.

Economic Competition (01:39)

On the campaign trail, Teachout found that citizens recognize links between corporate monopolies and political power. She calls for reviving antitrust language.

Bipartisan Antitrust Ideas (01:04)

Big corporations get government to change the rules to protect them from competition. Both conservative and liberal thinkers want to reform the system for a fair market economy.

Addressing Monopolies (01:31)

Teachout relates talking on MSNBC about public resistance to industry mergers. She believes politicians who discuss the issues will have success.

21st Century Media Model (01:05)

Lessig explains how broadcasting is increasingly diversified, and calls for new strategies to mobilize younger generations.

Real People in Politics (01:33)

Teachout wants to run for office again, and hopes to recruit diverse candidates under an antitrust message.

Campaign Finance Reform Plans (01:08)

Lessig wants to use technology to help more voters reach members of Congress and demand fundamental change. Visit for more information on money in politics.

Credits: Moyers & Company: How Public Power Can Defeat Plutocrats (01:34)

Credits: Moyers & Company: How Public Power Can Defeat Plutocrats

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Moyers & Company: How Public Power Can Defeat Plutocrats

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In this edition of Moyers & Company, Lawrence Lessig and Zephyr Teachout return to talk about the corrupting influence of money in politics — a subject both have studied as scholars and are fighting against as reformers. They advocate bringing back antitrust language and outline strategies for recruiting Congress members to pass campaign finance reform legislation. Broadcast date: November 21, 2014.

Length: 27 minutes

Item#: BVL66046

ISBN: 978-1-60057-701-7

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.