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Movie Review: Change Congress Chronicles, Volume 1

Inspired, perhaps, by Quentin Tarantino's multi-part epic Kill Bill, auteur Larry Lessig has begun work on the not-dissimilar Change Congress Chronicles.

Volume 1, "Congressman Campbell is a Friend of the Auto Industry," chronicles Congressman John Campbell, who is a friend of the auto industry.

The film quickly establishes the character of Campbell, who spent 25 of his pre-politics years working in the automotive industry. In the next scene, Campbell landlords for a bunch of used-car lots, earning somewhere between \$600k and \$6m a year. And a flashback reveals that Campbell has pocketed \$170k in campaign contributions from the auto industry over the years.

At which point the film shifts gears to focus on the "Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act of 2008," which (according to Lessig's voice-over) is designed to protect consumers from the "shenanigans" of the "money-lending industry" (which everyone knows is a thinly-veiled euphemism for "Jews").

The film does not delve into the bill's merits or specifics, relying on astute viewers to infer that it represents an unalloyed good, based on both its opposition to "shenanigans" and its titular references to "consumers" and "protection."

In an easy-to-guess plot twist, Campbell guts the bill by introducing an amendment that would exempt used-car dealers from its provisions, allowing them to continue their "shenanigans." The film does not delve into the amendment's merits either, relying on astute viewers to infer that it represents an unalloyed bad, based on both its opposition to opposition to "shenanigans" and its benefits to the used-car industry, which everyone knows consists primarily of dishonest, wicked people.

The movie ends with a three-fold call to action.

First, viewers are encouraged to "tweet" the Congressman, flooding his twitbox and letting him know that we're onto him and his anti-anti-shenanigan agenda.

Second, viewers are encouraged to contact Congress, telling them to reject "this special interest legislation." Presumably this refers to the Campbell amendment, which counts as "special interest legislation" on account of pertaining only to the interests of the "special" used-car industry, and not the original CFPAA, which pertains to the interests of the "unspecial" money-lending industry.

Finally, viewers are encouraged to demand public funding of elections. You see, if there were public funding of elections, then Campbell likely never would have spent 25 years working in the auto industry. And he certainly never would have gotten into the landlord-for-used-car-lots business. So he'd totally have no reason to take a particular interest in how proposed legislation affected the auto industry.

The film ends on a cliffhanger, as it deliberately avoids answering the obvious-to-the-viewer question "as long as Congress has the power to write laws favoring one special interest group at the expense of another, won't these interest groups use any means they can (which obviously includes a lot more than campaign contributions) to get the laws to favor them and disfavor others?"

I'm excited to see how Lessig resolves this in his next film.

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