How Aaron Swartz Helped Inspire The Super PAC To End All Super PACs

Sam Gustin | Motherboard | June 30, 2014

Several years ago, the late internet activist Aaron Swartz had a conversation with one of his mentors, Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig, that would change Lessig’s future. At the​ time—2007—​Lessig was one of the nation’s top authorities on internet policy and digital copyright law. But at a tech conference in Germany, Swartz challenged Lessig to reevaluate his life's mission.

“How do you ever think you’re going to make any progress on these issues so long as there’s this corruption in the way our political system works?” Swartz asked, Lessig recalled in a recent interview with Ben Wikler, a radio host and political activist who worked closely with Swartz.  “This was Aaron, this was the way he worked,” Lessig said. "It was never, ‘This is what you should do.’ It was, ‘What about this? Shouldn’t you be thinking this?’ And it made you recognize that if you wanted to be the person you thought you were, you had no choice but to yield.”

Swartz, a celebrated young computer programmer and internet activist, committed suicide on January 11, 2013. He was facing a federal prison sentence on felony data-theft charges for downloading academic articles using MIT’s network. Swartz had been charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a controversial 1980s-era law originally designed to defeat WarGames-style attempts to break into Cold War-era government computer systems like NORAD...