The First Issue Fund

A plan so crazy,

it just might save our democracy.

The Problem:

We are blocked.

We're blocked on all sides and on all fronts by big money. 

There may be no way out. 

But is there a way through? 

The First Issue Fund:

Eight Billionaires,
each putting up $125M dollars.
on the biggest bet of their entrepreneurial lives. 

They're betting that American democracy can be saved.

And if not, that it can be avenged.

The Plan:

Each billionaire has a "Passion Issue," or a "most important issue."  This could be engineering and science education, eradicating malaria, developing vaccines. 

But these issues are blocked by systemic corruption.

These billionaires could

spend the money directly on their causes.

But, they realize they can do more good for those causes, 
if they take on

The First Issue

before their passion issues.

The Bet

These eight billionaires put $125m each into an escrow account.

If Congress passes comprehensive reform,

the money passes through to support the passion causes. 

If Congress blocks comprehensive reform,

the money passes through to support candidates who will pass comprehensive reform and defeat candidates who opposed it. 
(Hit down for more details or right for next slide)

The Bet pt. 2

Essentially, the billionaires are betting on whether politicians will act in the best interests of the people when those politicians are given incentive and political cover.

If not, they end up spending money to fight for reform instead of on the passion issues they really care about. 

But if the gambit works, then they will not only have spent $125m on their cause but they will have created an environment in which that $125m will do far more good than it does now. 

The Bet pt. 3

Why they'll do it:

  • It's a billionaire's club, and it gets to be exclusive.
  • They get to stroke their egos with personal power
  • They'll get to address their pet issues
  • Their faces will be on the cover of Time, Newsweek, and...
  • ...thier names will be in the history books.  

(Hit down for more details or right for next slide)


This plan will require a number of specifics not yet determined:

  • Who will the billionaires be?
  • Who will the administrative chairmen be? (Neil deGrasse Tyson? Michael Bloomberg? Tim O'Reilly? Oprah?)
  • How would the Democracy Avenged fund contribute to political campaigns considering McCutcheon only struck down aggregate limits, and not individual candidate limits. 
  • How would the endowments work?
  • What criteria would be used to determine, objectively, if a candidate "supports," or "opposes" reform? 
  • What reforms, specifically, will we require in order for a bill to be "acceptable?"  
  • What legislation would we use as our model legislation? 
I believe that we should have Prof. Lessig's buy-in before attempting to answer these questions, though I have my ideas.

    Some names for consideration:

    • Elon Musk
    • Guy LaLiberte
    • Bill Gates
    • Warren Buffett
    • Nicolas Berggruen
    • Sara Blakely
    • Michael Bloomberg
    • Eli Broad

    There's also the 122 co-signatories of the Giving Pledge:

    Wait... how does the First Issue Fund differ from "a super-PAC to end all super-PACs?"

    • Better value proposition.
      • In this plan, billionaires can use their money for BOTH campaign finance reform AND for their most passionate issue, essentially doubling money. (Economically, they are having the cake and eating it too!) 
    • Better return on investment.
      • In the SuperPac to End All Superpacs (SPEND) AND in the First Issue Fund, the Worst Case Scenario is that money is spent, and we do not achieve reform.  
      • However, in the SPEND plan, the BEST case scenario is that money is spent to achieve change.  In the First Issue Fund plan, the BEST case scenario is that we achieve change AND get to keep the money for the philanthropic causes.  
    • The money will be easier to raise (and therefore we can raise more)
      • We're not asking billionaires to donate to OUR cause, we're letting them decide to more effectively support the cause they already support. 
    (more info below)

    Ugh. Math?

    ROI calculation:


    Here's the point: We are asking the billionaires to risk the same amount, but this plan produces no less chance of success, no greater risk of loss, and greater potential reward.

    And where the plan is a risk compared to directly supporting those causes, that risk can be calculated, and smart decisions made for each investor.

    Carrots and Sticks for Politicians

    Vote for our legislation and:

    • You break the cycle of "dialing for dollars"
    • You get to highlight your support of the great causes
      of the billionaires' passion issues. 
    • There will be less pressure to raise money on you for the 2016 election, as you will be supported by the First Issue Fund if you support reform.

    Vote against our legislation and: 

    • You will face a well funded primary challenger and
      a general election challenger (who supports reform) every election until you are defeated.


    As is consistently highlighted in Lesterland:

    "This is a problem of incentives."

    What the First Issue Fund does is
    temporarily change the incentives
    just long enough to enable candidates
    to enact reform to permanently change the incentives.

    The Marketing

    Succeed or fail, this attempt to "buy legislation" (even though it's legislation that would prevent people buying legislation) 
    will clearly and publicly illustrate the problem. 

    We also have leaders of industry coming forward in a very public way and saying: "We understand that we all have 'passion issues' but we must solve corruption first."

    The Groundwork:

    Social Media & building the "First Issue" movement

    Win or lose,

    • we'll have raised awareness of the seriousness of political corruption through illustrating how money distorts policy and buys legislation.

    • we'll convince the country that whatever your most important, most passionate issue is, you must solve corruption first.

    But we'll win.

    Here's how the game theory breaks down: 

    There are enough positive and negative incentives that both altruistic and self-interested politicians will support the plan, and therefore, choose to pass reform. 

    We can have a
    Republic, Regained.

    (Hit down for more details or right for next slide)

    Mutually Assured Destruction

    If opposed by a competing billion-dollar SuperPac, this arms race would lead to disgust among voters making it easier for pro-reform candidates funded by the "Democracy Avenged" fund to win. They may win the battle against specific reform but lose the war resulting in electing more reformers to Congress.

    Such a long, protracted and expensive battle with unclear results would be risky and more importantly, less profitable.

    If this move does not "checkmate" Sheldon City, we at least force them to make a move which reveals their intent to the public, and allows them far less room to maneuver in the future. 


    While there are several counter-strategies available to crony capitalists that seek to extend the current system of corruption, all of them have negative consequences; in short, we may have them in a position where any move they make can be used against them.

    (In game theory, this is known as Zugzwang.)

    More Details:

    Recommended Actions:

    • Rename the May One SuperPac the "First Issue Fund," which will be launched on May 1, 2014, with a goal of $1B by May 1, 2015

    • Build "The First Issue" Marketing Campaign:
      • Embrace "The First Issue" branding and tie it into all Rootstriker Initiatives and reach out to other groups, such as WolfPAC, to brand themselves "First Issue Groups." 
      • Assign team to design and finalize all "The First Issue" branding and collateral.

    • Create a "shortlist" of eight potential donors, with 12 alternates. 
      • Find out what causes they already support, and research how those causes have been blocked by corruption.

    The First Issue Fund

    Copyright 2014, New Hampshire Rebellion
    All Rights Reserved (For Now)
    Confidential Document

    • Original Concept: Brian Boyko
    • Concept Development by:
          The First Issue Fund Team,
           Hack for Democracy,
           March 2014, San Francisco, Calif.:
      Brian Boyko, Michael Richards, Larry Traubman, Serina Holmstrum

    • Graphic Illustration: Michael Richards
    • Slide Deck: Brian Boyko

    An Insane Plan

    By brianboyko

    An Insane Plan

    • 1,576