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The inaugural Unrig the System summit at Tulane University — hosted by Represent.Us, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending political bribery — brought together top advocacy leaders, academics, celebrities, musicians, comedians, activists and philanthropists from across the political spectrum for three days in New Orleans. In keeping with the spirit of the Big Easy, the summit integrated plenty of music, mingling and afterparties for the nearly 1,500 attendees from Friday to Sunday.
Jennifer Lawrence, a Represent.Us board member, appeared at the event as a featured speaker during two of the weekend’s events.
During the opening plenary, Lawrence interviewed Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (Potter also was involved in the founding of Stephen Colbert’s satirical super PAC, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”).
During the interview, Lawrence asked a few tongue-in-cheek questions, such as, “If candidates or PACs break the rules, what is the punishment? A really big fine?” Potter explained that the FEC has never actually punished a candidate for coordinating with a super PAC because “they’ve never actually seen an example of that.”
Lawrence quipped, “Oh, they’ve never seen it! They must be blind, bless their hearts.”
Programming during the summit included panels and lectures with titles such as “A Presidential Election for Everyone: Fixing the Electoral College” and “From Russia, with Facebook: Foreign Influence in American Elections.” There was also a workshop, entitled “Campaign Design Lab,” where participants teamed up to create a movement-building campaign live at the summit.
The marquee event, however, was “Unrigged Live” on Saturday night, hosted by Lawrence, which featured live music by the Preservation All-Stars and honeyhoney; stand-up comedy by Tig Notaro, Nikki Glaser and Adam Yenser; and short speeches by Represent.Us director Josh Silver; professor Richard Painter; Our Revolution president Nina Turner; astronaut Ron Garan; and activist Desmond Meade.
“We all believe that our government, that we pay for with our taxes, should work for us,” Lawrence said onstage. “We have come here from across the country and across the political spectrum. We all have different reasons for being here, and I’ll tell you mine. I was the first girl born in my family in 50 years with two of the kindest, most genuine brothers anyone could hope for. Growing up we fought about everything. We were very different then, and, even today, our political and spiritual beliefs are completely different, but we never stopped loving each other or rooting for each other. So let my family be an example that we do not need to pick sides. We are experiencing the same thing in this country right now, and it is time to come together across ideologies and across parties. It is time to unite, to fix our democracy. Because regardless of where our politics fall, at the grassroots, the American people don’t deserve to pay taxes for a system that is rigged against them.”
Lawrence also presented three Courage Awards to honored guests who put everything on the line to “unrig the system,” including Angela and Tessa Yarbrough; Nneka Campbell; and Doug Hughes. Lawrence concluded the evening by saying, “Here’s to taking back our democracy and unrigging the system together.”
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