After attending a speech about the necessity to overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, retired pharmaceuticals executive Laura Knipmeyer decided she needed to get active in the fight for the 28th Amendment. Having been involved in grassroots action on numerous other issues, Laura helped found an American Promise Association in Montclair, New Jersey, and has now moved back to California, where she plans to launch and support additional active local groups. Read on to learn more about what drives Laura’s commitment to American Promise.

WATCH LAURA’S TESTIMONIAL AS SHE ACCEPTS HER NATIONAL CITIZEN LEADERSHIP AWARD 

Laura Knipmeyer has an extensive record of commitment to community action, focused on environmental issues, poverty and, of course, the issue of big money in politics. Since 2011, she has organized more than 50 educational events about local living and the environment. She canvassed in 2012, 2014 and 2016 to encourage political participation, regardless of which candidates people supported.

Laura has funneled that experience and passion into action around the 28th Amendment. As an American Promise citizen leader, Laura helped found the Montclair, New Jersey, American Promise Association before she moved last summer back to Berkeley, California, where she will help establish APAs in the northern part of the state while also working with the Business Leaders for American Promise — Bay Area. She views her action with American Promise as fundamental to the health of the nation’s democracy.

“It’s bringing people together for our best ideals and fairness,” Laura said.

Committed from the Start

In November 2014, two years before American Promise was founded, Laura met Jeff Clements, president and founder of American Promise, at a Slow Money national gathering. A few months prior to meeting Jeff, Laura had attended a speech about the need to overturn Citizens United.

“I had attended a talk by Susannah Newman at New Jersey for Overturning Citizens United,” Laura said. “[Newman] had said that she used to work on a lot of different causes, but since the Citizens United decision, she felt that if we don’t get this one fixed first, none of the other issues will ever change. That resonated strongly with me. I stepped up my action.”

Laura knocked on doors following the speech in a “get out the vote” effort, in which she spoke with 70 people. She told Jeff she was looking for a way to continue advancing the 28th Amendment. When Jeff founded American Promise in 2016, he and Laura reconnected, and she jumped at the opportunity to help.

Follow the Money

One of the major factors leading Laura to join American Promise was the pervasiveness of big money’s influence. Many major issues of concern to the majority of Americans are not being sufficiently addressed because of the financial stake big money interests hold in perpetuating those issues.

“So many of us feel disenfranchised and powerless when it comes to our own government,” Laura says. “There’s lead in our drinking water—why isn’t the Clean Water Act being enforced? Most Americans want labels on foods containing GMO ingredients—why isn’t that happening? Why are students bearing staggering loan debt? Why is your neighbor’s home being foreclosed on? Is your local farmer making a living growing real food to feed the community, or subsidized commodity crops? In every sector of our lives, government policy seems to defer to the special speech rights of corporations.”

Laura realizes that before we can work together to find major solutions to these and other issues, we must fix our campaign finance system. As long as corporations, big unions, the ultra-wealthy, special interests and dark money groups can pump large sums of money into our elections, politicians will be incentivized to chase big money contributions rather than relying on and responding to the needs of their constituents.

Advancing the Amendment

Through training and experience, Laura has learned how to effectively grow support for the 28th Amendment. By connecting citizens around a common, cross-partisan goal, American Promise has cultivated a powerful community.

“You learn how to speak and write about the Amendment; you re-learn civics and how to take those opportunities,” she says. “And because you get connected to a community of practicing speakers and citizen leaders, everyone is active and inspired.”

To grow support, Laura emphasizes the cross-partisan nature of the 28th Amendment and looks for opportunities to discuss its necessity.

“I find a way to speak to organizations wherever I go, by listening to their concerns and then expressing my commitment to change things by returning our government to people,” she says.

She also mentions that amending the Constitution is something Americans have always done and must continue to do.

“Amending the Constitution is a healthy, normal process for improving our government,” she says. “It’s not only possible, it’s a good thing.”