The issues presented by big money in politics are complicated, but the 28th Amendment presents a path for citizens to reclaim a seat at the table. Learn how the amendment offers solutions to several of the specific issues corrupting our democracy.
Today the United States is perceived to be at its most corrupt since 2011. Increasing private influence, party polarization and voter disenfranchisement have contributed to the public’s lack of trust in government. Many citizens rightfully feel they don’t have a seat at the table when it comes to federal, state or even local politics.
The American government was built on the principle of representing the people. That foundation is being threatened as special interests and wealthy elites pump record amounts of money into the system. In 2018, lobbyists spent $3.42 billion to influence elections and policies, more than twice what was spent in 2000. Americans don’t have to follow the money to know who to distrust, because corruption can be found everywhere, compromising the integrity of democratic institutions and eroding public trust in government to historic lows. The problem of big money in politics—recognized by citizens on both sides of the aisle—has only worsened since the 2010 Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United conflated unlimited spending with free speech.
The corrupting influence of big money in politics is nationwide but not impossible to tackle. Campaign finance reform is the first place to start in ensuring the government responds to all citizens—not just corporations, unions, special interests or wealthy individuals. The 28th Amendment to the Constitution offers a definitive countermeasure to these ills of our democracy. This constitutional amendment could address money in politics, but also issues like gerrymandering, Congressional term limits, and corporate personhood. Here are four ways the 28th Amendment would help prevent corruption and ensure political equality.
Level the playing field for all citizens
The 28th Amendment will level the playing field between the ultra-wealthy and average citizens to give everyone, regardless of wealth, equal influence over political elections and policy outcomes. This means candidates would need to seek donations from everyday Americans rather than relying on a few of the wealthiest people and corporations. Candidates would then be more likely to follow through on promises to the constituents who determine their election and re-election, rather than to cater to elite interests that often contradict those of the average citizen.
The Supreme Court may interpret money as free speech, but this contributes to inequality between those who have the means to make their voices heard and those who don’t. Those who don’t have the accumulated wealth and subsequent opportunity to influence politics are inherently disadvantaged. If money equals speech, then it follows that those with little money have little access to speech. The 28th Amendment has cross-partisan support because it would return political power to the hands of all citizens. Everyone would benefit from public policy reflecting a more diverse range of interests, because a government that only works for the few truly works for none.
Increase transparency of the government
The influence of big money in politics is even more insidious when the source is unknown. “Dark money” creates opportunities for governmental corruption by allowing groups and individuals—including non-American interests—to donate money to campaigns through third-party groups so it can’t be traced back. This kind of political spending means no one knows the motives behind certain donations, but given the funds they pump into the system, dark money groups obviously feel there is some beneficial return on investment. Although it’s impossible to tell exactly how much dark money is circulated in the political system, the 2018 election included nearly $300 million in spending from non-disclosed groups. The 28th Amendment offers a solution. Improvements to campaign finance regulations would strengthen elections and prevent undisclosed political donations from posing vulnerabilities to American democracy. By ending dark money spending, people can be more confident in the sources of funding for (and influence on) their politicians.
Get foreign influence out of elections
Citizens are left questioning who really rules our nation as foreign-influenced corruption undermines the government’s obligation to “We the People.” Current campaign finance rules have allowed millions of dollars connected to foreign countries to pervade the American electoral process. Dark money political spending waters down the voices of the people and empowers outside interests to influence American policy. As advancements in technology have opened new venues for these forces to exert influence—such as hacking into voter databases and posting misleading advertisements on social media—foreign interests have worked to deteriorate the integrity of American democracy and public trust in the system. The movement toward a 28th Amendment focuses on combating corruption and rebuilding what many people see as a broken system. This work—which may include regulating campaign finance, strengthening the voting process and setting Congressional term limits—is contingent on the activism and passion of citizen leaders getting involved in politics.
Empower citizens to make change
With many issues facing our nation, making change can sometimes feel discouraging as it requires taking on deep-seated problems in a system that seems hopelessly gridlocked. American Promise is working to change that, by connecting citizen leaders and supporting the 28th Amendment to the Constitution to elevate the public’s influence over politics. Improving trust in government starts with empowering citizens to own their role in democracy, because more political participation means less opportunity for corruption. The anti-corruption power of the 28th Amendment is contingent on citizens working together toward its passage: a goal that will benefit all Americans, not just one party. This is just one step toward reducing corruption. Citizens can get involved every day by signing petitions, writing representatives, attending protests, running for office and more. An engaged public holds the power to make the political process equitable and responsive to every citizen it’s meant to represent.