Building the Movement for a 28th Amendment at Unrig Summit



The recent Unrig Summit brought thousands of democracy reform advocates—including citizens, politicians and celebrities—from both sides of the aisle to Nashville, where they came together to share knowledge, inspiration and tangible actions in the work toward solutions for our democracy.

As a member of the Unrig Summit Leadership Council, American Promise was proud to help lead the Summit alongside RepresentUs, Issue One, Unite America and Vote at Home.

Our community and citizen leaders shined a light on the 28th Amendment as a solution to the problems of big money in politics, highlighting the scope of the issues related to big money in politics and how the 28th Amendment provides a platform to address other issues.

If you were unable to join us, check out this summary to get an inside look at the stimulating conversations we had as we shared our goals and successes, and illustrated how citizens can get involved in the cross-partisan movement.

Panel: Bold Bipartisan Strategies for Winning the Next Constitutional Amendment

From left: Caroline Fredrickson, President of American Constitution Society; Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL); Former State Senator Jim Rubens (R-NH)

In a panel moderated by American Constitution Society President Caroline Fredrickson, American Promise President Jeff Clements joined Representative Ted Deutch (D-FL) and former State Senator Jim Rubens (R-NH) to discuss bipartisan strategies to advance and win the 28th Amendment.

Constituents must convey to their members of Congress that they support the 28th Amendment because they want their voices represented in the political process, Rep. Deutch said. “This amendment will clear the way for us to take the next step of passing important reform legislation,” Deutch said. “If we put limits on money in politics, we’ll be empowering people who feel disenfranchised.”

Sen. Rubens emphasized the corrosive effects of big money spending in elections by referencing recent spending on New Hampshire elections—the majority of it from out of state interests. “$120 million was spent on the New Hampshire Senate race,” Rubens said. “95% of that money was from out of state. This squashes democracy.”

Rubens also emphasized the need to engage Congresspeople on both sides of the aisle. Although a majority of citizens of both parties support the 28th Amendment, thus far getting big money out of politics is disproportionately supported by Democratic elected officials. Clements shared how American Promise is laying the groundwork to show cross-partisan support in the public and grow it among elected officials. American Promise Associations across the nation attract citizen leaders who advocate for the Amendment, and pass local and state resolutions that call for the Amendment. Additionally, American Promise has created a Candidate Pledge; by signing, anyone running for elected office can pledge to use their office to advance the 28th Amendment. More than 250 candidates across the political spectrum have signed the pledge.

Workshop: Winning Cross-Partisan Support for the 28th Amendment

Ever wonder how to effectively approach your legislators, especially those with a different political ideology than you?

Citizen leaders Ishwari Sollohub (left/white shirt) and Marie HenselderKimmel (right/pink shirt) manage the American Promise table at Unrig Summit.

In this interactive workshop, American Promise State Manager Azor Cole, Outreach Coordinator Wambui Gatheru, and citizen leaders Ishwari Sollohub of the Santa Fe, NM American Promise Association and Marie HenselderKimmel of the Tri-County New Jersey American Promise Association, shared step-by-step strategies—developed by American Promise Citizen Empowerment Coach Sam Daley-Harris—for how to conduct a productive meeting with a legislator. Daley-Harris’s strategies have been used to effectively engage legislators on issues including big money in politics, climate change and poverty.

To kick off the conversation, Solluhub and HenselderKimmel spoke about the successes they’ve achieved with their APAs in getting legislators to meet about, discuss and support the 28th Amendment. They emphasized being respectful toward the legislator and their time, speaking in a relaxed and cordial manner, and keeping in touch following the meeting to establish a line of communication between citizen leaders and legislators. Next, the audience took turns reading a hilarious, inspirational, real-life success story from a fellow citizen leader, which highlighted the effectiveness of the strategies. Finally, workshop attendees broke into small groups and took turns role-playing what they’d learned.

28th Amendment Party!!

From left: American Promise Citizen Empowerment Coordinators Rosie Smith and Kimberly Clinch and Outreach Coordinator Wambui Gatheru welcome guests to the 28th Amendment Party.

After the first full day of Unrig Summit, more than 200 people had a blast at the American Promise 28th Amendment Party at City Tap Sobro Nashville. Partygoers connected with other citizen leaders and 28th Amendment supporters on the first night of the convention.

Panel: Democracy is Good for Business

An enthusiastic crowd of more than 250 business-minded attendees discussed how our broken political system is not just failing American citizens—it’s also bad for American business. The influence of unlimited money in politics and resulting market dysfunction from our pay-to-play system is energizing business leaders into action. The panel included John Wass, American Promise co-founder and CEO of Profit Isle; Sarah Bonk, founder of Business for America; MaryAnne Howland, CEO of Ibis Communications; and Matthew Patsky, an American Promise Advisory Council member and CEO of Trillium Asset Management.

The crowd erupted in applause when Wass stated separation of church and state is well understood and separation of business and state is today’s issue. The business panel discussed how buying political influence damages the real drivers of American innovation: competitiveness and long-term prosperity.

Businesses are allies and partners in the 28th Amendment movement, and leadership from the business community is critical for our movement to succeed. This is why American Promise recently launched Business for American Promise, a program aimed at growing support for the 28th Amendment within the business community.

Panel: How Special Interests Distort the Market

American President Jeff Clements (second from right) speaks on a panel at Unrig Summit.

A second panel of business leaders focused on how the influence of special interests in the market creates an unfair advantage at the expense of taxpayers, competitors and consumers. Jeff Clements joined the panel alongside John Cerasuolo, CEO of ADS Security; Mark Cunningham, Vice President of Communications for Beacon Center of Tennessee; Janne Flisrand, co-founder of Neighbors for More Neighbors; and Debra Nutall Williams, owner of Dee-Nu-Tall Braid Academy.

Clements provided national political context to this problem by describing the outsized influence special interest groups are able to buy through political spending while the other speakers contextualized the issue by tying it to their local campaigns. The nearly 50 session attendees asked thoughtful questions that helped illuminate how the speakers, despite coming from a wide array of backgrounds, all faced the problem of special interests affecting the marketplace.

Corporations Are Not People Book Signing

American Promise President Jeff Clements addresses the audience at Unrig Summit.

Jeff Clements signed copies of his book Corporations Are Not People and had so many great conversations about big money in politics, corporate political spending and the 28th Amendment that the signing extended well past its scheduled end time.

Spark Stage: Getting Big Money Out: Securing Our Constitutional Foundation

American Promise Director of Political Strategy Ben Gubits and Fix It America Founder Steve Lipscomb commanded the Spark Stage in a Ted Talk-style presentation for a whirlwind 5 minutes focused on cross-partisan strategies for victories in state legislatures across the country. Gubits and Lipscomb highlighted the power of citizen leadership and emphasized that—as with every constitutional amendment passed before—it is an energized base of citizens who will ultimately win the 28th Amendment.

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