Our state-by-state strategy has had huge successes, and it’s how we’ll win the amendment. Here, citizen leaders from states with recent legislative victories share their tips for success. 

An amendment must be passed by both houses of Congress and ratified by 38 state legislatures. This is our most powerful civic tool and the bar is meant to be high , but every day APA leaders around the country bring us closer to achieving our goal. Over the past year, we made major steps toward passing the 28th Amendment to limit big money in politics thanks to the hard work of APA leaders around the country. Their successes prove that with tenacity, passion and hard work, our goals are within reach.

These leaders organized teams, scheduled events, met with politicians and maneuvered tricky political procedures for the betterment of our democracy. Here’s how they did it.  

New Hampshire Becomes the 20th State to Call for an Amendment

New Hampshire citizens drove its state legislature’s adoption of HB 504, making New Hampshire the 20th state to formally call for the 28th Amendment. In 82 cities and towns across the state, citizens voted in favor of adopting a constitutional amendment to end the influence of big money in politics. Then, citizen leaders like Corinne Dodge and Jim Howard brought these concerns to New Hampshire state legislators, who passed HB 504!

Corinne Dodge testifies in favor of HB 504, the bipartisan legislation that made New Hampshire the 20th state to call for the 28th Amendment.

Corinne Dodge, one of the grassroots leaders who worked tirelessly for this legislative victory, shares how her team achieved its goals and what motivated her to work hard toward them. 

What led you to get involved in politics?

People ask when I first became so passionate about political activism. The truth is that up until a few years ago I had no interest in politics whatsoever other than to vote diligently every four years and in an occasional gubernatorial or senate race. The thought of speaking out in a public setting was enough to set me over the edge. Then the unspeakable shootings of first-grade children and teachers in Newtown, Connecticut, changed all that for me. Certainly, I thought those in Washington would now finally do something to stop the madness of mass shootings in our schools. Only they didn’t, and NOTHING HAPPENED! I decided I could no longer remain silent. I joined my first political activist group, working with other NH mothers to try to get common-sense gun safety legislation passed at our State House. 

How did this lead you to work on the issue of big money in politics? 

Citizen leaders Ella McGrail and Corinne Dodge (dressed as Betsy Ross) pose for a photo.

Realizing that an overwhelming percentage of NH citizens from both political parties wanted this legislation passed, I watched with naive amazement as bill after bill was voted down. Why? It just doesn’t matter what “We the People” want if billionaires and multinational corporations want something different, if what they want is the right to make as much money as possible no matter what the cost to human beings. I began to realize that billionaires and corporations are legally allowed to buy off our legislators.

It then became clear to me that no legislation—not for good medical care, not education reform, not clean water and air, not gun safety reform, not banking reform—no legislation to promote the common good will ever be passed until voters are able to suppress the corrupting influence of money in politics. That’s when I decided to join a coalition of national and NH activist groups actively working for a constitutional amendment for campaign finance reform as a first step to reclaiming our democracy. 

How did you become a citizen leader in the movement for an amendment to get big money out of politics?

When I started in this movement, I didn’t think I could effectively lead a movement to initiate a constitutional amendment. I was, however, willing to follow the lead of other activists and work hard. 

As I worked and learned more about how government corruption and dysfunction was creating the very real possibility of democracy being lost to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, I became very concerned and angry. That concern and anger led me to take on more and more responsibilities. The next thing I knew I was swept away by the enthusiasm of my fellow NH citizens in the NH Rebellion. I found myself doing the unthinkable whenever others weren’t able to do so: speaking before my town counsel and at NH House & Senate public hearings; organizing a community meeting with my NH Senator; marching through the streets of Portsmouth, N.H., and Washington, D.C., dressed as Betsy Ross; and in April of 2016 getting myself arrested for civil disobedience on the steps of the Capitol in D.C. along with 1,400 other citizens protesting corruption in our election system.

What has been one of your biggest successes? 

For five years now I have worked with fellow NH and national activists to get a bill passed to call on Washington to initiate the 28th Constitutional Amendment. We failed over and over again and once, three years ago, we actually did pass the bill, only to watch it be rescinded on a very nefarious technicality. Very frustrating and discouraging! Finally on June 6, 2019, after changing the make-up of our State House through the 2016 election, NH became the 20th state to pass this legislation. Our efforts will now continue on as we work to get our NH delegation on board in initiating the 28th Amendment!

Massachusetts Establishes a Citizens Commission to Work Toward the Amendment

American Promise Outreach Manager Wambui Gatheru presents a Citizen Leadership Award to Nancy Heselton and Kim Wass at the 2018 National Citizen Leadership Conference for their work with People Govern Not Money.

Massachusetts’ major victory came last November, when 71 percent of all MA citizens voted to create a Citizens Commission that would work toward the drafting and passing the 28th Amendment. Established through the approval of Question 2 on the 2018 midterm ballot, the Citizens Commission will aid Massachusetts lawmakers in furthering campaign finance reform on the state and national levels. American Promise President Jeff Clements is a member of this 15-person commission.

The most popular of the Massachusetts 2018 midterm ballot questions, Question 2 garnered its citizen support thanks to persistent campaigning done by American Promise leaders Nancy Hesleton and Kim Wass. They advised us on how to organize a successful campaign. Kim Wass shares their insights. 

How did you approach the task of initiating campaign finance reform in your state? What steps did you take to reach your goal?

There were multiple phases to this campaign. We began working with People Govern Not Money after attending several volunteer recruiting events around the state. A model was in place for volunteers to work with a local captain, who received support from regional captains, who would in turn report to the co-chairs. In the end, we found ourselves consolidating for lack of regional leaders.   

What do you think ultimately led to your success?

The strength of our campaign rested in our relationships with the local volunteer captains. Every Monday evening, we met for conference calls where we encouraged everyone to share what  was working well and where they needed help and advice. 

In addition, we periodically met in person with our captains, and these meetings always led to new ideas. Nearly everyone who came on board in the start of the campaign stayed with us through the full campaign until the election. American Promise was there for us throughout this process, sharing knowledge and giving advice.

Kim Wass (left) and Nancy Heselton (right) pose with journalist Bill Moyers at the 2018 National Citizen Leadership Conference.

What advice would you offer to other citizens looking to win reform in their state?

Our advice is never underestimate the power of a grassroots volunteer initiative. Start as early as you can to mobilize volunteers, then keep them excited to help by finding ways for them to engage before the campaign is underway. Other organizations in the state were a great support for the ballot initiative; find common ground and join forces with other like-minded organizations for volunteer help and support. Make every effort to meet in person with volunteers by organizing meet-ups, which are especially important in the beginning of the campaign.  Encourage volunteers to work together, which makes campaigning more fun and encourages those who want to help, but aren’t confident. We witnessed time and again volunteers stepping out of their comfort zone and becoming empowered by this work.

New Mexico Passes Its Own Amendment Resolutions

New Mexico experienced a similar victory earlier in the year, when it reaffirmed its call for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics. In February, the New Mexico state legislature approved HJM 10, a joint memorial expressing the state’s interest in ratifying the 28th Amendment.

Support for this resolution among citizens and state politicians grew thanks to the persistent efforts of New Mexico APA leaders John House and Ishwari Sollohub. We asked them how they succeeded in winning institutional reform in their state.

How did you approach the task of initiating campaign finance reform in your state? What steps did you take to reach your goal?

Citizen leaders with the Santa Fe, NM, American Promise Association pose outside Santa Fe City Hall.

We aligned with American Promise, launching our APA and receiving valuable ongoing training and support. In line with the AP strategy, we began building relationships with our members of Congress, asking them to strengthen and cosponsor existing campaign finance reform bills. We also conducted our AP 28th Amendment Candidate and Elected Official Pledge drive, which involved volunteer engagement and important relationship-building, ultimately leading to two successful local resolutions, introduced by Pledge signers. With regard to the Fix-It America state resolution, HJM-10, we lobbied in support of this legislation as soon as we were made aware that Fix-It America and Take Back Our Republic had gotten it on the legislative schedule. Our lobbying efforts were appreciated and may well have been impactful in the final passage of the resolution.

What do you think ultimately led to your success?

AP offered invaluable strategy, training and support. Our alignment with AP is an integral part of all our successes. In addition, members of our APA worked very hard on researching and writing language for both a federal 28th Amendment and a local resolution. Our 28th Amendment language was submitted to and included in AP’s Writing the 28th Amendment project, and our local resolution has been approved by both governmental bodies who have considered it so far (Santa Fe County and City of Santa Fe). The continued, patient efforts of a few dedicated volunteers have led the charge, supported by a small group of volunteers, and the support of AP. We have fostered useful contacts through conducting local events such as our Santa Fe Mayoral Candidates Forum, and our Coalition Conference (Achieving a Fair Political System: Building a Grassroots Coalition to Revive Democracy) as well as educational presentations by many involved and talented people—elected officials and others—at our monthly General Meetings. Also, collaborating with all players has proven to be an important part of our strategy and success.

What advice would you offer to other citizens looking to win reform in their state?

Although we have not been able to fully implement all these suggestions ourselves, they comprise an ideal strategy.

Ishwari Sollohub (right) poses with Representative Deb Haaland (left) after she signed the American Promise Candidate Pledge.

1) Engage volunteers who believe in the cause and specific task and that are willing to put in the time and effort.

2) Educate everyone in your group about the issue and make sure they fully understand the purpose of the task.

3) Prepare a thorough execution process, including how to phrase the proposition and answer likely questions and opposing arguments.

4) Emphasize the importance of forming relationships with elected officials/their staff .

5) Have a results feedback component in your procedure.

6) Adjust the procedure as necessary in individual circumstances.

7) Where possible, engage partners—outside groups or influential persons—to help you accomplish your goals.

8) Publicize your successes.