At the third National Citizen Leadership Conference, citizen leaders came together to celebrate recent democracy reform victories and advance the 28th Amendment to end big money domination of our elections. During the conference, citizen leaders who have won huge victories for democracy reform throughout the year were awarded with Citizen Leadership Awards. Read on to learn about these inspiring leaders and their achievements.

Ann Drumm and the North Texas American Promise Association: Courage for the Common Good and the 28th Amendment

Ann Drumm became involved with American Promise in 2018 when she attended her first National Citizen Leadership Conference. Inspired to take action to advance a constitutional amendment to fix our broken campaign finance system, Ann returned home to Texas and established the North Texas American Promise Association. Within months, the APA became the largest in the nation.

With her APA, Ann helped organize a large Writing the 28th Amendment event in Dallas, bringing citizens together to learn about various amendment proposals and vote on what language they want to see in the amendment. The APA has held more than 25 other public events. At the 2018 NCLC, Ann volunteered to be the point person for meetings with Texas’ members of Congress. Her preparation impressed Sen. Ted Cruz’s staff and inspired her fellow citizen leaders to see how effective cross-partisan action can be.

Katie Fahey: Exemplifying Bold Citizen Leadership for the People

Katie Fahey (right), executive director of The People, receives her Citizen Leadership Award from American Promise President Jeff Clements at the 2019 National Citizen Leadership Conference.

Shortly after the November 2016 election, Katie Fahey posted a message on Facebook: “I’d like to take on gerrymandering in Michigan. If you’re interested in doing this as well, please let me know.” Dozens of people responded and 70 came out to the first meeting. They decided to form Voters Not Politicians and began holding citizen town meetings around the state.

As the organization grew, it gathered 4,000 volunteers who collected 425,000 signatures to put gerrymander reform on the 2018 Michigan ballot. Voters resoundingly approved the initiative, which establishes an independent citizens commission composed of four Republicans, four Democrats, and five unaffiliated members to draw district lines. 

After the victory in Michigan, Katie helped launch The People, a nonpartisan organization committed to bringing Americans together to advance democracy reforms. She now serves as the organization’s executive director.

Steve Lipscomb and Fix It America: Courage for the Common Good and the 28th Amendment

A leader in the drive for a 28th Amendment, Steve Lipscomb brings smarts, passion and strategy to the movement. Steve has both a legal and business background and conceived, founded and led the World Poker Tour. Since then, he has continued his business activities but committed himself to the cause of reform and renewal for American democracy. 

Steve spent over two years working with a bi-partisan group of lawmakers and legal experts to craft the Fix It America language. In 2018, it passed in New Mexico. And in 2019, it passed in New Hampshire, making New Hampshire the 20th state calling for the 28th Amendment! 

This year’s Citizen Lobby Day began with our March on Congress, where we delivered a copy of the Fix It America resolution to New Hampshire’s congressional delegation. Steve was a lead coordinator for this demonstration, and is already back to work ensuring we’ll have statewide victories to celebrate again next year! 

Renaldo Pearson: For courage, persistence, and leadership for equal rights, representation and votes for all Americans

Renaldo Pearson (left), director of external affairs at RepresentUs, receives his Citizen Leadership Award from American Promise President Jeff Clements.

Renaldo Pearson, director of external affairs at RepresentUs, walked more than 600 miles and 1 million steps from Atlanta to Washington D.C. to protest corruption in our nation’s capital. Renaldo’s Democracy 911 march started at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final resting place on the 54th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act. 

In 2013, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 ruling struck down major parts of the Voting Rights Act. Democracy advocates point to the 2013 ruling as a catalyst for hundreds of subsequent poll closures in areas with large minority populations which, under the act, were subject to Congressional oversight when changing election procedures. Renaldo marched to call on Congress to counter the ruling by strengthening our democracy in several ways, including addressing the outsized influence of money in politics.

Diane Russell, Dick Woodbury, and Ed Youngblood: For Cross Partisan Leadership in Maine for the 28th Amendment

Five years ago, three Maine state senators—conservative Republican Ed Youngblood, independent Dick Woodbury, and progressive Democrat Diane Russell—decided to put partisanship aside and work across the political spectrum to make Maine one of the first states to call for a 28th Amendment to get big money out of politics. Now, ahead of a senate election in Maine expected to cost more than $100 million, the three are swinging back into action, launching Stand With Maine. The idea is to create a commitment of all Mainers, including candidates at every level, to stand with Maine and the American Promise pledge for cross-partisan reform, even in the midst of a highly partisan and expensive election next year. 

Stand With Maine will be the place where Maine voters can get facts and information about dark money in their state, and stand and work together to end the corrupt system with the 28th Amendment. The cross-partisan action of these three individuals five years ago and today exemplifies the work needed to pass the amendment and ensure free elections and equal representation.

The People of New Hampshire: Courage for the Common Good and the 28th Amendment

New Hampshire citizen leaders accept their Citizen Leadership Award at the 2019 National Citizen Leadership Conference.

As part of American Promise’s state-by-state strategy, citizen leaders approach their city and state governments to encourage them to pass resolutions calling on Congress to pass the 28th Amendment and send it to the states for ratification. As the number of cities and states grows, pressure is put onto Congress to act. Last June, after over 80 of these local resolutions, New Hampshire became the 20th state in the nation to call for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics.

The victory represented years of cross-partisan, grassroots work in the state. Significantly, it also puts the number of states past the halfway mark necessary for ratification—an exciting symbolic turning point. At NCLC, citizen leaders from New Hampshire accepted the award on behalf of everyone who fought tirelessly for this achievement—then delivered the signed resolution to their state representatives on Capitol Hill.

Take Back Our Republic: Cross-Partisan Excellence

Take Back Our Republic is the leading right of center organization advocating for the 28th Amendment. Partnering with American Promise in places like Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire, Take Back Our Republic’s influence has proven invaluable as we move elected officials– left, right, and center– up the 28th Amendment champions scale. 

Executive Director John Pudner’s background is in running political campaigns. He famously ran the 2014 campaign of Republican Dave Brat, who unseated Eric Cantor, soon to be majority leader. Brat was outspent 40:1 and instead of spending time trying to close this insurmountable money gap, Brat’s campaign spent time getting out the vote, empowering the grassroots. This grassroots emphasis is central to everything TBOR does, and is what makes them such an effective organizational ally in this work.