Building bipartisan support for the 28th Amendment across the country is crucial to the success of the movement to reduce the influence of money in politics. It takes time and devotion to win an amendment, and American Promise is bringing together volunteers, elected officials, and other advocates from across the political spectrum ready to do the work. 

A recent American Promise webinar, facilitated by State Manager Azor Cole, focused on how we build support among people on the conservative side of the spectrum. There are two important reasons to build cross-partisan support :

  • A large majority of Americans agree on the need to limit money in politics, with polls showing support over 70% among conservatives, liberals, and independents for an amendment. 
  • Constitutional amendments take time and effort from people across the political spectrum whose passion turns into action by elected officials. 

As Azor pointed out in the webinar, “Our job is to translate the political will that exists among voters into political power that’s powerful enough to move legislators.”

The conversation included: 

  • Jim Rubens, former Republican State Senator from New Hampshire, a former candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, a lifelong entrepreneur, and American Promise board member. 
  • Richard Briggs, a Republican State Senator for the 7th District in Tennessee since 2014, recent American Promise Candidate Pledge signer, and former Army colonel. 
  • Patti Bounds, a Republican candidate for state representative in the 16th District in Tennessee, current member of the Knox County Board of Education, and recent American Promise Candidate Pledge signer.
  • John Pudner, Executive Director of Take Back Our Republic and a former Republican campaign strategist.
  • Susan Muller, American Promise Business Network Manager. 

The call also featured Chet Hunt, a leader with the American Promise Knoxville Chapter who has led its recent focus on the American Promise Candidate Pledge

The discussion centered around three focal points conservative Americans can rally around: state rights, free market competition, and bipartisan big spending.

Issue One: Eroding State Rights

Gridlock at the federal level has more special interest groups looking to wield influence by spending money in state campaigns. This out-of-state money flooding into state elections is reducing constituent voices as well as state rights (10th Amendment). 

As Richard Briggs noted, special interest groups are frustrated by lack of action on the federal level.

“In 2018, there were 105 bills passed by Congress. There were 81 in 2011 and 72 in 2013,” he said. “Usually, we’ll pass between 400 and 500 bills in Tennessee during the session. And what we’ve seen in the last three or four years is all of a sudden, we have all of this outside money coming in on state issues.”

Out-of-state special interest groups spend to bring attention to their issue—like school vouchers or drug regulations—in states across the country.

“It’s people and organizations that can’t get their agendas passed in Washington,” he said. “They’re now coming down the states.”

Out-of-state groups also look to influence state legislative elections in swing districts, said Jim Rubens. “Voters in those particular districts are gradually losing control … to these big-money, out-of-state sources,” he said. “A very small number of people are targeting these elections. And they’re federalizing election after election.”

Patti Bounds said she has seen firsthand the influence of outside money in her campaign on the issue of school vouchers. “That has been a very hot topic in Tennessee and was not a topic that I was really going to make an issue,” she said. “But other groups and organizations have spent a lot of money in this race to send in mailers with misleading information, very dark, and to really scare and create fear in the voters.”

It’s one reason she signed the American Promise Candidate Pledge and will work to advance the 28th Amendment if elected. “It’s the best thing for our country right now,” she said. “I do believe that our government is endangered by the money that is being spent.”

The strength of the 28th Amendment lies in the fact that it is a state rights issue that resonates with people across the political spectrum, said John Pudner. “When you’re arguing for the 28th, you’re arguing for the states to have the ability to do the things that fit their state. And that’s the beauty of the 28th,” he said.

Issue Two: Free Market Competition

Companies are buying regulatory favors rather than competing in the open market, stifling innovation and opportunity while widening income disparities.  

Jim Rubens points out that the big corporations and other wealthy special interest groups pouring money into lobbying and campaigns discovered they could get bigger payoffs by influencing policy rather than competing in the marketplace.

“Crony capitalism is destroying faith and confidence in free market capitalism in the United States,” he said. “You’re seeing companies going to Washington getting regulatory favors, buying tax breaks. And it’s increasing monopolization. It’s driving down innovation. It’s driving down new business formation. It’s aggravating wealth disparities, which is causing social turbulence.”

Business leaders who don’t want to play this political game can turn to the American Promise National Business Network and pursue a level playing field, so businesses compete based on the value they create in America’s marketplace.

“We realize business leaders are uniquely positioned to contribute their voices to get rid of pay-to-play politics spurred by unlimited spending of special interests,” said Susan Muller.

Issue Three: Bipartisan Big Spending

Groups affiliated with both political parties are spending record amounts of dark money and outside money, but recently Democratic affiliated groups have jumped ahead in this area. 

As Rubens said, Republicans used to be the “winners” at the game of outside money. But as of 2018, organizations on the left outspent people on the right two to one, and that gap remains similar in 2020. Now, he said, the left and Democrats are winning at this game. Rather than giving Republicans a leg up, dark money political spending has created an arms race that demands ever-increasing contributions and drowns out the voices and votes of the people. 

Why They Support the 28th Amendment

By signing on to advance the 28th Amendment, Briggs said he and the other leaders hope to capitalize on the feeling among Americans across the political spectrum that government is not working for them—and instead benefits ultra-wealthy special interests.

“This is part of our effort to clean up what a lot of people don’t like in government right now,” Briggs said.

Rubens pointed to major issues America faces right now—debt, income inequality, health care, national security—that have stalled at the federal level. 

“This 28th Amendment is freeing up the system so that a small number of interests can’t aggravate elections and flood the system with dark money and negative campaigns,” he said. “People understand this is a gateway to solve these big problems we’ve got to deal with to save our country.” 

“What this amendment at its core wants to do is to grant to Congress and the states the power to set reasonable limits on campaign spending and contributions,” he said. “It doesn’t say what the limits are. It doesn’t say that Congress has to do anything or the states have to do anything. It just grants that power back to the states and Congress. So it’s very simple.”