The widespread effects of big money political spending make it nearly impossible to ignore. Cartoonists, noticing the myriad connections between such spending and the issues plaguing our nation, have used their craft to highlight how big money corrupts our democracy, advances warfare, furthers climate change and, in general, drowns out the will of the American people.
American Promise is leading the cross-partisan movement for a 28th Amendment to get big money out of politics. Each week on this post, we will share assets from our newsletter, including the featured cartoon and articles covering the movement for the amendment.
Leading up to Memorial Day, we’re thinking of Frederick Douglass’ powerful speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” If you haven’t read it, we can’t recommend it strongly enough.
We think of that speech because it reminds us of the true meaning of Memorial Day. It’s true that Memorial Day is a much-needed holiday after a long trudge toward summer. And it’s a time when the weather starts to allow for barbecues and outdoor fun. This year in particular will be our first chance in a long while to come together with family and friends and celebrate life itself. But the true meaning of Memorial Day is quite different and often forgot.
On Memorial Day, we are asked to remember and show gratitude for all those who’ve made the ultimate sacrifice, paid the highest price, to preserve this great nation. The origins of this day were to honor those who laid down their lives for that cause Frederick Douglass fought so hard for: to end the pestilence of slavery in this nation and fulfill the promise of equality for all under our Constitution. Over time, we’ve included all those lost in defense of Liberty.
Patriots fight and heroes die to defend a nation, to protect it and all its people. They die so that others may live free, with liberty, with justice and with equality.
Patriots don’t fight so that the government they defend can be run from a Wall Street office or a billionaire’s mansion. They most certainly don’t fight so that a nation can be divided, artificially separated so that greed has free reign and political decision-making favors only those able to buy it.
Heroes don’t die to protect an economic system, especially one of oppression to any. No hero has died to protect wealth or to allow the voices of the many to be silenced by the money of the few. They don’t die defending a political party or its party bosses with access to graft. No soldier worth commemorating died so that a few could trample on the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the very concept that this nation is made up of free men, women and children from all races, all beliefs, all forms of love.
This great nation has weathered many storms, fought many battles, stood for all that can be good in this world. Those who have died in that ongoing struggle should be commemorated, their sacrifice remembered. As you celebrate this holiday, remember what it truly means, consider your part in that ongoing fight and never forget those who’ve paid the ultimate price for Life, Liberty and yes, Equality.
In the last election cycle, Americans were inundated by political advertisements, the majority of which were negative and misleading. The biggest spenders in this $14 billion debacle were multinational corporations, extremely wealthy individuals and shadowy dark money groups with unknown agendas and funders.
And while the 2020 election set records, this vicious cycle of ever-escalating political spending is not new. For decades, we have watched our political system increasingly descend into a pay-to-play spiral where big money voices are heard and average Americans are shouted over.
At American Promise, we’ve had the privilege and opportunity to meet thousands of Americans — both virtually and in-person — from across the country and the political spectrum. From healthcare workers who are committed to upholding community wellness to farmers who underpin our food systems, each person we’ve met has had their own unique experiences that have all been affected by big money political spending.
This spending has forced millions of people into a Spiral of Silence, where they feel that their voices don’t matter and that they are powerless to make change. We’ve seen the effect this has had on our country, including decreasing public trust in government. But we’ve also seen what happens when people decide to take action and break the Spiral of Silence — and it is inspiring. Just last month, American Promise volunteers Judy and Howard in Wisconsin put their heads together and organized a meeting with four in-state business and veteran leaders who in turn are now bringing their networks to the American Promise movement. Rather than shying away from the moment, thinking the problem is too big to tackle, Judy and Howard addressed it head on, expanding exponentially in the process.
The movement to fight back against unlimited political spending is putting us on the path to a government that truly represents We the People, not big money.
Each year our National Citizen Leadership Conference (NCLC) and Citizen Lobby Days empower Americans to take civic action to better our country at its constitutional root. Lobby Day attendees schedule, prepare for, and execute powerful meetings with their Members of Congress. It is nothing short of heroic. If you have not already registered, now is the time.
As we’ve connected with citizen leaders in the leadup to our virtual NCLC and Citizen Lobby Days this May, we have once again been reminded of the power we hold as Americans to enact change. We know that we can — and will — pass and ratify this constitutional amendment.
One person at a time.
We remember when the Citizens United ruling was handed down by five out of nine Supreme Court justices. With that decision in 2010, corporations were handed the keys to the kingdom and our new overlords were going to do everything and anything to benefit their bottom line, citizen consumers be damned. That decision 11 years ago has made a compounding impact on our lives. That’s why American Promise is working to amend the U.S. Constitution.
We have hope. It turns out, as the signs say, that corporations are indeed not people. They are made up of people: individuals who go to business school, live in communities, watch the news, have families, dreams, and values. We believe the only real value in having privilege or power is using it to free the most oppressed from systems that do not value human liberty and equality. People can, have, and will amend the U.S. Constitution to rectify terrible rulings. And, actively engaging in the work required to amend the Constitution is its own path out of the division, disinformation, and despondency that plague our people.
Working with people from all over the nation and from many different backgrounds on an effort that unites us, despite our differences, is proof that we have not yet reached “the end.” Yesterday, we welcomed John McCrea to the American Promise team as our new Business Network Manager. He will connect with values-driven business leaders and empower them to join us in this crucial work. And as we all work together — pooling resources and shouldering the weight of our responsibility as citizens — let’s visualize where we’ll be and how we’e’ll feel when the news breaks that the 38th state has ratified our amendment.
As we come up on the one year anniversary of whatever we call the world now, we’re thinking of the moments and events of the last year that have changed America. And, we’re reminded why our mission to get big money out of politics is crucial to creating a more equitable future for all Americans.
Last March, COVID was just a whisper — until talk about a potential shutdown. We witnessed a familiar scene playing out at grocery stores across the country: no meat, no bottled water, no canned goods, no toilet paper — nothing but bare and empty aisles. This uncertainty would continue to expand as COVID cases rose, and, as we watched small businesses perish and millions of people become unemployed, we learned just how hard it is for a country to address challenges for all when the system is designed to protect the wealthy few.
And still, despite being unsure about COVID, many Americans grabbed their masks and took to the streets in peaceful protest after the death of George Floyd. Watching a grieving community of all backgrounds kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds reminded us again of the issue of a government left unchecked with no new amendments since 1992. It was in those communities and moments of solidarity that speakers shared their frustration with the continuation of lost Black lives and no possibility for progress on systemic change because average Americans don’t have access to the billions of dollars that go into lobbying every year.
Reflecting on these moments with the upcoming George Floyd trial and the increase of vaccinations, it feels as though things are coming full circle, and it’s up to us to decide what we do next. We cannot afford to forget or get complacent. We have to continue to push toward change. The need for campaign finance reform is obvious but many are unaware of the steps it takes to get there. Some have never even considered a constitutional amendment but experience the effects of Citizens United everyday. It is time for Americans to see the power of their voice and truly embody what it means to be “We the People.”
Our upcoming National Citizen Leadership Conference and Citizen Lobby Days are a great opportunity to invite our communities to Connect, Commit, and Act as a way of moving forward, and to give others hope for reform by expressing the importance and momentum of this amendment. We must help everyday people learn how to lobby for themselves and shape a better life for America. There is no other time than now. We must continue to connect and find a common ground even if things seem polarized, we have to commit to pushing forward, learning and growing — and we absolutely have to ACT.
Years after our country’s 200th birthday, 1992 was deemed “Year of the Woman,” when a record four women were elected to the Senate. Among the four was Carol Moseley-Braun, the very first Black woman to hold such an office.
Since that banner year, increasing numbers of women continue to vie for — and be elected to — public office. In 2012, New Hampshire became the first to send an all-female Congressional delegation to Washington. Six women — more than had cumulatively run for Presidential office in every election prior — took to the debate stage in the most recent presidential primary. And it’s not just in politics. While far from representative of their share of the population, increasing numbers of women hold high-level positions in all types of workplaces.
Women are taking leading roles in both the push for the American Promise Amendment to end unlimited political spending and the push for the Equal Rights Amendment, highlighted in this week’s cartoon.
And it’s women who have led us through the Coronavirus pandemic — they account for more than 50% of essential workers. The end of the pandemic may finally be in sight, but women, especially non-white women, will be hit hard for years to come as we scramble to make up for losses in earnings and gaps in employment that impact a much smaller percentage of our male counterparts.
Knowing how much money it takes to run for office lowers the odds of that changing any time soon, especially with all the data telling us that women, specifically, will have less economic stability as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
This Women’s History Month, let’s celebrate Carol Moseley-Braun, and all the other women who paved the way and whose names history forgot to write down. Let’s celebrate all the women who have put their lives on the line — or on hold — this last year to carry our country through this tumultuous time. Let’s celebrate the little kids who will grow up to be women and decide to run for office — by getting big money out of politics now, so there is one less barrier in their way. And let’s show up for women, whether it be from the other side of an interview table, behind the curtain of a ballot box, or by adding a seat at the table.
We have been thinking about Stella Jones, a doctor turned small business owner, this week. In New Orleans, culture bearers like Dr. Jones take center stage — especially during Mardi Gras carnival season.
Stella Jones opened her eponymous art gallery over 20 years ago after she and her husband recognized that New Orleans was lacking spaces that featured and promoted fine artwork by people of color. The Stella Jones Gallery features the diverse art of the diaspora which includes African-American, Caribbean and contemporary African art, made of a wide range of media for public and private collections. By establishing the art space and connecting with the community, Stella Jones is also motivated to raise the aspirations of Black youth by providing them with a deeper understanding of their heritage through art.
Stella Jones is just one of countless of African-American women who have taken on the mantle of small business owner. In fact, the face of female entrepreneurship overall is becoming a lot less white. Black women represent 42% of new women-owned businesses — three times their share of the female population — and 46% of all Black-owned employer businesses. From 2007 to 2012, Black women-owned firms grew by 67%, compared to 27% for all women, and 50% from 2014 to 2019, representing the highest growth rate of any female demographic during that time frame.
Unlike large corporations, small businesses — especially those owned by people of color — cannot afford lobbying budgets to gain preferable treatment from the government. This has been especially consequential during the coronavirus pandemic, as some large corporations were able to access loans intended for small businesses, highlighting the need to get big money out of politics.
Supporting Black women business owners, entrepreneurs and start-up founders should be a top priority, not just in February but all year round. Spending your dollars with Black-owned businesses helps build up and empower local communities, creates jobs and opportunities, and closes the racial wealth gap. These are all positive side effects but even if your only goal is collecting quality art representative of the African diaspora, spending with Black-owned businesses is still the right thing to do. And, Bettye LaVette is pretty amazing too.
The lack of political power for Black Americans is directly tied to racialized laws, policies and systems adopted in the United States. It is critical that all Americans understand that historical events created this unequal system, and the time to examine the prevalence of systemic racism throughout our institutions is upon us.
Our current campaign finance system privileges those with the means to pour unlimited amounts of money into campaigns, which drowns out the voices of common Americans, especially those living in poverty and experiencing the harmful effects of institutional and social racism. Political contributions are dominated by an exclusive elite donor class that is overwhelmingly white and male.
Big money in politics has dire implications for the mobilization of low-income people and communities of color, limiting their access to and representation in decision-making bodies within our local, state, and national political systems. We need to critically reflect and dismantle the current trends, practices, and policies that enable these systemic disparities, in part by passing a constitutional amendment to end unlimited political spending.
Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II is a National NAACP Board Member and a co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign. In this week’s feature, we highlight his work in the modern Civil Rights Movement.
Barber’s address, A National Call for Moral Revival, to the protesters at the First Unitarian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, is a reminder of the stakes involved when our system denies an equal voice and equal influence to communities of color.
“The movement for justice for Breonna Taylor is a movement of the Spirit and has a rightful place in the sanctuary and in the streets. God hears the cries of those who are denied justice, and God is raising up a movement in Kentucky to demand leadership that defends the rights of all Kentuckians.”
This conversation and reflection must go beyond the parameters of Black History Month. Expanding the conversation must be a priority across all platforms, especially in Congress where our elected representatives must take action to rectify systemic inequities.
“Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
In the decades since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. offered that call to action during his 1963 Freedom Rally speech in Detroit, the dream he envisioned for all Americans remains unrealized. But the legacy of his leadership continues to inspire us in our pursuit of the promise of democracy.
It’s appropriate that we celebrate Dr. King’s life this week, as our nation witnesses a transition in leadership in a locked-down Washington, D.C. In calling for freedom and justice for all Americans, he asked those at the rally to “arouse the conscience of the nation” — a relevant directive now.
This week we also mark the anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that wrongly equated corporate political donations with free speech and awarded them First Amendment rights, leading to a deluge of money that has sent election spending to record levels and drowned out the voices of We the People.
But even in these divisive times, a majority of Americans agree on a few things: about three-fourths of Americans say the country is headed in the wrong direction, and a similar number see a need for limits on political donations by individuals and organizations — the cross-partisan, grassroots support that drives American Promise in its work for a constitutional amendment.
Rather than focusing on the divides, we see these poll results as proof that most Americans are ready to come together for change. To help guide and inspire the grassroots, nationwide network working to get big money out of politics, American Promise is adding 12 new members to its Advisory Council. With a variety of political and professional experience and a range of economic and demographic perspectives, they will bring more points of view to help us expand our reach and build momentum to meet our goal of winning a constitutional amendment by 2026.
As we noted in this post honoring Dr. King: “We are all in a fight to save our democracy, and it is up to each of us to step up and do our part to preserve and strengthen it. It was that way in 1963 and it is still true today.”
We the People: Real Citizens United to Save Our Republic
Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s Life by Fighting for Democracy
New American Promise Advisory Council Members Bring Variety of Viewpoints and Experience
As we near the end of this turbulent year, it would be easy to focus on the challenges, the negatives, and the problems. Many people have suffered losses — lives, businesses, and otherwise — and a lack of leadership and compassion from our elected officials has exacerbated our feelings of frustration and powerlessness.
While 2020 kept many Americans apart as we practiced physical distancing in the name of public health, this year brought us together in other ways, as we highlight in our year-end wrap-up article. Here’s a preview of a few highlights:
- People across the country ask candidates across the political spectrum to sign the American Promise Candidate Pledge and join the campaign for the 28th Amendment — and more than 400 of them stepped up to that challenge.
- Volunteers spread the word about the 28th Amendment with letters to the editor and other outreach, raising awareness and advancing legislation in states across the country.
- The American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship included an amendment to limit money in politics among its top strategies and actions necessary to reinvent our constitutional democracy.
These are just some of the year’s highlights from our people-powered campaign to empower the voice of we the people in our government. We thank all of you who helped make these achievements a reality and look forward to continued momentum for constitutional reform in 2021 and beyond.
While we face serious national division, a majority of Americans remain united on the need to limit the influence of big money in politics and place power in the hands of citizens rather than ultra-wealthy special interests. We founded American Promise to succeed with broad-based coalitions of Americans hailing from across the political spectrum, the country, and all walks of life. By finding common ground — a desire to create a better future for ourselves and generations to come — we are able to build strong networks of diverse individuals and advance the 28th Amendment.
With billions spent in the 2020 election on campaign messaging designed to outrage and divide us, more people across America are realizing that change is needed now to halt the spiraling spending growth in politics. By coming together now to address the systemic issues our nation faces, we ensure power for the voices of Americans — not concentrated wealth — in the future. The success of our Giving Tuesday campaign over the last few days reflects the growing recognition that big reform is necessary.
Thanks to the generous donations from our community, American Promise will expand its state-based work in 2021 and broaden the reach of our people-powered campaign for an amendment to get big money out of politics.
2020 has been a challenging year, which makes us even more appreciative of your generosity. We look forward to celebrating more successes with you all in the coming year.
It is our great pleasure to congratulate the voters of Alaska on their ballot decision to make Alaska the 21st state to call for the 28th Amendment!
In response to this historic moment, Jim Barnett, an Anchorage-based historian, said: “The founding citizens of the 49th state wrote into our state Constitution that ‘All political power is inherent in the people. All government originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole.’ That’s the American promise, and the Alaska promise to its residents since statehood, and I am thrilled that we in Alaska are coming together again to renew that promise.”
The voter turnout for this election was electrifying because it demonstrated to me millions of people making the connection between their vision, their life, their vote, and their government. I saw people recognizing their power within our democracy.
This week we’re excited to introduce new people who have joined the American Promise team and to welcome them to our growing movement. They are eager to share their perspectives and use their talents to empower Americans across the nation to take action, and use our power to secure equality and representation for future generations.
While the election results revealed differences among us, the $14 billion national price tag draws a united reaction: It’s time for real representation and government responsiveness to the will of the people; it’s time to shake the yoke of unlimited political spending’s influence on our lives. We the people are poised to make permanent, powerful reform a reality.
One big lesson from the election: America remains the land of the free and the home of the brave. Braving a dangerous pandemic, adapting to new voting schedules and long lines, participating in remote and socially distanced campaigns, and staring down fear, uncertainty and crisis, at least 160 million Americans cast our ballots in one of the closest elections in history.
Hundreds of thousands of new poll workers volunteered and, while Americans across the nation in every state and community waited peacefully (if anxiously), our ballots were dutifully and carefully counted. We congratulate President-Elect Joe Biden (a longtime champion of our constitutional amendment) and Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris (an American Promise pledge signer) on their election. And we congratulate all of the candidates of all parties who stepped up to run for office and offer their ideas and service.
You might find this slide deck from Bruce Mehlman to be an insightful recap of the election and state of the electorate. As Bruce details, more money than ever poured into this election—$14 billion in the federal elections alone. And despite the surge of small contributions, most of the money still is driven by the huge spenders, some of whom surpassed $100 million in individual contributions (as always, Open Secrets has the data).
Three key takeaways for all of us at American Promise:
- First, Americans know election spending is out of control. As one Maine newspaper editorial described it after the Senate race there passed $200 million, when billions of dollars are spent to make people afraid, angry, divided and partisan, people will be afraid, angry, divided and partisan.
- Second, we are right about our constitutional amendment for reasonable spending limits to empower voters, make representatives responsive to the people, and secure free speech for every American. With more than 400 candidates signing the American Promise pledge and cross-partisan support ranging from 70% to 80%, we are on track to win.
- Finally, the election results once again demonstrate that neither major party alone is going to deliver real and lasting solutions. Our cross-partisan, citizen-driven approach is the key to success.
Americans are not giving up. We will move through this extraordinary and challenging time to win reform and renew our country together. Thank you for your commitment and good work.
With advance voting and voting-by-mail happening now in many states before Election Day on November 3, we at American Promise are working with our partners in Fix the System to ensure that all American citizens can vote safely, and that every vote is counted according to law. This year’s election process may have some bumps and delays, which make it vital that we maintain our belief in our democratic process and practice peace and patience in the days following the election.
Throughout this election season and beyond, we will continue our work for equal representation for all. One way we do this is by encouraging candidates to sign the American Promise Candidate Pledge to advance the amendment to reduce the influence of money in politics. After they’re elected, we must continue our outreach to encourage these supporters to make this issue a top priority in the new Congress.
While this year’s events have exposed systemic failures and created hardships for many people, they also serve as a reminder of the value of our vote, the importance of working toward American equality, and the critical necessity of free and fair elections. We urge you to uphold the foundation of our democracy by voting in person if you are able and, if not, voting by mail or in advance.
With questions over how and where Americans can vote amid a global pandemic, the upcoming election is a referendum not only on the offices on the ballot, but on democracy itself. With record voter interest and record campaign spending — projected at $11 billion — it’s clear what’s at stake: a battle between the voices of the people and a powerful plutocracy that seeks to control the narrative, regardless of which side of the party line we fall on.
In the face of this growing fragility in our representative democracy, voting in this election is more important than ever before. By voting, we cast not only our ballot for our elected officials, but also assert the power of our voices as the driver of our democracy. That’s why the team at American Promise urges you and your family members and friends to check your state’s vote-by-mail status and your registration before Election Day on November 3. With partner organizations, we are working to ensure that every American can vote safely in their state while also protecting public health.
As we move forward with our election-related work through the candidate pledge campaign, state-based strategies, and cross-partisan platform, we counsel peace and patience for what may be a longer vote count following Election Day. Our votes are still the most powerful force in our representative democracy despite the escalating influence of big money in our elections. This election year, be sure to claim your political voice, cast a ballot, and represent the values of equality and liberty that our democracy is founded upon.
“If there was one decision I would overrule, it would be Citizens United. I think the notion that we have all the democracy that money can buy strays so far from what our democracy is supposed to be.”
— The late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in a 2014 New Republic interview on Citizens United v. FEC, which ruled that corporations could fund political speech under the First Amendment
As our nation honors the life and legacy of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we at American Promise are especially grateful for her steadfast years of work for equality, the value that drives our work and strengthens our efforts. With equality as the ultimate goal of the 28th Amendment — ensuring a voice for all Americans — Justice Ginsburg’s lifelong work is relevant inspiration to realize our nation’s promise of human liberty, equal citizenship, and effective self-government.
This year the Democratic Citizens Commission of the Academy of Arts and Science issued a challenge to reinvent democracy for the 21st century; one of its key recommendations was to pass the American Promise amendment to end the dominance of big money in politics. We are stepping up to this challenge—our new report, Keep the Promise: America 250, shares how we intend to succeed in bringing Americans together across the political spectrum to pass this amendment and ensure a better future for every American.
Over the past several years, American Promise and our network and allies have been working on proposed amendment language that will garner the cross-partisan support we need in both houses of Congress. We have based this language on consensus derived through listening sessions with Americans from across the nation, through a variety of programs. We’re still gathering feedback, and we hope you’ll weigh in via our survey.
Justice Ginsburg never swayed from her determination to protect constitutional rights for all Americans. We hope to honor her by continuing the work toward a more perfect union and passing the 28th Amendment to the Constitution by July 4, 2026, our nation’s 250th birthday.
The corruptive effects of unlimited political spending are cropping up in states across the country, with untraceable dark money spending surging in state elections in the decade since Citizens United.
In Maine, national political action committees and donors outside the state are pouring record amounts of money into the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Republican Susan Collins and challenger Sara Gideon.
In Ohio and Illinois, multimillion-dollar bribery and corruption political-spending scandals have led to criminal charges against elected officials.
In Alaska, political spending from undisclosed sources grew from 6% to more than 60% from 2006 to 2014, which is why Alaskans have come together to push forward a ballot initiative to increase transparency and make the state the 21st to formally call on Congress for the 28th Amendment.
Two common threads underlie these and similar situations in states nationwide: Ultra-wealthy special interests looking to sway policy and gain favors through political spending; and citizen-led movements in these same states demanding an end to this corrupt system through the 28th Amendment.
As the new Empowerment Director for American Promise, it is Dr. Jessica Hare’s vision and mission to empower all Americans to come together for the ratification of the 28th Amendment. Our nation is facing an array of challenges, and we the American people can and will bring positive change to our political climate. As we embark upon the 2020 election season, it is important to understand that Americans across our nation have the power to decide on the quality of life we want for ourselves and future generations. Reaching out to elected officials and exercising our right to vote offer a chance to advocate against social injustice.
Right now Americans want to feel empowered while understanding how to execute their rights as citizens. Americans can hold elected officials accountable and collectively end how big money continues to dominate our political climate. We at American Promise will continue to uplift Americans, while valuing their dignity and worth. In the words of the late and great James Baldwin: “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”
As your new Empowerment Director, Dr. Hare challenges you to take a stance. Let’s bring about change by advocating for the ratification of the 28th Amendment.
A century ago, America was in a period of transition following World War I, the 1918 flu pandemic, and riots during “Red Summer” in cities across the country. Amid this era of change and conflict that also saw record economic growth and rapid technological advances, America ratified the 19th Amendment guaranteeing white women the right to vote—after nearly 100 years of work toward the cause.
As our nation currently faces societal challenges that make it easy to focus on our differences, it’s vital to recall the founding promise of our nation—equality—and realize where we share common ground. As the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis urged in his final article: “Continue to build union between movements stretching across the globe.”
This newsletter highlights that common ground and the cross-partisan nature of American Promise, from the recent monthly call on the Conservative Case to Get Money Out to the launch of our National Business Network to recent American Promise Candidate Pledge successes in communities across the country.
We’re also glad to introduce two new American Promise team members, Communications Coordinator Zyeisha Allen and Empowerment Director Dr. Jessica Hare, who bring professional expertise, personal passions, and a shared belief in the power of our grassroots, people-powered movement for the 28th Amendment.
While progress is rarely linear, events along the way serve as turning points. The Voting Rights Act (VRA) of 1965, which marks its 55th anniversary on August 6, is one of those points. When it became law, the VRA boosted Black voter turnout and provided a legal framework to challenge voting restrictions in places where it wasn’t enforced.
But as the current racial justice movement shows us, there is still much progress to be made regarding equality in America. In the 2013 Shelby County vs. Holder case, the Supreme Court swept away a key provision of the VRA, opening the floodgates to laws restricting voting across the United States. Since the Shelby case, states previously covered by the VRA have engaged in significant efforts to disenfranchise voters, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Throughout history, it has been the American people who have continued the work toward equality for all—many times through the amendment process. Equality is at the core of the American Promise movement, which works to ensure a voice and representation for every American through an amendment to establish reasonable limits on money in politics so that our nation’s policies work better for all. Through our grassroots, nationwide movement, we can continue to advance widespread reforms to ensure that all Americans have the voice and vote they deserve.
The 2020 election will happen amid an array of seismic forces—a public health crisis, an economic recession, a rising racial justice movement. One constant force is the nature of our American democracy, with elections at its center. While we each can wield significant power through our voice and our vote, the domination of concentrated wealth in our elections dilutes the power of our votes by incentivizing our elected officials to be more responsive to the wealthy few.
Right now Americans across the country are using their voices to reach out to candidates and elected officials, asking them to sign the American Promise Candidate Pledge and take a stand against elite special interests who buy influence by pouring money into our political system. Through this growing grassroots effort, volunteers are spreading the word about the 28th Amendment and paving the way for real change in our political system. We also highlight the story of Hal Gurian, an American Promise volunteer-turned-candidate who is running for a seat on the Grand Traverse County Commission in Michigan and promising to advance the 28th Amendment by signing the Candidate Pledge.
Americans across the country are calling on election officials to ensure they can vote safely this fall—at least 10 states have moved to make voting by mail easier in November, and five GOP governors are joining the call for mail-in voting expansions in response to the pandemic. By also making support for the 28th Amendment a voting issue, we further support the power of our votes as the most essential feature of our representative democracy.
As we prepare to celebrate America’s 244th birthday, the need for systemic change is more evident than ever if we hope to live up to our nation’s founding aspirations—an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all people.
Amid this year’s celebration, a global pandemic and a growing racial justice movement highlight the unrealized promise of equality, and a dysfunctional democracy reflects the outsized influence of wealthy political donors rather than we the people.
But together, Americans can step up to the challenges we face and work together to reinvent a democracy that will work for our future. In the links below we highlight just a few of the many people joining in this work in communities across the country, heeding the call to create a more inclusive, effective democracy through crucial reforms—including the American Promise Amendment—outlined recently by the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship.
This 4th of July, Americans are stepping up to say #ChallengeAccepted to ensure a strong and inclusive democracy for our next 244 years. We are proud to join them.
American Promise exists to achieve political equality for all Americans. As our nation continues to witness horrific displays of systemic racism as well as moments of unity and hope, American Promise works to build the movement for an amendment to provide equal representation regardless of wealth—so that all citizens have a voice in the decisions that shape our everyday lives.
The success of our movement depends on actions taken by Americans across the political spectrum who are committed to ushering in a reinvented democracy for the 21st century. By connecting and empowering citizens across the country to advocate for the amendment, we strengthen our movement and our nation’s capacity to move forward together.
This week our newsletter highlights several calls for equality: from American Promise Advisory Council member Nina Turner, Bernie Sanders 2020 national campaign co-chair and former Ohio state senator; from the Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship in its vision for the 21st century; and in Juneteenth events occurring in coming days across the country.
Heed these calls to action. Now is the time to rely on our strength, spirit and the collective power of millions of small acts to advance real, permanent change. Together we have the power to move toward our nation’s fundamental and unfulfilled promise of equality for all.
We are a democracy in crisis. The past few decades have seen our country moving steadily toward oligarchy, where the wealthiest and most powerful among us control the decisions that affect our lives and the promise of equality for all has still not been met. These past weeks and days we are also reminded—if we needed reminding—that the evil of racism that has ever been intertwined with our national journey is one of the most powerful forces holding America back. As Jeff Clements, American Promise president, shared in his message earlier this week, this is not a “distraction” from our goal; this is our goal: an America where we do not abuse power to lock out, silence and destroy our fellow Americans.
Even amid seemingly insurmountable challenges and conflict in the past, Americans have never given up. We won’t give up now. Alongside the recent atrocities we have also seen Americans coming together, feeling a renewed sense that we are all in this together.
Equality serves as the basis for our goal at American Promise: to ensure every American has an equal voice. Right now that goal is more urgent than ever. Next week the American Academy of Arts & Science’s Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship will launch its blueprint for how we can strengthen America’s institutions and civic culture in six strategies to improve the resilience of our democracy. In doing so, the Commission has issued a bold challenge for all Americans to meet their vision of a common purpose to reinvent democracy for the 21st century.
We accept the challenge. The American Promise Amendment we are winning together is a central pillar of the vision of a more resilient democracy. Thanks to you and so many Americans, we will secure equal rights and equal opportunities for all in America, and we will treat all Americans as we want to be treated.
These numbers also show how the economic fallout from the pandemic is hitting small businesses that often serve as the heart of our communities. Neighborhood restaurants, art galleries, bookstores, and other shops now are facing uncertain futures due to a pay-to-play system favoring large corporations and special interests that influence policy with big-dollar political donations.
While global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic are difficult to plan for, a distorted economic system that fosters pay-to-play politics and enables big corporations to use their political influence to push their way to the front of the line also hinders the way our economy manages and recovers from crises.
That is among the reasons why business leaders from across the country, with experience in small, midsize and large corporate businesses, are all coming together as part of the Business for American Promise network to advance an amendment that will level the playing field and encourage innovation and create an environment for long-term economic growth. To further amplify the voices of these citizens—including the 58 million-plus Americans who work at small and midsize businesses—we are uniting socially responsible business leaders in nonpartisan advocacy for the 28th Amendment.
We’re thrilled to see more business leaders making an impact by signing the Statement of Principle for Business Professionals, including Peter Schwartz, an internationally renowned futurist and business strategist, whose article reminds us to envision an economy where the rules apply to everyone rather than benefit the ultra-wealthy. As Peter says, “today’s rules of the political game make it impossible for either government or business to take the long view,” instead rewarding short-term decisions that weaken the marketplace and our democracy.
Especially now, when most business owners are dealing with plenty of unexpected challenges, we’re heartened to have Peter and numerous other business leaders join our movement to create an economy where companies compete based on the value they create in America’s marketplace.
In recent weeks, daily life has changed for all of us—and while we each are affected, the less fortunate among us once again are suffering the greatest impacts.
Whether it’s witnessing the large corporations with lobbying budgets scooping up the majority of government “small business” aid or seeing videos of wealthy Americans at home in mansions while fast food workers can choose to risk their health by working or join the millions of unemployed Americans, the way the system is designed to benefit the wealthy few is on stark display.
This is why we are a part of this movement. By passing an amendment, we get at the root of these issues by ending the Supreme Court-sanctioned ability of the wealthiest among us to buy undue influence over the systems that affect all of our daily lives.
Despite these frustrations and the many issues brought to light by the pandemic, our movement continues to achieve huge victories. Last month in Wisconsin, 17 more communities joined the call for an amendment thanks to the efforts of citizen leaders with Wisconsin United to Amend—bringing the total to more than 160 Wisconsin communities that have done so.
Now is the time to continue building momentum and demanding our elected officials stand with us. In the first convening of our new Citizen Leaders Book Club, we’ll hear from Neal Simon, author of Contract to Unite America: Ten Reforms to Reclaim Our Republic. Neal’s firsthand experience with big money in politics as a candidate for Congress motivated him to become an advocate for democracy reform, including the American Promise Amendment. Join us for an online call at 8 p.m. ET Monday, May 11.
As we come together to face the current crisis and move toward the November elections, our work to elevate the voice and power of we the people holds more importance and promise than ever. Together we can create change for good, and for all.
While citizen leaders choose to devote their time, energy and financial support to the American Promise movement for a variety of reasons, nearly all of them decide to engage because they want to leave a better legacy for the future.
Many citizen leaders—such as Port Clinton, Ohio, chapter leader Ellen Greene Bush and recent college graduate Devin Hiett—believe an end to big money in politics is the reform needed to unlock the gridlock in Washington and ensure clean air and water for all Americans, a reason that’s particularly relevant this week as we mark 50 years of celebrating Earth Day.
Others want to help create a healthier America for their grandchildren. That’s what motivates Minnesota chapter leader Vicki Barnes, who recently helped lead a major victory in her state—an amendment resolution introduced to the Minnesota Senate by two Republican senators. If passed, this resolution will make Minnesota the 21st state to formally call on Congress to return an amendment for ratification.
In the April election next door in Wisconsin, 17 communities overwhelmingly voted yes on a referendum saying only humans should have inalienable rights and money isn’t speech, making a total of 163 Wisconsin communities that have called for the amendment.
While each of us is currently called to stay at home to protect the public health of our communities, we also have an opportunity to consider the many reasons we are each driven to contribute to a stronger, more resilient political system that represents all of us rather than the wealthy few. Fueled by our individual motivations, we can work together to fix our dysfunctional political system and restore the promise of our democracy.
Amidst the national and global crisis, Americans are not only taking care of ourselves and our families, but are taking care of our communities and each other, too.
At American Promise, we’re inspired by that, and by so many American Promise members who have reached out to reaffirm that our mission—to unite and empower Americans to build a strong Republic and healthy democracy—is more urgent than ever.
In the past few weeks, we’ve moved our national calls, local chapter meetings, town halls, and educational opportunities online with Zoom. We’ve rolled out our digital toolkit to better reach our fellow citizens, legislators, and candidates. And your efforts in the states are moving ahead—including one that can make Alaska the 21st state to call for the American Promise constitutional amendment! More on that and a great piece from Joe Geldhof, our friend and American Promise leader in Juneau, are in this issue.
In addition to health and economic challenges, we have a serious challenge of campaigning and voting during widespread stay-at-home precautions. We do face a national crisis today, and we have done so before. But Americans never stopped advocating, listening, arguing, campaigning and voting, despite the Civil War, two World Wars, and devastating pandemics past. Today, we will do so again.
In this issue, you’ll find information about making sure voting and elections are safe and secure. Every state may be different in our federalist system, so be sure to check to see what your state and community are doing.
Finally, we don’t just vote for the sake of voting. We vote for better representation and real reform. Now is the time to make sure every candidate running in your community has signed the American Promise Candidate Pledge, and supports the American Promise amendment.
Arundhati Roy says, “historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”
We’re grateful to you and all of our American Promise community for this opportunity to imagine and build our world anew, even as we navigate this challenging storm.
As the COVID-19 pandemic brings new challenges and stresses across the country and around the globe, it also is revealing strengths and weaknesses in our systems and raising questions about what our nation and world will look like in the future. Many of these systems and issues that affect our everyday lives are at the heart of why citizen leaders like you have joined American Promise in the movement to get big money out of politics.
This week we highlight three American Promise citizen leaders who have worked in health care and were among those who provided written testimony for last month’s congressional hearing on the 28th Amendment. In their testimony and in the article featured below, Ellen Greene Bush, Marie HenselderKimmel and Robbi Duda explain how they have witnessed big money from special interest groups affect their patients, the care they receive, and the overall U.S. health-care system.
While the pandemic renews questions about the cost of care and access to the U.S. health system, we are grateful for the health-care workers and other essential workers on the front lines of this battle, providing services to keep our communities functional.
We’re also grateful for the work that continues—virtually for now—across our nation as American Promise citizen leaders continue their advocacy for a constitutional amendment to limit the influence of big money in the U.S. political system. Each of us can work separately toward our common goal of restoring the voice of we the people and a stronger, healthier democracy.
In this uncharted time for people around the world, businesses are facing new challenges to their resiliency and questioning how best to prepare for the future. The current crisis shows all too clearly the interdependence of the health of our communities, our economy and our country. That is why, amid these troubling times, exceptional business leaders also recognize the need to address the systemic challenges facing our democracy: More than 100 business leaders nationwide are stepping up and adding their voices to the citizen-led call for a constitutional amendment to authorize limits on political spending.
By signing and supporting the American Promise Statement of Principle for Business Professionals, these business professionals—who represent a range of political interests and organizations of every size and scope—have come together to innovate for a stronger economy and say unequivocally that the pay-to-play political system does not benefit business.
We know business leaders face many serious challenges right now, but we also know business leaders are among our nation’s most future-thinking, innovative citizens who know what it means to exercise real leadership. Today it is all too clear that we need a well-functioning government that is responsible to the people it serves. With the announcement of our initial list of signers, we hope that businesspeople concerned about the long-term direction of our country and our economy will learn more and support this amendment as a constructive, truly American solution.
Join us as we the people work for an amendment that gets to the root of a dysfunctional system and creates an opportunity for a stronger economic future for everyone.
Across the nation, citizen leaders are celebrating local successes as they advance the American Promise Amendment to get big money out of politics. In Maine, a U.S. Senate race that is drawing record campaign contributions—many from out-of-state interest groups and other big-dollar donors—also is renewing calls for a constitutional amendment to reduce the influence of big money in elections.
Stand with Maine is a citizen-led campaign seeking to urge Maine representatives to end the domination of big money and return representation in Maine to voters, not out-of-state special interests. In a recent petition-gathering effort on Super Tuesday, when Mainers headed to the polls, volunteers collected nearly 1,000 signatures. Maine citizens can also sign the petition online here.
Maine is just one example of citizens standing together against a big-money system robbing them of their voices. They join fellow citizen leaders in Alaska, Minnesota, Texas, Virginia and many more states who are working together every day to make the changes we need across our states and our nation.
Women have played a crucial role in the pursuit of equality for all American citizens—as leaders of the Underground Railroad, in the decades-long effort for the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote, as drivers of the Civil Rights movement, and much much more. This March, as our country celebrates Women’s History Month, American Promise highlights the leadership of women citizen leaders in the movement for our nation’s next constitutional amendment: to reduce the influence of big money in politics and strengthen the right of equality for all American citizens.
Across the country, women are working with American Promise to advance the 28th Amendment through their leadership and advocacy. Here are just a few of many examples:
- In Texas, citizen leader Ann Drumm is advocating for the amendment as a path toward a more functional government and action on climate policy.
- In New Hampshire, American Promise Advisory Council member Ella McGrail and other citizen leaders successfully urged legislators to make that state the 20th to call on Congress to pass an amendment regarding big money in politics.
- In New Mexico, Ishwari Sollohub and other democracy reform advocates are encouraging more of their elected officials to sign the American Promise Candidate Pledge.
Ann, Ella and Ishwari are just three of the thousands of American Promise citizen leaders across the country leading by example and working toward a solution for our country’s dysfunctional political system—following in the footsteps of the reformers before them and forging a path toward equality for all American citizens.
As the presidential election trail pace intensifies, so do American citizens’ concerns about the state of our democracy. While recent polls show a majority of Americans think foreign governments will try to influence the 2020 election, and billionaires continue to pour money into campaigns—their own and others’—the average voter is left to wonder what influence they truly have.
Our influence lies in the majority of voters who know the American political system can, and must, be better—and must give equal voice to every American. And that when it does, we can solve so many of the policy issues we face.
In our work with American Promise citizen leaders across the country, we’ve witnessed how this common belief creates momentum and energy, and how the call for a constitutional amendment to reduce the influence of money in politics is growing louder with strength from additional voices across the political spectrum—like Hal Gurian and John DeSpelder of Michigan.
This year we’re hearing the call for change loudly in Minnesota, Maine, Alaska and other locations across the country where citizen leaders are talking with their elected officials, urging them to join the movement for the 28th Amendment, and realizing the power we all have when we come together.
As the 2020 election generates news bites and headlines, and political ads fill the airwaves, many Americans already are tuning out, with months to go before the campaign finish line. They do so for various reasons—they may feel their vote doesn’t count, their choices are limited, their views go unacknowledged—as they see little opportunity to have a say in our current dysfunctional political system dominated by wealthy campaign contributors.
They aren’t alone in their concerns about the outsize influence that big-money donors wield over our elected leaders—some of whom feel the same. As an example, this week’s newsletter features former Senate candidate and author Neal Simon, who turned his lessons from and frustrations with the campaign system into inspiration for 10 democracy reform proposals he outlines in his new book.
Similarly, citizen leaders across the country are seizing opportunities to find the good in their frustration by speaking up for and making strides toward real change to end the dysfunction and revive our political system. As they advance an amendment that would allow for reasonable limits on campaign spending, they also restore the promise of democracy and the power of our vote.
Spending updates from the current presidential race provide more evidence of the power and access big money wields in campaigns: Billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has spent more than $300 million on advertising since joining the race in November; and fellow billionaire and Democratic hopeful Tom Steyer has spent $145 million on ads. On the Republican side, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson plans to donate $100 million to President Trump’s re-election campaign. This use of personal wealth to generate media headlines and gain access to voters’ living rooms through the airwaves—rather than engaging in a two-way dialogue—is not what the Founding Fathers intended.
As political spending climbs higher and higher with each election cycle, and the majority of campaign donations come from a few wealthy Americans, citizen leaders are saying enough—and advocating for an amendment that allows states and Congress to enact reasonable limits on election spending and ensure a political voice for all American citizens.
American Promise joined citizen leaders in taking this call for systemic change to Capitol Hill for a House committee hearing last week, where Americans showed up and spoke up—sharing why a majority of us agree now is the time to limit the influence of big money in politics and restore the democratic promise of America.
Amid this week’s chaos of the Iowa caucuses and the political rancor from both sides of the aisle from the State of the Union, we are hugely encouraged by one political event: The movement for the 28th Amendment took a big step forward with a Feb. 6 hearing before the U.S. House Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Committee.
This significant development happened thanks to the tireless efforts of you, our citizen leaders, who are fueling the grassroots advances—from local events to Capitol Hill hearings—needed to make the 28th Amendment a nationwide reality. And we were fortunate to submit statements from many of our citizen leaders, including legal experts, business leaders, veterans, elected officials, healthcare professionals, young people, parents, grandparents, Republicans, Democrats, and independents.
You can continue to advocate for the 28th Amendment by asking your elected officials to support these efforts using this simple tool, or to sign the American Promise Candidate Pledge and use their position to advance resolutions that will reduce the influence of big money in our political system and restore the voice and power of we the people.
Some anniversaries are celebrations, while others serve as a springboard for action or change.
Last week marked the 56th ratification anniversary of the 24th Amendment, which ended the election poll taxes that prevented many black citizens and other disenfranchised Americans from voting. As we move into February and observe Black History Month, we honor the many past Americans—especially the African American community—whose mark on history has been to expand the rights of democracy to their fellow Americans, often overcoming legal decisions that have denied those rights.
Today we have another opportunity to expand the rights of democracy, this time by advancing an amendment to ensure that the voices of all American citizens are heard rather than only those of the wealthy few. The history of our nation has been shaped by Americans standing together and demanding rights for ourselves and our fellow citizens. Start now by asking your elected officials to sign the American Promise Candidate Pledge and declare on the record that they will use their office to advance the 28th Amendment.
Through our cross-country, cross-partisan movement, we can build on the widespread desire for equal representation in our political system.
As big-dollar donors buy outsize influence and shape our nation’s political agenda, they reduce responsiveness to voters and push the system toward dysfunction.
The numbers tell the story. In the 10 years since the Citizens United ruling, campaign finance amounts have ballooned and continue to grow: nearly $6 billion was spent on the 2018 congressional election, and more than $10 billion is projected to be spent in the 2020 election cycle.
But other big numbers provide a hopeful counterpoint: The 77% of Americans—about 250 million people, from across the political spectrum—who agree on the need for limits on political donations from individuals and organizations, many of whom were speaking out about the issue this week at events and in publications across the nation.
That’s a lot of political will—enough to build and propel a movement and create lasting change. It’s why American Promise was created and why the movement continues to grow, thanks to the passion and drive of thousands of citizen leaders like you.
As we approach the holiday that honors the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I am reminded that the right to freedom and liberty, the right to vote, and the right to political participation were not granted to most Americans by our founding documents. Instead they were all won by Americans who, over years, decades and centuries, and in the face of violence, imprisonment and death, demanded that our country live up to its most important ideals.
Next week marks the 10th anniversary of the Supreme Court Citizens United decision that unleashed a torrent of big money into our political system, distorting the balance of democracy in favor of the wealthiest. To address this imbalance, today again the American people are coming together and demanding an equal voice for every citizen.
In honor of Dr. King’s memory we celebrate the thousands of Americans who have fought to build a better America for future generations. Thank you for joining them in the ongoing quest to fulfill the greatest promise of our nation.
As we get back to work at the start of 2020, we see opportunities for change—and at American Promise, we’re gearing up to seize them. It’s an election year, when the media spotlight will shine brightly on candidates looking to earn our vote.
That means it’s an opportunity for citizen leaders to shine a spotlight on the issues of most importance to them and their communities. In recent years, the overarching issue of big money in politics has undercut progress on so many others—and a majority of Americans agree that it’s time to do something about it.
Join us as we shine a light on the problem of big money in politics—and the amendment that will create a path to permanent change.
At the start of a new decade and a presidential election year, we at American Promise are gearing up for an eventful 2020, and we’re eager to build on the progress of our movement for the 28th Amendment.
As more Americans become weary and dissatisfied as they increasingly feel the effects of a corrupt political system in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling 10 years ago, we are focused on the opportunity to gain more citizen leaders advocating for positive change rather than negative finger-pointing.
Our citizen leaders are crucial to the success of each of our goals for 2020, from building our grassroots movement to get big money out of politics, to encouraging more elected officials to sign on to the American Promise Candidate Pledge, to deepening support for the 28th Amendment in Congress.
In the new year, fixing our broken political system is the most important task ahead of us. We’re grateful you are joining the work to get big money out of politics and encouraging other citizen leaders and elected officials to do the same.
Faced with dysfunctional, divisive politics on the federal level, many Americans are growing increasingly dismayed with the state of our nation. Amid a perceived deep divide, a majority of us agree that our political system isn’t working for most citizens—Americans across the political spectrum recently named political corruption the No. 1 issue our nation faces (read our op-ed about International Anti-Corruption Day, which was Dec. 9).
Given this, many Americans feel moved to act. American Promise citizen leaders across the country are taking action where they can make the biggest difference: on the local and state levels. As our friends from RepresentUs note in this video, taking action on the state level has been the key to creating massive federal change. And the percentage of us needed to be actively involved to create this real and lasting change is 3.5%—about 11 million Americans. Relatively speaking, a small number of us can make a big difference.
We thank the many of you who have heeded the call to action and are working locally to get big money out of politics through the 28th Amendment. Through your work, and the work of a growing group of fellow citizen leaders across America, we can act locally while building a movement for national change and creating a functional political system that serves us all.
Together, our impact is greater. We see that in the power of our growing cross-partisan, cross-country movement for the 28th Amendment. And this week we saw it in the impressive wave of support during our successful Giving Tuesday campaign.
Thanks to you, our citizen leaders and generous supporters, American Promise will ride a strong wave of momentum into the new year—and continue our collaborative work to propel the issue of big money in politics into the national spotlight. As we highlight in this week’s newsletter, the corruptive effects of big money are making waves in the business world and in the most recent presidential debate—reflecting the fact that a majority of Americans realize their political voices are being drowned out by wealthy election donors buying influence and shaping policy.
As more Americans come together to join the movement for the 28th Amendment, our call for change grows louder and more powerful. Together, we will claim our democratic right to elect leaders who represent our interests—rather than special interests—and move toward a political system that works for all citizens.
Considering the current turf-battles-at-every-corner state of our union, this Thanksgiving holiday presents an opportunity: to consider how the fundamental promise of our nation—a representative government where we each have a voice in the policies that affect our everyday lives—unites us as Americans.
Our feature article this week highlights a recent survey that found more than half of American voters believe corruption in the political system is the most serious problem facing the country, outranking any other issue. These are Americans with beliefs that span the political spectrum, but who all see how the current system isn’t representing them and how as democratic citizens we are called to change that reality.
The pervasive issue of big money in politics provides a chance for we the people to dispel the narrative that we are divided on every issue and instead work together as fellow citizens in the movement for the 28th Amendment. As American Promise prepares for a new year and expanded efforts in 2020, we ask you to invite your neighbors, family, friends, and other concerned citizens—especially those with views different than your own—to join the cause of our time and help us win a constitutional amendment to put the power back in the hands of the people.
In today’s world we are ever-more dependent on technology—from our omnipresent phones to how we connect with loved ones, catch a lift, or pay for coffee. While these digital tools offer us many conveniences, they can also make it harder to connect in real life—and give us an alarming sense of disconnect when we are cut off from our digital aids.
That digital dependency also stretches to our political system, where the tech companies that control our data and devices are ramping up political spending, as noted in this week’s feature article, as they look to curry favor with elected policymakers to influence everything from privacy laws to antitrust legislation.
Tech corporations drive benefits for our nation—such as innovation, jobs, and economic strength—but giving them unlimited power to use their amassed wealth to influence elections and legislation undermines the system of checks and balances that is at the heart of our democracy. Citizen-led efforts at the local and state level are crucial to the continued success of our movement in 2020 and beyond, and real-world conversations and connections among citizen leaders provide the grassroots energy we need to pass the 28th Amendment.
By creating a democracy rooted in the power of people and connecting with fellow citizen leaders to advance the cross-partisan solution in the 28th Amendment, together we the people can combine our political voices and speak up in our communities and state capitals for a government that reflects our wishes and well-being, rather than the power of big-dollar donors.
While our nation was founded on the ideal of equal representation, tactics to rig the system and undermine the power of the public stretch back for centuries. As this week’s first feature notes, gerrymandering originated in 1812, when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry approved a redistricting plan designed to keep Republicans in power and suppress the Federalists’ chances of winning office.
While incumbents have been rigging the system to protect their turf for more than 200 years, throughout our history another powerful force has helped shape our nation: the American people, who time and again have come together against concentrations of power, and worked to pass amendments that expand our notions of democracy.
Today, once more, Americans are saying “Enough is enough” about the concentrations of wealth and power that act to weaken our voice in our democracy. Those working to re-assert the strength of our votes represent all political stripes and every generation—including college students like Isabelle Pekarsky and Devin Hiett, who joined dozens of other young Americans to sign the Cause of Our Time Statement of Principle, committing to advance the 28th Amendment and recruit other young people to join them.
The systemic issues at play today may have centuries-old roots, but our movement to get big money out of politics continues a long history of Americans strengthening our democracy. And as with every successful citizen-led amendment of the past, our movement will succeed thanks to Americans coming together with strength and determination to uphold the greatest promise of our nation: Equal representation for all.
Big money’s grasp on our country extends wide and deep, impacting issues that affect the everyday lives of Americans—from the economy to health care to education and beyond. While troubling, these wide-ranging effects are part of the strength of our movement for the 28th Amendment. Americans across the nation and political spectrum approach the issue from a variety of perspectives, but they all come to the same conclusion: big money in politics is hurting us, as individuals and as a nation.
This is why a cross-partisan majority of Americans want limits on campaign spending to reduce the undue influence of corporations, special interest groups, unions and wealthy individuals. United by these shared concerns, citizen leaders from all backgrounds are joining forces to reclaim their political voice and demand representation for all Americans rather than the wealthy few.
We saw this in person during the recent National Citizen Leadership Conference, which brought together hundreds of citizen leaders. On Citizen Lobby Day we headed to Capitol Hill for more than 120 meetings with members of Congress, advocating not only for the Amendment, but for our representatives to reach across the aisle and collaborate on this issue—not from the perspective of their political party but from our shared perspective as American citizens.
By speaking out against big money in politics, we speak up for systems—economy, health care, education—that work for us all. By standing together, no matter which issues are closest to us, we can advance the 28th Amendment and restore the promise of our democracy.
For young Americans, today’s problems are tomorrow’s crises. From overwhelming student loan debt to the climate catastrophe to skyrocketing health care costs, these problems are exacerbated by our dysfunctional, stalled political system.
But the largest rising generation in history has an opportunity to use its political will to create real change—and that’s why American Promise is asking young people across the country to come together against big money in politics and join the movement for the 28th Amendment. By signing the Cause of Our Time Statement of Principle, young people can raise their collective political voice, act for the future, and work to restore a government for We the People rather than the big-money special interests that now dominate.
We’ve seen the power citizen leaders have when they demand action on this issue. In New Hampshire, Corinne Dodge, former State Senator Jim Rubens and many others organized a grassroots effort against political corruption that resulted in New Hampshire becoming the 20th state to call on Congress for a constitutional amendment. And thanks to citizen efforts, 13 current and past 2020 presidential candidates have signed the American Promise Candidate Pledge to advance the amendment if elected—the most recent to join the bipartisan movement is Republican former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.
Now we want you and other American Promise citizen leaders to seize your power and invite more young Americans to join the movement to get big money out of politics. Share the Cause of Our Time Statement of Principle with your friends and family and ask them to help us advance the 28th Amendment to address big money—the root cause of so many current political problems.
Join us in fighting for the Cause of Our Time!
With just days to go until the National Citizen Leadership Conference, our team is gearing up for an inspirational, action-packed event that will propel our movement throughout the coming year. The NCLC will draw hundreds of citizens, elected officials, democracy reform leaders, authors, students and more from across the country, with a wide array of backgrounds and beliefs but one shared purpose: To preserve our democracy by ending the domination of big money in politics and returning our country’s government to the people.
The NCLC will include plenty of networking, connections and fun, but we are serious about the critical importance of our mission. After we gather in our nation’s capital, we will take the momentum, strategies, skills and passion back to our communities across the country and gear up for huge victories for the 28th Amendment in the coming year.
A cross-partisan majority of Americans agree: It’s time to limit the influence of big donors, corporations, unions and other wealthy special interests and restore our democracy so We the People can govern. At the NCLC, we will come together and share the empowerment and inspiration to continue our work to assert, once again, that the United States of America is committed to our founding promise: equal representation for all.
The far-reaching influence of big money in politics affects Americans who span the political spectrum, come from communities of all sizes, and include citizens young and old. Our movement for the 28th Amendment is built on the strength of this cross-partisan, intergenerational group of citizen leaders moved to act in hopes of creating a brighter future for all.
Recently, people from younger generations have been stepping up and speaking out on policy issues, like Greta Thunberg’s Global Climate Strike that drew millions around the world and Renaldo Pearson’s 600-mile walk for democracy reform with RepresentUs that ended with a U.S. Capitol rally.
Later this month, American Promise citizen leaders will be on that same ground in our nation’s capital, coming together for Citizen Lobby Day at the end of the National Citizen Leadership Conference to meet with their elected representatives and work with them to get big money out of politics.
Through the energy and vision of a rising generation of reform leaders joining other citizens to work for a stronger future, the cross-partisan movement for the 28th Amendment gains strength and momentum. Together, we will create lasting change.
From the East Coast to the West Coast, from the northern Rockies to the Gulf of Mexico, the work to get big money out of politics is rooted at the local level. At the heart of the cross-country American Promise network are our citizen leaders, who are connecting with others—in American Promise Associations and elsewhere—through a shared concern about the state of our democracy and the future of our country.
By broadening support for the 28th Amendment at the local and state levels among fellow citizens and elected officials, this citizen-led network is building the momentum needed for the amendment to advance to Congress. In just a few weeks, these citizen leaders will come together to collaborate, gain inspiration, and learn from each other at the National Citizen Leadership Conference.
Register now for NCLC to build on this year’s momentum and learn from American Promise leaders:
- Like Ella McGrail of New Hampshire, which earlier this year became the 20th state to approve a resolution calling for Congress to limit big money in politics.
- Like Dr. Lynn Horton Morrison and Rod Morrison, who are working with fellow citizen leaders at Wyoming Promise to advance a state resolution calling for the 28th Amendment and reduce the influence of dark money in local campaigns.
- Like Elizabeth Doty, who as co-founder of Business for American Promise is building on the momentum of the Bay Area American Promise Business Council to create a network of business leaders across the country working for free-market capitalism.
You can join them by joining an American Promise Association—check here for the closest chapter or inquire about launching a chapter. Through the collective work of citizen leaders like you, we’ll advance the movement toward a government that reflects the wishes of the majority rather than the wealthy few and restore our democracy to ensure a stronger future for our nation.
A number of issues draw citizen leaders to American Promise—crumbling infrastructure, voting rights, skyrocketing health care costs, and the climate crisis among them. By deciding to act on their concerns and push for democracy reform, these citizen leaders have realized the one root cause behind our policy ills: big money in politics.
While it’s easy to get discouraged in these divisive political times, it’s also important to celebrate moments of unity and hope. Last Friday an estimated 4 million people joined the Global Climate Strike and its youth-led call to demand policy action on climate change that endangers our planet and its people.
Next month, democracy reform advocates will gather with American Promise in the Washington, D.C., metro area for the National Citizen Leadership Conference, where they’ll hear from a lineup of inspirational speakers, network with others working to get big money out of politics, and head to Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives in Congress and urge them to support the 28th Amendment.
These and other similar democracy-driven events show that we the people are coming together to act, to demand change, and to reclaim the government so it reflects our wishes rather than those of big money.
As our fellow democracy reform advocate Renaldo Pearson of Democracy911 and RepresentUs said—after walking 700 miles to protest political corruption—at Friday’s climate strike event outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C.: “No matter what your issue, no matter what your sickness, we can’t fix these existential threats until we fix this democracy.”
It’s time to come together and advance the 28th Amendment to get big money out of politics. Join us!
This week we celebrate Constitution Day, September 17, and embrace our work to continue improving the constitution so that more Americans are able to experience the freedom and political equality the Framers envisioned at the conception of our nation.
The Constitution laid out the principles upon which our democracy stands. Americans of every generation have used amendments to strengthen our nation and expand democratic rights. We must once again uphold our civic duty and fight for a constitutional amendment—this time to ensure our democratic power is not undermined by big money groups, special interests, and ultra-wealthy donors.
In honor of Constitution Day, American Promise President Jeff Clements and Cheryl Crawford, executive director of MassVOTE, co-wrote an op-ed in the International Business Times about the historical importance of the Constitution and the need to continue improving it through the amendment process. Additionally, dozens of legal professionals who hold a variety of political views signed the American Promise Statement of Principle supporting the 28th Amendment and recognizing the need for structural, democratic reform.
At American Promise, we fight every day for the 28th Amendment because the Constitution contains the will of the people and the foundational principles upon which our democracy thrives. Our cross-partisan, citizen-led movement grows stronger by the day, and we thank you all for your continued support.
Despite support among Americans across the political spectrum, current legislation calling for an amendment to get big money out of politics suffers from the same lopsided, party-line support we see with nearly every proposal in Congress—in this case, almost entirely Democratic support.
Separating government and the free market is a bedrock conservative issue, and a majority of conservative voters support the 28th Amendment—facts that highlight how our current hyperpartisan political system prevents elected officials from publicly supporting measures they believe in, and how the pay-to-play political system is weighted toward a wealthy few, rather than the majority of Americans.
Big money’s threat extends across the political spectrum and endangers the roots of our democracy. That makes the cross-partisan, citizen-led work of American Promise especially vital to the movement for the 28th Amendment. We must seize the power in our citizen numbers and strengthen our calls for change to work with and elect policymakers who will act on the wishes of the majority and approve the 28th Amendment.
As the recent statement by the Business Roundtable indicates, American CEOs are feeling increasingly compelled to respond to the brewing crisis of trust in U.S. institutions—including both our representative democracy and our economy.
In a strong U.S. economy, companies compete based on the value they create and share with customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders. Yet, in America today, the ideal of free enterprise is too often replaced by “pay-to-play,” where firms and special interests compete for favors based on political spending. Under the rules that result, profit often comes at the expense of human well-being—whether that be through inaccurate information about opioid addiction, delays in grounding the Boeing 737 Max, or unique advantages to firms that can afford to lobby for tax carve-outs.
This is why we are pleased to announce the official launch of Business for American Promise, a group of concerned businesspeople and citizens, with a wide variety of political interests and affiliations, who have come together out of a deep personal commitment to representative democracy and a shared concern for our country.
Business has an important role and responsibility to join with citizen leaders across the political spectrum working on reforms such as the 28th Amendment. The fact is, only business can clarify that rules that foster pay-to-play do not make economic sense, but threaten innovation, healthy markets, economic growth and fundamental public trust in our institutions.
We invite every member of the American Promise community to reach out as we broaden the conversation with our colleagues and friends in the business community. Join the Business for American Promise mailing list.
When they met in 1787 to create a document that would guide and shape the newly formed United States, those at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia knew it would serve as a structure for our democracy and its citizens. But they also realized the Constitution would need to reflect the will of the growing and changing nation far into the future, and so incorporated the amendment process into the document.
From the Bill of Rights to the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery to the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote (which celebrates its 99th anniversary this month) to the 24th Amendment to eliminate the poll tax, the Constitution that serves as our nation’s legal structure has been modified to reflect the wants of we the people.
Now, we the people are seeing the harmful effects of inequality in politics due to the outsized influence of big-money donors, who drive policy decisions in their favor and dominate our elected officials’ time and attention. America has a history of independence—fiscal and otherwise—now under threat from corporations, unions, special interest groups and wealthy individuals using money to undermine democracy.
We learn from history, and sometimes we do repeat it—for the better. Following in the footsteps of others who fought for change through amendments, the American people again must come together to use our ultimate power and strengthen democracy by passing the 28th Amendment.
Amid a political system influenced by the influx of big money, a majority of Americans are calling for their fundamental right to fair elections, equal representation and other democracy reforms.
At American Promise, we’re working to empower citizens and incorporate their calls for change as part of the Writing the 28th Amendment program. While big money is the overarching concern among those who realize how it infiltrates and deteriorates our democracy, other reform issues are gaining traction—from examining corporate rights and gerrymandering to enacting congressional term limits and public election financing.
Through our Writing the 28th Amendment town hall events and online poll, American Promise is gathering citizens’ thoughts on the change they want to see in an amendment to create real change and ensure equal representation for all, regardless of wealth.
The movement for the 28th Amendment draws support from citizen leaders across the country and across the political spectrum. Our ongoing citizen engagement work is dedicated to building connections with reform advocates as diverse as the communities across our amazing nation—Americans of all political persuasions, ages, ethnicities and backgrounds.
This week we highlight a few recent ways citizen leaders of all kinds advocate for the 28th Amendment. Thanks to citizen advocates across the country, we’re building momentum and connections that continue to propel the 28th Amendment.
There’s a lot of buzz surrounding the 28th Amendment right now following its introduction in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Tom Udall and its emergence as an issue in the presidential campaign with 11 candidates committed to the American Promise Pledge.
Some may see this big money buzz as a partisan stunt or an exercise in futility. It’s neither—instead, it’s a reflection of the fact that a majority of Americans are frustrated by our current political system and ready for real change.
More than three-fourths of Americans support the 28th Amendment to limit the influence of money in federal and state elections. That cross-partisan unity indicates that most Americans see the everyday problems of big money in politics and are ready to elect leaders who promise to pursue real change.
The call to right our broken political system and reduce the influence of big money in government is riding a growing wave of momentum.
On Capitol Hill, the 28th Amendment made a splash this week when introduced in the Senate by lead sponsor Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico and 46 co-sponsors. On the 2020 presidential campaign trail, voters are letting candidates know they want a government that reflects their wishes rather than those who are able to buy political influence—and candidates are responding by making money in politics a key talking point. On Main Streets across the country, citizens of all political stripes are calling for an end to the domination of big money in our democracy.
Our cross-partisan movement to limit the power of money in state and federal elections depends on the work of you, our citizen leaders, who are stepping forward, coming together and calling for change—on Capitol Hill, on the campaign trail, and on the streets of your hometown.
Another major milestone in the fight for the 28th Amendment is right around the corner. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) will reintroduce the amendment in the U.S. Senate next Tuesday, July 30. The amendment, which was introduced in the House in January with bipartisan support, establishes that corporations are not people and money is not speech, allowing Congress and the states to put limits on campaign spending.
Rapidly building momentum all over the country is driving the 28th Amendment forward in Congress, and making it a major talking point in the 2020 Democratic primaries and the 2020 presidential election. This success is the result of effective, citizen-led grassroots action across the nation, which has pushed democracy reform into the mainstream debate. The only way to translate the broad cross-partisan support for the 28th Amendment among Americans into votes in Congress is through increasing citizen pressure on candidates and elected officials, and it’s working.
When New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu recently rejected four political reform measures, he also rejected the voice of We the People. Thousands of New Hampshire citizens worked for years to advance those measures, including a resolution in support of the 28th Amendment, making the governor’s dismissal another example of how some political leaders protect the interests of special interests who buy undue influence in our elections and, in turn, influence the policies that shape our lives.
The New Hampshire resolution in support of the 28th Amendment stands, despite the governor’s symbolic veto. But his action speaks volumes. This battle is nothing less than a fight for the heart of our nation.
American Promise citizen leaders across the country are standing up for the rights of all citizens to have a say in our democracy, not just the wealthiest among us. Our movement is winning, but as the governor’s veto demonstrates, victory won’t be easy. We need every American on board to save our democracy.
Our strategy to win the amendment based on state-by-state victories is working. People across the nation and across the political spectrum are fired up about ending corruption and pay-to-play politics, and we’re seeing the momentum build in towns, cities, states and in Congress.
Last month New Hampshire became the 20th state to call for the amendment thanks to citizen leaders whose cross-partisan action is a model for organizing in states that have not yet called for the amendment. While passing an amendment to the Constitution may seem daunting, passing local resolutions is achievable—citizen leaders all over America are doing it, and they’re sharing their tips and lessons with anyone who wants to get involved.
Last year two incumbent members of the Wright County Commission in Minnesota were up for re-election. But within the county is a landfill owned by an out-of-state company looking to expand its operations there. The landfill company supported two candidates running against the incumbents, spending a total of $45,000 on these two campaigns—far above the norm of around $2,000 per campaign and yet another example of an influx of corporate cash being spent to eclipse citizen voices.
But big money didn’t prevail this time—the local incumbents won, providing another example to all of us citizen leaders that fighting big money is hard work, but We the People still control the vote.
In the heart of our country, agriculture plays a key role in the economy and the lives of millions of Americans and their communities. It is also subject to the influence of big money: In an increasingly concentrated agriculture industry, the family farmer faces an uphill battle against lower prices for crops and higher costs for production.
Every year, American tax dollars subsidize farms across the nation, in a system designed to provide stability and support to the farmers who feed our nation. Unfortunately, the unchecked influence of big money in politics means policies direct our tax dollars to large and corporate agricultural operations rather than smaller family farms—and impact everything from the quality of our food and the health of rural America to immigration policy and the GDP.
The goal of achieving political equality for all Americans is at the heart of the American Promise movement to get big money out of politics. While our democracy was founded on the premise of citizens who are free and equal to each other, reality has been a different story for many.
American Promise works everyday to expand the number and size of American Promise Associations across the nation while also striving to attract citizen leaders from diverse communities who better reflect our country’s citizens through their varied experiences and perspectives.
On June 6, the New Hampshire Senate approved a bill calling for the 28th Amendment to get big money out of politics, making New Hampshire the 20th state to call for such an amendment. This historic victory put the movement for the 28th Amendment more than halfway to the 38 states required for ratification. This achievement culminated years of hard work from citizen leaders in the state.
Our newsletter published ahead of the vote in New Hampshire, so we shared articles that highlighted some of the people who have made American Promise a successful organization in the movement for a 28th Amendment.