Leadership Quarterly

Welcome to our Q4 Leadership Quarterly, an update for American Promise’s board, investors, advisors, and partners in the urgent work to secure constitutional democracy and freedom for all in America. We have had a big year, and have plans for much more ahead in 2023. 

After you have a chance to review this Leadership Quarterly, please let me or Liz Harvey, our Development Director, know if you’d like to schedule some time to discuss our different avenues of giving and how you can help expand our high-impact programming. And please do continue the kind introductions of American Promise to your friends and networks. 

Our country has hard challenges, and great opportunities, ahead. I am proud to be in this with you.

Jeff Clements
CEO & President

Strategic Updates from Executive Director Bill Cortese

American Promise has made great strides in advancing our For Our Freedom amendment across a number of states recently.  

In Pennsylvania, we have resolutions in both the Senate and House calling on their federal delegation to address the problem of unlimited, unaccountable dark money spending in our elections. Along with endorsements and support from numerous chambers of commerce across the state, our bi-partisan resolutions are a big step forward and will represent the first Republican-led legislature to pass such legislation.

In Wisconsin, civic and business leaders in the Greater Green Bay Area are leading the way. Through the Green Bay Rotary Club, we have made big inroads in another key midwestern state that has seen hundreds of millions of dollars flow into its election just this year. 

In the northeast, we continue to work hand in glove with the Protect Maine Elections campaign that turned in over 80,000 signatures to put a question on the ballot in 2023 that will prevent foreign entities from spending in Maine elections. This effort represents one of our most robust and effective grassroots efforts to date.  

Heading into 2023 we see incredible opportunities in a number of states that saw hundreds of millions of dollars flood their airwaves for the last year. Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina are all purple states that have been on the frontlines of the spending wars between conservative and progressive dark money groups. Elections in Minnesota and Michigan’s state legislatures offer us further opportunity to grow our grassroots support in the Midwest.

In Wyoming, our very own Ken Chestek won his race for State Representative last week. Ken has been a tireless advocate for the For Our Freedom amendment and we could not be more pleased to have one of our very own in Cheyenne. This proves that even in a red state our message works.

Building on our past work and our efforts in NCLC, we expect to see significant progress in Congress in 2023. The tight margins provide us an opportunity to bring Republicans and Democrats together on an issue that unites Americans. Based on our conversations with current members and the makeup of the incoming Congress, we expect to have six Republican co-sponsors on our For Our Freedom amendment by the end of 2023. 

The political uncertainty gives us an opportunity to offer a real solution to people across the country who know the effects that unlimited and unaccountable dark money has on our society. Our task is not easy, but with our dedicated staff and committed community of leaders, we know that together, we will win this essential effort.


National Citizen Leadership Conference and Lobby Day

Evangeline Lilly

“We’re up against this tyrant that is big money that is taking over our politics. You guys recognize that, and see that it is so important, that it is the fundamental crux of our issues right now.”

At American Promise, we have spent the last five years building a community. That community, of college students and C-Suite Executives, farmers and entrepreneurs, republicans and democrats, rural and urban dwellers, has been one born out of a shared commitment to this country and to all the potential that we have to make it one in which each citizen’s voice is heard.
As that community continues to grow, and our shared cry for our For Our Freedom Amendment and the America we deserve gets louder, so too does our playbook for how to win this amendment. In our first phase we launched our right to left, state-based model in Maine with a plan for learning all that we could so that we could replicate this model in other priority states; now in Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, we are utilizing the lessons we learned in Maine, along with critical data about the political environment of these states, to work with citizens in their communities, and to continue adapting our strategy so that it has the most impact.
One of our greatest opportunities for learning and for strengthening our American Promise community, messaging, and strategic outlook comes in the form of our National Citizen Leadership Conference and Citizen Lobby Day, which we had in person for the first time since 2019 this past September. For those of you who were able to attend, I hope that you, too, found the conference to be an invigorating few days of civic engagement. For those of you who missed it, I have put together a few top highlights, but I encourage you to check out our Youtube channel for access to all of the content from this year’s NCLC.

NCLC 2022, By the Numbers


Pay-To-Play Politics & The Money Arms Race: A Recap

Last month in Dallas, Texas, volunteer leader Ann Drumm, American Promise, and the Dallas-based Sumners Foundation brought together over a hundred community members from across party lines. These citizens united for a conversation led by American Promise Board Chair and corporate executive John Wass; formal Federal Elections Commission and Berkeley law professor Ann Ravel; American Promise President and former Assistant Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Jeff Clements; and former Dallas mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Tom Leppert.
This gathering in Dallas exemplified the power of our American Promise work in a polarized, charged political climate. Despite differences, citizens came together, engaged in dialogue about the issues with which they are most concerned, and talked about our For Our Freedom amendment as a concrete solution to the civic dysfunction that is so pervasive in this constitutional democracy.

Our American Promise - Donor Spotlights

This quarter’s donor profile section looks a little different. As we approach the new year and reflect on all that you have made possible in 2022, we chose to talk to you about what inspires you to engage with our amendment, and with our work to end the crisis of corruption we face. Thank you for your foundational support, and for all the unique reasons that brought you to the American Promise family.

Ken Chestek University of Wyoming, Professor of Law

“To me, campaign finance reform is the "index issue" of our time. There are many problems we need to fix in our country, but we can't fix any of them until we rid the system of dark money and bought-and-paid-for politicians. I also love working on this issue because it is nonpartisan: this is an issue where Republicans and Democrats can work together to make a positive difference in getting our political system to work for the voters, not the special interests.

Sarah Lazarus Senior Vice President, Dukas Linden Public Relations

“A recent New York Times poll indicates that 70% of Americans think democracy is under threat - let that sink in - 70%. American Promise is the best way I can think of to get to the root of the issue in our political system - big money - on both sides of the aisle. I truly believe our nation is at a crucial inflection point and that political violence will only escalate until we can solve this existential problem. American Promise is an imperative investment in the future of our nation.”

John Conley Member and Director at LaunchPad Venture Group

What motivates me to support the work of American Promise is my belief that we’re in one of those critical points in United States history when structural reform is required to keep our republic living up to its values of democratic participation and equality under the law.  The creep of corruption from vested interests buying undue influence over government policies is the never-ending challenge faced by all liberal democratic societies.  We’re overdue for another political reform movement in the US, and each of our several past ones brought about a healthier and more sustainable systems.

Sterling Speirn Interim President & CEO, Maine Community Foundation

If we are to realize the great potential of all the innovative non-partisan structural reforms that are slowly, but steadily gaining more traction and attention among everyday citizens, we must address the outsized and distorting influence of big money in our political campaigns.  Overturning Citizens United by amending the Constitution, is the key to unleashing the great benefits of open primaries, rank choice voting, and public control of drawing district boundaries.  The For Our Freedom Amendment is the 3rd stage rocket fuel that can amplify the momentum of complementary reforms, and ultimately enable our shackled democracy to reach escape velocity from the destructive gravity of corrupt election spending.

What We’re Reading

The People’s Constitution: 200 Years, 27 Amendments, and the Promise of a More Perfect Union, John F. Kowal and Wilfred U. Codrington III.  
As Americans, we reference the Constitution often as the law of the land. But so many components of the guidelines that govern us came after that initial document – 27 key facets of society, in fact. From its inception, the writers of the Constitution foresaw the potential need for amendments, and born from that foresight have been so many of the key liberties and guidelines that we, as Americans, value. We, the people of this nation, have fought hard for many of these liberties and guidelines, and have made our republic better for those fights.
The People’s Constitution explores the ways that Americans have shaped our Constitution, and what the lessons learned from so many past battles have taught us about what passing an amendment takes, and what kind of conditions are most prime for bringing an amendment across the finish line. For a deeper dive into how history empowers us at American Promise to know that our amendment is, as one Congressman put it, moving from the impossible to inevitable,” dig in on Kowal and Codrington’s exploration of our nation’s history. 
If you choose to purchase The People’s Constitution or any of American Promise’s book recommendations, we encourage you to do so while supporting a black-owned business. If you need help finding a black-owned business near you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Corinne Noonan at corinnen@americanpromise.net. Alternatively, we suggest purchasing from Bookshop.org.

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