It's A Wrap! 2023 Year In Review
Believe it or not, 2023 is coming to a close. It’s been an extremely eventful year for American Promise and we have made tremendous progress. We couldn’t have done any of this without you – your determination, your spirit, and your commitment in service to ensuring we win the For Our Freedom Amendment. Fixing what Americans agree is the number one threat to our democracy – unrestrained money and corruption in politics – is our mission.
Some highlights – we:
- Won a record-breaking state ballot initiative with our 86% Yes vote in Maine;
- Released state and national polling from our partner at Citizen Data confirming that more than 75% of Americans across the political spectrum support our constitutional amendment;
- Co-hosted a convening of over 1000 attendees at the American Democracy Summit in Los Angeles;
- Hired State Managers in four states
- Held “citizen lobby days” and meetings with state legislators in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Maine, Arizona, and Utah, confirming cross-partisan support as more states vie to join the 22 states formally backing the For Our Freedom Amendment now;
- Opened our Washington D.C. office;
- Released our Foreign Money in Politics report, which was covered by Politico and others;
- Participated in The Brennan Center for Justice’s panel, Constitutional Amendments: Time to Rethink?, marking an important shift in the rhetoric around amending the Constitution. Read our three big takeaways from this event.
- Attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and demonstrated what we already know to be true about Americans across the political spectrum; they are exhausted and frustrated by money-ruled elections in this country, and excited by our constitutional cure.
Keep reading for more highlights from this historic year for American Promise and all of our supporters and partners.
American Democracy Summit Recap
This Fall, we co-hosted 1,000 attendees at the American Democracy Summit in Los Angeles with America’s leading non-partisan reform organizations.
Bringing Americans together across geographic, political and demographic differences is core to American Promise’s mission and our strategy to win. Our acclaimed National Citizen Leadership Conference does this each year in Washington D.C., and we do it regularly in American communities with our Freedom is Brewing events around the country.
American Promise staff and volunteer leaders were featured on four panels that unpacked the crisis of corruption and the For Our Freedom constitutional solution:
Watch the video recap of American Promise at American Democracy Summit (unmute for sound!):
American Promise Speaker Series
Our Speaker Series debuted this year to highlight innovative leaders building a new vision of America for the next century and was really a tremendous experience.
The first speaker was political activist and New York Times internationally bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz. Gregg talked about bridging partisan divides, deepening our connections with fellow Americans, and communicating effectively about how we solve some of our greatest problems.
In the fall, we spoke with author and award-winning social entrepreneur Shalyn Romney Garrett.
Shaylyn is the co-author of The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again.
You can catch up on the conversation in this recording below:
In December, we had another great conversation in our 2023 Speaker Series, featuring Trevor Potter, President of Campaign Legal Center, counsel to the late Senator John McCain, former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and a member of the American Promise Advisory Council.
2023 Polls + Research
Three out of four Americans – Republicans, Democrats, Independents- back American Promise’s For Our Freedom Amendment!
American Promise worked with the nonpartisan firm Citizen Data to reach Americans around the country and in strategic states in a comprehensive polling project. The results are in: Most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, identify unregulated money in politics as a threat to American democracy. And more than 75% support the constitutional amendment as a solution.
Backing up these results, Pew Research found that over 80% of Republicans and Democrats believe that major donors to political campaigns have too much influence on Congressional decisions, and most Americans want election spending limits for individuals and organizations.
We launched a new Research + Polling page on our website, which includes the following work from 2023:
- At the invitation of the American Bar Association, we submitted a working paper to their Task Force on Democracy about the For Our Freedom Amendment.
- As part of our work in PA, we updated our original report on how big money is ruining their elections and politics.
- Our report, “The Problem of Foreign Money in Politics” took a broad look at how foreign governments, and their entities, are influencing our state elections, as well as federal ones. Written about by Politico, you can read the full report here.
Publications and Press Attention
The For Our Freedom Amendment is popular (see polls above!) and the press is noticing. Some press hits and publications in 2023 include:
- What were we thinking in 2015 in starting American Promise, and how is that strategy working out? And what does it have to do with systems theory? Jeff Clements had something to say about being at a Tipping Point in our movement.
- Our Campaign Finance Roundups are popular with readers. July’s update exposed foreign money corruption from our neighbors to the north, in addition to multiple examples here at home. September’s update made us question the possibility of a pyramid scheme centered at the heart of the Republican primary qualification. And November’s edition pointed out there is light on the horizon with news of Senator Josh Hawley’s bill to reverse Citizens United.
- Our analysis of why we think Sam Bankman-Fried has something to do with American Promise.
Key Press Mentions
Updated press mentions are listed on our Press page. Here are a few we wouldn’t want you to miss:
- Politico Influence Newsletter with coverage of our Foreign Money Report. Politico, 12/04/2023.
- Can We Really Take Money Out of Politics? The Messenger, 11/11/2023.
- Jeff Clements’ op-ed: Arizona requires campaigns to disclose their donors. Let’s do the same nationwide. Arizona Central, 08/08/2023.
- Lawmakers should get foreign gov’t out of our elections. Central Maine, 03/12/2023.
- Town halls seek input for ending Citizens United. Columbus Dispatch, 02/24/2023.
- Lax campaign finance rules likely to survive Bankman-Fried scandal. NBC News, 01/15/2023.
State + National Updates
Candidate Pledge Program
The Candidate Pledge Program will be a major initiative in the 2024 election cycle. We launched an effort in New Hampshire to attend candidate forums and town hall events to ask Republican Presidential candidates to take our Candidate Pledge. We successfully received a pledge from Corey Stapleton, and we were able to get several other candidates on the record about our issue.
Arizonans have had enough of money meddling in their elections, and with the launch of our Arizona campaign they are joining American Promise to stand up and restore the people’s voice in government. This May, American Promise staff joined more than 50 citizens newly engaging with American Promise at our first “Arizona Freedom is Brewing” event in Phoenix, where they heard from American Promise board members and staff about the For Our Freedom Amendment.
After that successful event, our CEO Jeff Clements wrote an op-ed encouraging Arizona to continue to lead on campaign finance reform. And our Executive Director, Brian Boyle, participated in a panel at the ASU School of Law about campaign finance and the For Our Freedom Amendment.
On November 7, Maine voters decided overwhelmingly in favor of the Protect Maine Elections/Yes on Question 2 initiative, with a resounding 86% victory for the campaign. This marks the widest margin of victory on a statewide ballot in Maine’s history. The new law shuts down foreign government spending in Maine’s elections. More than 600 volunteers had nearly 100,000 conversations with voters, gathered signatures, went to the State House, did phone banking, and campaigned for the win.
This overwhelming victory is now being challenged by entities owned by foreign governments and the biggest beneficiaries of political spending. Emboldened by Supreme Court decisions, foreign actors are taking advantage of the dark money system. A constitutional amendment is necessary to provide a better framework for dealing with foreign influence in our elections. The For Our Freedom Amendment will empower Maine – and all the states – to set reasonable limits on campaign spending, break the influence of coercive money, and create lasting reform.
Dozens of volunteers representing national reform groups rallied together on April 27, 2023, for Michigan Citizen Lobby Day, where they participated in a staggering 83 legislative meetings. These supporters from across Michigan are laying the foundation to pass a state resolution for the For Our Freedom amendment, with the hopes of becoming the 23rd state calling for its passage.
Legislators and the Secretary of State are currently working on disclosure legislation. Our grassroots team has collected 128 Petitions for Action that are being signed around the state calling for their state legislators’ support on the disclosure bill and a resolution supporting our amendment.
In Wisconsin, American Promise volunteers held over a dozen meetings with state lawmakers in Madison where we are already seeing momentum. We also have met with several prominent Wisconsin business leaders, as well as college organizations at the University of Marquette in Milwaukee. These meetings help to strengthen our Business and Young Americans networks in Wisconsin, enabling us to empower citizen leaders across key communities.
Wisconsin also offers a great example of our volunteer onboarding in action. In April, Amy B. from La Crosse filled out our volunteer form on our website. In May, she received an orientation from Mike Monetta and was introduced to other WI volunteers. In June, Chris Cayer trained Amy on how to table at local fairs and festivals, and by July, she was helping to staff our booth at the La Crosse Interstate Fair (joined by Alan LaPolice and other WI volunteers). Topping things off, Amy recently shared that she is going to incorporate American Promise’s work into the curriculum of a public civics class that she’s teaching.
Getting Congress Moving
We know what it takes to win a constitutional amendment. As with all successful amendment campaigns, most of our work is in the states. But we need a successful vote of ⅔ of Congress and ratification in ¾ of the States to win. We measure progress in both areas, with 22 states now backing our amendment, and in Congress we have confirmed support of 70% of the total votes we need to win.
Working Right to Left: Senator Rubens and Senator Bennett Congressional Testimony
Two Republican state lawmakers — former State Senator Jim Rubens (R-NH) and current State Senator Rick Bennett (R-ME) — teamed up to submit testimony to Congress about why they support the For Our Freedom Amendment. Through their testimony, these self-identified “constitutional originalists” explained how the For Our Freedom Amendment is grounded in the Founders’ vision of representative self-government. As state lawmakers, they offered a more local perspective on money-in-politics and called on their federal counterparts to join them in supporting the amendment.
Director of Congressional Affairs
As we move into the home stretch, we’re beefing up our Washington D.C. team with the hire of Jim Dornan as our Director of Congressional Affairs.
Jim is a seasoned professional who has served as Chief of Staff, Press Secretary, and Legislative Director for several Republican members of Congress.
American Promise is Growing!
In order to win the For Our Freedom Amendment, we have to grow our team! Meet the team that joined American Promise in 2024:
Grace Hall joined as our Young Americans Network Coordinator, thanks to a generous grant from the David Nevins Bridging Fund and Fellowship. The overarching goal of Grace’s work will be to connect American Promise with colleges, student organizations, and other networks reflecting a diverse group of young Americans in key states and nationally, and to empower those who are interested in making history with the For Our Freedom Amendment and the bridging work needed to get it done.
Jim Dornan comes to American Promise as Director of Congressional Affairs after nearly 23 years of managing and consulting on a variety of campaigns such as JC Watts’ first race for Congress, along with Ellen Saurbrey’s and Kelly Schultz’s gubernatorial races in Maryland. He spent 15 years working on Capitol Hill, eventually ending up as a Chief of Staff for Congressmen Richard Burr (NC) and George Nethercutt (WA). Dornan also brings with him a wide variety of experiences from public affairs and advocacy firms where he advocated for added appropriations, tax and retirement policy, and other regulatory concerns while engaging in grasstops and grassroots engagement, earned and owned media efforts, issues management, and more.
Julie Brogan joins American Promise as a Senior Legal Fellow. With a J.D. from Suffolk University Law School and an A.B. from Georgetown University, Julie started her career as an associate at Hill & Barlow, followed by large law firms in Boston. Additionally, she served as a Program Administrator for the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School and the MIT/CALTECH Voting Technology Project at MIT.
Kaitlin LaCasse joined us as Deputy Executive Director, having worked on three gubernatorial campaigns and serving as deputy manager for two. She designed and executed campaign strategy as well as organized partners, stakeholders, and volunteers to help the successful effort of passing semi-open primaries in Maine. Kaitlin has recently been serving as the campaign manager for the successful citizens initiative, Protect Maine Elections.
Kenny Colston is an experienced digital fundraising and communications expert, having worked with clients throughout the U.S., helping them win campaigns and ballot initiatives, as well as raise millions from small dollar donors. He is applying that expertise as our Senior Digital Marketing Manager.
Matthew Powell began his career as a Staff Assistant on Capitol Hill for former Pennsylvania U.S. Congressman Tom Marino (R), and continued to grow until he became the Senior Legislative Assistant. He managed a portfolio of Homeland Security, Healthcare, Budget, Science, Environment, Agriculture, Small Business, Education, Labor, Housing, and Government Oversight for the Congressman. He comes to American Promise as Pennsylvania State Manager after more recently serving as the Vice President of Government and External Affairs for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce in Pennsylvania.
Nicole Krempasky joins American Promise as our Communications Specialist. After earning her degree in Print Communications from Arcadia University, she began her career with Comcast Interactive Media as an editor. She has worked for law firms and lifestyle publications, earned her MA in International Journalism from Edinburgh Napier University, and most recently served as a Marketing Specialist and Content Writer for the Penn Foster Group.
Randi Feinberg joined American Promise as our Chief Operating Officer with over two decades of experience with mission-driven organizations. After receiving her BS from Tufts University and her MBA from Yale University, her early career saw her as a consultant with Bain & Company and Booz Allen Hamilton. Randi comes to American Promise from Higher Ambition Leadership Alliance, which supports corporate executives who believe that business can be used as a force for good, where she served as COO.
Timothy Castro is a respected community leader and political strategist, a true native of Arizona with over 25 years of economic development, business and community organizing. As part of Arizona’s COVID-19 response, Castro worked with Prestamos CDFI and Local First Arizona to help bring over $250 million to local businesses. Timothy also worked with Independent Voters to help bring awareness about Open Primaries, and was recently part of the team to help elect Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes. Tim joined American Promise as our Arizona State Manager: “Being part of American Promise is an amazing opportunity to bring a just and fair system to our election process.”
Travis Harris is a business owner and veteran whose career has seen him lead teams in software development, disaster relief, and counterintelligence. Seeing issues with the influence of money in politics, Travis is applying his skills from the political and non-profit sectors as American Promise’s IS Manager.
Fundraising and Expansion
None of the amazing achievements you’ve read about above would be possible without generous donations from concerned, engaged citizens.
The For Our Freedom Amendment will be successful thanks to efforts by all Americans, across the country and political spectrum. Raising funds for this effort is a key part of our success, allowing us to inform and educate across a variety of areas.
We launched our first-ever Ambassador Program under the leadership of Board member Leila Blodgett. This growing group of volunteers have committed to making introductions through events and one-on-one discussions to raise funds for our continued growth, and the success has been terrific.
During this first year alone, we have introduced hundreds of individuals to our mission and are grateful to all who have made introductions and opened their homes to share the American Promise mission. We have almost tripled our funding this year thanks to the energy and commitment of so many leaders and look forward to more growth in 2024.
If you would like to learn more about this program, please reach out.