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March 15, 2024

American Promise Writes Letter of Support for Pennsylvania House Resolution 317

American Promise Writes Letter of Support for Pennsylvania House Resolution 317

March 15, 2024
Published By American Promise

Dear Representatives Hill-Evans and Roae:

We are writing on behalf of American Promise to strongly urge passage of House Resolution 317 (“H.R. 317”). 

American Promise is a nationwide nonprofit organization that mobilizes broad, cross-partisan support for an amendment to the United States Constitution that would empower, but not require, the States and Congress to set reasonable guardrails on money in our political system. We are proud to have over 1,000 supporters in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, including several volunteer leaders who dedicate countless hours to educating their fellow citizens about a workable and enduring constitutional solution to the vexing problem of money in politics.

We know that this constitutional amendment is supported by a supermajority of Pennsylvanians, as well as a supermajority of Americans, across the political spectrum. By passing H.R. 317, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives would bring the Commonwealth one step closer to becoming the twenty-third State in the nation to formally support such an amendment. 

Back in 1787, as the Framers labored through a hot summer in the Commonwealth to draft the Constitution, they envisioned a society of free people who would live and govern themselves in pursuit of peace and happiness. H.R. 317 has been drafted to support a proposed constitutional amendment that aims to bring American life closer to that original vision. After the amendment is ratified, new options would be available to the American people and their elected representatives as they consider the best ways to make genuine self-government a reality:

States will be empowered to make their own policy choices regarding campaign finance. Right now, the Supreme Court serves as the nation’s chief decision maker when it comes to money-in-politics, creating unalterable one-size-fits-all rules that apply to every jurisdiction across the country. By contrast to the rigid, highly-centralized status quo, the proposed constitutional amendment recognizes that the regulation of campaign finance involves multiple compelling interests that should be considered and balanced by the American people — and that different States and communities should be able to make different policy choices. The amendment would allow Americans and our elected officials to experiment, exercise our judgment, revise, and adapt laws to changing circumstances.

The amendment would make it easier to learn from policy mistakes. Right now, if the Supreme Court sets a bad campaign finance rule (e.g., one that is unworkable or produces unwanted effects), the only way to fix that rule is for the Supreme Court to reverse itself or for the American people to amend the U.S. Constitution. But if the proposed amendment were ultimately ratified, the States and Congress would be permanently empowered to fix misguided campaign finance laws. The amendment itself doesn’t create or mandate any particular campaign finance policies (which is a very good thing); instead, it empowers the States and Congress to try different approaches. After the amendment is ratified, some jurisdictions might pass campaign finance laws that end up having negative effects and unintended consequences. But such laws would be subject to change and error-correction through the push-and-pull of the normal legislative process. Simply put, the amendment would make it easier for us to learn from our mistakes and try something new.

The amendment would empower the American people to address one of their top policy priorities for 2024: reducing the influence of money in politics. According to February 2024 polling released by the Pew Research Center, reducing the influence of money in politics now ranks as Americans’ #3 policy priority, behind only strengthening the economy and defending against terrorism.

With the proposed amendment in place, Americans won’t have to sit back and watch as financial power purchases political power. Instead, we and our legislators would once again have the freedom to enact laws designed to reduce the role of money in politics. For example, if residents of a particular State wished to prevent foreign or out-of-state money from dominating their elections, they would have the freedom to pass new campaign finance laws. If Congress wished to set limits on the amount of money that candidates could spend in an election, they would have the freedom to test new regulations. Congress and the States would not be required to pass any particular laws, but they would be far less constrained in their ability to experiment with new systems.

Campaigns could be less powered by money and more powered by constituents. After the amendment is ratified, suppose a State chooses to limit election expenditures to reduce the role of money in those elections. In such a jurisdiction, candidates would face new incentives while campaigning. Instead of spending countless hours cultivating potential big-money supporters (who are often not even constituents), candidates would have a greater incentive to connect with community leaders and actual constituents. Instead of granting disproportionate access and influence to the wealthy, candidates would seek to connect with the everyday people who can turn up and vote.

Americans will be able to protect their elections against foreign meddling. American democracy is a perennial target of foreign actors and governments who seek to diminish our global strength and social solidarity. By giving Congress and the States much greater flexibility to regulate money-in-politics, the amendment recognizes that the foreign actors seeking to pump money into our elections usually don’t have Americans’ best interests at heart.

Thank you again for the opportunity to submit this letter of support. We hope that H.R. 317 receives strong bipartisan support from the Committee members. Please let us know if we can provide any more information.

Sincerely,

Matthew Powell
Pennsylvania State Manager
American Promise
mattp@americanpromise.net

Brian Boyle
Chief Program Officer & General Counsel
American Promise
brianb@americanpromise.net

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