Sandy Clements, a resident of Gainesville, Florida, joined American Promise at its third annual National Citizen Leadership Conference and Citizen Lobby Day in October to advance the 28th Amendment. On Capitol Hill, Sandy met with the offices of Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott and Reps. Ted Yoho and Lois Frankel. She is now starting an American Promise Association in Florida. Below she describes her citizen lobbying experience.
I lobbied my representatives on Capitol Hill! So what led me to D.C. and to the halls of Congress?
I’ve always assumed, despite corruption occasionally making headlines, that our democracy was robust and resilient. That though our country frequently failed to live up to the ideals we espoused, progress was being made toward those ideals. Busy with my own life, I was content to leave the work of achieving that progress to others.
But now, it has become frighteningly clear that the corrupting influence of money in politics is posing an existential threat to our democracy. Headlines blare the same breaking news about issues that have obvious solutions — solutions supported by the vast majority of citizens of all political and demographic stripes. Yet our elected representatives refuse to enact the will of the people. This, and the dark-money fueled influence of foreign governments, hostile to our form of government, scared me into becoming a more engaged citizen.
That is how I found myself participating in the National Citizen Leadership Conference and Lobby Day on Capitol Hill last month. The conference was sponsored by American Promise and several other organizations actively working to improve our democracy. American Promise is a cross-partisan, citizen-powered movement advocating for a constitutional amendment (the 28th) allowing limits on political spending to ensure that “We the People” — not corporations, unions or wealthy special interests — govern the United States of America.
During the day-and-a-half conference we heard from a broad swath of Americans actively improving our democracy. And in preparation for our big day on Capitol Hill, Lobby Day participants were schooled on how to conduct a meeting with our members of Congress.
On Lobby Day, we marched from the Capitol steps, past the Supreme Court to the Senate Hart building to celebrate the New Hampshire state legislature calling on Congress to pass a constitutional amendment allowing limits on political spending. We then fanned out across Capitol Hill to lobby our members of Congress.
Our “asks” were to urge them to co-sponsor an existing bipartisan bill calling for this amendment, to sign onto a statement of principles in support, or to propose language they would support. We urged them to reach across the aisle. Passage in Congress requires two-thirds voting in favor and ratification in the states requires three-quarters of state legislatures voting in favor. This must be a cross-partisan effort.
My fellow Floridians and I lobbied the staff for Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio. We also lobbied staff for Reps. Ted Yoho (my representative) and Lois Frankel (their representative). Former New Hampshire Republican state Sen. Jim Rubens joined our meeting with Sen. Rubio’s staff to discuss the Republican-flavored issues motivating his call for this amendment. After our long day crisscrossing Capitol Hill, we celebrated with a scoop Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream served by Ben Cohen himself!
I will contact my representatives’ offices in a few days to follow-up on this important issue that has broad cross-partisan support among American voters. Thus far, 20 states have passed resolutions calling for Congress to pass an amendment limiting the influence of money in politics. More than 800 localities representing 46% of the US population have passed resolutions and/or voted in favor of such an amendment.
Our area is among the 14 localities in Florida that have called for such an amendment (see united4thepeople.org). The Gainesville City Commission passed a resolution in 2013 and citizens of Alachua County voted overwhelmingly in favor of such an amendment in 2014. These efforts were the result of advocacy by Move To Amend — Gainesville.
Attempts to pass a resolution in the Florida Legislature have thus far been unsuccessful. But, we must not give up on our state nor allow these local successes to fade from memory.
I have begun the process of establishing an American Promise Association in our area. These associations advocate for the 28th Amendment in their local communities by meeting with elected officials and candidates, writing letters to the editor or other media pieces, and via community engagement such as giving talks to local groups or “tabling” at local events.
This cross-partisan, citizen-powered movement needs you and your talents to advance this important issue. Help build this movement in our area and work to expand it across the state of Florida. Contact me at [email protected] if you are interested in joining this movement or to provide a local speaking opportunity.