As we gear up for the pivotal year of 2020 and the opportunities it brings, we’re proud and grateful as we look back on the many important victories American Promise citizen leaders have achieved in 2019. It’s through the grassroots work of our citizen leaders that the movement for the 28th Amendment will succeed—and if 2019 is any indication, we are on the path to achieve this important systemic change for our country by 2026.
Our nation depends on citizens across the country working together, and we’re proud to share how the American Promise community stepped up in 2019 to answer the call and take back our political rights.
On the Upswing: Number of APAs Across America Doubles
In 2019, we doubled the number of American Promise Associations across the country that are fired up and working to pass the amendment. These citizen-led groups build public awareness through letters to the editor, interviews and community events, advocate for local resolutions and meet with state legislators and members of Congress.
Through monthly calls and other networking opportunities, APA chapters are able to share best practices and enhance the efficacy of their work. As Chet Hunt of American Promise Association Knoxville, says: “Always make one of your group’s key goals to meet with elected officials at all levels of government. Seek endorsements and resolutions that support the amendment, and file field reports around what you learn. If we do not pressure our elected officials to act, nothing will be achieved.”
Business for American Promise Brings Business Leaders to the Table
With its debut this year, Business for American Promise aims to bring business leaders together to help further the 28th Amendment and reinforce trust and prosperity in the U.S. economy and in our democracy. Free enterprise and the open exchange of ideas now are replaced by “pay-to-play,” where firms and special interests compete for favors based on political spending. With BAP, business leaders are now stepping forward to help put an end to this systemic corruption of the ideals of a healthy democracy and functioning free-market capitalist economy.
“One of the primary causes of public distrust is the use of money and political influence to gain advantage, rather than the value created for customers, employees and other stakeholders,” says Elizabeth Doty, co-founder of Business for American Promise. “Thankfully, a cross-partisan super-majority of Americans are already calling for such reform with initiatives such as the 28th Amendment, which would authorize limits on political spending.”
Major Successes at the State Level
Our state-by-state movement for the 28th Amendment achieved big victories in 2019. In June, New Hampshire became the 20th state to formally call for the amendment, which puts us more than halfway to the 38 states needed to ratify. NH Voters Restoring Democracy, a grassroots group of citizen advocates, worked with New Hampshire legislators to call for an end to the corrupting influence of big money in politics, with support from FixItAmerica and American Promise.
Citizen leader Corinne Dodge shares how the people of New Hampshire took political power into their own hands through the advocacy work: “We have growing numbers of New Hampshire citizens who have continuously and passionately been working for years to get this legislation passed, and even more New Hampshire citizens who have become more actively aware and involved in this issue since the last presidential election. And we have people like myself who never expected or wanted to become involved in political activism but who can no longer sit on the sidelines and watch our democracy be destroyed and our governance become corrupted and dysfunctional.”
In Massachusetts, the 15-member Citizens Commission approved in 2018 by 71% of state voters began its work to advance the amendment in the state and at the national level. Commissioners began a series of hearings where Massachusetts citizens can share their experience of how money in politics affects their lives and what kind of reform they want the amendment to achieve. “The people of Massachusetts made clear that we must come together across partisan lines to reform our political system with a constitutional amendment to put the people in charge of our government and our destiny,” says Jeff Clements, appointed commission member and President of American Promise.
Candidate Pledge in the Presidential Spotlight
As the presidential election cycle ramps up, democracy reform has emerged as a top theme with campaign finance issues gaining attention. Thirteen of the 2020 presidential candidates have signed the American Promise Candidate Pledge, including Democrats Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, and Republican Bill Weld. By signing the pledge, they promise that if elected they will use their office to advance the 28th Amendment.
American Promise Citizen Empowerment Coordinator Kimberly Clinch says candidates must go beyond promises and commit to action should they be elected. “The American people are telling candidates for public office that political corruption is a critical 2020 issue,” Kimberly says. “Those who hope to win election and re-election should support substantive, meaningful ways to address the foundation of reform, starting with a constitutional amendment and then furthering this crucial issue once in office.”
Citizens Meet Face-to-Face with Members of Congress
American Promise citizen leaders took their advocacy for the 28th Amendment to Capitol Hill on Citizen Lobby Day, the final event of the third National Citizen Leadership Conference. In more than 120 meetings, constituents from across the political spectrum were able to connect with their members of Congress, sharing their concerns about big money in politics as well as the one solution with majority support: the 28th Amendment.
Citizen leaders Hal Gurian and John DeSpelder of Michigan spent Citizen Lobby Day meeting with their representatives in Congress. While Hal and John are on opposite sides of the political aisle, they share deep concerns about the dysfunctional state of our democracy and agreement on the amendment solution.
As John says: “The flow of outside money pouring into the political process is toxic. The tide of big money has been rising for decades, but Citizens United—the landmark 2010 Supreme Court decision ruling that money is speech, and that political spending by corporations, including nonprofits and labor unions, is protected speech under the First Amendment—knocked all of the boards from the dam and now there’s nothing holding back the billions of corporate and dark dollars flowing into American politics.”
Hal adds: “First and foremost, the American people want the two major parties to work in a bipartisan manner. All of the big issues we face—education reform, the budget deficit, health care, infrastructure, energy, etc.—are complicated issues that can only be solved by compromise and reaching across the aisle.”
Connection and Collaboration Grows at the 3rd National Citizen Leadership Conference
Champions for the 28th Amendment came together in October in Washington, D.C. for the 2019 National Citizen Leadership Conference, where they shaped goals for 2020 and empowered citizen leaders to act on local, statewide and national campaigns. At the NCLC citizen leaders discussed how activating current networks and connecting with new groups—business leaders, veterans, farmers, environmentalists—are crucial steps to fix the issue that affects us all: getting big money out of our elections.
New Hampshire State Representative Ellen Read was among the featured speakers at NCLC. “It doesn’t matter what issue is your issue. Whether it is climate and healthcare, or government spending and industrial subsidies that end up raising taxes on everyone,” Ellen says. “There will be no progress on any issue, no real common-sense progress that reflects the will of the people, until we have a government that actually represents people.”
Cause of Our Time Harnesses the Political Power of Young Americans
Launched as part of NCLC by a core group of determined students, the Cause of Our Time Statement of Principle aims to harness the political power of young Americans to take a stand against big money in politics. Facing issues like high student loan debt and the mounting consequences of climate change, the rising younger generation is coming together to create change by speaking out and heading to the ballot box.
University of Missouri-Kansas City political science major Isabelle Pekarsky signed on to the Statement of Principle to reverse the damage created by Citizens United. “As a student learning politics and government, I find it obvious the problematic role big money plays in hindering our democratic process,” Isabelle says. “I look forward to graduating and entering the political workforce within a government with a 28th Amendment and true representation of individual citizens.”