Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern shares why the work to end the era of pay-to-play politics is the battle of our time—and why citizen efforts are crucial to making important changes in Washington.
As Chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, often called the “traffic cop” of Congress, Congressman Jim McGovern of Massachusetts’ 2nd District understands what makes Washington tick. Congressman McGovern has been an opponent of the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling since it was issued and has vocally led efforts to overturn it with a constitutional amendment. He was an early signer of the American Promise Candidate Pledge, committing to use his office to fight for the amendment. In this Q&A, Congressman McGovern shares why citizen leadership is so important to making change in Washington—and why the fight to end pay-to-play politics is the fight to save our democracy.
Why is the issue of big money in politics so important?
This to me is the issue. It is about saving our democracy. Americans are sick and tired of a Congress that doesn’t listen to them. The only way to fix things is to get money out of politics and to put the power back in the hands of the people. We need a 28th Amendment to solve this problem and do just that.
Does our hyperpartisan system mean there’s no way an amendment could pass?
This is an issue that cuts across party lines. It doesn’t matter which party you belong to, everyone knows we need to change things. When I talk to audiences, whether they’re liberal audiences or conservative audiences or moderate audiences, whether they’re audiences that like me or audiences that don’t like me, the one issue where everybody nods their heads approvingly is when you talk about taking big money out of politics. Everybody gets it. Nobody likes the idea that they have less power because big money special interests come in and exert their muscle and their influence.
How can we translate this cross-partisan support for the amendment among Americans into cross-partisan support in Congress?
We have to make it a bit harder for members of Congress who are resisting signing on to support this amendment. Given the cross-partisan support among citizens, this should not be difficult for anyone in Congress. Through the American Promise Candidate Pledge, candidates for election and re-election can commit to use their office to further the amendment. The best way to turn our frustration into action is to ask every candidate to sign, and make this pledge a requirement for getting elected.
How does citizen action help drive momentum on the amendment?
First, remember that we’ve come a long way. Citizen action matters—I want people to appreciate that. American Promise’s 2019 Citizen Lobby Day was an impeccable example. Before Lobby Day, there were 164 supporters of the current amendment legislation in Congress; after it, we built to over 200. But we have more to do, so we should recharge our batteries and continue the fight because this is the right fight. We just need to keep it going. I’ll be an ally here in Congress and we’ll work together. I want you to know how grateful I am to everyone working on this issue, because this is a meaningful fight to have.