In this Q&A, American Promise’s new Development Coordinator Jacob Brown discusses what led him to join the American Promise team and why he cares about advancing the 28th Amendment to end unlimited political spending.
Growing up and working in the D.C. area, Jacob Brown became intimately familiar with the effects of gridlock, lobbying, and hyper-partisanship. Desiring a change of pace, he moved to Colorado and started working with the Anti-Defamation League before joining American Promise.
How did you come to the American Promise team? What drew you to this work/organization?
I was first drawn to American Promise by the importance of its mission, but my commitment was solidified in the interview process. My friends have always called me too naïve or quixotic for believing that the change I want to see in the world is possible. I love to ask questions and think about how we can always improve our current situation.
While talking to American Promise president Jeff Clements for 30 minutes, I quickly saw that American Promise was not only asking but answering one of the biggest questions facing our generation: How can we restore the peoples’ voice in elections? The answer: the 28th amendment.
To me, this amendment is the intersection of idealism and pragmatism. It will be a struggle to accomplish, but nothing worth fighting for has ever been easy. I am excited to help this team make the 28th amendment a reality and bring about an effective and accountable government in the United States.
How does this work fit in with your professional experience, background and values?
I care very deeply about vulnerable and disenfranchised people. In my career, I hope to address some of the issues that affect these individuals most: climate change, immigration reform, ending private prisons, indigenous and racial justice, and poverty and homelessness. These and many other issues can never be addressed until elected officials can engage in honest debate and become beholden to the people who elected them — not their donors.
The 28th amendment is not the end-all-be-all. It is a vehicle to allow us to address important issues without corporate influence. According to former Congressman David Jolly (R-FL) in a 60 Minutes interview, Congresspeople have to raise $18,000 a day to get re-elected. They cannot run on policies that matter to their constituents but instead must cater to the needs of their big donors and lobbyists. I hope that the 28th amendment can remedy at least part of this problem so that we can finally bring about solutions for those who need them the most.
Tell us a bit about your personal background.
I grew up in Rockville, MD, just outside of Washington, D.C. I graduated from the University of Maryland in 2018 with a BA in Government & Politics and a minor in Astronomy. Both politics and astronomy allowed me to ponder the big questions: Where are we in the Universe? What does an ideal government look like? How can we make our government an instrument of good?
After I graduated, I tried some temp jobs around D.C., but the only ones I enjoyed were with non-profits. After 23 years in D.C., I wanted a change of pace from the lobbyists, consultants, and bureaucracy. I moved to Colorado in 2019 with my girlfriend Maggie as she pursued her career as an educator through Teach for America. Colorado is a beautiful state, and I love to spend time outdoors — hiking, skiing, running, and playing basketball — but I also love to read and write in my free time.
Once I arrived in Denver, I joined the Anti-Defamation League. I was drawn to ADL because of its mission: “To stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure fair treatment and justice for all.” I learned a lot (probably too much) about the rising tide of extremism in the United States and abroad, and was yearning to get more involved in activism, advocacy, or politics. Fortunately, I was able to find this position with American Promise and am thrilled to work with my colleagues to advance this important issue.
Why is American Promise’s work important to you? Can you share some examples you’ve seen in your own life and in your community of how our dysfunctional system affects people’s day-to-day lives?
Growing up around DC with federal employees as parents, I always overheard conversations about gridlock, furloughs, slashed budgets, and a lack of accountability. Not to say that the passage of the 28th Amendment will solve these issues or the partisan divide in Congress, but it does give me hope that we can once again have honest debate.
I am only 25 years old, but even I remember a time when both Republicans and Democrats crossed the aisle and did not vote along party lines nearly every single vote. I remember when congresspeople voted on values and the merit of a bill. I remember when Congress was not simply an obstructionist institution but, at the very least, attempted to address peoples’ many needs. American Promise gives me hope for change and a return to cooperation so that we can address the many issues plaguing our country.
Why would you encourage people across America to join the movement for the 28th Amendment?
The American peoples’ voice is being drowned out by a few individuals and corporations with unlimited wealth. Our voice can only be heard when we stand together in unity and demand that we the people are the heads of this democracy.
According to Gallup polling from November 19th, 2020, Congress has a job approval rating of 20%. The American people, all the American people, are unhappy and seeking change — a leveling of the playing field to make Congress work for them.
Whether you advocate for campaign finance reform or “draining the swamp” we all know something is awry and corrupting the legislative branch – the people’s branch of government. Let us demand something better, something worthy of this nation. A government that debates in good faith; a government that feeds the hungry and houses the houseless; a government that listens to science and does not demur their responsibility for clean air, clean water, and the health of their constituents.
Join us, because without this amendment we cannot make the desperately needed change to address our evolving world. Without this amendment, we are doomed to the status quo of billions in election-spending and not a dime for the issues that matter to you.
What is one of the main missions you hope to accomplish as a member of the American Promise team?
One main mission I hope to accomplish is to build out our small donor program to reach all 50 states. Money is tight right now — people are facing evictions, medical bills, and an uncertain future. In this context, it’s far more meaningful when people choose to spare $5, $10 or $28 to build up our capacity and make a commitment not just with their time but with their paycheck. When you make a financial commitment, no matter how small, you become part of our team and part of the fight to make government accountable and functional once more.
Over the next three years I intend to help our development and communications team take this fight to every corner of the United States; build grassroots networks; advocate for the issues that matter to us; and establish the United States government’s commitment to all people, not just the wealthy donors and corporations that fill their war chests.