Massachusetts announced today the members of the first-in-the-nation, 15-member non-partisan Citizen Commission to advance the state’s policy in favor of an amendment to the United States Constitution to address concerns about corruption, undue influence, and unequal citizenship as a result of unlimited political spending and growing power of global corporations in American politics.
Jeff Clements, Co-Founder and President of American Promise is among the 15 citizens appointed to serve on the Committee, which include business people, teachers, law professors, a leader of a voting rights and civic engagement organization, a first-generation college student now pursuing a masters at Boston University, among others.
The Citizens Commission resulted from a law passed by 71 percent of Massachusetts voters in a citizens ballot initiative in November. Over 1,000 volunteers helped speak with hundreds of thousands of voters and collect over 130,000 signatures to place Question 2 on the ballot. The effort is part of a national strategy led by American Promise to empower citizens in all 50 states to win a Constitutional amendment to combat corruption and secure the equal rights of Americans to self-government.
All 27 US Constitutional amendments, including the Bill of Rights, have followed the amendment process of a ⅔ vote in Congress followed by ratification in ¾ of the states. Since the Supreme Court struck down the federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act in the 2010 decision of Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, the drive to reverse the Court’s conclusion that unlimited election spending by corporations, unions and the wealthy is “free speech” under the First Amendment has gained momentum.
Massachusetts is among the 19 states and over 800 cities and towns have passed resolutions with cross-partisan support calling on Congress to propose an amendment to address the problem of widespread corruption and political inequality.
Recently, Wyoming Promise collected 20,255 voter signatures in favor of an amendment, and passed a resolution in the state House of Representatives, while New Hampshire is poised to pass HB504, becoming the 20th state to demand action from Congress. A proposed Constitutional amendment to enable Americans to enact reasonable limits on election spending and to distinguish between the rights of corporations and human beings (H.J. Res 2) has been introduced in Congress with Democrat and Republican co-sponsors. The Citizen Commission in Massachusetts will help accelerate this national effort to amend the U.S. Constitution.
“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 American Promise co-founder and president, Jeff Clements. “I am looking forward to serving and working not only with all of the members of the Citizen Commission, but also with all citizens across the Commonwealth.”
The Commission will examine the influence of money in Massachusetts politics, give recommendations on the best approaches to an effective Constitutional amendment, and prepare Massachusetts to ratify the amendment when it is passed by Congress.
Commissioners will hold hearings to provide Massachusetts citizens a chance to be heard on how money in politics impacts their lives and what kind of reform they want an amendment to achieve.
The application for appointment to the Commission was open to any Massachusetts resident who is a US citizen, and 169 people applied through a transparent online application process. In addition to attracting a diverse pool of applicants, the law authorizing the Commission explicitly required the appointments “reflect a range of geographic, political, and demographic backgrounds.”
The 15 Commissioners, chosen three each by the Governor, the Secretary of the Commonwealth, the Attorney General, the Speaker of the House, and the Senate President include: Jeff Clements, Joyce Sanchez, Bopha Malone, Cheryl Crawford, Professor Jennifer Taub, Professor Nikolas Bowie, former Representative Michael Harrington, Matthew F. McKnight, William Kilmartin, Representative Carmine Gentile, Scott McDermott, Dominick Pangallo, Noval Alexander, Jay Marsden, and Costas Panagopoulos.
“I appreciate the good work that American Promise is doing to ensure that our government is a government of the people, by the people, for the people,” says Bopha Malone, Vice President of Enterprise Bank. “As a former candidate for Congress in the Massachusetts third district and as an activist working with immigrants communities, I see first-hand that big money in politics is the root of many of the problems we face as a country today. I’m honored to be a part of this commission to help make our political process and our government more inclusive, equal and fair for everyone.”
“I am really excited about the opportunity to work with a group of citizens dedicated to this pursuit of good democracy,” says Cheryl Crawford, Executive Director of MassVOTE. “My participation will add another level of demographic diversity that will speak narrowly and boldly to the concerns in those working diligently for a democracy that works for everyone.”
“Empowering citizens to stop dark money with a Constitutional amendment is urgent to fix our democracy,” says Joyce Sanchez, Brighton Resident and 2018-2019 BU Urban Planning Association President. “I am honored to be appointed to the Citizens Commission and to help ensure that people of color and young adults are represented in this fight.”
American Promise is leading this campaign by supporting and networking thousands of grassroots volunteers in every state, building cross-partisan support in state legislatures and Congress, and connecting citizens, legislators, and legal scholars together to ensure that the amendment is effective to create a government run by people, not big money special interests.