The Problem

Why is pay-to-play politics bad for business and society?

Pay-to-play politics is a losing proposition for society because it undermines representative democracy and the integrity of our government, enables influence by foreign actors, and fuels public cynicism and distrust. For example, elected U.S. officials now spend up to 70% of their time raising money, in races 20 times more costly than in 2000.

Pay-to-play is also a losing proposition for business because it forces companies to compete based on political influence rather than the value they create in the marketplace. It opens the door to “legalized extortion,”—where businesses get caught up in an arms race of political spending and gain no sustainable advantage. Refusing to play amounts to “unilateral disarmament,” but political spending creates reputational risks in a world of increasing pressure for transparency.

To learn more, please see Why Pay-to-Play Politics is a Losing Proposition for Business and Society.

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The Costs

How does pay-to-play politics affect me and my business?

Whatever issue concerns you most—from the tax code to federal deficits, corporate subsidies to complex tariff exclusion processes, uncertain energy policy to skyrocketing prescription drug costs, the opioid epidemic, economic inequality or societal distrust—pay-to-play politics is almost certainly at the root of the issue.

The fact is, businesses and the economy suffer when cronyism and government favoritism undermine honest competition, putting those that compete based on value at a disadvantage. As a large or mid-size company, you likely face growing pressure from shareholders, watchdog groups, NGOs, customers, and employees to disclose your political spending, and then put your brand and reputation at risk if your government affairs efforts do not align with your stated values. As an entrepreneur or investor, you may struggle to invest at the level you want to, amidst the increased uncertainty and volatility created when regulations and rules are changed as political favors. And finally, as a citizen, you may be troubled by the ways that pay-to-play politics corrupts representative democracy itself, enabling influence by foreign actors, and fueling public cynicism and distrust.

To learn more, please see Why Pay-to-Play Politics is a Losing Proposition for Business and Society.

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The Root Cause

How has pay-to-play politics gotten so bad?

In the 1970s, an activist Supreme Court began dismantling the century-old U.S. campaign finance framework. A series of decisions has authorized PACs and Super PACs and enabled corporations, unions, special interest groups, and individuals to spend unlimited amounts on political campaigns. Since then, spending and contributions have skyrocketed, with more than 76% contributed by 0.1% of the population. Much of this money flows through non-disclosing non-profits.

Ironically, these changes were originally intended to benefit business, but with severe unintended consequences for business and the economy. For example, businesses now face repeated and escalating requests for contributions that can feel like “legalized extortion” and an arms race of political spending. Thus, according to former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), “Money’s dominance over politics…is a growing crisis that prevents us from tackling anything else.”

To learn more, please see Why Pay-to-Play Politics is a Losing Proposition for Business and Society.

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The Solution

What is the solution to level the playing field in America’s marketplace?

The current dysfunction of our political system is not self-correcting; systemic change is required to restore the health of our civic institutions and the integrity of our government.

Amazingly, 75% of Americans agree on the solution to pay-to-play politics; they are convinced that we need a 28th Constitutional Amendment to end unlimited political spending, distinguish between legal entities and natural persons, and affirm our national interest in political equality. Thus far, twenty states have passed resolutions calling for the 28th Amendment as one of several critical reforms needed to secure our republic.

To learn more, please see Why Pay-to-Play Politics is a Losing Proposition for Business and Society.

Why do we need an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution?

We need a constitutional amendment because we have a constitutional problem. A series of narrow decisions over the past 40 plus years has locked the Supreme Court into a doctrine that effectively denies the principle of political equality.

While individual reforms—such as disclosure, ranked-choice voting, and open primaries—are crucial, until we clarify the foundational principle of political equality through the American Promise Amendment, our system of representative government will continue to be at risk. Our Amendment provides that foundation, by establishing the government’s compelling interest in political equality, authorizing our Congress and the states to set common sense limits on political spending and distinguish between legal entities and natural persons. Without an amendment, Congress and the states are prohibited from setting limits on outside political spending and other reforms are at risk of being swept away by a change in the political winds.

to learn more, please see the American Promise FAQ

What does the American Promise Amendment say?

To begin, it is essential to know what the 28th Amendment will do: 1) secure fair, free elections; 2) protect the rights of all Americans to equal participation and representation; and 3) return to original liberties for people rather than new privileges claimed for the legal entities such as corporations, unions, and special interest groups.

As for what the 28th Amendment will say, American Promise’s Writing the 28th Amendment program is bringing together citizens, legal scholars, judges, lawyers, representatives, and issues advocates to discuss, debate, deliberate, and decide on the language that will be proposed and ratified. In the process, our goal is to re-enliven American’s faith in our civic processes and experience of being active participants in government of, by and for the people.

The strongest consensus language to-date is reflected in the bi-partisan Democracy for All Amendment (HJ Res 2) introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives in January 2019 by Rep. John Katko (R-NY) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL).

To learn more, please see the Writing the 28th Amendment and Democracy for All Amendment.

Who is leading the effort for the 28th Amendment?

Hundreds of thousands of Americans across the country are working in their cities, towns, and state legislatures to advance the 28th Amendment. Twenty states and 800 cities and towns have already passed resolutions calling for the amendment, and groups of all political persuasions are working to advance this cause.

American Promise is the leading non-partisan organization working to empower, support and unite these efforts, with a 10-year strategy for providing the infrastructure and focus needed to win. We are a member of the Bridge Alliance, and regularly work with other groups across the political spectrum to advance effective structural reform that restores representative democracy.

to learn more, please see American Promise.

Who is American Promise?

American Promise is the leading non-partisan organization working to empower, support and unite efforts to pass the 28th Amendment, with a 10-year strategy for providing the infrastructure and focus needed to win.

American Promise was co-founded in 2016 by Jeff Clements, President, and John Wass, Board Chair. Jeff is an attorney and the author of Corporations Are Not People (Berrett-Koehler, 2014). His articles and opinion pieces have appeared widely, including in US News & World Report, The Boston Globe, Salon, The Hill, Fox News, MSNBC and many others. John Wass is the CEO of Profit Isle, Inc. Earlier in his career, John was the co-founder and CEO of WaveMark and led the building of global infrastructure at Staples as the company grew from 3 to more than 1,000 stores.

American Promise is a member of the Bridge Alliance, and regularly works with other groups across the political spectrum to advance effective structural reform that restore representative democracy.

What is American Promise's political affiliation?

We are Americans of all parties and no party. Fiercely non-partisan, our Advisory Council includes members as diverse as former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY) & former Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-MA), former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) & Our Revolution President Nina Turner, and Take Back Our Republic Executive Director John Pudner & Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Co-founder Ben Cohen. We recognize that while we may disagree on many issues, Americans need to come together to authorize spending limits that protect our democratic republic.

To learn more, please see American Promise Advisory Council.

How is American Promise funded?

American Promise operates as two distinct organizations with a shared mission to inspire, educate, empower, and organize Americans to win a 28th Amendment to the Constitution. American Promise was founded in 2016 by Jeff Clements and John Wass, who provided seed funding, and continue to volunteer without compensation for American Promise.

American Promise, Inc, a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under IRC section 501(c)(4) is home to our Citizen UpRising programs which offer support for all Americans who are joining us as volunteers on ballot initiative efforts, state and local 28th Amendment resolutions, the American Promise candidate pledge, citizen lobbying training and support, and more. This work is made possible by our thousands of members around the country who contribute what they can to American Promise, Inc. 95% of these contributions are under $200. Our average contribution is $35. Funding in this area is pivotal to the success of securing the 28th Amendment.

To see a list of American Promises Major Donors click here

What’s the process for passing a Constitutional Amendment?

The Constitution provides that an amendment may be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called by Congress upon request by two-thirds of the state legislatures. Once an amendment is passed, it must be ratified by three-fourths of the states. Though it is reasonable to wonder if Congress and the states can manage to do this, all 27 amendments of our Constitution have passed by 2/3 of Congress and been ratified by 3/4 of the states. It’s what Americans do: watch this.

How do we get the consensus—the super-majority—needed for the 28th Amendment when the country is so divided?

Amazingly, the amendment is one issue on which American citizens agree. 75% of Americans support it, and twenty states have passed resolutions instructing their Congressional delegations to act on it.

Historically, amendments are born in times of turmoil, when everyday citizens recognize a threat to the republic’s core principles and move into action. Between 1865 and 1870, Americans passed three constitutional amendments. Between 1961 and 1971, we passed four. With the 28th Amendment, Americans are rising to the occasion once again.

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The Unique Role of Business

Why should business get involved?

Most business professionals believe in a strong economy where companies compete based on the value they create in the marketplace, rather than their level of political spending. Because legislators are likely to assume that the current environment benefits business, business leaders are in a unique position to get their attention and set the record straight: rules that foster pay-to-play threaten innovation, healthy markets, and the real drivers of economic growth. In addition, many business leaders are concerned, as citizens, about representative democracy and want to see our country working as it was intended.

To learn more, please see Why Pay-to-Play Politics is a Losing Proposition for Business and Society.

What is the National Business Network?

The National Business Network is a well connected network of civically responsible business professionals from all 50 states, joined together in cross-partisan advocacy for the American Promise Amendment. Members’ unique business perspective, positions, influence, and connections advance our ability to win an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Together we will win the only permanent reform that limits out of control special interest political expenditures so companies compete based on the value they create in America’s marketplace.

We are building and supporting a national network to provide educational forums and tools to help business leaders clarify where they stand and take effective action to advance reasonable reform.

To learn more, please see National Business Network..

What is the National Business Network Mission?

The National Business Network’s mission is to unite civically responsible, values-driven business professionals in cross-partisan advocacy to win an Amendment to our U.S. Constitution to create a representative democracy and free economy where businesses compete based on the value they create in America’s marketplace.

To learn more, please see National Business Network..

Is the American Promise Amendment good for business?

89% of business people favor limits on how much money individuals, corporations, labor, and independent political organizations can spend.

The fact is, in the current pay-to-play environment, refusing to engage in pay-to-play can amount to “unilateral disarmament” for a single business. Together, however, concerned business people can be clear: We want rules that foster honest competition, in the marketplace for goods and services and in the marketplace of ideas. This is why National Business Network members include business leaders of all size companies in every sector who share a commitment to honest competition and integrity in government. Nothing in the Amendment will prevent corporations, unions or other groups from lobbying, petitioning the government or arguing their case to elected officials.

To learn more, please see Why Pay-to-Play Politics is a Losing Proposition for Business and Society.

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Still have questions?

Call American Promise at 978-254-6275 or contact the National Business Network Manager.
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