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American Promise

American Promise is a national, nonprofit, nonpartisan, grassroots organization that advocates for a 28th Amendment to the United States Constitution that would allow the U.S. Congress and states to set reasonable limits on campaign spending in U.S. elections.

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Wambui Gatheru

"Every single opportunity I have been afforded in this country can be traced back to the ratification of amendments."

Meet the reformer: 10 questions with Wambui Gatheru

'Every single opportunity I have been afforded in this country can be traced back to the ratification of amendments.'

Wambui Gatheru is the outreach manager at American Promise, which advocates for amending the Constitution to regulate the raising and spending of electoral campaign funds. Originally from Connecticut, Gatheru, 24, joined the American Promise staff in 2017 after graduating from the University of Connecticut.

The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.

What's the tweet-length description of your organization?

American Promise is a cross-partisan organization committed to getting money out of politics, forever, with a 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Describe your very first civic engagement.

Knocking door-to-door in my small town in Connecticut when Barack Obama was first running for president.

What was your biggest professional triumph?

Being a part of the effort that made New Hampshire the 20th state in favor of the 28th Amendment. This was something I'd been working on since I started at American Promise two years ago, and the legislation was just passed in March of this year. It was a surreal victory because it had been such a long fight. It took a lot of coordination on every level of civic engagement, but it's a victory I'm happy to have been a part of here at American Promise.

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U.S. Department of Agriculture

Despite New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu's claims to the contrary, unlimited campaign spending in fact distorts the principles established by the First Amendment, according to Leah Field.

Five reasons unlimited spending undermines American democracy

Field is the managing director of American Promise, which seeks to limit the power of corporate, union, political party and super PAC money in politics.

Despite what the Supreme Court has asserted, unlimited spending doesn't support democracy or free speech — and Americans know it. That's why more than 80 percent support a constitutional amendment to authorize limits on the influence of big money in our political system. People see how unlimited political spending is undermining representative democracy, distorting our economy and undermining public trust — and they want it to change.

Here's a recent example: Despite receiving cross-partisan support from across New Hampshire (citizen volunteers passed 83 local resolutions across New Hampshire in the lead-up to the statewide legislation) and in the Legislature, a resolution calling on Congress to approve the so-called 28th Amendment was vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu on July 11.

What could convince him to oppose the will of his constituents and the Legislature? Opponents of the amendment primarily argue that unlimited political spending strengthens democracy, increasing access to elected office and fostering productive debate, while limiting spending enables the government to limit speech about candidates and officials.

How do these claims hold up? Not very well. While the governor claims the amendment is "part of a national campaign designed to overturn constitutional protections of free speech," the truth is that unlimited spending distorts the principles established by the First Amendment. Let's break down this and other arguments against the amendment.

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National Citizen Leadership Conference

Organizer: American Promise

In the face of toxic political divisiveness and pay-to-play government, American Promise brings together and empowers Americans of widely varying political viewpoints with a common goal - eliminating the corrupting influence of super PAC and special interest money in politics and securing our rights as equal citizens. Nationwide, we are rising to the challenge, building an unstoppable network and movement, locally and nationally, to pass and ratify a powerful amendment to United States Constitution so that people, not money govern America. Join us at the National Citizen Leadership Conference (NCLC) to see how we can achieve this urgent, historic reform. Come away empowered, knowing that together, we can amplify our message in communities, statehouses and Congress. It's time take on super PACs and special interests to get money out of politics by passing the 28th Amendment.

Location: Hilton Crystal City, 2399 Clark St., Arlington, VA 22202

zimmytws/iStock via Getty Images

The Constitution must be amended to assure political equality

Clements is president of American Promise, which seeks to limit the power of corporate, union, political party and super PAC money in politics.

Faith in our political system is at an all-time low. In a recent poll, a record 89 percent of respondents said they view the government as being run by a few big interests looking out for themselves instead of "for the benefit of all the people." (The figure was at 64 percent a decade ago.) By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, Americans believe their "vote does not matter because of the influence that wealthy individuals and big corporations have on the electoral process." And 90 percent agree that elected officials are more interested in appealing to campaign donors than addressing the common good.

Americans are right to believe their interests aren't represented in political outcomes. Research shows economic elites and corporations have a dominant impact on policy, but most citizens have virtually no impact. As money from concentrated factions pours into elections in record amounts, voter turnout remains low, as does satisfaction with candidates, elected officials and the direction of the country generally.

While these issues are critical to our nation, options for legislative solutions are limited in light of Supreme Court decisions that have construed the First Amendment's freedom of speech clause as allowing unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals with the financial means to influence elections. Today, whether the spender is Apple (estimated 2018 revenue, $273 billion), its CEO (2018 pay, $120 million), or Jane Smith (annual pay before taxes, $45,000), each "voice" is free to "speak" to voters and candidates by spending money.

Amid mounting concerns about systemic corruption, unequal representation, and undue control of elections and policymaking by powerful wealthy interests, Americans of every political persuasion seek a solution to help ensure political equality for all citizens. Polls and ballot initiatives consistently show extraordinary support among Americans – exceeding 75 percent of Democrats, Republicans and independents — for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution to empower Congress and the states to regulate money in elections, combat corruption, revise how constitutional rights apply to corporations and secure equal representation.

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