News. Debate. Community. Levers for a better democracy.
Michel G. via Flickr

New Hampshire becomes 20th state wanting a campaign finance curb in the Constitution

Now there are 20 states on record saying they would ratify an amendment to the Constitution allowing limits on campaign spending, the most ambitious and emphatic response possible to the oceans of money sloshing through the political system.

The Democratic Senate in New Hampshire voted 14-10 on Thursday, nearly along party lines, to call on Congress to propose a constitutional amendment that would effectively negate the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision, by declaring that political giving is not a form of speech covered by the First Amendment.

The vote in Concord means the nascent 28th Amendment now has the support of comfortably more than half the states needed for ratification. It's also important symbolically because almost all the other states are deeply Democratic blue while New Hampshire is very competitive between the parties.


"The unflagging work of so many citizens has paid off," said Jeff Clements, the president of American Promise, a leading advocacy group for the constitutional amendment approach to campaign finance regulation. "New Hampshire's stand adds big momentum to the drive for a 28th Amendment to secure free speech and representation for all Americans, not just the few."

But the process of producing the language on Capitol Hill has barely gotten off the ground, with only a relative handful of lawmakers intensely promoting the idea and two-third majorities in the House and Senate required – a clear impossibility at a time of closely divided government when essentially every Republican lawmaker is standing behind the landmark 2010 decision.

"I hear from Republican candidates concerned about anonymous ads from groups funded by Soros, Bloomberg, Steyer and others. This is the first step in protecting those candidates – all candidates – from nasty anonymous ads," said John Pudner of Take Back Our Republic, a conservative group in favor of tighter campaign finance regulation. "A constitutional amendment is in everyone's best interests. It's good for voters, it's good for candidates, and it's good for elected officials who want to be able to focus on their constituents rather than Big Money donors."

News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.

Tech. Sgt. Jeff Kelly/U.S. Air Force

The Federal Voting Assistance Program assists military members who need to vote via absentee ballot. A spokeswoman for the Defense Department said there would be "minimal disruptions" if the United States pulls out of the international postage agency.

Costs to mail ballots may skyrocket for civilians, military living overseas

Election officials are growing increasingly concerned that the Trump administration's trade war with China could make it more difficult and expensive for overseas voters — including those in the military — to cast ballots in the 2019 and 2020 local, state and federal elections.

The issue is the pending withdrawal in October by the U.S. from the Universal Postal Union, a group of 192 nations that has governed international postal service and rates for 145 years.

Last October, the U.S. gave the required one-year notice stating it would leave the UPU unless changes were made to the discounted fees that China pays for shipping small packages to the United States. The subsidized fees — established years ago to help poor, developing countries — place American businesses at a disadvantage and don't cover costs incurred by the U.S. Postal Service.

With the U.S.-imposed deadline for withdrawal or new rates fast approaching, states officials are running out of time to prepare for overseas mail-in voting.

Keep reading... Show less
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.

Keep reading... Show less