The legally granted right to unchecked political spending by corporations, unions, special interest groups, and wealthy individuals is silencing the voices of citizens and corrupting our ability to freely and fairly elect a representative government of, by, and for the people. American Promise exists to empower, inspire, and organize Americans to win the 28th Amendment to the Constitution. This lasting reform aims to re-balance our politics and government by putting the rights of individual citizens before the privileges of concentrated money, corporations, unions, political parties, and superPACs. Meet American Promise's new Empowerment Coordinator Chris McDonald as he discusses the organization's mission.
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Most Americans, across the political spectrum, agree that moneyed interests have too much influence over politics in the United States, yet the Supreme Court has made it difficult to do anything about it.
On this episode of "Toppling the Duopoly," host Shawn Griffiths and Jeff Clements, president of American Promise, discuss overcoming partisan the barriers to approving a 28th Amendment that could reduce the influence of big money.
Organizer: American Promise
In observance of Constitution Day, Beverly Churchill, president of Alaska Move to Amend, will talk about how to amend the Constitution and provide a brief history of several amendments. Q&A moderated by Bill Hall of Alaska Common Ground.
Organizer: American Promise
Hear Jeff Clements, co-founder and president, speak about American Promise's 2020 strategy and the importance of our National Business Network. Learn about how the powerful business voice is uniquely positioned to help win the American Promise Amendment.
Meet National Business Network Supporters and Members on this kick-off call. Dive into the economic argument, weigh in on actions, and make a difference for the greater good as we begin our journey as a National Business Network together to level the playing field in America's marketplace.
"Hang a lantern on your problem" was favorite advice from Robert F. Kennedy. In other words, confront a challenge head-on. Illuminate it. Then take steps to tackle it.
Dan Snyder, who announced this week that he will soon rename the NFL franchise he owns, has an opportunity to do one better than RFK's mantra.
By changing Washington's football team name to the Greenbacks, Snyder would not only move a controversial spotlight off of himself, he would also refract it onto an enormously important issue that is starved for more attention: the corrupting influence of big money in American government.
Don't get me wrong. It's not that Americans aren't already aware of this abomination in our politics. In fact, the overwhelming majority of us— regardless of political stripe — say we want reform.
A survey conducted by the University of Maryland found 88 percent believe it's important to reduce the influence of special-interest cash in Washington.
More dramatically, 75 percent support a constitutional amendment that would supersede the Supreme Court's Citizens United v. FEC decision a decade ago and allow "Congress and the states to regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others who seek to influence elections."
Our collective support for curbing corruption in Congress should come as no surprise. We know that the preferences of the wealthy influence legislative decisions far more than the rest of us. In fact, the desires of the top 10 percent matter 15 times more than the other 90 percent, according to research from Martin Gilens and Ben Page.
So if we all know that we're getting screwed by the billions of dollars washing through the Capitol, and if nearly all of us have said that we want to change this corrupt system, then why doesn't it happen?
The answer to that question is our national attention span. We don't have one. Not in a sustained enough way where most of us will take real and consistent action.
For instance, most Americans — even within that 75 percent who support a constitutional amendment — are not aware that there are proposed constitutional amendments sitting right now in both the House and the Senate.
But if we don't demand their passage, they won't pass. If we don't vote on the issue and then call our representatives once they're in office, nothing happens.
All of which brings me back to suggesting that Snyder rename his team the Washington Greenbacks. The allusion will be lost on no one. When you change the name of one of the most storied teams in NFL history to associate it with pay-for-play cash money — and that team is in the nation's capital — Americans will have no choice but to regularly contemplate why we allow a corrupt system to roll over us. Daily.
As an old political boss of mine used to say when we were collecting financial pledges: "You want them to remember it? Staple it to their foreheads."
Some might assert that it's nearly impossible to get a constitutional amendment through Congress and ratified by three-quarters of the states. It's an easy argument, since we haven't done so in a while. It's also silly. We've added 17 amendments to the Constitution since the Bill of Rights. Same rules.
Jeff Clements is the president of American Promise, a nonpartisan group dedicated to passing such an amendment to wack the flow of greenbacks. He's in the fight every day. He says he needs more fighters:
"In order to eliminate out-of-control big elite money from our political system, we need this 28th Amendment to the Constitution. American Promise has achieved great progress on this goal — but to make it a reality we'll need millions more Americans to make their voices heard."
Americans need a reminder. Regularly. The Greenbacks.
Yes, I'm aware that Snyder is a massively wealthy guy who almost certainly benefits from tax laws and other public policy decisions driven by special-interest cash. But it's never too late to do the right thing.
If he changed the name of the Redskins to some simple and non-controversial moniker, Snyder would at least be catching up to the 21st century.
But if he renamed it the Greenbacks, he'd be strengthening his country — and stepping into immortality.
Go big, Dan. And if it misses the mark, you won't need to sweat it — Greenbacks are also a species of fish. Worked out fine in Miami.
Organizer: American Promise
Join us in a conversation with Ohio candidates who have pledged to create a more inclusive, effective democracy through crucial reforms, including the American Promise Constitutional Amendment.
Jeff Clements, President of American Promise
Kate Schroder, Candidate for House of Representatives, OH-1
Alaina Shearer, Candidate for House of Representatives, OH-12
Crystal Lett, Candidate for the Ohio Senate, District 16
Joel O'Dorisio, Candidate for Ohio Senate, District 2
The tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic, and the most recent high-profile killings of Black people by police, have laid bare America's biggest policy shortcomings and inequities. A growing number of voices are correctly arguing that our shared dream of returning to normal must be about a new normal — one providing everyone, not just the few who are wealthy and white, with real economic and health security.
However obvious the wake-up calls of Covid-19 and renewed demands for racial equity may seem, they will not change the political playbook of wealthy interests — and policy change won't come easy. Remember when the bailed-out banks that caused the 2008 economic crash turned around and spent record sums to weaken the regulations needed to prevent another collapse? That's the world we live in.
To build the new normal, we must eliminate a key structural barrier to achieving the policies we need: the undue influence of big money in our politics. These days, it seems almost everyone understands this. We just need to double down on addressing it, as called for most recently by the bipartisan Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship.
Since the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, the Supreme Court has equated money with speech under the First Amendment. The problem with this interpretation is that it favors the political speech of those who give big political donations, silencing the rest of us.
The infamous Citizens United v. FEC decision a decade ago, among others, only made matters worse. The court now effectively prohibits the best solutions to combating big money's power, including election spending limits.
A federal public campaign financing program would help a lot, and Congress should act when it can. But it's also an incomplete solution in a world where unlimited money can be used to influence the electoral process. While it's much better than nothing, that cannot be America's standard for the functioning of our democracy.
What we ultimately need, if we hope to shift political power to everyday people to the degree necessary, is a 28th Amendment to the Constitution — one enabling more robust state and federal regulation of the financing of political campaigns.
As a nation we value the concept of "one person, one vote," yet the Supreme Court has told us that political equality is somehow off limits when it comes to how elections are funded. History suggests we shouldn't wait for the court to change its mind. In the 45 years after its decision denying women the right to vote, and before ratification of the 19th Amendment 100 years ago guaranteeing women that same right, 25 justices were replaced.
A change in the Constitution, like democracy itself, won't by itself bring us to a promised land of political and racial equality. But it would unquestionably open up to voters and lawmakers a much broader range of tools for eliminating today's loopholes, and the other vulnerabilities in the system that wealthy interests will surely discover and exploit tomorrow.
From there, we could look forward to more diversity in our legislatures, more political power for people with low and middle incomes — and, in turn, more laws that address racial inequity. This is why the Movement for Black Lives calls for a campaign finance constitutional amendment and public election financing in its policy platform.
Promoting a 28th Amendment should have been at the top of President Trump's agenda. The blurry line between criminal bribery and political giving is a big part of creating the swamp that both parties claim they hope to drain.
As a senator from Delaware back in 1997, Joe Biden called the Supreme Court's Buckley ruling "supremely wrong" and declared that "the single most important thing that has to be done from a purely practical sense is to amend the Constitution." Such an amendment is now at the top of his presidential campaign's political reform platform. Should he win, Biden must declare its realization a national imperative.
Ultimately, though, hope rests with us. As this moment makes clear, people must organize for the change we need. There's been substantial progress in Congress and in the states but we're still short of the necessary two-thirds support from Congress — as well as the three-fourths of state legislatures, who would be called on to ratify the new constitutional language if Congress acts.
The suffragists and abolitionists of yesteryear didn't give up when they didn't have the votes; they ramped up. Movements change political dynamics.
The effort to win a constitutional amendment is a rare opportunity to unite Americans no matter our home states, birthplaces, skin color, political party or faith. A majority of Americans — Democrats, Republicans and independents alike — support an amendment. They just need to be activated.
Money's hold over policymaking remains at the root of many of our most pressing problems, and the Supreme Court has locked the toolbox of most-effective solutions. Like combatting racism, fighting for better wages and working conditions, and addressing the climate crisis, we simply must have this fight. And winning a campaign finance amendment would help deliver wins on those other issues.
The policy failures brought to light by the pandemic, and by black and brown voices in the streets, are the call to get this amendment over the finish line.