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While our nation was founded on the ideal of equal representation, tactics to rig the system and undermine the power of the public stretch back for centuries. As this week’s first feature notes, gerrymandering originated in 1812, when Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry approved a redistricting plan designed to keep Republicans in power and suppress the Federalists’ chances of winning office. 

While incumbents have been rigging the system to protect their turf for more than 200 years, throughout our history another powerful force has helped shape our nation: the American people, who time and again have come together against concentrations of power, and worked to pass amendments that expand our notions of democracy. 

Today, once more, Americans are saying “Enough is enough” about the concentrations of wealth and power that act to weaken our voice in our democracy. Those working to re-assert the strength of our votes represent all political stripes and every generation—including college students like Isabelle Pekarsky and Devin Hiett, who joined dozens of other young Americans to sign the Cause of Our Time Statement of Principle, committing to advance the 28th Amendment and recruit other young people to join them.

The systemic issues at play today may have centuries-old roots, but our movement to get big money out of politics continues a long history of Americans strengthening our democracy. And as with every successful citizen-led amendment of the past, our movement will succeed thanks to Americans coming together with strength and determination to uphold the greatest promise of our nation: Equal representation for all.  

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Leah Field
Managing Director, American Promise
A Dark Partnership: How Unlimited Money in Politics and Gerrymandering Work Together to Erode the Value of Our Votes 

Although American democracy is based on equal representation, political parties vying for control continue their attempts to tilt the power dynamic. One way this happens is through gerrymandering: a deliberate manipulation of district lines to give one party an advantage over the other. Democracy reform issues like this one are taking center stage in a political landscape that many perceive as corrupt.
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College Students Commit to Tackle Big Money in Our Nation’s Capital 

Young Americans know that many of the biggest issues they face—such as mounting college debt, growing income inequality, and the climate crisis—are exacerbated by the domination of big money in politics. At the 2019 National Citizen Leadership Conference, more than 50 college students from across the nation helped launch the Cause of Our Time Statement of Principle, committing to join the movement to end the domination of big money in our political system. Two student leaders share why the issue of big money in politics is so important to them, their peers, and our nation.
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To create a brighter future for our democracy, American Promise is turning to our future leaders to join the movement for the 28th Amendment. The recently launched Cause of Our Time campaign asks young people to pledge their commitment through the Statement of Principle. Share the statement and help us beat our goal of 10,000 signatures by the start of 2020!
Share the Cause of Our Time Statement of Principle
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin was among the featured speakers at the National Citizen Leadership Conference, where he shared why earlier this year he joined three of his fellow representatives to introduce bipartisan legislation to address the biggest fundamental issue facing our democracy: big money in politics. Congressman Raskin encouraged the citizen leaders at the conference—whom he called the “powers that ought to be”—to continue to advocate for the 28th Amendment and drive important change on Capitol Hill. 
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| What We’re Tracking This Week

From the Center for Responsive Politics: A review of lobbyist data shows which government agencies get the most attention. The White House, Treasury Department, and Department of Health and Human Services make up the top three most-lobbied agencies. The revamped database created by the Center for Responsive Politics also shows the issues that gain most attention from lobbyists: federal budget and appropriations, taxes, health issues, trade, and transportation. Read more.

From The Fulcrum: Two ballot issues designed to reduce the importance of big money in elections gained approval from voters in Albuquerque and San Francisco. Last week Albuquerque voters approved expansion of an existing public financing system for mayoral candidates willing to limit their own spending, but they also narrowly rejected a ballot measure to start a system of publicly funded donation vouchers for supporting municipal candidates. In San Francisco, 77% of voters approved a ballot initiative imposing limits on campaign contributions and increasing transparency for political advertisements in local elections. Read more.

From CentralMaine.com: As the Maine Speaker of the House Sara Gideon faces a $500 penalty for violating state election laws, Republicans are jumping on the ruling, hoping to tag Gideon with a scandal as she makes a bid in the 2020 Democratic primary for the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. But this editorial notes a larger problem: the flood of corporate and private wealth into elections that has transformed our political system. “With Election Day more than a year away, Collins and Gideon are close to beating the record fundraising total set by Collins and challenger U.S. Rep. Tom Allen in the 2008 cycle, the most expensive race in Maine history,” the editorial says. Read more

From The Fulcrum: A recent ruling by an Alaska judge creates the potential for a review of the Citizens United decision that led to the flood of money into U.S. politics. According to the ruling from Judge William Morse of Superior Court in Anchorage, the agency that upholds the state’s election laws, the Alaska Public Office Commission, must reinstate enforcement of a $500 annual cap on personal contributions to political action committees and other independent groups seeking to influence elections. Morse also asked the Alaska Supreme Court to use his decision to review the constitutionality of the state’s campaign finance law because of his concerns “about the vulnerability of Alaska's political environment to corruption.” Such a ruling from the state’s top court eventually could put many of the same issues addressed in Citizens United v. FEC before the Supreme Court again. Read more.

From the New Republic: Amazon’s big spending in the recent Seattle City Council election didn’t produce the desired results, as just two of the seven candidates endorsed by Amazon and other companies through the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s Super PAC emerged winners. Amazon, the biggest employer in Seattle, spent a record $1.5 million to back a slate of candidates viewed as pro-business, or at least more corporate friendly than the incumbent council majority. Some observers said the election served as a test of whether money from deep-pocketed companies would be effective on a public wary of corporate influence in politics. Read more.

| Upcoming American Promise Events

November 19, Pittsfield, MA: Massachusetts citizens are encouraged to share their thoughts at the American Promise “Speak Out Against Big Money in Politics” Citizens Commission Town Hall Meeting. At the meeting, individuals are encouraged to give oral and/or written testimony as input to the Citizens Commission, which voters approved last fall as part of a ballot question. There is no restriction on the length of written testimony, but oral presentations will be limited to 3-5 minutes, depending on the number of attendees, who can arrive and depart at their convenience. 6 p.m.-9 p.m., St. Stephens Parish, 67 East St. Learn more.

December 11, Tucson, AZ: Join American Promise Association organizers and citizen leaders in the Tucson area for a free workshop that will give you the tools you need to advocate for the 28th Amendment so our government serves people, not lobbyists and campaign donors. This second workshop will provide information for citizen leaders to use as they make sure our elected officials know people – not corporations, not unions, not Super PACs – govern the citizens of these United States. 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Learn more.

Wear your passion around a more just republic! Share your dedication to ending the dominance of big money in politics by ordering your American Promise lapel pin or other items in our store.
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American Promise empowers Americans to act together to win the 28th Amendment so people, not money, govern in America.
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