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As big-dollar donors buy outsize influence and shape our nation’s political agenda, they reduce responsiveness to voters and push the system toward dysfunction. 

The numbers tell the story. In the 10 years since the Citizens United ruling, campaign finance amounts have ballooned and continue to grow: nearly $6 billion was spent on the 2018 congressional election, and more than $10 billion is projected to be spent in the 2020 election cycle.

But other big numbers provide a hopeful counterpoint: The 77% of Americans—about 250 million people, from across the political spectrum—who agree on the need for limits on political donations from individuals and organizations, many of whom were speaking out about the issue this week at events and in publications across the nation.  

That’s a lot of political will—enough to build and propel a movement and create lasting change. It’s why American Promise was created and why the movement continues to grow, thanks to the passion and drive of thousands of citizen leaders like you.

Easy Action Item
Leah Field
Managing Director, American Promise
We the People: Real Citizens United to Save Our Republic 

In the decade since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, Americans have seen its devastating effects—and now they are uniting for a historic cross-partisan solution: An amendment to the Constitution to reaffirm the promise of equal political representation for every American, not just the wealthiest among us.

The anniversary creates an opportunity to share that solution with other citizens and encourage them to join our movement to get big money out of politics. Check out our Citizens United timeline and read more in these articles on American Promise’s Citizens United roundup page
  • In The Hill, American Promise Managing Director Leah Field shares how citizen leaders are the crucial driving force behind the amendment to get big money out of politics. “Americans of all backgrounds and political persuasions have the opportunity to affect real change and take political power back from an unaccountable elite by joining the growing movement for a constitutional amendment to get big money out of politics,” she says. 
  • In The Fulcrum, American Promise volunteer Devin Hiett says apathy isn’t the reason that younger voters like her don’t show up at the polls. Instead, she says, “Recent polling of younger voters from the Harvard Kennedy School's Institute of Politics found that when young people don't vote, it's largely because they believe their vote doesn't have the power to bring about meaningful change ― and they're right.”
  • In the International Business Times, Rob Everts, former co-CEO of Equal Exchange, outlines how and why business leaders should advocate for a constitutional amendment to rein in the effects of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. “Giving corporations the same rights as people encourages them to use this accumulated wealth to exert an unhealthy level of political influence and gives them an unfair advantage over small and medium businesses,” he says. 
Read More on the Citizens United Roundup Page
The American Promise Candidate Pledge is a volunteer-led effort to get candidates and elected officials at all levels of government to pledge on the record that they will use their office to advance the 28th Amendment to put people, not money, in charge of our political system. See if your elected officials have signed the pledge, and if not, ask them to do so!
Learn More About the Pledge Campaign
Citizens United Anniversary Spurs a Citizen-Led Call to Action

Through these letters to the editor, citizen leaders across the country share how the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling 10 years ago led to an influx of campaign cash and tipped the balance toward a small group of wealthy donors. Thank you to all citizen leaders who submitted letters for publication to spread the word about the amendment to get big money out of politics!

From the Casper (Wyoming) Star Tribune: Citing “profound” damage to the electoral process since the Citizens United ruling 10 years ago, Ken Chestek of Laramie says we the people deserve better. “The interests of corporations, whose primary goal is to maximize shareholder value, are significantly different from the interests of human beings,” says Chestek, president of Wyoming Promise. “Only human beings can vote; therefore only human beings should be allowed to spend money, within reasonable limits, to influence elections.” Read more.

From the Virginian-Pilot: In an opinion article, Sally Ridgway of the Virginia American Promise Association outlines how donors unleashed by the Citizens United ruling have influenced elections, especially in swing states. “The effects of this deluge of cash have been alarming to all who believe in the doctrine of ‘one person, one vote,’ since the power of an individual’s vote can be greatly diminished by the power of a massive donation to a PAC that funds a TV or social media ad campaign influencing millions of votes,” she says, adding that Virginia could be the 21st state to approve a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to limit big money in politics. Read more.

From the Juneau (Alaska) Empire: Republican attorney and American Promise member Joe Geldhof points out how, in addition to fueling the pay-to-play political system, the Citizens United ruling took away states’ rights to determine their own campaign funding regulations. “Before the Citizens United decision, Alaska had a long-standing and well-founded set of laws that had carefully limited campaign donations for decades, until it was blasted into oblivion by five unelected justices sitting in Washington, D.C.” Read more

From the Boston Globe: Paul Lauenstein of Sharon, Massachusetts, notes that while the Supreme Court has a history of decisions that suppress democracy, the American people have a history of amending the Constitution to expand it. That provides hope in wake of the Citizens United decision a decade ago, he says: “It’s high time for a 28th Amendment to ensure political equality for all Americans.” Read more

From Southwest (Minnesota) News Media: Sally Johnson of Chanhassen says the risk of “dark money” spending to influence elections is rising, creating the need for another constitutional amendment to limit the power of wealthy donors. “The goal is for Minnesota to become the 21st state in the country to pass a state resolution of support,” she says. “It is sad to realize that this is what needs to be done to return Congress to caring about the American people instead of rich, often multinational corporations.” Read more.

From the (Toledo) Blade: Nancy Gurney of Lakeside, Ohio, says that while some anniversaries are occasions to celebrate, the 10-year mark for Citizens United offers reason to pause. “Prior to 2010, campaign donations were regulated by amount and frequency that prevented a pay-to-play system frequently seen in third world countries,” she says. “Our elections and our governance have been compromised. Legislators are more responsive to corporate greed than to their constituents.” Read more.

From the Alexandria (Virginia) Gazette Packet: Nancy Morgan of Alexandria, Virginia, urges citizens to unite and regain their political voice to overcome the power of unregulated political spending. “Big problems demand big solutions, and as 80% of Americans actually support an amendment that changes how money influences our representatives, we are already more than halfway up that hill,” Morgan says in her letter to the editor. Read more.

| What We’re Tracking This Week

From Law & Crime: Unleashed after the Citizens United ruling 10 years ago, donations from outside groups to Super PACs have soared into billions of dollars. In this article, American Promise Managing Director Leah Field says there is an alternative: “The 28th Amendment would allow Congress and the states to set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to influence elections and ballot measures.” The article also quotes Malcolm Salter, a Harvard Business School faculty who recently teamed with American Promise: “Only campaign finance reform can contain the cancer that is attacking the body of democratic capitalism in the country today.” Read more.

From the (Alaska) Peninsula Clarion: A resolution introduced by two members of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly calls for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to limit the influence of big money in politics. The resolution is motivated by the 2010 Supreme Court Citizens United ruling that held that corporations and other artificial entities are “persons” under the Constitution with a constitutional right to spend unlimited amounts of money on political speech. Read more.

From The Hill: John Pudner, executive director of Take Back Our Republic, calls on other conservatives to join him in opposition to the Citizens United decision, which he notes is “consistent with conservative views across the board” including capitalism and local-level government. “And let’s cut to the chase, some conservatives understand all the reasons Citizens United was bad judicial activism, but support it as a means to justify the ends of electing more Republicans,” Pudner says. “Republicans did benefit from the decision the first several years, but this is no longer the case.” Read more.

From the Ellsworth (Maine) American: With a history as a political bellwether state dating to 1888, Maine again is in the spotlight for its 2020 U.S. Senate race that could maintain the Republican majority or flip the Senate to Democratic control. “It’s a high-stakes contest, and when the stakes are big, so too is the money,” the editorial says, calling for Maine to also take the lead in the movement to get big money out of politics by approving a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment. Read more of the editorial and join the movement for a resolution through Stand With Maine

From The Fulcrum: Legislation approved by the Seattle City Council will ban most spending on local politics by foreign-influenced corporations. The measure emerged after Amazon spent millions last year in the city’s election. Maryland, Massachusetts and New York City are considering similar measures, which may gain traction at the federal level. Read more

From ABC News: As elections continue to draw record amounts of cash since the Citizens United ruling, watchdog groups reinforce their calls for change. In this article, American Promise President Jeff Clements says, “Americans know we have some big structural problems we have to fix,” adding that 20 states have endorsed a constitutional amendment to authorize Congress and states to set limits on campaign fundraising and spending. Read more.  

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: In this opinion piece columnist David Shribman recounts the heavy ripple effects of Citizens United, which, he says, “set in motion substantial changes in how campaigns are financed, disrupted the power of the established parties, boosted the influence of individual donors making independent contributions and—surprise!—increased the power of labor unions at the expense of major corporations.” Read more.

| Upcoming American Promise Events

January 25, Minneapolis, MN: Join Minnesota American Promise and Minnesota Move to Amend for an informative advocacy workshop on the We The People amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Attendees can learn how to introduce the resolution to their party caucus, provide testimony at legislative hearings, encourage state legislators to co-sponsor the resolution, and write a letter to the editor in support. The amendment will allow the people to define how big moneyed special interests and billionaires may or may not participate in our elections, ensuring political equality as a part of our First Amendment. Learn more and RSVP.

American Promise empowers Americans to act together to win the 28th Amendment so people, not money, govern in America.
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