Several related Supreme Court decisions have effectively dismantled the century-old campaign finance framework that has protected American democracy and fostered a healthy economic environment. As this framework crumbles, special interest contributions have skyrocketed, undermining the integrity of our government and the market framework needed for innovation and long-term growth.
Total Outside Spending by Election Cycle Excluding Party Committees
An Emerging Solution: The 28th Amendment
Amazingly, this is an issue on which 83% of Americans agree. Today, California is one of 19 states that have passed resolutions for a 28th Amendment to overturn Citizens United and end unlimited spending in politics.
Business leaders are now joining this national wave of action, out of a deep personal commitment to representative democracy and shared concern for our country. As citizens and professionals, they are adding their voices to those of millions of Americans who agree that action is needed.
The 28th Amendment in brief:
- There are two major drafts of the 28th Amendment; both have strong support in the House and Senate.
- Nineteen States have passed resolutions supporting limits to campaign spending.
- It will enshrine in the Constitution the authority for Congress and States to limit campaign spending.
- It will ensure that human beings have more power than corporations and special interests.
- It will secure free and fair elections with equal representation for all Americans.
As business leaders and citizens with a wide variety of political interests and affiliations, we are convinced that the current dysfunction of our political system is not self-correcting but requires systemic change to restore the health of our civic institutions and the integrity of our government.
We have come together out of a deep personal commitment to representative democracy and a shared concern for our country, compelled to add our voices to those of millions of Americans across the political spectrum who agree that action is needed. Specifically:
We believe in a strong democracy where government is accountable to the people it serves. Unlimited political spending by corporations, unions, or individuals causes elected officials to be more responsive to special interests than to their own constituencies. This undermines faith in the American democratic process, violates decades of practice, and disregards the intent of the Constitution.
We believe in a strong economy where companies compete based on the value they create in the marketplace. As business leaders, we are uniquely positioned to clarify that a pay-to-play environment, where businesses compete by buying political influence, damages the real drivers of American innovation, competitiveness, and long-term prosperity.
We believe in a political system based on checks and balances and an open exchange of ideas. Unlimited political spending leads to concentrations of power, attacking the very foundations of our democracy, stifling productive political debate, inhibiting qualified candidates for political office, and impeding pragmatic, lasting solutions on any issue.
Therefore, we support a Constitutional amendment to allow limits on political spending, as one of several critical reforms needed to secure our republic. We commit to act as citizen leaders, informing ourselves and lending our voices as Americans across the political spectrum work together to craft, pass, and ratify such an amendment.
Business leaders from across the political spectrum have endorsed our Statement of Principle.
John E. Palmer
Co-Founder and Principal, Hanover Partners, Inc.
“We have reached the point where our political arena is flooded with money, and elected officials are beholden to sources of cash rather than to their constituents. Lawmakers spend some absurd percent of their time raising money for re-election rather than doing their jobs. Their choice is to compete in the “arms race” of political spending or be run over by a rival. Bottom line: special interests and wealthy donors OWN our elected officials, and the rest of us are along for the ride. The U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision made much of this possible; only a constitutional amendment to overturn this ruling will restore some sanity to our system.”
Lawrence G. Townsend
Intellectual property attorney, of counsel with the San Francisco law firm of Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, P.C..
“The 28th Amendment defines how we see ourselves as Americans and as a democracy. To support it is not only right; it’s a chance to reserve our place on the right side of history.”
Estate lawyer with O’Grady Law Group, former Chair, Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law Section, Bar Association of San Francisco
“We citizens have lost our voice to the highest bidder as a result of the unlimited corporate political spending sanctioned by the U.S. Supreme Court. The 28th Amendment is crucial for restoring America’s democracy and protecting us from plutocracy. I’m excited to join the movement to pass the 28th Amendment and return power to the American people.”
CEO of Rev Sustainability, Co-founder/CEO of Just Desserts, and Past Board Member of Presidio Graduate School
Corporate lawyer and co-chairman of the legal working group behind California’s benefit corporation legislation. San Francisco, CA.
“Citizens United threatens to turn our democracy into a corporate oligarchy. We need the 28th Amendment to restore and maintain our democracy.”
Jack E. Doty
Consulting Partner at CFOs2GO.
“Our democracy is at stake: its loss will be the result of good people doing nothing. What consolation in knowing that there is the 28th Amendment – and American Promise is forwarding the process towards its adoption!”
VP Business Operations in high tech, HBS 1991
“I support the amendment because I want to preserve democracy in our country. I want every person in this country to feel like their vote matters. And I want to eliminate the outsized impact corporations and the ultra rich such as the Koch brothers or George Soros have on our government.”
Nonprofit Leader and Strategy Consultant. Former Executive Director of Harvard Business School Association of Northern California (2016-18), Steering Committee Member of HBSANC Community Partners Program, and Member of Leadership Now Project
“In 2017, I became a member of the Leadership Now Project, an organization of business professionals who are concerned with the future of our democracy, and whose principles align very closely with American Promise. While I have been working with them to help elect leaders who I believe will represent their constituents and our country with honor and integrity, I have also come to believe that the fundamentals of our democracy are under serious threat and that we need to take bold steps to restore and strengthen them. American Promise is proposing this kind of institutional reform and I am excited to support their efforts.”
Executive Director, Healmen
“The American Dream is under attack by large players. There is beauty to small business ownership. That beauty is being discouraged by the Amazonization of our nation. We the people need a voice.”
Entrepreneur & Executive, Silicon Valley
“The concentration of wealth and political spending by corporate America and special interest has changed the face of our democracy. It creates politicians beholden to cash, rather than their constituents. Supporting the 28th amendment is a step at bringing our democracy back to the people.”
Managing Principle, Redwood Insights, LLC
Elizabeth Doty, Executive Committee Chair
Author, facilitator and consultant focused on helping companies execute their strategies and live their values in action.
“Many people recognize that unlimited political spending is a key driver of the growing distrust in our society and lack of faith in our civic institutions -- yet they may not be aware that it is also bad for business. A pay-to-play political system pushes businesses into short-termism and an ‘arms race’ of political spending just to maintain their positions – rather than focusing on real value-creation in the marketplace. This is why it is so important for business leaders to add their voices to those of millions of other Americans calling for a 28th amendment to limit political spending.”
Communications strategist, organizational designer, and leadership mentor supports global clients in bridging the gaps between their aspirations, operations, and communications.
“Passing the 28th Amendment will ensure that America’s democracy is not for sale to the highest bidder, nor subject to changing political winds. Stability and fairness promote sustainable success in our businesses and communities.”
Drug design, discovery research and business development consultant to biotech companies. San Francisco, CA.
“We need the 28th Amendment to restore the voice of the average citizen in our democracy.”
Jane Greenthal, LEED AP
Regional Consulting Strategy Director, Gensler, and Harvard MBA (1991), with over 25 years in strategic planning, marketing, business development and executive leadership.
“The 28th amendment is the best present solution to a profoundly difficult problem. The evidence is compelling—money has infiltrated politics at an unprecedented level and is impacting policy. Whether it’s gun control, health care, environmental protection...whatever may be in the interest of the larger good, is no longer representative of the people but special interests who literally buy influence at the highest levels. It shouldn’t be about picking sides and throwing money at it to influence outcomes—regardless of which side you’re on. The 28th amendment won’t solve everything, but it’s a pivotal first step to thwart political corruption and regain our democracy.”
Pay to play to keep your loophole
“How $225,000 Can Help Secure a Pollution Loophole at Trump’s EPA” from New York Times, Feb 15, 2018.
Fitzgerald Trucking kept an emissions loophole that was about to be closed through a $225,000 campaign contribution to Representative Diane Black and a little help from Scott Pruitt’s EPA.
Fitzgerald is the largest dealer in ‘glider’ trucks. Glider trucks are retrofitted with engines built in the 1990s with lower emission standards. They’re cheaper to operate but emit 55-times more pollution than trucks with today’s emission standards. Glider trucks are exempt from today’s emissions standards; EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt kept the glider truck exemption at the urging of Representative Diane Black. The $225,000 contribution to Black was received from several Fitzgerald family members to ensure they to continue profit off their exemption and old polluting truck engines for decades to come.
Fear of the year
America’s Top Fears 2017, October 11, 2017.
The 2017 top fear for Americans: “Corrupt Government officials.” That’s at 74.5%, up 13.9% from 2016 according to Chapman University’s Survey of American Fears.
It seems Americans have a wider definition of corruption than the Supreme Court. Citizens United defines corruption narrowly as quid pro quo corruption: “That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy.” Note the irony of those words as Americans are losing faith in their democracy.
It’s no surprise that two-thirds of political ads in the 2016 were funded with dark money: funds to ‘non-profit’ organizations without contribution limits and no donor information. It’s no wonder that Americans fear corruption in their government!
With trust in government at an all-time low, business people can lead the way
Results of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer
The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer shows most people distrust our democratic institutions. Edelman is a global communications marketing firm that has published an annual trust and credibility survey for the past 18 years.
People today consider experts and CEOs more credible than governments officials. Over 60% trust technological and academic experts. For business people there is “a fast-recovering belief in CEOs (up from 37% to 44%) being rewarded for speaking out on issues.” There is strong support for business leaders proactively advocating for what they think is right. Some 64% say they want CEOs to “take the lead on policy change,” rather than wait for government, especially when it comes to improving economic and social conditions.
Our current political environment gives business leaders the opportunity to be the face of a company that stands up for what is right and bolster their credibility. In his annual letter to CEOs, Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, encourages other business people to become more involved in policy, “Stakeholders are demanding that companies exercise leadership on a broader range of issues. And they are right to: a company’s ability to manage environmental, social, and governance matters demonstrates the leadership and good governance that is so essential to sustainable growth.”
Having an opinion, and not being afraid to express it, can be good for business
“When CEOs Become Activists,” by Carmen Nobel from Harvard Business School Working Knowledge, April 20, 2016
CEO activism is happening in greater numbers than ever before, concludes a paper investigating consumers’ reactions to CEO’s public political positions. ‘CEO activism’ is defined as corporate executives speaking out on social or environmental issues not directly related to their core businesses.
Researchers designed an experiment to evaluate if Apple CEO Tim Cook’s very public disapproval of Indiana’s 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) influenced voters likeliness to support his public position and if it affected their buying habits. RFRA allows businesses to cite religious freedom as a reason to deny service to any customer.
For those who already support the law, there was little impact on their position based on Tim Cook’s name recognition, but importantly, the research found there was no change in buying habits by the same consumers. Among those who opposed the law, they were twice as likely to buy Apple products as before. It seems that for a CEO activist there is no pain but real gain.
Overwhelming support for campaign finance reform from business leaders
“American Business Leaders On Campaign Finance And Reform,” from the Committee for Economic Development, June, 2013.
An overwhelming majority of business executives are not happy at all with our campaign finance system, according to a survey conducted by the bipartisan Hart Research Associates.
In fact, 87% of respondents believe the campaign finance system “needs major reforms or complete overhaul.” Only 13% believe that the campaign finance system needs only minor adjustments. A large majority (89%) of business executives support “limits on donations to political candidates and groups.” It is clear that business leaders across the United States strongly support campaign finance reform: not a single respondent thought that no reform was necessary!
If you are interested in joining Business Leaders for American Promise – Bay Area Chapter please fill out the form below: