Citizen Leader Spotlight: Chip Cooper

"I feel that my political work has never been more important," says American Promise citizen leader Chip Cooper.

A lifelong political activist, Chip Cooper was born to parents who were both school teachers and what he calls "Rockefeller Republicans." Today, in St. Louis, Missouri—a red state that widely supports campaign finance reform—he's rallying his community to fight for the ratification of the 28th Amendment.

Chip discovered American Promise when he and fellow citizen leaders decided to get to the root cause of political corruption—big money in politics. "We believe that the flow of money into politics, created in great part by the Citizens United decision, is a cancer eating away at our Democracy," says Chip. "We aren't OK with that."

After researching groups involved in reforming campaign finance, Chip and his team determined that American Promise was the organization most closely aligned with their mission. Contacting the organization led to major support for establishing a St. Louis American Promise Association (APA).

One way in which American Promise supports local APAs is by encouraging them to create their strategies based on local conditions. That's why Chip's team focused their initial efforts on supporting a sister campaign called Clean Missouri, an organization working to wash big money out of state politics, reform the redistricting process, and lock the politician/lobbyist turnstile.

"Clean Missouri has done a fantastic job of running an initiative campaign that will likely be on the November 2018 ballot," says Chip. "We believe citizens will embrace their proposal by a large majority."

Tackling Money in Politics

Beside the obvious benefits to their own state's democracy, the St. Louis American Promise Association plans to bring Clean Missouri on board after November, tackling money in politics at the federal level via the 28th Amendment. "We envision flooding the Missouri Capital with citizens reminding their elected officials of the strong support for the Clean Missouri reforms among their own constituents," says Chip. He hopes Missouri officials will adopt a state resolution calling on Congress to send all states the 28th Amendment for ratification.

Chip's St. Louis team recently hosted American Promise's "Writing the 28th Amendment" town hall tour to build awareness and gain consensus on the amendment wording. "We worked as hard as I have ever worked, and I've done this a lot in my life, to get a big crowd and good media coverage," says Chip. "We got both! We challenge, in the most supportive way, each American Promise Association to surpass our turnout and coverage." The St. Louis APA inspired over 200 people to attend the town hall style meeting.

The St. Louis APA looks forward to using their experience to help other APAs across the nation. "We hope we have helped to catalyze a wave that will grow larger and larger in the 18 months ahead. When that 28th Amendment town hall takes place, our wildest dream is that it must be held in a stadium, not a meeting hall," says Chip.

Carrying their momentum forward, the St. Louis APA talks to elected officials as often as possible, urging them to take the AP Pledge. One month ago, the group successfully recruited the St. Louis Board of Aldermen to adopt a resolution calling on Congress to send the 28th Amendment to the states.

"It's eye-opening how broad the support is for this action," says Chip. "I rarely, if ever, run into any elected official who dismisses the idea of the 28th Amendment as misplaced. The American public supports us. They just need a chance to make the necessary changes. We're going to give them that chance."