The First Amendment and the 28th Amendment: Money, Speech and Representation

Free speech is a cornerstone of our democracy. The First Amendment gives every American the right to voice our opinions, our stances on issues, and our criticisms of our government.

In recent years, the Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment to protect unlimited political spending as speech. At American Promise, we believe this was not the original intent of the First Amendment. When money equals speech, it leads to inherent inequality: The richest speak the loudest and everyone else gets drowned out.

That is why American Promise is working toward the 28th Amendment to limit big money in politics.



The Problem

Most Americans believe in equal representation under the law, that having more money should not give someone a greater voice in our democracy. By protecting unlimited political spending as a form of speech under the First Amendment, the Supreme Court has determined that we do not all have an equal political voice. Equal citizenship has been transformed into a class system, with “super-citizens” whose wealth, according to the Supreme Court, entitles them to more representation, a louder voice, and more privileges than everyone else.

This system also undermines the ability of politicians to focus on voters and serve their constituents. Greater financial resources affords political candidates access to broader platforms, and thus greater likelihood of successful election and re-election. This forces politicians to make fundraising a key component of their work, in turn making elected officials more dependent on wealthy donors than voters for election and re-election and giving these donors greater access and influence to political processes and outcomes.

The First Amendment was intended to give all citizens a platform to express their thoughts and air their grievances. It was not intended to give wealthy special interests outsize influence over the American political process.

Our Solution

At American Promise, we are working on the local and national scale to pass a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that will limit the influence of big money in politics and restore First Amendment rights for people, not corporations.

On the national level, we are asking current and potential members of Congress to use their office to support and advance the 28th Amendment. In turn, we are asking voters to support candidates who have signed the American Promise pledge to support the Amendment. So far, more than 200 candidates and incumbents have signed the pledge.

On the local level, American Promise works with engaged citizens across the country to establish American Promise Associations. These APAs connect citizens who are ready to do the work to get their communities, candidates, and representatives on board in the fight against big money.

We are well on our way to passing an amendment. To propose the amendment and send it to the states, we need support in Congress; right now we have 170 of the 290 representatives and 49 of the 67 senators we need. Then 38 states must ratify the amendment; so far, 19 states and more than 800 cities and towns have called on Congress to send the 28th Amendment to the states for ratification.

We still need to amplify our efforts. If we are going to successfully pass the 28th Amendment, citizens of all backgrounds and political affiliations must come together. If you believe we must reclaim First Amendment rights for citizens, and limit big money’s influence over our political process, check out the links below to learn how you can get involved.

Learn how you can join or start an APA in your community.

Learn about the actions that have already been taken in your state here.