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American Promise unveils UnCommon Wealth, a study of big money corruption in Pennsylvania politics

(Harrisburg, Pa.) --- American Promise, a national citizen advocacy organization, today unveiled its report, “Uncommon Wealth: Outside Spending and Influence in the 2022 Pennsylvania Senate Election” – a comprehensive review of the untoward influence of money in Pennsylvania’s most recent senatorial primary elections.

American Promise

(Harrisburg, Pa.) — American Promise, a national citizen advocacy organization, today unveiled its report, “Uncommon Wealth: Outside Spending and Influence in the 2022 Pennsylvania Senate Election” – a comprehensive review of the untoward influence of money in Pennsylvania’s most recent senatorial primary elections.

American Promise Executive Director Bill Cortese was joined by supporters from the General Assembly and business community to outline the report and call for changes to the avalanche of spending in the electoral process. 

“The most recent Senate primary here in Pennsylvania saw $99 million dollars spent with a large portion of that coming from SuperPACs who turned Pennsylvania into a playground for billionaires and the DC consultant class,” said Cortese. “This influx of unlimited money is minimizing the impact a regular voter can have as their voices are drowned out by the sea of SuperPAC dollars.”

American Promise proposes to end big money corruption in the politics of Pennsylvania and the country by enacting a 28th amendment that would revert regulation of campaign finance back to the jurisdiction of the states, rather than the courts. The amendment reads as follows:

Section 1: We the People have compelling sovereign interests in representative self-government, federalism, the integrity of the electoral process, and the political equality of natural persons.

Section 2: Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to forbid Congress or the States, within their respective jurisdictions, from reasonably regulating and limiting contributions and spending in campaigns, elections, or ballot measures.

Section 3: Congress and the States shall have the power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and artificial entities, including by prohibiting artificial entities from raising and spending money in campaigns, elections, or ballot measures.

PA State Representative Meghan Schroeder (R-Bucks) announced her intention to introduce a resolution in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives calling on Congress to pass the amendment and supporting its ratification in the Commonwealth. 

“As state legislators, we have a responsibility to our constituents to protect the integrity of the electoral process, but we’re so limited in that ability until we can write the rules on dark money campaign contributions,” said Representative Schroeder. “Millions flow into our state to influence our elections and we can’t do a thing about it, that’s why I’m introducing this resolution supporting a 28th Amendment. Once Congress acts, I believe that ratification here in Pennsylvania will be swift. We’re tired of big money corrupting the process.”

“Unlimited money doesn’t make our politics better, and I’ve seen that as a voter, an elected official and as a lobbyist,” said former State Representative Jennifer Mann (D-Lehigh). “As the amount spent on campaigns rises exponentially every year, we have to do something to stem the flow of millions into these races; state legislatures should be given the authority to make the rules governing the elections within their borders.”

A 2014 Princeton study found that the wishes of the average voter had a 0 percent, statistically insignificant, effect on policy. The study found that special interests with strong funding had far more success getting issues addressed legislatively, and that amount of funding is alarming – nationally and in Pennsylvania. 

“Voters need a voice in our process; that’s how we reach the solutions that really work for them,” said David Black, former President & CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC. “Small business owners, blue collar workers, families – those are the folks that Harrisburg and Washington are supposed to answer to, not the whims of mega millionaires and foreign interests writing checks.”

The Commission on the Practice of Democratic Citizenship, a two-year project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, found that a healthy constitutional democracy depends on responsive political institutions that “foster a healthy civic culture of participation and responsibility.” The following are key statistics from the Uncommon Wealth report that demonstrate that healthy civic culture is not what we are seeing:

  • $99 million was spent in the PA Senate primaries alone. Just six years ago, $170 million was spent on this seat, TOTAL. The primary in 2022 is already over half of that. 
  • $3.5 billion was raised by SuperPACs in 2020. 2022 will likely exceed that number.
  • $18 million was spent in the 2022 primaries by Pennsylvania’s richest person – just one person.
  • $515 million was spent on the most expensive Senate race of the 2020 cycle. In 2010, the most expensive Senate race in the country spent $27 million.
  • 90 percent of voters who believe that government is run for the benefit of moneyed interests and not for the people.

“Based on our examination of how the new dark money system works in US Senate races and other elections, it is a near-certainty that the dominance of big donors, shady SuperPACs, billionaire, union and corporate money, and untested celebrity candidates will leave Pennsylvanian voters less informed, more frustrated, and even less well-represented – no matter who wins – when the 2022 election is over,” reads Uncommon Wealth.

Read the report here americanpromise.net/PAreport.

American Promise is a non-partisan national organization working to unite Americans behind a constitutional solution to the runaway money and corruption problem in American elections. With members and supporters across Pennsylvania and nationwide, American Promise Pennsylvania members have launched For Our Freedom Pennsylvania.

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