Declaration to Renew the Founders’ Promise

he American Revolution gave birth to a bold experiment in self-governance that has made the United States a beacon of hope for countless people who yearn to achieve the freedoms, rights and opportunities enshrined in our Constitution.

Ours is the oldest and strongest standing democratic republic in human history — one that must be continually protected and vigilantly improved by each generation. Yet now, our system of government is failing to live up to the promise of America set forth by the Founders.

We face a number of challenges that seriously threaten our ability to live up to this promise:

  • Powerful factions manipulate the legislative process for their own narrow advantage, undermining the “consent of the governed.”
  • Our elected officials devote disproportionate amounts of time to political fundraising, which often creates profound conflicts of interest and grants large donors unfettered access while marginalizing the voices of regular citizens.
  • Congressional districts are drawn in ways that reduce political competition and embolden the most extreme voices in primary elections.
  • Outside groups spend hundreds of millions of dollars — often in opaque ways — vilifying and denigrating members of the opposite party.
  • Democratic norms and principles, in addition to common-sense ethics rules, are routinely ignored and undermined.
  • National security is compromised by short-term budgets that prohibit long-range planning, require procurement of outdated weapons systems and encourage lassitude rather than leadership from congressional committees.

All of these factors foster a poisonous political discourse marked by falsehoods and absurd exaggerations; create a distorted legislative process in which influence, rather than merit, too often dominates lawmaking; and mire congressional leaders in vicious cycles of tribalism, gridlock and government shutdowns.

Under these conditions, opportunities for strengthening America are deferred or lost and long-term challenges go unaddressed amidst short-term crises of our own making. The hallmark confidence of the American people spirals into a growing sense of despair that our nation, for the first time in its proud history, might no longer be up to the task of continual self-improvement.

Authoritarians and dictators around the world are watching carefully. Many hope we will fatally stumble as they seek to undermine American leadership on the global stage and discredit the universal democratic ideals embodied in our Constitution. They know that no system of government that breaks faith with its own creed in such a fundamental way can long endure, and ours is no exception.

With these high stakes in mind, Americans have no choice but to urgently confront the status quo in Washington that stands in the way of meaningful political reform and renewal.

We the people must:

  • Condemn those who pander to factions and narrow interests, and encourage a new wave of leaders who bridge divides and place country above party.
  • Remake the relationship between money and influence, incentivizing the participation of everyday citizens and small-dollar donors in our political process.
  • Protect the integrity of our voting and elections processes and enact structural reforms that will ensure that those processes are fair and more accurately reflect the voice of the American voter.
  • Insist on an honest and transparent political process that enables Americans to hold their elected officials accountable, that values an independent Fourth Estate and that recognizes the importance of elections that are free of undue influence from foreign interests.
  • Hold our elected officials to the highest ethical standards, curtail conflicts of interest and strengthen law enforcement so that public office is not used for private gain.
  • Strengthen Congress as the first branch of government by rewarding collaboration among parties and providing the support systems that members of Congress need to do their jobs well.

Some reforms cannot happen without legislative action. Others rely on an engaged citizenry. All require courageous, ethical leadership focused on the nation’s long-term good.

In a functioning democracy, power resides with the people. So, too, does a duty to repair and strengthen our system rest with each generation and with every citizen.

With this Declaration, and our signatures, we pledge our honor and our urgent action to work together to renew the Founders’ promise — and restore a republic anchored in civility, wisdom and the “consent of the governed.” Through our common efforts, America will re-emerge as a beacon of hope for those in our own land, and those throughout the world, who aspire to the liberty and dignity that only self-government can ensure.

Signed by:

Rep. Jason Altmire (D-PA)

Rep. Chester Atkins (D-MA)

Rep. Les Aucoin (D-OR)

Sec. Bruce Babbitt (D-AZ)

Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA)

Rep. Michael Barnes (D-MD)

Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC)

Rep. Charles Bass (R-NH)

Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-CO)

Rep. Berkley Bedell (D-IA)

Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK)

Rep. Doug Bereuter (R-NE)

Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-CA)

Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)

Amb. James Blanchard (D-MI)

Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY)

Rep. David Bonior (D-MI)

Rep. Don Bonker (D-WA)

Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL)

Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ)

Sec. Bill Brock (R-TN)

Rep. Tom Campbell (R-CA)

Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell(R-CO)

Gov. John Carlin (D-KS)

Gov. Arne Carlson (R-MN)

Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO)

Rep. Robert Carr (D-MI)

Rep. Ed Case (D-HI)

Gov. Michael Castle (R-DE)

Rep. John Cavanaugh (D-NE)

Rep. Ben Chandler (D-KY)

Rep. Rod Chandler (R-WA)

Rep. Jon Christensen (R-NE)

Rep. Bob Clement (D-TN)

Rep. William Clinger (R-PA)

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)

Rep. Sam Coppermith (D-AZ)

Amb. John Danforth (R-MO)

Rep. Buddy Darden (D-GA)

Sen. Tom Daschle (D-SD)

Rep. Jim Davis (D-FL)

Rep. Lincoln Davis (D-TN)

Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA)

Rep. Ron Dellums (D-CA)

Rep. Charles Djou (R-HI)

Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND)

Rep. Tom Downey (D-NY)

Gov. Michael Dukakis (D-MA)

Sen. David Durenberger (R-MN)

Rep. David Emery (R-ME)

Rep. Karan English (D-AZ)

Rep. Thomas Evans, Jr. (R-DE)

Rep. Victor Fazio (D-CA)

Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. (D-TN)

Amb. Wyche Fowler (D-GA)

Rep. Martin Frost (D-TX)

Rep. Elizabeth Furse (D-OR)

Rep. Dick Gephardt (D-MO)

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA)

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD)

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA)

Sec. Dan Glickman (D-KS)

Rep. Bart Gordon (D-TN)

Rep. Jim Greenwood (R-PA)

Sec. Chuck Hagel (R-NE)

Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN)

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY)

Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA)

Rep. MichaelHarrington(D-MA)

Sen. Gary Hart (D-CO)

Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO)

Rep. Dennis Hertel (D-MI)

Rep. Paul Hodes (D-NH)

Gov. Phil Hoff (D-VT)

Rep. Rush Holt, Jr. (D-NJ)

Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman (D-NY)

Rep. Darlene Hooley (D-OR)

Rep. Amo Houghton (R-NY)

Rep. Jerry Huckaby (D-LA)

Amb. Bill Hughes (D-NJ)

Gov. Jim Hunt (D-NC)

Sen. Tim Hutchinson (R-AR)

Rep. Earl Hutto (D-FL)

Rep. Robert Inglis, Sr. (R-SC)

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)

Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL)

Sen. J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA)

Rep. David Jolly (R-FL)

Amb. Jim Jones (D-OK)

Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R-KS)

Gov. Thomas Kean, Sr. (R-NJ)

Rep. Barbara Kennelly (D-CT)

Gov. Bob Kerrey (D-NE)

Rep. Ron Klein (D-FL)

Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ)

Rep. Mike Kopetski (D-OR)

Rep. Peter Kostmayer (D-PA)

Amb. Madeleine Kunin (D-VT)

Rep. Steve Kuykendall (R-CA)

Sec. Ray LaHood (R-IL)

Gov. Richard Lamm (D-CO)

Rep. Martin Lancaster (D-NC)

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

Rep. Larry Larocco (D-ID)

Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA)

Rep. John LeBoutillier (R-NY)

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI)

Rep. Mel Levine (D-CA)

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR)

Rep. Bob Livingston (R-LA)

Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS)

Sen. Dick Lugar (R-IN

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-CA)

Rep. Dan Maffei (D-NY)

Rep. Andrew Maguire (D-NJ)

Rep. Marjorie Margolies (D-PA)

Rep. Pete McCloskey (R-CA)

Sec. John McHugh (R-NY)

Rep. Matthew McHugh (D-NY)

Gov. John McKernan (R-ME)

Rep. Tom McMillen (D-MD)

Rep. George Miller (D-CA)

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL)

Sec. Norm Mineta (D-CA)

VP Walter Mondale (D-MN)

Rep. Jim Moody (D-WI)

Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA)

Rep. Connie Morella (R-MD)

Rep. Patrick J. Murphy (D-PA)

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC)

Rep. George Nethercutt (R-WA)

Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA)

Rep. Tom Osborne (R-NE)

Rep. Richard Ottinger (D-NY)

Sec. Leon Panetta (D-CA)

Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA)

Rep. Elizabeth Patterson (D-SC)

Rep. Tom Petri (R-WI)

Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA)

Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-ND)

Rep. John Edward Porter (R-IL)

Rep. Jon Porter (R-NV)

Sen. Larry Pressler (R-SD)

Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH)

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR)

Rep. Jack Quinn (R-NY)

Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI)

Gov. Tom Ridge (R-PA)

Gov. Bill Ritter (D-CO)

Amb. Tim Roemer (D-IN)

Gov. Roy Romer (D-CO)

Rep. Ron Sarasin (R-CT)

Rep. Bill Sarpalius (D-TX)

Amb. Jim Sasser (D-TN)

Sec. Ed Schafer (R-ND)

Rep. Claudine Schneider (R-RI)

Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-CO)

Rep. Joe Schwarz (R-MI)

Rep. Philip Sharp (D-IN)

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT)

Rep. Karen Shepherd (D-UT)

Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC)

Rep. Gerry Sikorski (D-MN)

Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY)

Rep. David Skaggs (D-CO)

Rep. Jim Slattery (D-KS)

Rep. Peter Smith (R-VT)

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME)

Rep. John Spratt, Jr. (D-SC)

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL)

Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-TX)

Sen. Adlai Stevenson III (D-IL)

Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI)

Amb. Richard Swett (D-NH)

Gov. Bob Taft (R-OH)

Rep. Robin Tallon (D-SC)

Rep. John Tanner (D-TN)

Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA)

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE)

Rep. Karen Thurman (D-FL)

Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)

Rep. John Tierney (D-MA)

Sen. Joe Tydings (D-MD)

Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO)

Rep. Bob Walker (R-PA)

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN)

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA)

Gov. Christine Todd Whitman (R-NJ)

Rep. Pat Williams (D-MT)

Sen. Tim Wirth (D-CO)

Gov. Robert Wise (D-WV)

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)

Rep. Bill Zeliff (R-NH)