While Washington is divided, Issue One celebrates bipartisan political reform and presents the inaugural Teddy Roosevelt Courage Awards to members of Congress

Nearly 100 former members of Congress, political reform community leaders, board members, and donors celebrated with Issue One this month as we honored four members of Congress — Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), and Representatives Mike Gallagher (R-WI) and Derek Kilmer (D-WA) — with the inaugural Teddy Roosevelt Courage Awards for their outstanding work as bipartisan champions to fix our broken political system and secure our elections.

“These four members of Congress have consistently reached across the aisle and championed political reform when Washington is at its most divided. They are working to rebuild public trust in our great experiment of self-government at a time when it is cratering,” said Issue One Founder and CEO Nick Penniman. “Every day, Americans yearn for leadership and evidence that their concerns about our broken political system are being heard. These four leaders are listening and working in a bipartisan fashion to protect our elections, fix our politics, and modernize Congress. Issue One is proud to work with them to strengthen our democracy as they carry on the tenacious spirit of the 26th president.” 

“Election security should not be a partisan issue,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), the lead sponsor of the bipartisan Secure Elections Act, which would help states upgrade their election infrastructure. “For whatever reason in our country right now, we’re saying ‘us’ and ‘them’ a lot. We need to get back to saying ‘us’ more.” Lankford’s legislation is an example of how Congress can reaffirm states’ roles in administering federal elections while also giving them the support they need to fend off foreign attacks on voting machines and systems. 

“Foreign intrusion into our elections is a crisis, and I can’t emphasize enough how unique it is to be having a bipartisan event in the middle of Capitol Hill today, especially with my friend Senator Lankford because we’ve been working together on this since the beginning,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who was also a lead sponsor on the Secure Elections Act. Both Senators believe there have to be guidelines for states to spend election security money well.

Sen. Klobuchar is also the lead sponsor on the bipartisan, bicameral Honest Ads Act, along with Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Mark Warner (D-VA). The bill is the first best step to securing our elections by increasing transparency and accountability for political ads sold online, and helping to prevent foreign disinformation campaigns. It’s backed by 39 members of Congress from both parties in the House and Senate. “We are never giving up this fight. Both parties will have to come to grips with the fact that our democracy is more important than anything that divides us, and it’s more important than any political party,” Klobuchar said.

“I know we will correct the course of this country, because on these issues, the response from everyone in my district on both sides of the aisle is overwhelming,” said Rep, Mike Gallagher (R-WI). “Sometimes it won’t be fun. But it’s hard work and it needs doing. I’m lucky to have good friends to keep me on track like Senator Lankford and Issue One who have been phenomenal to work with on these issues.” Gallagher is a lead sponsor on the bipartisan Political Accountability and Transparency Act, which would increase transparency behind sponsors of political advertisements, strengthen coordination rules between super PACs and candidates, and stop members of Congress from abusing leadership PAC funds. He’s also a lead sponsor of the Honest Ads Act in the House with Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA), another Teddy Roosevelt Courage Awards recipient. 

Kilmer chairs the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, the bipartisan select committee dedicated to ending dysfunction in Congress and modernizing its operations. “Our committee is focused on making Congress function better on behalf of the American people, and tonight I’m honored to be given an award in the name of Theodore Roosevelt because he was a reformer. And this is a time when reform is needed.” The select committee, under the leadership of Kilmer and Vice Chair Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA) has unanimously passed 29 recommendations to date and was just extended for another year. 

Each of the awardees thanked Issue One for its work with both parties on political reform and election security. “I thank Issue One for supporting the ongoing efforts to modernize Congress and get our government back on track,” Kilmer said.

Nearly 20 members of Issue One ReFormers Caucus, led by the three co-chairs Amb. Tim Roemer (D-IN), Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN), and Amb. Connie Morella (R-MD), applauded the members for reaching across the aisle and prioritizing political reform in their work. 

“Democracy is under siege and it is up to us to keep fighting to protect it. Everyone in this room agrees that stopping foreign interference in our elections and fixing our broken political system are the most important issues facing America and the world right now,” said Roemer. “We have to keep fighting for democracy because it is under siege right now.” 

“Every day we wake up thinking about how to remind our country’s leadership that we cannot make these partisan issues. We have to remind people that Congress needs to put our country above every other interest — party, re-election, or political allegiance. The time for reform has come,” said Wamp

Issue One is proud that so many ReFormers spent the evening discussing and debating reform. They included former  Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ), former Rep. Mike Kopetski (D-OR), former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT), former Rep. Marjorie Margolies (D-PA), former Rep. Martin Lancaster (D-NC), former Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY), former Rep. Claudine Schneider (R-RI), former Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE), former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), former Rep. Glenn Nye (D-VA), former Rep. Dennis Hertel (D-MI), former Rep. Tom McMillen (D-MD), former Rep. Jim Slattery (D-KS), former Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA), former Sen. Mark Begich (D-AK). 

Issue One’s “Don’t Mess With US” project has been calling on the Senate to act on a suite of bipartisan bills — including the Secure Elections Act and Honest Ads Act — to protect our elections and stop foreign interference.