At our retreat in Casper in April, we decided as a group to focus our efforts on persuading the legislature to adopt a resolution calling on Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution to overturn the rationale that led to the Citizens United decision. The idea is to add Wyoming to the list of states (now up to 20) that are ready to ratify an amendment to get dark money out of politics.
Our retreat also developed a list of ideas on how to move forward with that effort, including developing a simple message as well as recruiting support among local political leaders, civic groups, and ultimately the legislators themselves.In order to accomplish this work, our retreat concluded that we needed to form a new non-profit corporation, Wyoming Promise, Inc., to raise money and to provide central strategic leadership. That corporation has now been formed, and held the first meeting of its Board of Directors in Buffalo, WY on July 6, 2019. This message is a brief report of the important take-aways from that meeting, along with ideas for how YOU can continue to support this important work.
The Board of Directors
The newly-appointed directors of Wyoming Promise, Inc., (listed alphabetically) are:
Ken Chestek, Laramie (Albany County)
Dave Dodson, Jackson (Teton County)
Margie Farias, Lander (Fremont County)
Christy Gerrits, Gillette (Campbell County)
RC Johnson, Casper (Natrona County)
Mike Madden, Buffalo (Johnson County)
Lynn Horton Morrison, Powell (Park County)
John Rivera, Cheyenne (Laramie County)
Shelby Shadwell, Laramie (Albany County)
As you can see, we have a very diverse group! We are from all corners of the state, with strong bipartisan representation, gender and ethnic diversity. We bring a good mix of skills and interests to this job, but we all share one thing: a passion for getting dark money out of politics.
The first order of business was to adopt bylaws and take care of the technical side of running a non-profit corporation. The most important task was to select leadership for the corporation. After a good discussion, the board elected the following officers:
President – Ken Chestek
Vice-president – Lynn Horton Morrison
Secretary – Christy Gerrits
Treasurer – Shelby Shadwell
The bulk of our meeting was spent reviewing the results of the Casper retreat and developing strategies to carry into effect our plans for building support in the legislature for the Act to Promote Free and Fair Elections. That is the resolution that was passed by the Wyoming House of Representatives by a vote of 37-20-3, but which failed to pass the Senate Corporations, Elections and Local Governments committee by a vote of 2-3. Our strategy coming out of the Casper retreat is to spend the next 18 months educating the public about this issue and building support in the legislature to get the resolution adopted by both chambers in 2021, the next general session of the legislature.
To that end, the Board decided to create four working groups, each led by one or more board members. We will ask our supporters and volunteers around the state to volunteer to be part of one or more working groups, since our success depends on spreading the word widely about how desperately we need campaign finance reform. There is plenty of work for all of us to stay engaged with this issue!
The working groups are as follows:
Messaging – this group will work to develop brochures, talking points, and other content to clearly and succinctly convey our core message. Part of the work of this group will be to study and anticipate the counter-arguments that the big money groups will likely use against us, and to develop quick and powerful rebuttals to those probable attacks.
Education/outreach – Related to the Messaging group, this group will focus on disseminating the message to key individuals and interest groups. This work will require a large, geographically dispersed group of volunteers who can (a) contact city government, county commissioners, civic groups or other entities to ask for resolutions of support for the Act to Promote Free and Fair Elections; and (b) contact key legislators one-on-one to seek support for our resolution in the 2021 general session.
Communications – Also related to both the Messaging and Education/Outreach groups, this group will work on non-targeted outreach efforts to the general public, primarily through the Wyoming Promise website, our Facebook page, and other social media outlets.
Fundraising – None of this comes without cost. This group will help develop a budget for our effort, and then a strategy for raising money to support our work. The major expenses we expect to encounter in the next two years include the cost of a meet-and-greet with legislators in the Capitol during the next two sessions, printing of promotional materials, and the cost of a lobbyist to assist us in the 2021 general session. Other expenses we might consider include the cost of running one or more polls to help document the desire of Wyoming residents for this important reform.
Note that none of these groups will be working in silos. Our hope is that each working group will meet regularly (primarily by telephone conference) to do the work assigned to each group, and that the Board members assigned to each group will then report in to a monthly meeting of the Board to share information, coordinate with other groups, and to make sure that we are moving forward.
Here is where you fit in! Each working group (especially the Education/Outreach group) will need a large number of volunteers from all around the state to succeed. If you are interested in working with any of the four groups listed above, please go to [link] to fill out a very short questionnaire and indicate which of the group(s) you would like to work with. Please also let us know what skills or interests you bring to our work!
Your participation can be as extensive or as limited as your interest and time allows. For example, if you want to be part of a group to contact your local city council members to advocate for a resolution in support of our work, your participation might be as brief as a month or two and attending a few meetings. If, however, you have fundraising skills and would like to help out with that effort, your participation might be a little more extensive.
It will take a large group of us, working together, to succeed! Contact with local government officials and legislators is much more effective when it comes from a constituent. We had 300 volunteers out gathering signatures on our petitions, and the 20,000+ signatures we gathered had a huge impact on our success in the legislature in 2019. I know many of you are committed to continuing this important work. Please fill out the interest form and we will be in touch with you to continue this fight!
County team leaders and affiliated Wyoming Promise groups from our petition drive, we will be in touch with you soon to discuss how your groups can stay engaged with this work as we transition into this new phase.
And thanks to everybody who has gotten us this far. We think we see a path to success in 2021!
Ken Chestek, Wyoming Promise President, firstname.lastname@example.org
Shelby Shadwell, Wyoming Promise Treasurer, email@example.com