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Theresa Amato

Born: in Chicago, Illinois
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Amato grew up in Chicago and is now based in the DC area with her spouse and two daughters.

Biography: Theresa Amato is an award-winning public advocate and author who works to hold government and corporate power accountable. She has spent more than 25 years working from the local to the global, and across sectors in the nonprofit, for profit, political and advocacy arenas.In 1993, Amato founded the nationally-recognized, Illinois-based Citizen Advocacy Center to build democracy and served as its first executive director for eight years. She currently serves as its Board President. For more than twenty years, the CAC has pioneered community lawyering as it continues to train public interest advocates from its storefront suburban office.In both 2000 and 2004, Amato was the national presidential campaign manager, in-house counsel (2000) and General Counsel (2004) for Ralph Nader, producing with her team the highest vote count in the United States for a third-party progressive candidate since 1924, and shepherding myriad election reform efforts and litigation to open up the political system to competition.Amato is a manager of Amato & Main, LLC, through which she has provided consulting advice for independent, third-party and progressive presidential and congressional campaigns, nonprofit organizations and foundations. Amato has also served as a former co-president of the League of Women Voters of Oak Park/River Forest, and as a current board member of Citizens in Charge Foundation, the Center for Competitive Democracy, Citizen Advocacy Center and Citizen Works. Amato was the former president and executive director of Citizen Works, which she started with Ralph Nader in 2001 to advance justice by strengthening citizen participation in power and creating innovative public interest initiatives; for example, she launched in 2009, the Fair Contracts Project ( to reform the fine print in standard form contracts.Amato graduated with honors from Harvard University in 1986 with a degree in Government and Economics, and from New York University School of Law in 1989, where she was a Root-Tilden Scholar, an executive board editor of the Law Review, and the recipient of the Orison S. Marden for first place oralist in moot court competition and of the Vanderbilt Medal for “extraordinary contributions to the school of law.”


Primary Literary Genre(s): Non-Fiction

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers

Email: Amato
Theresa Amato on WorldCat :

Selected Titles

A childhood abducted :
ISBN: 0934143420 OCLC: 26721652

Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, New York : ©1991.

Grand illusion :
ISBN: 9781595583949 OCLC: 298470758

New Press : New York : 2009.

As the national campaign manager for Ralph Nader's historic runs for president in 2000 and 2004, Theresa Amato had a rare ringside role in two of the most hotly contested presidential elections this country has seen. In Grand Illusion, she gives us a witty, thoughtful critique of the American electoral system, as well as a powerful argument for opening up the contest to competition. Busting the national myth that anyone can grow up and be President of the United States, Amato shows how independent and third-party candidates face egregious structural barriers that prevent them from fully participating in the race or even getting their names on the ballot. In addition to waging effective voter campaigns, these candidates must simultaneously fend off preposterous numbers of legal challenges from the two major parties - during twelve weeks of Nader's 2004 run, as many as twenty-five lawsuits were filed in an effort to squash his campaign. Amato makes a powerful case for specific federal reforms in the United States' arcane state system of ballot access laws, complex regulations, and partisan control of elections. Along the way, she also offers a spirited history of how third-part and independent candidates have kept important issues on the table in elections past and contribute to our political life. Despite the dramatic run-up to the historic 2008 election and the efforts of both Obama and McCain to set themselves apart, the national political debate occurs in a very narrow range that's defined by two major parties, which are both influenced by the same corporations, special interest groups, and lobbyists. And on Election day, there just are not the kinds of genuine options that a healthy, multi-party democracy should offer. Looking beyond the Nader story to campaigns waged by challengers John Anderson, Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, and others, Amato shows how limiting ourselves to two major parties deprives our country of a robust political life, strips would-be contenders of their First Amendment rights, and cheats voters out of meaningful political choice. -- from dust jacket.