Chicago-born Theresa Amato is a public advocate and author who works with nonprofit organizations to advance civic rights by training citizen advocates, promoting access to information, watchdogging government and corporate power, and influencing public policy. See theresaamato.com.
Amato was graduated with honors from Harvard in 1986 with a degree in Government and Economics, and from the New York University School of Law in 1989, where she was a Root-Tilden Scholar. After a federal judicial clerkship in the Southern District of New York, she was the youngest staff attorney at Public Citizen Litigation Group, where she was the director of the Freedom of Information Clearinghouse in Washington D.C. In 1993, Amato founded the Illinois-based Citizen Advocacy Center in the suburbs of Chicago to build democracy and served as the executive director for its first eight years.
She currently serves as executive director of Citizen Works to educate about and reform contract law and excessive corporate power. Amato has also served as the executive director of the Oak Park-River Forest Community Foundation, as the co-president of the Oak Park-River Forest League of Women Voters, and was in private practice in Chicago. Amato has experience litigating and supervising the litigation of dozens of lawsuits at all levels of state and federal courts, testifying in front of public bodies, conducting corporate transactional work in the areas of banking, trusts, and securities, philanthropic fundraising and grantmaking, and navigating regulatory agencies.
In both 2000 and 2004, Amato served as the national presidential campaign manager and in-house counsel for Ralph Nader, producing 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. In 2009, The New Press (New York) published her book, Grand Illusion: The Myth of Voter Choice in a Two-Party Tyranny, based on these experiences. She also appears prominently in the Sundance-selected and Academy Awards short-listed documentary titled “An Unreasonable Man,” which was in theatrical release throughout the United States in early 2007, and is now available in DVD.
As a manager of Amato & Main, LLC, Amato provides consulting advice for independent, third-party and progressive campaigns and nonprofit organizations. No legal services are provided out of Amato & Main, LLC.
In the last two decades, Amato has received several public interest honors, including being named a Wasserstein Fellow at Harvard Law School for her dedication to public interest law, and being selected as a Fellow at Harvard’s Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, where she led a seminar entitled “Mobilizing for Justice: How to Take on the System and Make a Difference." Amato has received both the NYU Law and Loyola University of Chicago Law School Public Interest Awards, and she was named at age 32 by the American Lawyer as one of the future leaders of the legal profession as one of the country’s "45 young lawyers (under 45) whose vision and commitment are changing lives."
Amato has been profiled in the New York Times’ Public Lives section and has appeared in many major national and international media outlets including the BBC, NPR, CNN, CSPAN, CBS, MSNBC, and the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, and Chicago Tribune. Her work has been published in the New York University Law Review, The National Civic Review, The Stanford Law & Policy Review, The Yale Journal of International Law, The Washington Post, CNN and The Harvard Law Record, among other publications, and she speaks to audiences around the world about progressive politics, transparency, human rights, electoral reform, curbing corporate power, and advancing justice.
Amato lives in Oak Park, IL with her spouse Todd Main and their two daughters.