Donald L. Fowler (born 1935) served as National Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1995 to 1997. (Christopher J. Dodd served as "General Chairman" during this same period.) Fowler is a political science professor and businessman from South Carolina who has spent most of his adult life in various Democratic Party roles, including state party executive director, state party chair, and CEO of the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.
Fowler earned a degree in psychology from Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in 1957 where he had his basketball jersey retired, was president of the student body, and became a member of the Kappa Alpha Order. For his master’s and doctoral degrees, he attended the University of Kentucky, a pioneering institution in the disciplines of political science and public administration. He has taught public administration and American politics at the University of South Carolina since 1964, and has taught at Wofford from time to time. He is also a retired colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve and a graduate of the U.S. Army War College.
Prior to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, he was appointed by party chairman Paul G. Kirk to chair the "Fairness Commission," one of many Democratic commissions created to reform the presidential nomination process. Fowler's Fairness Commission banned winner-take-all districts in primaries and caucuses, expanded the reach of the 15% threshold rule, and increased the number of convention superdelegates from 568 in 1980 to 650 in 1988.
Fowler's term as National Chairman included the 1996 presidential election between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. As national chairman, Fowler ran the party's day-to-day operations while Christopher Dodd, the general chairman, served with Fowler as the party's public faces. The two co-chair positions were established several times by President Clinton from 1995-2001, although the roles are usually combined. In 1996, Fowler made a determination that Lyndon LaRouche, who was seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination for the fifth time, was not a "bona fide Democrat" because of his "expressed political beliefs... which are explicitly racist and anti-Semitic" and due to his "past activities including exploitation of and defrauding contributors and voters", and instructed state parties to disregard votes for him. LaRouche lost his suit and his appeal, in a case known as LaRouche v. Fowler.
After Clinton's re-election, Fowler was accused of contacting the CIA about a businessman, Roger Tamraz, who had donated money to the Democratic party. His answer to questions from the US Senate about this was, "I have in the middle of the night--high noon--late in the afternoon--early in the morning, every hour of the day, for months now searched my memory about conversations with the CIA. And I have no memory, no memory of any conversation with the CIA." Fowler never faced formal charges and the investigation of his role ended without controversy.
Fowler remains active in Democratic politics as a member of the DNC. Following the 2006 midterm elections, in response to James Carville's call to remove Howard Dean as chair, Fowler e-mailed his fellow DNC members, saying, "Some ill-advised voices have suggested that, because of his 50-state strategy, Governor Dean should be replaced as Chair of the DNC. This is nonsense. The 50-state strategy is exactly what the Democratic Party needed and continues to need.... Democrats won a great victory on November 7—control of the United States House of Representatives, control of the United States Senate, majority of Governors, and majority of state legislative bodies. Why should anyone want to mess with the team that won these remarkable results? Governor Dean deserves to continue as DNC Chair."
Fowler and his communications agency have handled state and federal government relations projects for a diverse group of clients. He also has carried out marketing studies, advertising, public relations and marketing programs for national and international clients. He now teaches Urban Politics at The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina.
Fowler's son, Donnie Fowler, ran unsuccessfully for DNC chair in 2005.
- Binning, William C; Esterly, Larry Eugene; Sracic, Paul A (1999). Encyclopedia of American parties, campaigns, and elections. ISBN 978-0-313-30312-8.
- Case: court=dc no=967191a
- Bligh, Gur. "Extremism in the Electoral Arena: Challenging the Myth of American Exceptionalism". Brigham Young University Law Review (Provo) 2008 (5): 1367.
- LaRouche v. Fowler, 152 F.3d 974 (United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit Aug. 28, 1998).
- Hotline On Call: Carville's Still On A Tear, But Rahm and Dean Will Bury The Hatchet
- Interview with Fowler
- Summary of the Tamraz Scandal
- Washington Post 9/9/1997 CIA Memos Detail DNC Chief Actions
- Sen. Patrick Moynihan's Remarks Regarding Fowler
- Political Wire: Explains Dodd and Fowler's Roles
- Fowler as a 2000 Convention Delegate
- Fowler opposing earlier primaries
- Video of Don Fowler's Hurricane remarks.
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with Christopher J. Dodd