Campaign Legal Center

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The Campaign Legal Center
FoundedJanuary 2002 (2002-01)
FounderTrevor Potter
  • Washington, D.C.
Area served
United States

The Campaign Legal Center is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) that supports strong enforcement of United States campaign finance laws.[1][2] Legal Center attorneys track and participate in a variety of cases around the country involving campaign finance law at the federal, state and local levels.[1]

The CLC's website allows users to track the activities of the Federal Election Commission, campaign finance legislation, and good-government issues such as lobbying, ethics, and redistricting reform, while its blog offers expert opinion on such matters.[3] The center also supports the need for free media access for candidates in order to dampen the need for incessant political fundraising.[4]

Trevor Potter is the Legal Center's founding President and General Counsel.[5] He served as General Counsel to John McCain's 2008 Presidential campaign (while on leave of absence from the Legal Center) and also held that position with the McCain 2000 campaign. Potter is also a practicing lawyer and Chairman of the Political Practice Group of the international law firm Caplin Drysdale.[6] J. Gerald Hebert serves as the Legal Center's Executive Director and Director of Litigation. The current policy director is Meredith McGehee, formerly Chief Lobbyist for Common Cause.[7]


In 2004, it was a party to complaints filed with the Federal Election Commission against groups like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and America Coming Together, for trying to directly influence federal elections.[8][9]

The center was critical of former Vice-Presidential candidate John Edwards's use of charity organizations which he had founded, complaining they were being used chiefly to keep himself in the public eye in preparation for a possible 2008 Presidential run.[10]

The group filed an amicus brief in the 2007 landmark Supreme Court case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, unsuccessfully urging the Court not to strike down a provision of McCain-Feingold which prevented unlimited political contributions to organizations not directly affiliated with Federal candidates.[11] The following year it again filed a brief with the Court over a rule in the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that raised contribution limits when candidates faced a self-funding opponent; the group favored the rule, which was struck down by the Court.[12]

In 2010, the CLC joined with another watchdog group, Democracy 21, in asking the Internal Revenue Service to investigate a tax exempt social welfare group run by Karl Rove.[13]

The group filed an amicus brief in 2011 on behalf of eight public interest groups in support of challenged provisions of Arizona's clean election law, the Citizens Clean Elections Act. After the Court struck down the provisions,[14] a spokesperson for the group declared that the decision undermines "the integrity of our elections."[15] Later that year, the Center highlighted concerns before the FEC that Stephen Colbert's satirical Super PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow, had serious imitators exploiting the regulations on politicians with television contracts. The organization's President, Trevor Potter, served as Colbert's lawyer in establishing the PAC.[16] In August, it asked the U.S. Justice Department to probe the behavior of W Spann LLC.[17]

The group advocated for more legal restrictions on campaign giving and lobbying during the 2012 Presidential primaries.[18][19][20][21][22][23]


  1. ^ a b United States Supreme Court (2004). "Trade regulation series". 36 (1). Bureau of National Affairs: 630.
  2. ^ Cressman, Derek (2007). The Recall's Broken Promise: How Big Money Still Runs California Politics. The Poplar Institute. p. 231.
  3. ^ Hrebenar, Ronald J.; Bryson B. Morgan (2009). Lobbying in America: a reference handbook. ABC-CLIO. p. 263.
  4. ^ Brown, Lyle; Joyce A. Langenegger; Sonia R. García; Ted Lewis; Robert E. Biles (2011). Practicing Texas Politics. Cengage Learning,. p. 176.
  5. ^ "Arena Profile: Trevor Potter". Politico.
  6. ^ Utter, Glenn H.; Ruth Ann Strickland (2008). Campaign and election reform: a reference handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. 182–183.
  7. ^ "Will 2012 Be the End of the Presidential Public Financing System?".
  8. ^ Schmidt, Steffen W.; Mack C. Shelley; Barbara A. Bardes; Lynne E. Ford (2011). American Government and Politics Today 2011-2012 Edition. Cengage Learning. p. 354.
  9. ^ York, Byron (2006). The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of the Democrats' Desperate Fight to Reclaim Power. Random House. p. 92.
  10. ^ Wayne, Leslie (2007-06-22). "In Aiding Poor, Edwards Built Bridge to 2008". New York Times. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  11. ^ Roche, Lisa Riley (June 26, 2007). "Justices ease limits on campaign ads". Deseret Morning News. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  12. ^ Gerstein, Josh (2008-04-22). "9 Will Hear Campaign-Finance Case". New York Sun. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  13. ^ Paulson, Amanda (2010-10-05). "Karl Rove group spends big in Election 2010, but is it legal? GOP strategist Karl Rove is sending big money to Republicans in close Election 2010 races. But two campaign watchdogs are asking the IRS to investigate his tax-exempt 'social welfare' group". Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  14. ^ Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s Freedom Club PAC v. Bennett
  15. ^ KARMASEK, JESSICA M. (June 27, 2011). "U.S. SC rules against public financing program". Legal Newline. Archived from the original on 2011-09-03. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  16. ^ Geiger, Kim; Melanie Mason (June 30, 2011). "Stephen Colbert makes case before FEC for 'Colbert Super PAC'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  17. ^ Isikoff, Michael (2011-08-05). "Justice asked to probe mystery donation to pro-Romney group: Reform groups say $1 million from firm that soon dissolved itself could violate law". NBC. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  18. ^ Mooney, Brian C. (2012-01-26). "In Fla., donations to Gingrich erase Romney's edge". The Boston Globe. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  19. ^ Palmer, Anna; Dave Levinthal (2012-01-25). "FEC reform petition lags; sponsor blames W.H." Politico. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  20. ^ Newmyer, Tory (2012-01-25). "Who's backing the GOP candidates? Super PACs are spending super sums to finance their Republican favorites. Good luck tracking down the source of those funds". Fortune/CNN. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  21. ^ Snyder, Jim (2012-01-25). "TransCanada Lobbying Tops $1.3 Million as It Pushes Keystone". Bloomberg News. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  22. ^ Negrin, Matt (2012-01-24). "Newt Gingrich: The Lobbyist Who Wasn't". ABC News. Retrieved December 6, 2012.
  23. ^ Evans, Will (January 24, 2012). "Hollywood money flows to Calif. politicians who support anti-piracy bills". Los Angeles News. Retrieved October 11, 2012.