Campaign Legal Center

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The Campaign Legal Center
Founded January 2002 (2002-01)
Founder Trevor Potter
Type 501(c)(3)
  • Washington, D.C.
Area served
United States
Key people
Trevor Potter, Walter Shaub, Gerry Hebert, Larry Noble, Paul Smith, Anna Prow
Slogan Representing the Public Interest to Protect and Strengthen Our Democracy

Campaign Legal Center (CLC) is a nonpartisan 501(c)(3) organization that focuses on election law and democracy issues, supports strong enforcement of United States campaign finance laws, advocates for ethics reform and fights partisan gerrymandering. CLC also seeks to overturn voting laws that it believes are unnecessary burdens on citizens' right to vote.[1][2] CLC attorneys track and participate in a variety of cases around the country involving campaign finance law at the federal, state and local levels.[1]

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 CLC's Founder and President.[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]

Walter Shaub is CLC's Senior Director, Ethics. He served as Director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) until his resignation on July 19. Since joining CLC, Shaub has criticized[7] the White House for creating the appearance that they are attempting to engineer looser oversight by appointing David J. Apol as Acting Director of OGE.


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]

During the 2016 presidential elections, CLC filed a legal complaint with the Federal Election Commission[24] against the super PAC Correct the Record, arguing that the Hillary Clinton campaign coordinated with it directly, in violation of election law.[25]

In 2017, Campaign Legal Center (CLC) filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) alleging the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign committee violated campaign finance law, alleging they tried to cover up the fact that they helped pay for the "Trump Russia Dossier". [26][27]

Supreme Court case on Gerrymandering[edit]

CLC is part of the litigation team representing 12 Wisconsin voters who have challenged the state's Assembly district lines as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, in the case Gill v. Whitford.[28] CLC attorney Paul Smith will be representing the voters during orgal arguments before the Supreme Court in October 2017.[29][30]

  • On May 8, 2017, CLC filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court urging them to affirm the lower court ruling.[31] In an announcement about the filing, attorney Paul Smith said that "partisan gerrymandering of this kind is worse now than at any time in recent memory. The Supreme Court has the opportunity to ensure the maps in Wisconsin are drawn fairly, and further, has the opportunity to create ground rules that safeguard every citizen's right to freely choose their representatives.[32][33]
  • On Nov. 21, 2016, Judge Kenneth Francis Ripple wrote for a three-judge district court panel that Wisconsin's State Assembly map violates the constitution.[34]


  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. ^ "White House is Playing Politics with Interim OGE Director". Campaign Legal Center. 2017-07-21. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  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. 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. 
  24. ^ "FEC Complaint: Correct the Record". Campaign Legal Center. 2016-10-06. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  25. ^ "CLC's Nonpartisan Record as a Government Watchdog". Campaign Legal Center. 2017-04-26. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ "Gill v. Whitford". Campaign Legal Center. 2017-06-19. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  29. ^ Savage, David G. (2017-06-19). "Partisan gerrymandering is almost as old as America, but will the Supreme Court decide it has gone too far?". Los Angeles Times. ISSN 0458-3035. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  30. ^ "Court releases October calendar - SCOTUSblog". SCOTUSblog. 2017-07-19. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  31. ^ "Gill v. Whitford: U.S. Supreme Court - Motion to Affirm". Campaign Legal Center. 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  32. ^ "Litigators Urge Supreme Court to Uphold Decision Striking Down Wisconsin's Partisan Gerrymander in Landmark Case, Gill v. Whitford". Campaign Legal Center. 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  33. ^ Fadulu, Lola. "The Supreme Court case that could shift how Americans vote rests on a simple math equation". Quartz. Retrieved 2017-07-25. 
  34. ^ "Opinion by U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin" (PDF). 2016-11-16.