Common Cause

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For other meanings, see Common Cause (disambiguation).
Common Cause
Common Cause logo.png
Founded 1970
Area served
United States
Method Advocacy

Common Cause is a progressive nonprofit watchdog and political advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. It was founded in 1970 by John W. Gardner, the former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the administration of President Lyndon Johnson.

Organizational overview[edit]

Common Cause's stated mission is to "work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process."[1]

Common Cause's past president and CEO was Robert W. Edgar, a former Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives.[2][3] He served from 2007 until his death in April 2013.[4] His successor, Miles Rapoport, former President of Demos, began work with the organization in March 2014.

During Rapoport's tenure, the organization has sought to address climate change, gun control, student debt, and the minimum wage. Common Cause has also targeted the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative group, partially on the grounds that ALEC opposes climate change legislation.[5]

In September 2010, Robert Reich the former Secretary of Labor in the administration of President Bill Clinton, became the Chairman of the National Governing Board.[6] Archibald Cox, the former Watergate Special Prosecutor, was Chairman of Common Cause from 1980 to 1992.[7]


Common Cause has lobbied for campaign finance reform in the United States.[8] In 1974, Common Cause supported passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).[9]

Common Cause advocates a voter-verified paper audit trail for election machines in all states. The organization has documented complaints about electronic voting machines.[10] Common Cause is in favor of establishing a national popular vote for presidential elections to replace the current electoral college system.[11]

In 1972, Common Cause sued President Richard Nixon's re-election campaign, the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, under the Federal Corrupt Practices Act in an attempt to force Nixon's campaign to report early campaign contributions.[12] The lawsuit forced the disclosure of the names of several Nixon donors.[5]

Common Cause opposes modern day efforts to call a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution.[13][14]

Common Cause Magazine[edit]

From 1980 through 1996, Common Cause published Common Cause Magazine.[15] The magazine was described by Jeffrey Birnbaum of the Washington Post as "a deeply researched, finger-in-your-eye sort of periodical." The magazine won more than two dozen journalism awards.[16]

Common Cause considered acquiring the Washington Monthly magazine,[16] but the deal fell apart in 2008.[17]

Investigation into Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas's personal finances[edit]

In January 2011, Common Cause filed a petition with the Justice Department, seeking an investigation about whether United States Supreme Court Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves from the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case.[18] Common Cause then investigated the financial filings of Thomas, saying that Thomas did not include his wife's income in his filings.[19]

In 2011, the group hosted a rally near the site of a meeting of wealthy conservative donors organized by the Koch family. A videographer for the Breitbart News Network interviewed several attendees who made racist remarks about Thomas, such as suggesting he should be lynched and that he should be "put back in the fields."[20] Another person suggested that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes should be killed. Common Cause condemned such rhetoric.[21]


The organization states that its annual combined budget is $12 million. This includes its sister educational foundation. Common Cause receives funding from, among other groups, George Soros' Open Society Institute.[22]


  1. ^ "About Us". Common Cause. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  2. ^ Associated Press (25 May 2007). "NCC's Edgar to Head Secular Advocacy Group". Christian Post. 
  3. ^ Shawn Zeller (29 May 2007). "Five Questions for Bob Edgar". CQ Weekly on Yahoo! News. 
  4. ^ Common Cause, Press Releases. "Common Cause President Bob Edgar Dies at 69". Common Cause. Retrieved 2014-01-09. 
  5. ^ a b Tuttle, Ian (May 7, 2015). "Common Cause's Georgia Purge". National Review. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  6. ^ "Common Cause > About Us > National Governing Board". Retrieved 2012-01-18. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Ackley, Kate (December 1, 2015). "Campaign Finance Riders Face Fight in Year-End Spending Bill". Roll Call. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  9. ^ "Common Cause's uncommon role". Christian Science Monitor. 5 September 1980. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), encompassing public financing of presidential campaigns and oversight of campaign ethics through the Federal Election Commission clearly is the citizen lobby's major accomplishment. 
  10. ^ Plumer, Brad (November 6, 2012). "A quarter of Americans will vote by electronic machine. Is that a problem?". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  11. ^ Richie, Rob (August 5, 2010). "National Popular Vote: A Win for Our Democracy in Massachusetts". Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  12. ^ "Common Cause resumes Nixon finance lawsuit". Lodi News-Setinenl. United Press International. March 24, 1973. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  13. ^ "The Dangerous Path: Big Money's Plan to Shred the Constitution". Common Cause. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  14. ^ "On the Brink of a Constitutional Crisis". Common Cause. December 2, 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  15. ^ Debra Puchalla (March 1997). "The Little Magazine That Could". American Journalism Review. 
  16. ^ a b Birnbaum, Jeffrey H. (19 February 2008). "Common Cause, Washington Monthly Explore a Common Future". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-04-30. It was a deeply researched, finger-in-your-eye sort of periodical that often did investigations about such matters as campaign finance and military contracting. 
  17. ^ Calderone, Michael (May 27, 2008). "Washington Monthly not merging with Common Cause". Politico. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  18. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (January 19, 2011). "Advocacy Group Says Justices May Have Conflict in Campaign Finance Cases". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (January 24, 2011). "Thomas Cites Failure to Disclose Wife’s Job". The New York Times. 
  20. ^ Taranto, James (3 February 2011). "String Him Up". The Wall Street Journal. 
  21. ^ "Common Cause Condemns Hate Remarks at SoCal Rally". BET. Associated Press. February 4, 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  22. ^ Eggen, Dan (2011-02-10). "Uncommon forcefulness from Common Cause". The Washington Post. 

External links[edit]