Common Cause

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For other uses, see Common Cause (disambiguation).
Common Cause
Common Cause logo.png
Founded 1970
Area served
United States
Method Advocacy
Key people
Karen Hobert Flynn

Common Cause is a liberal political advocacy group based in Washington, D.C.[1] 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."[2]

Current leadership[edit]

Karen Hobert Flynn became the organization's president in June 2016.[3]

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the administration of President Bill Clinton, is the chair of Common Cause's National Governing Board. Due to Common Cause's policy of nonpartisanship, Reich took a leave of absence from the group, starting in February 2016, in order to become involved in Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. Reich will return to the group after the November 2016 election. Vice chair Martha Tierney (who previously served as chair from 2007 to 2010) is the acting chair while Reich is on leave.[3][4]

Past leadership[edit]

The following individuals have served as president of Common Cause:

The following individuals have served as chairs of Common Cause's board:


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.[21]

Common Cause has lobbied for campaign finance reform in the United States.[22] In 1974, Common Cause supported passage of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA).[23]

Common Cause advocates a voter-verified paper audit trail for election machines in all states. The organization has documented complaints about electronic voting machines.[24] Common Cause is in favor of establishing a national popular vote for presidential elections to replace the current electoral college system.[25]

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.[26] The lawsuit forced the disclosure of the names of several Nixon donors.[21]

Common Cause opposes modern day efforts to call a convention to propose amendments to the United States Constitution.[27][28][29]

Common Cause Magazine[edit]

From 1980 through 1996, Common Cause published Common Cause Magazine, with Florence Graves as its founding editor.[30] 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.[31]

Common Cause considered acquiring the Washington Monthly magazine,[31] but the deal fell apart in 2008.[32]

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.[33] Common Cause then investigated the financial filings of Thomas, saying that Thomas did not include the income of his wife, conservative activist Virginia Thomas, in his disclosure filings as required under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978.[34] Thomas acknowledged error in the failure to disclose and filed amended disclosure forms that listed his wife's employment.[34]

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."[35] Another person suggested that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes should be killed. Common Cause condemned such rhetoric.[36]


The organization has sought to end the practice of gerrymandering.[37] In 2016 they filed a lawsuit in North Carolina challenging the constitutionality of district maps.[38] The organization's North Carolina chapter has led a campaign to create a nonpartisan redistricting process which has bipartisan support in the state.[39]


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.[40]


  1. ^ Lovett, Ian; Lichtblau, Eric (January 30, 2011). "Protesters Take On Conservative Retreat". New York Times. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  2. ^ "About Us". Common Cause. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c "Common Cause Taps Former Connecticut Director As National President". Hartford Courant. June 13, 2016. Retrieved 14 June 2016. 
  4. ^ Common Cause Chair Robert Reich Takes Leave of Absence: Former Labor Secretary to Resume Duties After November Election, Common Cause (February 27, 2016).
  5. ^ Remembering David Cohen, Common Cause (November 30, 2015).
  6. ^ Albin Krebs & Robert McG. Thomas Jr., Looking for a Leader New York Times (February 26, 1981).
  7. ^ a b Common Cause Names Karen Hobert Flynn President, Common Cause (June 13, 2016).
  8. ^ Top Common Cause Officer Named Group's President, Associated Press (March 14, 1995).
  9. ^ a b Ex-Massachusetts Official New Common Cause Leader, Associated Press (July 31, 1999).
  10. ^ Jon Chesto, Former Mass. AG Scott Harshbarger moves to local law firm, Boston Globe (November 16, 2015).
  11. ^ About Chellie, Office of Chellie Pingree, U.S. Representative, First District of Maine.
  12. ^ Douglas Martin, Bob Edgar, Lawmaker and Liberal Leader, Dies at 69, New York Times (April 24, 2013).
  13. ^ Common Cause President Bob Edgar Dies at 69, Common Cause (April 23, 2013).
  14. ^ "NCC's Edgar to Head Secular Advocacy Group". Associated Press. 25 May 2007. 
  15. ^ Shawn Zeller (29 May 2007). "Five Questions for Bob Edgar". CQ Weekly on Yahoo! News. 
  16. ^ Mark Pazniokas, Miles Rapoport named national president of Common Cause, Connecticut Mirror (January 14, 2014).
  17. ^ President Miles Rapoport Leaving Demos To Lead Common Cause, Demos (January 14, 2014).
  18. ^ Gardner Resigning Post as Chairman of Common Cause, Associated Press (February 6, 1977).
  19. ^ "Archibald Cox's legacy must not vanish" (Press release). Common Cause. May 30, 2004. 
  20. ^ Archibald Cox, 92, Is Dead; Helped Prosecute Watergate, New York Times (May 30, 2004).
  21. ^ a b Tuttle, Ian (May 7, 2015). "Common Cause's Georgia Purge". National Review. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  22. ^ Ackley, Kate (December 1, 2015). "Campaign Finance Riders Face Fight in Year-End Spending Bill". Roll Call. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  23. ^ "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. 
  24. ^ Plumer, Brad (November 6, 2012). "A quarter of Americans will vote by electronic machine. Is that a problem?". Washington Post. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  25. ^ Richie, Rob (August 5, 2010). "National Popular Vote: A Win for Our Democracy in Massachusetts". Huffington Post. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  26. ^ "Common Cause resumes Nixon finance lawsuit". Lodi News-Setinenl. United Press International. March 24, 1973. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  27. ^ "The Dangerous Path: Big Money's Plan to Shred the Constitution". Common Cause. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  28. ^ "On the Brink of a Constitutional Crisis". Common Cause. December 2, 2015. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  29. ^
  30. ^ Debra Puchalla (March 1997). "The Little Magazine That Could". American Journalism Review. 
  31. ^ 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. 
  32. ^ Calderone, Michael (May 27, 2008). "Washington Monthly not merging with Common Cause". Politico. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  33. ^ Lichtblau, Eric (January 19, 2011). "Advocacy Group Says Justices May Have Conflict in Campaign Finance Cases". The New York Times. 
  34. ^ a b Lichtblau, Eric (January 24, 2011). "Thomas Cites Failure to Disclose Wife's Job". The New York Times. 
  35. ^ Taranto, James (3 February 2011). "String Him Up". The Wall Street Journal. 
  36. ^ "Common Cause Condemns Hate Remarks at SoCal Rally". BET. Associated Press. February 4, 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2015. 
  37. ^
  38. ^
  39. ^
  40. ^ Eggen, Dan (2011-02-10). "Uncommon forcefulness from Common Cause". The Washington Post. 

External links[edit]