About Us

About Common Cause

 Our Leadership               Our Vision               How We Do It               Our Funding

Common Cause is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization founded in 1970 by John Gardner as a vehicle for citizens to make their voices heard in the political process and to hold their elected leaders accountable to the public interest.

Today, Common Cause is one of the most active, effective, and respected nonprofit organizations working for political change in America.  Common Cause strives to strengthen our democracy by empowering our members, supporters and the general public to take action on critical policy issues. 

Now with nearly 400,000 members and supporters and 35 state organizations, Common Cause remains committed to honest, open and accountable government, as well as encouraging citizen participation in democracy. 

In 2000, the organization created the Common Cause Education Fund, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt public charity, as its public education and research affiliate.  

Our Leadership

Miles Rapoport is the incoming President of Common Cause. He will join Common Cause beginning March 10 after 13 years as president of Demos, a New York-based public policy organization working for economic equality and a stronger, fully inclusive democracy. He is also a former secretary of the state and state legislator in Connecticut, and founded or led several citizen organizations working on political reform, consumer protection, racial equality, and economic justice issues.

At Common Cause, Miles will continue Common Cause’s work to advance reforms at the national, state and local levels that curb the influence of special interest money, broaden participation in our election process, and ensure that our government and our media meet their obligations to serve the public interest. In addition, he will also focus on the relationship between wealth and political power and ensuring that government at all levels gives every citizen an equal chance to share in our nation’s prosperity. The well-documented concentration of national wealth in the hands of a few thousand Americans at the top of the economic pyramid has been accompanied by spectacular growth in the political power of major corporations and that same group of very wealthy individuals.

Robert Reich is the Chair of the National Governing Board.  Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley. He was Secretary of Labor under President Clinton, with Time magazine naming him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the last century. He has published 13 books, including Supercapitalism (2007), which makes the case for why capitalism must be kept separate from democracy, and why corporate money in politics threatens both. His newest book, Beyond Outrage: What Has Gone Wrong With Our Economy and Our Democracy and How to Fix It, was released in April 2012. He is founding co-editor of The American Prospect, a syndicated columnist, regular commentator on public radio's Marketplace and other radio and television programs, and blogs at www.robertreich.org.

Martha Tierney is the Vice Chair of the National Governing Board. Martha is a partner at the Denver law firm of Heizer Paul LLP, where she concentrates on civil rights and election law matters, as well as commercial litigation in both federal and state courts. Martha joined the Common Cause National Governing Board in 2005 and also serves on the board of Colorado Common Cause. She is a member of the board of directors of the Colorado Lawyer’s Committee and serves on its election task force, as well as the Colorado Secretary of State’s campaign finance advisory committee. Martha received her law degree from Vermont Law School and is graduate of Colorado College.

Common Cause's National Governing Board serves as its policy-making body and provides broad oversight for the organization.  The members of the board are chosen for three-year terms.  The board meets in Washington, DC three times a year to discuss, determine and oversee issue, financial and organizational matters.  Click here for a list of board members and their affiliations.

Click here to view our staff directory.

Our Vision


Common Cause is dedicated to restoring the core values of American democracy, reinventing an open, honest and accountable government that serves the public interest, and empowering ordinary people to make their voices heard in the political process.

In this spirit, Common Cause serves as an independent voice for change and a watchdog against corruption and abuse of power. Together with our sister organization, the Common Cause Education Fund, we employ a powerful combination of grassroots organizing, coalition building, research, policy development, public education, lobbying and litigation to win reform at all levels of government.

Founded with 4,000 core members in 1970 to serve as a people’s lobby, Common Cause has grown into a nationwide network of more than 400,000 members and supporters, with offices in 36 states and Washington, D.C. Today it works tirelessly to:

• Strengthen public participation and faith in our institutions of self-government;

• Ensure that government and the political process serve the common good, rather than special interests;

• Curb the excessive influence of money on government decisions and elections and illuminate the connections between lobbying money coming in and government expenditures going out;

• Promote fair, honest and transparent elections;

• Hold government officials accountable for working within the rule of law and under high standards of ethical conduct;

• Fight for a vigorous, independent and diverse media; and

• Protect the civil rights and civil liberties of all Americans.

To make our democracy work, we must claim it as our own. John Gardner, Common Cause’s founder, wrote that, "The citizen can bring our political and governmental institutions back to life, make them responsive and accountable and keep them honest. No one else can."

This then is our common cause: to forge a democracy by and responsive to an engaged public, and committed to progress in the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice for all.

Click here to view more about the issues we work on.

How We Do It

"When the little guy wins, it's likely that Common Cause had something to do with the victory. It's good to know that the people can make a difference." - St. Petersburg Times

Today's political climate demands a citizens lobby that is strongly and effectively engaged, providing a watchful eye and demanding accountability of its leaders. We must be ever vigilant, and able to quickly seize timely opportunities as well as doggedly pursue long-term reform efforts.

To fight for the reforms so critical to our democracy, we employ a number of strategies, both internally as well as in coalition with our partners and other stakeholders, including lobbying, public education, grassroots and press outreach at the national, state and local level. We leverage the power of our activists and the credibility of the organization to assure that our voices are heard by those in government.

Our Funding


Common Cause is financed, in large part, by the dues and contributions of our individual members. Because we are a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization, such contributions to Common Cause are not tax deductible. The Common Cause Education Fund, our 501(c)(3) affiliate, conducts research, education, and outreach activities and is supported by foundation grants and tax-deductible contributions from individuals and institutions. The combined annual operating budget of Common Cause and the Common Cause Education Fund is approximately $10 million.

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