About Us

Frequently Asked Questions


How did Common Cause begin?

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. Gardner announced the formation of Common Cause in newspaper ads asking Americans to join the organization. Within six months, more than 100,000 people responded. Now with nearly 400,000 members and supporters and 38 state organizations, Common Cause remains the nation's largest organization committed to honest, open and accountable government, as well as encouraging citizen participation in democracy. (see also About Common Cause)

How is Common Cause funded?

Common Cause is financed primarily by the dues and contributions of its individual members. Because it is 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. Common Cause accepts no government grants. The combined annual operating budget of Common Cause and the Common Cause Education Fund is approximately $10 million.

Are contributions to Common Cause tax-deductible?

Common Cause is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, tax exempt organization, but because we are a lobbying organization, contributions are not tax-deductible. Our affiliate organization, the Common Cause Education Fund, conducts research, education, and outreach activities, and is supported by foundation grants and tax-deductible contributions from individuals and institutions.

How do I contribute to Common Cause with the online forms?

On the "Ways to Give" page there are a few options on how you'd like to support our work: Join Common Cause, Donate to Common Cause, Renew Your Common Cause Membership, Support Your State Organization, and Contribute by Mail. By clicking any of these links you will be directed to the appropriate online form. Simply fill out the required information and click the submit button. When your information is received we will process your contribution, and you will receive an email confirmation that the process was completed.

What if I don't want to use my credit card on the Internet?

We understand that not everyone is comfortable using their credit cards on the Internet. If you prefer to mail your contribution, please use the downloadable, printable contribution forms and send your contribution to the address listed on the form.

To ease your hesitation, please note that our online giving forms are secured with SSL (secure socket layer) and 128-bit encryption technology. Any information you send to Common Cause on the forms will be encrypted during transmission. We have never had a problem with the security of donations made to Common Cause through our web site.

How much does it cost to join Common Cause?

Introductory memberships are $40 for individuals and $50 for a family (two or more individuals in the same household). Our membership categories provide guidance to those who want to support Common Cause and help us in planning the resources that will be available to us for our programs. If you would like to contribute an amount different from these categories, please type in your preferred gift amount. Common Cause is happy to accept a contribution that fits your budget.

What does membership entail?

As a member, you are an integral part of one of the nation's largest and most effective citizens' lobbying organizations. You will be kept informed of all legislative developments on Common Cause issues and will have the opportunity to make your voice heard on important issues before Congress. As a new member, you will receive a New Member Welcome Kit detailing the many ways you can become a Citizen Activist. Opportunities to volunteer to work on Common Cause issues are available at the national, state, and local levels. From time to time, you may be invited to participate in special member-only briefings with our staff.

What is the relationship between state Common Cause organizations and national Common Cause?

Common Cause staff and activists in Washington, DC and in states around the country work together to push for reforms at all levels of government. When you join Common Cause you become a member of a national organization that works on the federal, state, and local levels - and, in 36 states, you become a member of your state organization. Common Cause state organizations receive some funding from the national budget for general activities and specific projects, but most of their funding comes from direct contributions from Common Cause members in the state.

Does Common Cause work in coalitions with other public interest groups?

Common Cause often works in coalitions with other organizations whose aims are consistent with ours. For instance, we have worked in several ad hoc coalitions on the issues of campaign finance reform, election reform and civil rights. We are also members of some permanent coalitions, such as the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and the Media and Democracy Coalition.

How does Common Cause's decide what issues will be on our agenda?

Common Cause has worked on a wide range of important issues throughout our history. Some issues, such as campaign finance reform, have been key parts of our agenda for years, while more recently we have developed a major program in media reform. We listen to our members and activists, seek advice from other organizations and elected officials, and conduct research on issues in deciding on what issues we should focus our resources. Ultimately, the Common Cause National Governing Board decides whether the organization should engage in a new issue. In making such decisions, the board tries to ensure that new issues are consistent with Common Cause's central goal of making our government more accountable to its citizens. (see also About Common Cause)

What does Common Cause do at the grassroots?

Common Cause grassroots activists lobby lawmakers on pending legislation, write letters to the editor and op-ed pieces for their local newspapers, speak to community groups about Common Cause issues, and generally work to keep their communities well informed. We also organize events in local districts to put pressure on Members of Congress and state and local officials whose support may be wavering on key issues. These events have included town hall meetings, rallies, and issue forums, featuring speakers such as national and local legislators, coalition partners, the Common Cause President, and other key staff members.

Does Common Cause work to support or oppose specific political candidates?

Common Cause is a nonpartisan organization, and we neither support nor oppose political parties or candidates. Because Common Cause has always lobbied on a broad range of issues we regularly work with a wide variety of elected officials from both parties. Common Cause encourages its members and the public to be involved in politics and government.

"Everybody's organized but the people."

Common Cause founder John Gardner


Common Cause is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, citizens' lobbying organization promoting open, honest, and accountable government. Supported by the dues, contributions and activism of nearly 400,000 members and supporters in every state across the nation, Common Cause represents the unified voice of the people against corruption in government and big-money special interests.