"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
Common Cause is the citizens' lobby: We are fighting for you in Washington, DC and at your state capitol. For more than 40 years, we've been leading the effort to put the people's voices ahead of the special interests.
We've led successful campaigns for campaign finance reform, ethics and accountability in government, more open government at the national, state and local levels and to reduce barriers to voting. Working in coalition with like-minded organizations, we also work on a diverse set of issues including civil rights, economic fairness and media reform.
Our issues include:
Money in Politics
Big money has long dominated our elections, and the problem has worsened since the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling in 2010, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on our elections. In campaign 2012, “independent” groups spent about $1 billion, much of it from anonymous individuals and corporations.
The real problem isn't how much is being spent - it's who spends, what they get in return. While candidates backed by big money donors lost some high-profile elections in 2012, the next Congress will be more beholden than the current crop of lawmakers to special interests. Common Cause is working diligently to put democracy back in the hands of "we the people."
Common Cause founder John Gardner said "We want public officials to have literally millions of American citizens looking over their shoulders at every move they make." Since we first started "looking over shoulders" in 1970, Common Cause and our activists have been at the forefront of ensuring that government officials are acting in the public interest, not for their own personal benefit or for the benefit of special interests.
Common Cause wants to share our experiences with groups in parts of the world struggling to strengthen public participation in government, curb the excessive influence of money on government decisions and elections, promote fair and honest ethical standards, and protect the civil rights of all citizens. Common Cause International is a technical assistance project intended to foster international collaboration among government accountability groups.
Elections and Voting
Campaign 2012 was marked by the efforts of partisan activists to block hundreds of thousands of qualified Americans from voting, through unneeded voter ID laws, reduced opportunities to register or vote early and veiled hints of prosecution for “voter fraud.” Meanwhile, in many states the machinery of our elections is in such disarray that vote-counting can take weeks to complete and its accuracy cannot be verified. Common Cause is a national leader in the fight to protect and advance voting rights and ensure that every vote is counted as cast.
Ethics in Government
Common Cause was instrumental in passage of the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. The bill strengthens public disclosure requirements concerning lobbying activity and funding, places more restrictions on gifts for members of Congress and their staff, and provides for mandatory disclosure of earmarks in expenditure bills. In 2008, Common Cause led the charge to create the first-ever, independent office to oversee House ethics. The Office of Congressional Ethics has the power to initiate and conduct ethics investigations and issue reports and recommendations to the House Ethics Committee.
Media and Democracy
The media's failure to provide diverse viewpoints and unbiased information is undermining the strength of our democracy. Common Cause is working to ensure that the media meet their obligations to serve the public by promoting diversity, accessibility, and accountability among media corporations and the government agencies that regulate the media.