Former Congressman Jim Leach to lead Common Cause’s National Governing Board

Jim Leach, who represented Iowa in Congress for 30 years, and was known for his bipartisanship and as a champion of democratic process issues, was unanimously voted chairman of Common Cause’s National Governing Board, the organization announced Monday.

A Republican who served in the US House until 2006, Leach replaces Denver lawyer Martha Tierney, who has been serving as interim chairwoman. Leach is currently the interim director of the Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is on leave from Princeton University, where he is the John L. Weinberg Visiting Professor of Public and International Affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School.

“We’re so busy telling everyone else in the world how to do democracy that we’ve failed to place a proper emphasis on improving our own model,” Leach said. “One of our most glaring shortcomings relates to conflicts of interest that grow out of the vast sums of money distributed through American campaigns. The problems of following the money make clear the case for a more transparent system, one where all citizens have opportunity to seek on a fair and competitive basis elective office. Common Cause is dedicated to campaign finance reform, and in a larger sense to uplifting the American debate and revitalizing the American political ethic. I look forward to being part of that effort.”

Bob Edgar, the president of Common Cause, and a former Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania who served with Leach in the US House, said: “Jim Leach knows how to find common ground on the important progressive issues we work on. He brings tremendous political skill in our fight for John Gardner’s vision of a government that serves the public’s interest, not the special interests.”

Leach served in the U.S. House from 1976 to 2007. He chaired the Banking and Financial Services Committee, the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He was a leading advocate of legislation expanding support for AIDS treatment and prevention, international debt relief, banning Internet gambling and reforming the financial services industry. He is perhaps best known as the principal author of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley law, which is considered one of the seminal pieces of banking legislation of the 20th century, second in import only to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.

Leach’s tenure in Congress was also marked by concern for the democratic process issues that are the hallmark of Common Cause. He championed campaign reform and pressed for a system of public financing of elections. Leach in his own campaigns refused to accept political action committee contributions or donations from outside of Iowa.

Leach attended Princeton, the School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins, and the London School of Economics. A former U.S Foreign Service officer, he served as a delegate to the Geneva Disarmament Conference and the U.N. General Assembly. In 1973, Leach resigned his commission in protest of the Saturday Night Massacre when Richard Nixon fired his Attorney General, Eliot Richardson, and the independent counsel investigating the Watergate break-in, Archibald Cox. Cox later served as Common Cause’s national governing board chairman from 1980 to 1992.

Leach serves on the board of several public companies and three non-profit organizations – the Century Foundation, the Kettering Foundation, and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and formerly served as a trustee of Princeton University.

Leach holds eight honorary degrees and has received decorations from two foreign governments. He is the recipient of the Wayne Morse Integrity in Politics Award, the Woodrow Wilson Award from Johns Hopkins, the Adlai Stevenson Award from the United Nations Association, and the Edger Wayburn Award from the Sierra Club.

Leach resides in Iowa City and Cambridge with his wife Elisabeth (Deba), son Gallagher, and daughter Jenny.

Click here to read Leach’s biography.