Former PA Congressman Edgar chosen new Common Cause president/CEO

Robert William (Bob) Edgar, the general secretary of The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), and a former congressman who represented eastern Pennsylvania from 1975 to 1987, was elected president and chief executive officer of Common Cause by the organization’s National Governing Board. Edgar succeeds Chellie Pingree, who stepped down in February.

“With devastating consequences, powerful special interests distort and disrupt the democratic process in ways that shift political power away from the American people,” Edgar said. “I look forward to carrying on (Common Cause founder) John Gardner’s vision of Common Cause as a people’s lobby both in Washington, DC and in the states.”

“Bob Edgar brings to Common Cause an outstanding record of leadership and service,” said Martha Tierney, interim chairwoman of Common Cause’s National Governing Board. “He has a demonstrated ability to inspire people to think and work creatively. We are thrilled he will be focusing his efforts on issues such as campaign finance reform, government ethics and election and media reform that mean so much to Common Cause.”

Edgar, 63, comes to Common Cause with a rich and long history of public service and leadership. In 2000, he took office as general secretary for the National Council of Churches USA, a 50-year-old organization representing 35 member communions and their 45 million members who work to promote unity and justice.

Under Edgar’s leadership, the Council focused on major initiatives that included overcoming poverty, protecting the environment, fostering interfaith understanding and working for peace worldwide. He came to the Council from the Claremont School of Theology in Claremont, Calif., where he was president from 1990 to 2000.

Edgar was elected to the US House in 1974, the first Democrat since before the Civil War to represent the heavily Republican 7th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, an area outside of Philadelphia. Part of the Watergate class in Congress that helped pass sweeping ethics and campaign finance reforms, he led efforts to improve public transportation, fought wasteful water projects and authored the community Right to Know provision of Super Fund legislation. He also served on the House Select Committee on Assassinations that investigated the deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and President John F. Kennedy.

Edgar ran for the US Senate in 1986, losing to Republican Sen. Arlen Specter. He grew frustrated in that race with the undue influence of money in politics and became an active supporter of clean elections and campaign finance reform, issues that have been Common Cause’s hallmark.

Edgar has served on Common Cause’s National Governing Board since 2005. He also serves on the boards of Independent Sector, another organization founded by Common Cause founder Gardner, the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute, an independent non-profit organization Congress uses as a resource for environmental and energy issues.

Edgar has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., and a master of divinity degree from the Theological School of Drew University in Madison, NJ. He also holds four honorary doctoral degrees.

He has received awards for his work from a number of national organizations, including the American Legion, Vietnam Veterans of America and the National Taxpayers Union.

As president and chief executive officer, Edgar will oversee all program activities, finances and communications for Common Cause, a non-partisan citizen lobby with more than 300,000 members and supporters. Common Cause has a 35-year history of helping citizens to effectively engage in the political process through reform advocacy on issues such as campaign finance reform, government ethics, election reform and media reform.