Can Our Democracy Survive the Supreme Court?

Trevor Potter, Campaign Legal Center

Tue, 04/22/2014 - 4:30pm
Dodds Auditorium, Robertson Hall
Event Category: 

Please join us for the Donald S. Bernstein '75 Lecture with Trevor Potter, the founding President and General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C. based nonprofit which helped successfully defend the McCain-Feingold law in the lower and Supreme Courts.

The US Supreme Court’s Citizens United 2010 decision and this Spring’s McCutcheon decision are two of several recent court decisions which have limited the ability of citizens to regulate money in American politics. Many of these judicial decisions reflect an incomplete or simply erroneous understanding of how money actually functions in the real political world. The result is a “campaign finance system” which does not reflect anyone’s ideal (including the Supreme Court’s) , and which increasingly threatens core democratic values.

Trevor Potter, Stephen Colbert’s SuperPAC lawyer and a former Federal Election Commission chairman, is a member in Caplin & Drysdale’s Washington, D.C., office, where he leads the firm’s political law practice. One of the country’s best-known and most experienced campaign and election lawyers, he is also the founding president and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, where he helped to defend the McCain-Feingold law in the lower and Supreme Courts.

Potter has been described by the American Bar Association Journal as “hands-down one of the top lawyers in the country on the delicate intersection of politics, law and money.” He served as general counsel to John McCain’s 2008 and 2000 presidential campaigns, and as Deputy General Counsel to the George H.W. Bush 1988 presidential campaign.  President Bush appointed Mr. Potter to the Federal Election Commission in 1991 and he became Chairman in 1995. Potter serves as counsel to Stephen Colbert’s 501(c)(4) and advises him on campaign finance issues on "The Colbert Report," and was the lawyer for the Colbert SuperPAC “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow” during the 2012 election cycle.

A nonresident senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, Potter is the author and editor of several books on lobbying regulation and disclosure, campaign finance and federal election law. He has testified before Congress on federal election proposals and campaign finance regulation, and has taught campaign finance law at the University of Virginia School of Law and Oxford University. He is a graduate of Harvard College and of the University of Virginia School of Law, and his first government service was as an attorney at the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission.