Local Politics

Common Cause

Posted March 11, 2013 10:53 a.m. EDT
Updated January 12, 2015 12:39 p.m. EST

As they describe themselves: 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. Today, Common Cause is one of the most active, effective, and respected nonprofit organizations working for political change in America. Common Cause strives to strengthen our democracy by empowering our members, supporters and the general public to take action on critical policy issues. Now with nearly 400,000 members and supporters and 35 state organizations, Common Cause remains committed to honest, open and accountable government, as well as encouraging citizen participation in democracy. More here.

On the web: www.commoncause.org/nc

Affiliates and brands: Common Cause is a national organization that has affiliates in different states. In North Carolina, the state director is Bob Phillips. Because the group is national, there is not paperwork showing their state-specific finances. Like many nonprofits, Common Cause divides its activities between a 501(c)(3) group, which is a charity to which contributions are tax deductible, and a 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organization, which can engage in more direct advocacy over elections and legislation. 

Network*: Z. Smith Reynolds. 

Funding: Combined, the two branches of Common Cause's national organization reported raising roughly $10.8 million in 2011. Of that, Z. Smith Reynolds provided $75,000 toward the North Carolina operations. It's also worth noting that Common Cause has its offices in an building owned by the A.J. Fletcher Foundation.

IRS 990: Common Cause Education Fund 2013 IRS 990

State Information: Click here for information submitted to the Secretary of State's office by the education fund 501(c)(3) group. Click here for information submitted to the secretary of state's office by Common Cause's 501(c)(4) group

Lobbyist: Common Cause has two registered lobbyists, including Phillips, for the 2013 legislative session. 

Media Profile: Common cause most often shows up in news coverage of election-related stories and in stories talking about stories related to how elections are administered. Phillips and other Common Cause staffers are also sought out as panelists for public affairs shows. The group is generally seen as center-left. While by and large nonpartisan, they have advocated for causes – such as public funding of elections – that have cut against the grain of Republican legislative policy. They group also shares ties to Democratic causes and is seen by many on the political right as explicitly liberal. 


* Many of the public policy think tanks and advocacy groups active in North Carolina fall into one of two camps: A liberal circuit with ties to the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and a conservative circuit with ties to the John William Pope Foundation. For more, click here.