Memo to Media: Common Cause Is Liberal, Not Centrist

It only takes a few minutes searching Google News to find a myriad of recent news stories referencing Common Cause as a "nonpartisan" group, a description that has long been obsolete when it comes to describing the liberal activist organization.

A few examples: Here's a Columbus, Georgia, newspaper editorial calling CC a "nonpartisan government watchdog group," and trying to pretend it is no more liberal than the Georgia Conservatives in Action and the Georgia Tea Party Patriots.


Here's a commentary published just a few days ago by Minneapolis Star-Tribune columnist Lori Sturdevant, who praises Common Cause and says in recent days it has "lived up to its nonpartisan billing -- something it has otherwise lost in GOP eyes, despite the Republican pedigree of its national founder, John Gardner."

That last bit of info is often tossed into articles defending Common Cause as a "nonpartisan" organization, as if the party registration of the founder of the group more than four decades ago has instilled the group with immutable centrist credentials, especially since party registration wasn't necessarily an indicator of ideology in those days.

As Sturdevant's column, lauding the resurrection of Common Cause in Minnesota, makes plain, the organization is on the side of the Left -- working with various liberal organizations to fight conservative organizations like the Minnesota Family Council and ALEC and support such liberal agenda items as gay marriage.

That's what you would expect from a group headed by a very liberal former Democratic congressman, Bob Edgar. It's also the sort of group that you'd expect to ask very liberal former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich to chair its governing board. Common Cause's leadership board also includes Martha Tierney, legal counsel for the Colorado Democratic Party as vice chair of its board. The group has also featured leftist bombthrower Bill Moyers at its 40th anniversary dinner celebration.

But not every media outlet still buys the "centrist" description of Common Cause.

In this Sunday article in the Tuscaloosa News (Alabama), the reporter correctly mentions that ALEC has "conservative leanings," and then correctly notes that Common Cause is "a left-leaning Washington, D.C.-based group."

That's the proper description, as C.J. Ciaramella extensively documented yesterday at Washington Free Beacon in an article noting that Common Cause rather hypocritically accepts big money from liberal organizations to fight "big money in politics" - but of course only the big money on the conservative side.

Ciaramella wrote:

Common Cause—a nonprofit campaign finance and government reform organization whose stated goal is to “curb the excessive influence” of money and lobbying on government—is one of several organizations participating in a Wednesday protest against the conservative super PAC American Crossroads.

Other groups participating include Campaign for America’s Future, Rebuild the Dream, People for the American Way, Public Campaign, The Other 98%, Health Care for America Now, Alliance for Justice, Public Citizen, and the SEIU.  According to the event flyer, which includes a picture of Karl Rove in an orange prison jumpsuit, the groups will hold a “march to indict” American Crossroads “for the crimes of trying to buy our elections and keep people from exercising their right to vote.” However, Common Cause has taken money from liberals willing to buy their way into elected office—and, despite claims of nonpartisanship, it also has a history of supporting progressive causes and affiliating with Democratic party organs.

But while the Washington Free Beacon and a few small-town papers out in flyover country like the Tuscaloosa News aren't fooled by Common Cause's common-but-false claim to be nonideological, too much of the media still pretends Common Cause is today what it was more than 40 years ago, rather than correctly informing readers and viewers that Common Cause is what it is today: A liberal astroturf group masquerading as a non-partisan government watchdog.   

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013