Trevor Potter

Trevor Potter (born October 24, 1955) is a lawyer, former commissioner and chairman of the United States Federal Election Commission. He is the Founder and President of the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit organization which works in the areas of campaign finance and elections, political communication and government ethics. A Republican, he was the General Counsel to John McCain's two presidential campaigns.[1] Potter is a vocal critic of unlimited corporate spending and dark money in politics allowed by the Citizens United v. FEC ruling.[2]

Trevor Potter
Trevor Potter.jpg
Born (1955-10-24) October 24, 1955 (age 65)
Alma materHarvard University
University of Virginia
Years active1982–present
Political partyRepublican

He 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".[3]

Early years and educationEdit

Potter attended Brooks School in North Andover, MA. He earned his A.B. from Harvard University in 1978, and his Juris Doctor from University of Virginia School of Law in 1982.[4]


Potter giving testimony at a hearing of the House Appropriations Committee in March 1994

Potter's government experience also includes service as assistant general counsel of the United States Federal Communications Commission (1984–1985) and attorney with the United States Department of Justice (1982–1984). He served as General Counsel to the 2000 and 2008 Presidential campaigns of John McCain and Deputy General Counsel to the George H.W. Bush 1988 campaign.[5] In 2002, Potter was elected to serve on the Common Cause National Governing Board. He is an attorney at Caplin & Drysdale, where he leads the firm's Political Law practice.

Potter appeared on the television program The Colbert Report, where he discussed political action committees, and the founding and progress of the satirical Colbert Super PAC. He explained to Colbert's audience the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision made by the United States Supreme Court that allowed the creation of "Super PACs", and was the lawyer behind the creation and functioning of Stephen Colbert's PAC, "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow". Colbert, together with Potter acting as his attorney, demonstrated how easy it was to circumvent the laws governing Super PACs.[6] Speaking in 2014, Potter said:

[Colbert] was able to show America the loopholes (or "loop-chasms" as he called them) in the laws designed to regulate coordination between candidates and supposedly "independent" groups. By having his own Super PAC and 501(c)(4), Stephen could evolve right alongside the campaigns—or often be a step ahead of them. His understanding of the possibilities inherent in the legal confusion was keen enough to discover and exploit absurd legalities before it became clear that actual candidates and political activists were doing the same thing.[7]

Potter at Tulane University in February 2018

The Colbert Report's segments on "Super PACs" were recognized in 2011 with a Peabody Award for parody reporting as an "innovative means of teaching American viewers about the landmark court decision".[8] Reflecting on the experience in 2015, Potter said, "I was his lawyer for the venture, which meant I did everything from drafting a Federal Election Commission Advisory Opinion Request to accompanying Colbert to hearings. I even figured out how to make the money "disappear" from public view when the PAC was closing. (Hint: It's not that hard.) ... The final takeaway from my work with Colbert was a sense of the enormous and detrimental impact Citizens United has had on our campaigns and elections."[2]

Potter was elected to the American Law Institute in 2013[9] and serves as an Adviser on ALI's Principles of Election Law: Resolution of Election Disputes project.[10] He serves as the Senior Advisor to Issue One.[2]


  • Anthony Corrado (Editor), Thomas E. Mann (Editor), Daniel R. Ortiz (Editor), Trevor Potter (Editor), Frank J. Sorauf (Editor), Campaign Finance Reform: A Sourcebook, Brookings Institution Press (1997), ISBN 978-0815715818
  • Anthony Corrado (Editor), Thomas E. Mann (Editor), Trevor Potter (Editor), Inside the Campaign Finance Battle: Court Testimony on the New Reforms, Brookings Institution Press (2003), ISBN 978-0815715832
  • Anthony Corrado, Thomas E. Mann, Daniel R. Ortiz, Trevor Potter, The New Campaign Finance Sourcebook, Brookings Institution Press (2005), ISBN 978-0815700050
  • Trevor Potter, Political Activity, Lobbying Laws and Gift Rules Guide, Thomson West (2008), ISBN 978-0314979483
  • Joseph Birkenstock, Trevor Potter, Political Activity, Lobbying Laws and Gift Rules Guide, 2009-2010 ed., LegalWorks (2009), ISBN 978-0314988300
  • Joseph Birkenstock, Trevor Potter, Political Activity, Lobbying Laws and Gift Rules Guide, 2010-2011 ed., LegalWorks (2010), ISBN 978-0314999054
  • Joseph Birkenstock, Trevor Potter, Political Activity, Lobbying Laws and Gift Rules Guide, 3d, 2011-2012 ed., LegalWorks (2011), ISBN 978-0314925923

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit