2002 2017

15 years


Campaign Legal Center works every day to protect and strengthen the U.S. democratic process across all levels of government. Take a look back at our first 15 years of advancing democracy through law.



We are the lawyers for our democracy, fighting for your fundamental right to participate in the political process.

CLC Is Incorporated

In January 2002, Campaign Legal Center is incorporated and incubated at the University of Utah with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts. CLC is meant to be a centrist, bipartisan organization dedicated to protecting and implementing BCRA once it passes.

FEC Rulemaking

CLC assists FEC in drafting rules implementing BCRA by filing comments, offering testimony, monitoring political activity and filing complaints.

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2003 – 2005

CLC was on the front lines, and played an integral role in sealing a victory in McConnell v. FEC, the first major challenge to the law.

CLC preserves BCRA

In December 2003, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act becomes law. CLC, working with co-counsel, helps preserve BCRA in McConnell v. FEC, ensuring that the average voter’s voice will not be silenced by the wealthy few.

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CLC Challenges FEC Rulemaking

From 2004 – 2005, CLC, private co-counsel and allied organizational partners win in cases challenging the FEC’s rules implementing BCRA (Shays and Meehan v. FEC). The litigation forces the FEC to put in writing its legal tests and to improve its rules implementing BCRA.

2006 – 2007

In CLC’s 15-year history, we have filed more than 100 friend-of-the-court briefs and participated in dozens of cases in both state and federal courts. Our briefs have framed arguments and helped shaped court opinions as part of a larger strategic effort to make the future safe for pro-democracy reform.

Voting Rights Act Reauthorized

In 2006, CLC testifies before Congress in support of reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The VRA is reauthorized by a unanimous vote in Congress.

Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE)

CLC plays a significant role in shaping the legislation that creates the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). The OCE curtails the ability of lobbyists to give gifts and pay for travel and puts in place revolving door restrictions.

FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life

On June 25, 2007, CLC coordinates friend-of-the-court briefs for FEC v. Wisconsin Right to Life. CLC’s amicus strategy minimizes the damage that could have been done to disclosure laws.

2009 – 2011


CLC files First Voting Rights brief

CLC files first friend-of-the-court brief in a voting rights case, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder. From this case onward, CLC files friend-of-the-court briefs in every voting rights case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Citizens United v. FEC

CLC files friend-of-the-court briefs at every stage of litigation in Citizens United v. FEC. Through its amicus strategy, CLC conveys the importance of disclosure, which the U.S. Supreme Court preserves.

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Trevor Potter on Colbert

On March 30, 2011, CLC President Trevor Potter appears on a series of episodes of Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report,” advising Stephen Colbert on creating his own shell corporation and PAC, Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.

2013 – 2014

The Voting Rights Institute is working to prepare the next generation of attorneys, experts and activists to preserve our democracy and protect the ability of all Americans to vote.

Voting Rights Institute

On June 25, the Supreme Court guts the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder. In response, CLC creates the Voting Rights Institute.

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CLC Challenges Texas Voter ID

Texas and a slew of other states immediately pass discriminatory voter suppression laws after the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder. In response, CLC files Veasey v. Abbott challenging Texas’s strict photo voter ID law. CLC succeeds in preventing the discriminatory law from going into effect during the 2016 election (case is ongoing).

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MacArthur Award

In 2014, CLC receives the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

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2016 – 2017

CLC is litigating a groundbreaking case to end extreme partisan gerrymandering nationwide.


My CLC internship provided amazing insight into how civil litigation could be employed as a tool to protect democratic institutions.


Democracy Reform in the States

CLC works in cities and states fighting for a better democracy. CLC has engaged in state and local reform efforts for years, but in 2016, officially launches a State and Local Reform Program.

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Restoring Voting Rights

In 2016, CLC files Thompson v. Alabama in federal district court, a challenge to Alabama’s felony disenfranchisement law. (Litigation is ongoing)

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Fair Maps

In 2016, CLC litigates Gill v. Whitford, a challenge to Wisconsin’s unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. CLC’s vice president of litigation and strategy, Paul Smith, presents oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2017.

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In 2016, CLC sues the FEC (CLC v. FEC) for refusing to investigate disclosure law violations involving donors who hid behind personal Limited Liability Companies to make anonymous contributions to super PACs. (The suit survives a motion to dismiss and moves forward.)

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Political Ad Disclosure

In 2016, CLC, working with the Public Interest Public Airwaves Coalition, achieves a victory when FCC orders broadcaster disclosure of public files to be on the web (and later adds satellite and cable ads, too).

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Beginning in 2016, CLC shapes narrative on President Donald Trump’s ethics conflicts through regular broadcast media appearances.

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Looking Forward

A Future Generation

Each year, CLC welcomes an intern class from the nation’s best law schools. Some of our interns have returned to work as fellows or staff at CLC, and even more have gone on to serve the public interest, using the skills and knowledge they gained at CLC.

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