Trevor Potter

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Nonresident Senior Fellow, Governance Studies

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Trevor Potter is a nonresident senior fellow in Governance Studies at The Brookings Institution and a member in Caplin & Drysdale’s Washington, DC office, where he leads the firm’s Political Law Practice. He is one of the country’s best-known and most experienced campaign and election lawyers, and a former commissioner (1991-1995) and chairman (1994) of the Federal Election Commission.

A leading authority on lobbying regulation, government ethics, and campaign-finance issues, Mr. 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 has become nationally known for his representation of Stephen Colbert and his SuperPac “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”, as well as a related 501(c)(4) organization, all as part of the Colbert Report’s exploration of the role of SuperPacs and other political entities active in US elections as a result of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Mr. Potter served as general counsel to the John McCain 2008 campaign and held the same position with the McCain 2000 campaign. He also served as Deputy General Counsel to the George H.W. Bush 1988 campaign. He is the founding President and General Counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that helped successfully defend the McCain-Feingold law in the lower and Supreme Courts. In 2011, he co-chaired and led the American Bar Association’s Task Force on Lobbying Regulation, whose Report served as the basis for the ABA’s new recommendations for lobbying reform.

Mr. Potter is the author of the fourth edition of Federal Campaign Finance Law: a Primer, The Lobbying Manual (ABA 2011); the third edition of Political Activity, Lobbying Laws and Gift Rules Guide (West Publishing 2008); The New Campaign Finance Sourcebook (Brookings Institution 2005); and Federal Election Law and the Internet (Brookings Institution 2000). He is a frequent guest speaker at a variety of professional meetings, 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 Co-Chair of the American Bar Association’s Advisory Committee of the Standing Committee on Election Law and of the Election Law Committee of the ABA’s Administrative Law Section.

Mr. Potter is a graduate of Harvard College and of the University of Virginia School of Law, where he was editor-in-chief of the Virginia Journal of International Law. He has served as an international election observer and advisor in numerous countries, and is currently an Adviser for the American Law Institute’s project on Principles of Election Law: Resolution of Election Disputes. He recently was the US speaker on issues of political transparency at a conference in Beijing sponsored by the Carter Center and Central Translation Bureau, a Chinese think tank. He is chairing a discussion on Corporate Governance and Political Activity, sponsored by the Conference Board. When not working, Mr. Potter resides in Marshall, Virginia, where he is active in local land-conservation and historic preservation organizations.