A common cause

November 06, 1990

Today, millions of American voters will go to the polls angry and despairing; more will simply not go at all. The sad fact is that confidence in America has been replaced by cynicism and distrust. The S&L catastrophe, the federal defic commitment of politicians, trust that the process really works.

Common Cause was born 20 years ago in a political climate not unlike today's, when the U.S. was mired in the Vietnam War, the White House was about to be enveloped by scandal and confidence in government was ebbing. The organization coalesced around the simple principle of the privilege and duty of citizen participation and, conversely, the power of participating citizens to keep government open, honest and accountable. A nonpartisan citizens lobby, it fought to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam, sued President Nixon's re-election committee, which came to be known by the fittingly sinister acronym of CREEP, challenged Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese for ethical improprieties, blocked expansion of costly and unnecessary weapons systems, initiated the House investigation of Speaker Jim Wright that ended in his resignation, pushed for tough conflict-of-interest and financial disclosure laws, initiated the current Senate Ethics Committee investigation into the activities of the "Keating Five" -- and more.

No would be so naive as to argue that the impulse to cheat, defraud and steal has been wholly subdued. But Common Cause's victories have been numerous. And its commitment to the idea that citizens can bring government back to life by making it responsive and accountable remains unwavering. The 20th anniversary of this citizen's lobby is an appropriate time for reaffirmation.

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