Fred Wertheimer : Interview for the John W. Gardner Legacy Oral History Project
- Fred Wertheimer, president and CEO of Democracy 21, discusses his early life, his long career as an advocate for transparency in government, and his personal and professional relationship with John W. Gardner. Wertheimer recounts memories from his childhood in Brooklyn and from his time at the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School. He discusses going to work for the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, DC, and then joining the staff of Silvio O. Conte, a member of the House of Representatives from Massachusetts. Wertheimer talks about joining Common Cause, where he met Gardner. He discusses his role in the organization’s work on issues including campaign finance reform, lobbying reform, and ethics rules. He also reflects on his tenure as CEO, including working with Archibald Cox, who was then the chair of the board. He elaborates on his decision to leave Common Cause in order to create Democracy 21. Throughout the interview, Wertheimer discusses the life and legacy of John Gardner. Topics covered include Gardner’s personal integrity, pride in authorship, decision to leave Common Cause, mentorship style, skill in building organizations, commitment to family, decision not to take Robert Kennedy’s Senate seat, and intellectual charisma.
|Type of resource
|1 text file
|Stanford Historical Society
|April 17, 2018
|Stanford Historical Society
|Gardner, John W. (John William), 1912-2002
|Civil Society > United States
|Common Cause (U.S.)
|Fred Wertheimer is the founder and president of Democracy 21, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, organization that works to strengthen our democracy, to ensure the integrity of our elections and government decisions and to engage and empower citizens in the political process. The organization’s promotes government integrity, transparency and accountability policies to accomplish its goals. Wertheimer has spent four decades working on democracy and governance issues. He is a recognized national leader and spokesman on money in politics, campaign finance reform and other democracy reform issues. He has led successful lobbying campaigns in Congress to enact major campaign finance laws, and lobbying and ethics reforms. A graduate of the University of Michigan and Harvard Law School, Wertheimer served as Legislative Director of Common Cause, a national citizens’ advocacy group, under the leadership of Founder John W. Gardner during the 1970s. Gardner later served as a member of the Democracy 21 Board. From 1981 to 1995 he served as President of Common Cause. Wertheimer played a key role in every major campaign finance reform battle and success in Congress beginning with the Watergate reforms of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, and participated as a lawyer in every major Supreme Court campaign finance case beginning with the Buckley v. Valeo decision. Wertheimer was the lead lobbyist working with Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Russ Feingold(D-WI) and Representatives Chris Shays (R-CT) and Marty Meehan (D-MA), who led the successful effort in Congress to enact their Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 (BCRA). He also organized and served as a member of the legal defense team that successfully defended the constitutionality of BCRA in the Supreme Court. Democracy 21 played a key role in the drafting and passage of the sweeping ethics and lobbying reforms contained in the Honest Lobbying and Open Government Act of 2007. Wertheimer coordinates a coalition of reform organizations that meet weekly to discuss reform strategies and activities. Wertheimer also manages the Democracy 21 legal team, led by the WilmerHale law firm, and senior partner and former U.S. Solicitor General Seth Waxman, which defends the constitutionality of campaign finance laws and their proper interpretation in the courts. Wertheimer is the author of “Campaign Finance Reform: The Unfinished Agenda,” published in the Annals of the American Academy of Political Science and Social Science and of “TV Ad Wars: How to Reduce the Costs of Television Advertising in our Political Campaigns,” published in the Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics. He is a recipient of the COGEL Award for outstanding service in the cause of open and democratic government, given by the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws, an organization of state and federal ethics enforcement officials. He holds honorary degrees from Colby College, Grinnell College, and the Claremont University Graduate School. Wertheimer is married to award winning journalist Linda Wertheimer, Senior National Correspondent for National Public Radio and a substitute host on NPR’s morning news magazine shows.
|Stanford University. Libraries. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
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