that is deadlocked. You have two choices:
either the Democrats agree to deregulate
or everyone splits 3-3. We are largely in a
Q: And you were once chairman of the FEC.
A: Right. I got to the commission in 1988. I
spent my time there trying to make it more
efficient, trying to make it work, trying to
have it enforce the law, and in general, I
found my fellow commissioners agreed.
But a concern was, “I’m going to make sure
that whatever you do against my team also
gets done against your team.”
Q: Did your experience with the FEC
encourage you to establish your
nonprofit, Campaign Legal Center?
A: It was coming out of the FEC and
realizing that in most matters that came
before the commission, the entities were
the two political parties. There wasn’t
anyone from the outside representing the
voters. So I thought we needed an entity
to impart a broader public advocacy of the
values of our democracy.
The CLC has done a great job of
holding the legal line on disclosure. Again
and again, groups have been bringing
challenges to existing disclosure statutes,
and the CLC has had a very high win rate in
defending those statutes.
Q: You also lead Caplin & Drysdale’s
political law group.
A: I represent a whole range of clients
who have reform missions. And then
I represent a range of clients who are
looking at ways to involve more citizens to
increase knowledge of what’s happening
in politics and in Washington. I’m
surprised I am much busier now than I
was a decade ago. It sounds trite, but
I genuinely wake up and come to the
office excited. I had breakfast with two
younger people just this morning who
have a whole new idea of how to get their
generation involved in politics through a
prism I had never thought of.
Q: Can you tell me about it?
A: [Laughs] Absolutely not.
Running into people who have ideas and
a commitment to making the country better
is great. If only I had more time to read.
Q: What’s the last great book you read?
A: The Hare with Amber Eyes. It’s about a
family that was once rivals to the Rothschilds
in Europe, who have completely disappeared.
It’s a fascinating book because it
tells whatever place we’re in, whichever
empire, whichever political system—it’s
Look at Russia before the revolution; at
the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian
Empire. What you come to realize is that
what appears to be a solid political body
can disappear in remarkably quick order.
That is a lesson for Americans.
I am reminded of the Benjamin Franklin
line, whether true or not, when asked
upon coming out of the Constitutional
Convention: “What have you given us,
Dr. Franklin?” His response: “A republic,
Madam, if you can keep it.”
Trevor Potter (far left), Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart on the set of The Colbert Report, which aired its final episode in December 2014. “It’s a great
loss for the country. I really mean that,” Potter says of the show’s end. KRISTOPHER LONG
PO T TER CONTINUED FROM PAGE 7