Bob Edgar: 1943-2013

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Bob Edgar (Credit: Robbin Holland)

Bob Edgar, president and CEO of Common Cause, the citizen’s lobby group, died suddenly this morning, just a month shy of his 70th birthday.

Bob was one of the good guys, an energetic and ebullient crusader for reform who delighted in progressive success and never let a political setback slow him down. An ordained minister, he served six terms as a congressman from Pennsylvania, first elected in 1974 as one of the “Watergate babies” who came to office in the wave of reform that followed President Richard Nixon’s resignation. An unsuccessful U.S. Senate run in 1986 against Arlen Specter – who was still a Republican in those days – further spurred his interest in campaign finance reform, one of Common Cause’s most important issues. He became head of Common Cause in May 2007, after a period as general secretary of the National Council of Churches.

I was fortunate to be with Bob twice over the last month or so: at “The Lessons of Watergate” conference Common Cause sponsored in Washington, D.C., and then just two weeks ago at the National Conference for Media Reform in Denver – where we introduced each other to friends and colleagues and kiddingly lamented the awkward pairing of his terrific sense of humor with his notorious inability to tell a joke. We first met in 2008, when he appeared on Bill Moyers Journal as Bill’s guest with Joan Claybrook, then president of the non-partisan reform group Public Citizen. Here is their conversation, which aired the last weekend before Barack Obama’s election to the White House. The promise of campaign finance reform was in the air, but in the years since, little has changed. Nonetheless, Bob Edgar’s eternal optimism shines through:

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