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  • J.D., University of Virginia School of Law, 1982, Order of the Coif; Editor-in-Chief, Virginia Journal of International Law
  • A.B., Harvard College, 1978

Bar and Court Admissions

  • District of Columbia
  • Illinois (inactive)
  • District of Columbia Court of Appeals
  • U.S. Supreme Court

Other Professional Affiliations

American Bar Association (Co-Chair, Election Law Committee, Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, 1999-present; Liaison, Standing Committee on Election Law, 2000-present)

Brookings Institution (Non-Resident Senior Fellow)

Government Experience

Chairman, Federal Election Commission, 1994

Commissioner, Federal Election Commission, 1991-1995

Assistant General Counsel, Federal Communications Commission, 1984-1985

Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, 1982-1984

Trevor Potter

Member, Washington, D.C.
(202) 862-5092 | v-card | PDF

Trevor Potter is a Member in Caplin & Drysdale's Washington, D.C., office, where he is a co-leader of the firm's Political Law Group.  He is one of the nation's best-known and experienced campaign and election lawyers. A former Commissioner and Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, and counsel to several Presidential campaigns, 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." 

Mr. Potter has been rated AV by Martindale-Hubbell®, listed as one of the "Best Lawyers in America®," and listed among Washington, D.C.'s, Super Lawyers®. He was recently described as "smart as a whip" in his Chambers USA listing, and the editors of Campaigns & Elections Magazine voted him among the "Top 50 Influencers" in the political world to watch in the 2014 election cycle. 


Mr. Potter counsels political candidates, for-profit entities, and nonprofit organizations on a variety of political law issues. He is a leading authority on lobbying regulation, government ethics and campaign finance issues, and is known nationally for his experience in compliance programs, campaign finance investigations, and questions concerning lobbying registration and disclosure, as well as federal and state ethics rules. 

Representative examples of how Mr. Potter assists clients, include:

  • Implementing compliance programs that facilitate adherence to the law and maximize organizational effectiveness with regards to lobbying, giving campaign contributions, and interacting with public-sector entities.
  • Responding to political law investigations, audits, and complaints by defending individuals and organizations in court and before administrative agencies.
  • Helping politically active individuals and organizations, including political action committees, with establishing and maintaining their status and avoiding civil and criminal penalties.
  • Advising on government ethics rules that  restrict the nature and amount of gifts, employment offers, event hosting, travel sponsorships, and other benefits that private individuals and organizations may confer on public officials. 
  • Navigating the extensive registration and disclosure requirements placed on individuals and organizations who lobby public officials.


Mr. Potter served as General Counsel to John McCain's 2008 and 2000 presidential campaigns. He also served as Deputy General Counsel to George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign. Mr. Potter is Counsel to Stephen Colbert's 501(c)(4) and he advises Mr. Colbert on campaign finance issues on The Colbert Report.  He was also the lawyer for Mr. Colbert's Super PAC "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" in the 2012 election cycle.

Mr. Potter is the founding President of and General Counsel for the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit which focuses on campaign finance issues in the courts and before the FEC.

Professional Activities

  • Non-Resident Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
  • Frequent guest speaker at a variety of professional meetings and has taught campaign finance law at the University of Virginia School of Law and Oxford University.
  • Testified before Congress on federal election proposals and campaign finance regulation and has served as an expert witness on election law issues in court.
  • Co-Chair of the ABA Task Force on Lobbying Regulation.
  • Co-Chair of the Election Law Committee of the American Bar Association's Administrative Law Section, and Co-Chair of the Advisory Committee of the Standing Committee on Election Law of the ABA.

Awards & Rankings

  • Chambers USA, 2009-Present
  • Best Lawyers in America, 2011-Present
  • Super Lawyers, Top 100 in D.C., 2014-2015; Washington, D.C., 2008-2009, 2013-Present
  • The Washingtonian, Top Lawyers, 2007-Present
  • Campaigns & Elections Magazine, Top 50 Influencers, 2013
  • Martindale-Hubbell® AV® Preeminent™

Recent News

Click here for a full list of media coverage.

Recent Speaking Engagements

  • Lecturer, Money in Politics: A Hydraulic or a Legal Issue?, 53rd Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning, January 23, 2018
  • Speaker, Drafting Democracy, The Atlantic, December 7, 2017
  • Presenter, Money in Politics: Democracy and Governance in Today's America, League of Women Voters, Adlai Stevenson Center on Democracy and the Office of Community Education at Lake Forest College, May 11, 2017
  • Moderator, Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections, The Campaign Legal Center, American Constitution Society, & UCDC Law, May 5, 2016
  • Moderator, Plutocrats United: Campaign Money, the Supreme Court, and the Distortion of American Elections, The Campaign Legal Center, American Constitution Society, & UCDC Law, January 22, 2016
  • Keynote Speaker, Red, White, and on the Brink, Independent Sector National Conference, October 28, 2015
  • Speaker, Legal Rubble: Money and Politics in the Age of Citizens United, Harvard Law School Election Law Series, October 9, 2015
  • Panelist, Show Me the Money: How Transparency in Political Donations Could Change American Elections, Yale University, Institution for Social and Policy Studies (ISPS), November 10, 2014
  • Speaker, Campaign Finance in the 2014 Election and in the Future, West LegalEdcenter, Webinar, November 10, 2014
  • Speaker, Campaign Finance, The International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), 2012 U.S. Election Program, November 4, 2014
  • Speaker, Professor Josh Douglas' Election Law Class, University of Kentucky College of Law, October 1, 2014
  • Speaker, Campaign Finance, University of Kentucky College of Law, Open Forum, October 1, 2014
  • Panelist, Money in Politics: What Could Go Wrong?, June 2, 2014
  • Speaker, Can Our Democracy Survive the Supreme Court?, Princeton University, 2014 Donald S. Bernstein '75 Lecture, April 22, 2014
  • Panelist, Election Year Issues for Tax-Exempt Organizations, Federal Bar Association, 38th Annual Tax Law Conference, February 28, 2014
  • Speaker, Perspectives from Business on Campaign Finance Reform, Committee for Economic Development and The Conference Board Governance Center, July 24, 2013
  • Speaker, Following the Money: A Post-Mortem on 2012 and a Look to What's Next, The National Press Club Journalism Institute, December 4, 2012
  • Panelist, Super PAC: Expert Analysis, Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL), 34th Annual Conference, December 3, 2012
  • Speaker, Two Cheers for Super PACs: Money in Politics is Still Overregulated, Intelligence Squared, Debate, September 12, 2012
  • Panelist, How Do We Divide and Conquer?, League of Women Voters, June 12, 2012
  • Speaker, Campaign Finance in a Post-Citizens United World, American Law Institute (ALI), 89th Annual Meeting, May 21, 2012
  • Chair, Citizens United Supreme Court Decision, The Conference Board, Conference on Corporate Political Spending, May 15, 2012
  • Speaker, Campaign 2012 and the Rise of Super PACs, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) Policy Forum, Money, Politics, and the Economy, May 11, 2012
  • Presenter, Campaign Finance after Citizens United: A Primer on Super PACs and Corporate Political Activity, West LegalEdcenter and Westlaw GC, Webcast, May 8, 2012
  • Panelist, Impact of Citizens United v. FEC on Campaign Finance, Georgetown Law Center, Conference on Representing and Managing Tax-Exempt Organizations, April 19, 2012
  • Panelist, Campaign Finance in the 2012 Elections: The Rise of Super PACs, Brookings Institute, Webinar, March 1, 2012
  • Speaker, Corporate Political Spending: Policies and Practices, Accountability and Disclosure, The Conference Board Committee, Conference Board on Corporate Political Spending, 2011 Symposium, October 20, 2011
  • Bringing Voter Registration into the 21st Century, September 19, 2011
  • Speaker, Liabilities of Funds and Fund Managers for Fraud and Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Annual Hedge Fund General Counsel Summit, September 13, 2011
  • Wested Legal Reviews Campaign Finance in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2010
  • Foundational Shifts in Political Law: Citizens United, Pay to Play and Lobbying Reform, June 8, 2010
  • Panelist, The Rationale and Ripple Effects of Citizens United v. FEC, Caplin & Drysdale, Audio Conference, January 29, 2010
  • Audio Conference: The Brave New World of Campaign Finance, January 27, 2010
  • What is Next for Lobbying Regulation? Are the New Rules Working? Are Further Reforms the Wave of the Future? Are They Good Public Policy, or Constitutional?, October 22, 2009
  • Audio Conference: The SEC Enters the Fray Around "Pay to Play", October 1, 2009

Click here for a full list of speaking engagements.

Recent Publications

Click here for a full list of publications.