Trevor Potter is a Member in Caplin & Drysdale's Washington, D.C., office. 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.

Admissions & Education

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

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

Recognitions & Noteworthy

Honors & Recognitions
  • Chambers USA, 2009-Present
  • Best Lawyers in America, 2011-Present; Lawyer of the Year, 2023
  • Super Lawyers, Top 100 in D.C., 2014-2015; Washington, D.C., 2008-2009, 2013-Present
  • The Washingtonian, Top Lawyers, 2007-Present; Washington's Most Influential People, 2021; Lifetime Achievement Lawyer, 2022
  • Campaigns & Elections Magazine, Top 50 Influencers, 2013
  • Martindale-Hubbell® AV® Preeminent™

Government Service

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

Professional Activities & Affiliations

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.
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)

Newsroom & Publications

Speaking Engagements
Publications & Alerts
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