Common Cause leader Bob Edgar dies at 69

Former Rep. Bob Edgar (D-Pa.), the president and CEO of Common Cause, died suddenly Tuesday morning, according to the group.

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, chairman of the board for Common Cause, said the watchdog group was saddened by Edgar’s death.

“We are deeply saddened and shaken today by the passing of Bob Edgar,” Reich said in a statement. “Bob will be remembered for his decency, kindness, compassion and humor. His deep commitment to social justice and strengthening our democracy is his greatest gift to Common Cause and the nation. Our hearts are with Bob’s family, his wife Merle, and sons Andrew, David and Rob, and their families.”

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Edgar, 69, led Common Cause since May 2007. The ex-congressman, who served for 12 years after being elected in the 1974 class of “Watergate babies,” was a strident critic of money in politics and pushed for campaign finance reform.

On Capitol Hill, he fought against public waste and helped author parts of the Super Fund legislation as well as serving on the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which investigated the deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President John F. Kennedy. He ran for the Senate in 1986 but lost to the late Sen. Arlen Specter.

Faith was a big part of Edgar’s life as he led the National Council of Churches at one point. Edgar also had served as president of the Claremont School of Theology and had a master of divinity degree from the Theological School of Drew University, Madison, N.J.

Reform and civil rights groups said Edgar had a passion for advancing the public interest that will be missed.

“Bob brought passion and integrity to all of his many undertakings and his steadfast presence and dedication in the reform community will be sorely missed. We had the pleasure of working with Bob on a great many initiatives since he took the helm at Common Cause,” said the Campaign Legal Center in a statement.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said Edgar was “a minister for all Americans” and “he challenged our nation to live up to its greatest ideals of integrity, rule of law and equality.”

Lawmakers also expressed their sadness at Edgar’s passing.

“Today, our country lost one of its most ardent, passionate, and effective voices of a more open and honest democracy. Whether in the Capitol or at Common Cause, Congressman Bob Edgar dedicated his life to ensuring our government lived up to the values it was formed to protect,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a statement.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, said it was a pleasure to work with Edgar as a lawmaker and at Common Cause.

“While he is no longer with us, his legacy of altruism, and deep commitment to democratic ideals, will continue to live on in the work of Common Cause and by all of those who he inspired,” Conyers said in a statement.