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David Cohen Papers

Identifier: GTM-171102

Scope and Contents

The David Cohen Papers document the career of David Cohen, a noteworthy American public interest advocate. The collection contains information about Cohen's work with the Americans for Democratic Action, Common Cause, the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies, the Roosevelt Center for American Policy Studies, the Social Development Corporation, and the Advocacy Institute. The bulk of the material concerns the Advocacy Institute, which Cohen co-founded in 1985. Of importance, many speeches and articles written by Cohen on public interest topics are preserved among the papers. Scrapbooks, mostly covering his work for Common Cause, provide additional details about his experiences.


  • 1954 - 2015
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 2000

Conditions Governing Access

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Biographical / Historical

David Cohen (1936-2015) was a longtime American public interest lobbyist. Born in Philadelphia on October 10, 1936, Cohen was the son of Joseph Cohen, a tailor, and Gertrude Schwab Cohen. David Cohen graduated from Temple University in 1958 with a degree in history.

Early in his career, Cohen worked for the Upholsterers Union. He then held a position with the liberal advocacy group Americans for Democratic Action in the early 1960s.

In 1971, Cohen joined Common Cause. He worked for Common Cause until 1981, advocating for government ethics laws, government transparency, campaign financing reform, civil rights, and other causes. During Cohen's association with Common Cause, that group became the largest nonpartisan public interest lobbying entity in the United States. Cohen served as president of Common Cause from 1975 to 1981.

In 1985, David Cohen co-founded the Advocacy Institute with Michael Pertschuk. With that organization, he continued his extensive public interest work and trained many lobbyists.

For many years, Cohen and his wife Carla Furstenberg were part owners of the popular Washington book store Politics and Prose. Mrs. Cohen died in 2010 at the age of 74.

David Cohen died on November 29, 2015 in Westport, Connecticut at the age of 79.


"David Cohen, Pioneer of Public Interest Lobbying, Dies at 79" from the "New York Times," 12/8/2015.

"David Cohen, Lobbyist for 'Public,' Rather than 'Special' Interests, Dies at 79" from the "Washington Post," 11/30/2015].


6.42 Linear Feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials


Custodial History

Gift of Aaron and Eve Cohen, 2017.

David Cohen Papers
Scott S. Taylor. Booth Family Center for Special Collections, Georgetown University Library.
2017 December
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057