David Cohen: R.I.P.


I was sad and surprised to hear that David Cohen, longtime "public interest lobbyist," died while visiting relatives over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Washington Post had a good obituary recounting his career, which included a stint as president of Common Cause and as head of an institute teaching people how to lobby.

Just two weeks before his death, David hosted an event at Politics & Prose for the 2016 Almanac of American Politics, at which I spoke along with co-authors Richard Cohen and James Barnes and political analyst Charlie Cook. As many will know, I was principal co-author of the Almanac from its first edition, released in November 1971; for this latest edition, published by Columbia Books under license from National Journal, I wrote an introduction. I was an original investor some 40 years ago in Politics & Prose, founded by David's late wife Carla Cohen and Barbara Meade, and as I noted my $5,000 investment was returned with interest. "Carla always liked to pay people back as soon as possible," David said.

David was a tenacious and gracious soul, with roots in the labor union movement, a great reader and aficionado of history. Our political views have diverged over the years, but he was always open to appreciating other points of view and learning from people on all points of the political spectrum. So far as I know he never contributed anything to the partisan bitterness that fills the political air these days. He valued the First Amendment, including the right to "petition the government for a redress of grievances" — lobbying. And not just for the causes he favored, as witness by this quotation included in the Post obituary. "Lobbying is about representing people's interests as they work to redress their public grievances. We all have special interests and they should not be dismissed or castigated."

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