Derek Cressman

Author of When Money Talks -- The High Price of "Free" Speech and the Selling of Democracy

Derek Cressman is a writer, educator, and pro-democracy advocate in Sacramento, California who is currently a candidate for the state senate. He began working professionally to reduce big money in politics in 1995 with such nonpartisan organizations as Common Cause and the Public Interest Research Group. As US PIRG’s democracy program director, he was the first professional advocate in Washington, DC, to support a constitutional amendment to limit campaign spending. As director of Common Cause’s Amend 2012 campaign, Derek was the architect behind voter instruction measures in Montana, Colorado, Massachusetts, and California, where voters demanded Congress pass an amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United v. FEC. In 2014, Derek Cressman ran for California secretary of state. Though he didn’t win his election, the legislature responded to his campaign, and the efforts of others, by referring a question to the ballot instructing Congress to overturn the Citizens United ruling—the central plank of Derek’s campaign platform. Both during and after his campaign, Derek joined the March for Democracy from Los Angeles to Sacramento, culminating in a nonviolent civil disobedience where many activists were arrested for staging a sit-in at the state capitol. Derek has testified before committees of the United States Senate, California State Assembly and Senate, and California Fair Political Practices Commission; served as an expert in federal litigation; and authored and coauthored numerous reports as well as one previous book, The Recall’s Broken Promise: How Big Money Still Runs California Politics. Derek has appeared extensively in the media, including the Associated Press, Roll Call, The Hill, National Journal, USA Today, the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Christian Science Monitor, Washington Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, Sacramento Bee, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Austin American-Statesman, Orlando Sentinel, Albuquerque Journal, and Kansas City Star. When he’s not working to improve our democracy, Derek enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He credits his time running marathons and mountaineering with building his fortitude to tackle obstacles like the US Supreme Court. He is an avid woodworker and picks at the banjo when he needs a break. Derek grew up in Colorado Springs and graduated cum laude from Williams College in 1990 with a degree in political science. Learn more at