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Obama Outpaces McCain in Fundraising Among New York's LawyersFinancial support by New York state's legal community for Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee has outpaced that for John McCain and the Republican National Committee by a nearly 3-1 margin over the last two years, according to recent filings with the Federal Election Commission. Lawyers and others employed by New York law firms donated $4.6 million either to Obama's campaign or to the DNC. Meanwhile, lawyers and law office personnel gave $1.6 million to McCain's campaign and the RNC.
New York Law Journal2008-10-23 12:00:00 AM
Financial support by New York state's legal community for Sen. Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee has outpaced that for Sen. John McCain and the Republican National Committee by a nearly 3-1 margin over the last two years, according to data in recent filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Through the end of August, lawyers and others employed by law firms in the state had donated $4.6 million either directly to Obama's campaign or to the Democratic National Committee. Meanwhile, lawyers and law office personnel had opened their wallets to make $1.6 million in contributions to McCain's campaign and his party's national committee.
Nationwide, through Aug. 31, the Obama campaign had directly raised $454 million to McCain's $230 million, but the RNC had out-raised the DNC $242.6 million to $149.2 million.
The latest financial reports were due Monday, but the Obama campaign announced Sunday that it had raised $150 million in September. The New York Times reported that the RNC had raised $66 million last month and the DNC $50 million.
The tabulation of lawyer donations through August was prepared at the request of the New York Law Journal from required FEC filings by the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C. A breakdown of lawyer spending through September will not be available until next week.
Douglas W. Dunham, a counsel at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom who has been a leader of the Obama camp's fundraising in New York, attributed his side's advantage to concerns among New York lawyers about the future of the U.S. Supreme Court and objections to Bush administration policies.
The next president could have as many as four appointments to the Court, he said, and "a lot of lawyers want to see the rule of law restored in both the U.S. and abroad and are concerned about the way the U.S. Justice Department and some U.S. Attorney's offices have been politicized."
Edward F. Cox, a partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler who heads the McCain campaign in New York, said his camp has lagged because there are nearly two Democrats for every Republican in New York, and "the New York Bar is particularly Democrat-oriented."
The gap between the two candidates may grow as more reports are filed because McCain was barred from raising money directly once he accepted public funding for his campaign after he accepted the Republican nomination on Sept. 4.
Because Obama opted out of the public financing program he can continue to raise funds directly.
McCain has received $84.1 million in public funds. Both campaigns may receive an additional $19.1 million from their national committees for "coordinated" activities. There is no limit to the amount the national committees may spend to advance their party's candidate as long as the expenditures are not coordinated.
Dunham, who has contributed $16,600 to Obama and the Democratic National Committee, said that most of the fundraising effort in New York targeted at the legal community had been conducted by the Lawyers for Obama Committee, which consists of about 200 lawyers, most of them based in New York City.
Four members of the New York committee, in addition to Dunham, are members as well of Obama's national finance committee. Those members commit to raise $250,000 for the campaign, Dunham said.
The other four members of the national finance committee are Jeh C. Johnson, a partner at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison who is also counsel to the Obama state campaign; David L. Carden, a litigation partner at Jones Day; Gordon J. Davis, a partner at Dewey & LeBoeuf; and Andrew H. Schapiro, a partner at Mayer Brown.
Other New York lawyers who have been active in raising funds for the Obama campaign are Preeta D. Bansal, a partner at Skadden; Barry H. Berke, a partner at Kramer, Levin, Naftalis & Frankel; John P. Coffey, a partner at Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman; Peter L. Zimroth, a partner at Arnold & Porter; Rosalind Fink, a partner at Brill & Meisel; and Steven R. Newmark, an associate at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, who has been a leader of the Obama campaign's effort to raise funds from young lawyers nationwide.
Thomas E.L. Dewey, co-chairman of New York Lawyers for McCain, said that fundraising is not within his committee's bailiwick. Instead, he said, the committee and its 86 steering members has focused on organizing volunteers for an Election Day operation.
The group has 500 members, but Dewey, a partner of Dewey Pegno & Kramarsky, declined to provide details about those activities.
Cindy Warner, the co-chairwoman of the New York Democratic Lawyers Council, said her group has trained 1,800 lawyers who will be deployed in New York and 16 battleground states on Election Day to monitor that voters are not hampered in casting their votes. The lawyers council is a permanent group affiliated with both the Democratic National Committee and the state Democratic Party, which was formed to protect voters' rights, said Warner, who is on the legal staff of Unilever.
The leading centers for contributions to the two camps and their national committees within New York were Skadden Arps for the Democrats and Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman for the Republicans. Lawyers and others at Skadden contributed $148,248 to the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee, and personnel at Kasowitz Benson gave $68,500 to the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee.
Under federal law, donors may contribute $2,300 to a presidential candidate's primary campaign and another $2,300 to that candidate's general election campaign during the 2007 and 2008 calendar years. Candidates who accept public funding like Sen. McCain, however, may not collect contributions for their general election campaign.
Only candidates who accept public funding, though, may establish compliance funds to which donors may also contribute $2,300.
Compliance funds are limited to expenditures made to cover the campaign's cost of complying with federal legal and accounting requirements. A compliance fund may spend up to 5 percent of a campaign's advertising budget to meet compliance costs.
Donors also may contribute up to $28,500 to a national party committee in each of the two years within an election cycle. The net result is that contributors may give a maximum of $61,600 to committees established by the two candidate's campaigns or to their parties' national committees.
Under federal election rules, political contributors are required to disclose their occupation. In compiling information concerning donations from the New York legal community, the Center for Responsive Politics searched the FEC's database of campaign filings for contributors to the presidential campaigns and in McCain's case, his compliance committee, as well as to the two parties national committees, for donors indicating that they were either lawyers or employees of law firms.
In compiling total donations and law firm-based contributions from the New York legal community, the center included contributions made by persons having the same last name and address as individuals who had identified themselves as working in the legal sector.
According to the center's Web site, the Obama campaign nationwide has received direct contributions of $27.7 million from lawyers and law firm employees, more than from any other sector of the economy.
At $9.3 million, the legal community was the second-most important source of direct donations to McCain's campaign. Only retired persons, who collectively contributed $30.3 million, have contributed more to McCain.
Several law firms -- when the contributions of their lawyers and employees were aggregated nationwide -- were among the top businesses contributing directly to each campaign.
Five law firms were among the top 20 businesses contributing to Obama: WilmerHale, $383,024; Sidley Austin, $370,916; Skadden Arps, $360,409; Latham & Watkins, $328,879; and Jones Day, $309,960.
Three law firms were among the top businesses contributing to McCain: Blank Rome, $153,426; Greenberg Traurig, $145,737; and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, $120,246.
As of July 31, general counsels at Fortune 100 companies had roughly evenly divided their contributions between the two presidential campaigns. According to research by the Center for Responsive Politics conducted for Corporate Counsel, an affiliate of the Law Journal, 23 general counsels had contributed $53,250 to McCain and 19 had donated $47,950 to Obama. Additionally, four general counsels contributed $52,100 to the Republican National Committee and $9,500 to the Democratic National Committee.