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As Matt Fong prepared to run for California state treasurer in 1994, he approached Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe to ask for the firm’s financial backing. It wasn’t a particularly surprising move. Orrick had been a big contributor to the campaigns of previous treasurer candidates, both Democrat and Republican. But as Fong recalls, the answer from Orrick was a polite — but firm — “no.” Orrick cast its lot with the other candidate in the 1994 race — Phil Angelides, a Sacramento developer, former chair of the state Democratic Party and, perhaps more importantly, a personal friend of James Bruner Jr., the lobbyist at Orrick who oversees the firm’s political action committee. Angelides had also been a client of Orrick’s in his days as a real estate developer. “I went to Bruner for support and he said, ‘Matt, he’s one of my best friends,’ ” Fong recalls. “ He was straight up. But he said, ‘I’m going to help him.’” Angelides lost the 1994 election to Fong, but his support from Orrick has never been in question. When he ran again for treasurer in 1998 — this time successfully — he again counted on the firm for financial backing. And as Angelides seeks a second term in November, Orrick and its lawyers are opening up their pocketbooks again. Even for a firm that has long been a loyal contributor to elected officials around the country, Orrick’s largesse to Angelides stands out. In the first six months of 2002, the firm was one of the five biggest contributors to Angelides’ re-election campaign. Orrick and individual employees of the firm have given him more than $275,000 since 1994. “That’s a substantial amount even in the inflated campaign atmosphere we have today,” said James Knox, executive director of the political reform group, Common Cause of California. Even without its personal aspects, the relationship between Orrick and Angelides is a close one. As the state’s general obligation bond counsel, Orrick is involved in a large proportion of the financial transactions the treasurer handles. Since the beginning of his term, Angelides has paid Orrick $1,362,921 in fees, according to numbers from the treasurer’s office. That includes only work as general obligation bond counsel and as outside counsel for the California Pollution Control Financing Authority. The general obligation bond counsel status conferred by Angelides is also a marketing plum for the firm — a seal of approval that gives it cachet with local and state government clients across the country as well as with the financial markets, said Orrick lawyers, competitors and public officials. And Orrick has dug deep to show its appreciation. In May alone, Angelides received a pair of $10,000 checks from the Orrick PAC. Over the years, individual partners from New York to San Francisco and non-lawyer employees like Bruner have personally contributed smaller amounts to the campaign. Bruner did not respond to repeated calls for comment on this story. Angelides’ collections from Orrick are part of a prodigious fund-raising machine operated by the treasurer. He has raised more than $6 million to date for his 2002 re-election effort — despite a race that, even in GOP polling, looks like the incumbent’s to lose. Greg Conlon, the Republican running against Angelides, has raised about $300,000, with nearly half coming from his personal bank account. Orrick, of course, isn’t Angelides’ only big contributor. But the firm is one of the largest backers who receive such a direct benefit from the treasurer’s office. And the giving comes at a time when state officials have been under increasing scrutiny for accepting large contributions from government contractors. Gov. Gray Davis has recently been battered by accusations that he favored a big contributor, Oracle Corp., after the company gave a $25,000 check to his campaign. For its part, Orrick contends the contributions are modest and that the money is not being used to leverage work. “We have received no more work from him than any treasurer,” said Roger Davis, the partner who chairs Orrick’s public finance practice. The treasurer’s office says the work given Orrick is handled through a bidding process and its selection is based on experience, qualifications and fee structure. “The selection of Orrick to perform general obligation bond counsel services was recommended to the treasurer by professional legal and public finance staff,” said Colleen Beamish, a spokeswoman for Angelides, in a statement released to The Recorder. Nevertheless, the close campaign relationship is proving tough for other candidates to crack. Conlon, a former Public Utilities Commission member, said he approached a few Orrick partners he knew for support, but gave up when he found that the firm was so close to Angelides and depended on him to remain the state’s bond counsel. He probably should have talked to Fong first. “We always had a good relationship after I was elected,” Fong said, “but Bruner made it clear. He had strong positive feelings for Phil.”

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