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WASHINGTON — The pressure to raise enormous sums for the presidential campaign is on, and lawyers are delivering. Law firms and individual attorneys have poured nearly $17 million into presidential campaigns within the last year, putting them on target to increase the amount they gave in the 2000 presidential election by more than half. “We have money, we have awareness, and we have interest,” says William Kilberg, a D.C. partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who has raised more than $200,000 for President Bush’s re-election campaign. Between January 2003 and March of this year, lawyers nationwide have donated $8.8 million to Bush and $7.9 million to Sen. John Kerry, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The nonpartisan center compiles data provided by the Federal Election Commission. In the 2000 election, lawyers gave a record $11.5 million to the two major party candidates. Law firms make up nearly half of the Kerry campaign’s 20 largest contributors. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom tops the list among law firm donors and is second among all contributors to the candidate, giving nearly $160,000 as of March 31. Piper Rudnick, which absorbed lobbying and law firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand in 2002, contributed $105,750. Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, the Boston firm that counts Kerry’s younger brother, Cameron, as a partner, contributed $94,100. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s lawyers tallied $82,000, and Latham & Watkins lawyers donated nearly $70,000. Hale and Dorr attorneys gave $66,000. Arnold & Porter, and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips rounded out the list with about $60,000 each in donations to Kerry’s campaign. A handful of Washington attorneys are among Kerry’s biggest fund-raisers, including Skadden partners Leslie Goldman and Ivan Schlager and Piper Rudnick partner Jeffrey Liss, all of whom have raised at least $100,000. Lanny Davis, an Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner and former lawyer to President Clinton, and Robert Sussman, a partner with Latham & Watkins, have raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Kerry. Fewer lawyers, but larger numbers dominate the Bush camp. Attorneys from Philadelphia’s Blank Rome have anted up $208,000. Houston-based Vinson & Elkins, the Enron Corp.’s law firm and a major contributor to Bush in 2000, gave $166,500. Another Texas firm, Haynes and Boone, contributed $162,000. Along with Gibson, Dunn’s Kilberg, major fund-raisers for Bush include Baker Botts partner James Baker IV, James Langdon of Akin Gump, and Bradley Wine, a partner with Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky. Baker, Langdon, and Wine have each raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for the president. Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns publicly identify their leading fund-raisers. HARD CURRENCY Those fund-raisers act as “bundlers,” meaning that they solicit donations to a certain candidate en masse. Federal election laws limit the sums individuals can give, but there is no limit to what groups of individuals from the same organization can donate. Campaign finance reformers have discussed restricting the practice. The passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain-Feingold legislation, outlawed “soft money” donations, or money raised by national and state parties that wasn’t regulated by federal campaign finance law because it was not intended to be used to directly aid candidates. The act also doubled to $4,000 the amount per election cycle, including primary and general elections, individuals can contribute in “hard money.” The funding must pass directly from individual contributors or a political party to a candidate and is regulated by federal campaign finance laws. That change made hard money, which includes bundled contributions, all the more important — a trend evident in the greater amount of hard money lawyers are giving to Bush and Kerry this cycle, says Steven Weiss, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics. GETTING CONNECTED Of course, Washington law firms have traditionally played a prominent role in presidential campaign fund-raising. D.C. firms with large government regulatory and lobbying practices have obvious needs to establish connections within a presidential administration, says Anthony Corrado, a campaign finance specialist at the Brookings Institution. Even if a firm’s lawyers are significant contributors or fund-raisers for a certain campaign, that doesn’t necessarily mean the firm itself has a sharply defined political profile or that partners’ political activities coincide, Corrado adds. “Law firms come in three stripes — Republican, Democratic and those that cover both sides of the aisle,” Corrado says. Take for example Akin Gump. The firm’s lawyers had donated about $82,000 to Kerry’s campaign, as of the end of March. At the same time, Langdon, a partner in Akin Gump’s energy practice and a member of the firm’s management committee, raised more than $100,000 for Bush. He did not return a call for comment. Piper Rudnick, which like Akin Gump has a large lobbying practice, similarly courts candidates in both major parties. Piper’s political action committee has given $5,000 to Bush, and while it has contributed no money to Kerry, it did make a donation to the failed presidential campaign of Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla.. But on his own, Kerry fund-raiser Liss has raised more than $100,000 for Kerry’s campaign, and lawyers from the firm have given about the same amount to Kerry in individual donations. Liss calls the firm’s PAC “religiously bi-partisan” and reflective of the party divisions on Capitol Hill. Firm PAC contributions are voluntary, says Liss, adding however that “our partners understand it’s important to contribute.” Dickstein Shapiro’s Wine started gathering money for Bush in September and became a “Pioneer” in February by raising more than $100,000. Wine says he does little political fund raising within his firm, in part because of ethical considerations, but also because Dickstein’s overall political profile is different than his own. “Dickstein is not a traditionally conservative firm in its politics,” Wine says. “I can count with the benefit of one hand the partners who support Bush.” Client interests can also play a role in law firm contributions to presidential candidates. Gibson Dunn’s Kilberg says it isn’t unusual for clients to ask partners to contribute to campaigns for presidential and other federal candidates. “If it’s a good client, we’ll do that,” Kilberg says. PRIMING THE PUMP The mechanics of generating political campaign money within law firms aren’t always simple. Kerry fund-raiser Liss says he doesn’t often directly ask partners for contributions, and does not solicit associates. “Given my position, I don’t want to feel like there is any undue pressure,” Liss says, adding, however, that he first became involved in presidential campaign fund raising 20 years ago when a senior partner asked Liss to help him raise money for then-Sen. John Glenn’s 1984 bid for the White House. Latham partner and Kerry fund-raiser Sussman follows similar guidelines. The firm has a PAC through which associates and partners can donate to various federal campaigns, but not a presidential campaign. He describes solicitations for the presidential campaign and other political campaigns at his firm as informal and low-key. “There is no institutional pressure to contribute,” Sussman says. He usually approaches lawyers at his firm one-on-one if he thinks that they would be interested in donating to the Kerry campaign. Kilberg says that, as a rule, he doesn’t ask associates for contributions. “You don’t want to give people the impression that this is something that they need to do,” Kilberg says. “It’s fairly common sense that you don’t solicit people who report to you or someone over whose career you have influence. It wouldn’t be fair.” FEW RESTRICTIONS It might not be fair, but it isn’t against the law either, says Brett Kappel, a federal election law expert at Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy’s D.C. office. Staying within the boundaries of federal election law is largely straightforward. Kappel says most D.C. firms don’t have written policies governing campaign fund raising. “You would think that more Washington firms, since so many are politically active, would have written policies,” says Kappel, who has drawn up policies outlining guidelines for campaign solicitations by employees for a number of clients. Like anyone raising campaign funds, lawyers can’t ask a direct subordinate, such as a secretary, to assist them in fund raising. However, they can legally ask someone they oversee for a contribution. But when soliciting money from subordinates for a political campaign, partners have to strike an appropriate balance in their approach, Kappel says. “Showing up at someone’s door would tend to show coercion. One e-mail is not going to do that,” he says. William Canfield, a Williams & Jensen partner and chair of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Election Law, says firms don’t need explicit policies. He likens political campaign fund raising to collecting money for a charity. “It’s not different than having a partner going around raising money for the United Way,” Canfield says. Lily Henning is a reporter with Legal Times , a Recorder affiliate based in Washington, D.C.

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