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The spirit of giving is alive and well among lawyers at several of the nation’s firms � at least when it comes to supporting their favorite candidates in the 2008 presidential election. As a group, lawyers and law firms are among the largest industries that contribute to federal elections, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington organization that tracks federal elections. In the first three quarters of 2007, lawyers and law firms stepped up their individual donations to federal election campaigns by 52 percent, compared with the same period in 2004, which involved the last presidential race. While some law firms have donated through their political action committees, individual lawyers collectively have generated substantially more financial support to candidates. Kirkland & Ellis; Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom; and several other firms have given broadly to candidates on both sides of the fence, although most favor Democrats. Others, such as Philadelphia’s Blank Rome; DLA Piper; and Los Angeles-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, have hosted fundraising events for certain candidates or have lawyers working for their campaigns. A few firms have geographical connections, such as Boston-based Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, where lawyers have contributed significantly to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s campaign. In general, the wide field of candidates and several hot-button issues, such as concerns about government infringements on civil rights and the war in Iraq, have spurred lawyers and law firms to shell out record levels of money, said James Blanchard, former governor of Michigan and co-chairman of the government affairs practice group at DLA Piper. “My colleagues seem much more worried about who gets in the White House, and what they’re going to do, than ever before,” Blanchard said. “I think it’s a good sign.” RECORD NUMBERS Of the $76 million that lawyers and law firms have donated toward next year’s federal elections, $38.9 million has gone to presidential candidates, according to CRP. More than half of that amount supports the top three Democratic candidates: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and former Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C. Former Sen. Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who have gained popularity in recent polls, have yet to attract noticeable support from the legal industry. As of Oct. 29, Thompson had received less than $1 million, and Huckabee reported less than $100,000, from lawyers and law firms, according to CRP. Among Democrats, most of the nation’s largest firms have steered clear of donating to Edwards, whose support comes almost entirely from personal injury and other plaintiffs’ boutique firms. About 27 percent of the lawyers who donated to Edwards described themselves as self-employed; fewer than 20 percent reported that designation among those who gave to Obama, Clinton, Romney, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. For each of those candidates, individual law firm partners, associates and, in some cases, staff members, have amassed tremendous support. “Fundraising is often about individuals going to people they know and requesting them to help out by giving contributions,” said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a Washington nonprofit watchdog organization that follows campaign finance issues. “Individuals will respond at times to the request from their partner, or the request from a fundraiser, trying to help out the fundraiser without having strong feelings about the candidate.” Several of the largest firms didn’t stick to one candidate. Kirkland & Ellis, whose lawyers collectively rank among the top five law firm contributors to Obama and Clinton, also gave nearly $90,000 to Romney’s campaign � more than any other law firm. DONATIONS TO BOTH PARTIES Lawyers at Skadden, Arps doled out more than $150,000 each to Obama and Clinton and nearly $55,000 to Edwards, plus smaller amounts to the top three Republican candidates. Lawyers at Greenberg Traurig, which represented President Bush in the litigation following the 2000 election, ranked among the top five law firm contributors to McCain and Giuliani, but gave the most as a group � about $150,000 � to Clinton. “Although the firm does not endorse presidential nominees, we are not surprised that many of our attorneys are supportive of different candidates,” said Lourdes Brezo-Martinez, regional marketing manager of Greenberg Traurig, in an e-mailed statement. Lawyers at Jones Day gave about $158,000 to Obama but were among the largest contributors to Giuliani’s campaign. Even lawyers at Giuliani’s law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, didn’t consistently give to their fellow partner. The firm’s lawyers gave more than $100,000 to Giuliani, making them the second-largest law firm donor to his campaign, but also gave tens of thousands of dollars to Clinton, Obama, Edwards and Romney. “The firm itself has taken no official role in the campaign,” said Jarvis Hollingsworth, a partner at Houston-based Bracewell & Giuliani, whose political action committee has not supported any presidential candidates for the 2008 election. “The firm has not sponsored or co-sponsored any events for Rudy and doesn’t have any plans to do so.” Lawyers at DLA Piper, whose political action committee historically has not supported presidential candidates, have donated this year to several candidates, including Clinton, Romney, Thompson and Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., Blanchard said. He said the committee responds to requests from individual lawyers, many of whom are friends with the candidates. The firm also has partners serving as fundraisers and on campaigns for candidates “all over the map,” including three who serve on Clinton’s national finance committee, Blanchard said. The firm’s lawyers have donated more than $350,000 to Clinton, collectively making them the largest contributor overall to her campaign. In many cases, lawyers give to a candidate because their colleagues serve as “bundlers,” which means they are tasked to raise a certain amount of money for that candidate’s campaign. Blank Rome, whose chairman, David Girard-diCarlo, served on Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, heads the finance committee in Pennsylvania for McCain’s campaign. Earlier this year, the firm hosted a fundraising event for McCain. The firm’s lawyers also have donated more than $140,000 to McCain, constituting his largest law firm contributor. “When people are contacted by their colleagues, who they know and respect, to support a fundraising event, that certainly matters,” said Peter Peyser, a principal in the Washington office and government relations group at Blank Rome. “But there are people who will support an event like that as part of their process of getting to know candidates for the election. The fact that somebody gave a donation doesn’t guarantee they won’t make a donation to another candidate and won’t vote for another candidate down the road.” He noted that the firm’s lawyers have donated to other candidates, most notably Clinton, who has received more than $100,000 from Blank Rome lawyers. The firm, whose five-member political action committee includes former Democratic vice presidential nominee Geraldine Ferraro, also hosted a fundraiser for Clinton earlier this year in New York. Another firm whose lawyers have contributed considerably to a campaign in which senior partners are involved is Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. The firm’s lawyers make up the single largest donor from a law firm to Giuliani, who has received more than $100,000 from them. Ted Olson, a partner in the Washington office of Gibson Dunn who was assistant attorney general during the Reagan administration while Giuliani was associate attorney general, heads Giuliani’s justice advisory committee. The committee also includes Gibson partners Miguel Estrada, Douglas Cox and Randy Mastro, Giuliani’s former deputy mayor. Amanda Bronstad is a reporter with The National Law Journal, a Recorder affiliate based in New York City.

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