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More than half of the $46.6 million in donations that lawyers and law firms provided last year to the 2008 presidential election supported the five candidates remaining in the race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington organization that tracks federal elections. As a group, lawyers and law firms continue to be the No. 1 industry contributor to this year’s presidential candidates, according to the CPR. The group’s most recent figures are based on year-end data released on Feb. 1 by the Federal Election Commission. The leading Democratic contenders, senators Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., received more than $21 million in contributions. In contrast, less than $3 million funded the remaining Republican candidates, Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Representative Ron Paul, R-Texas. Clinton still leads Clinton, who remains the leading favorite in legal circles, has raised about $11.7 million from lawyers and law firms, up more than 22% since third quarter 2007, which ended on Oct. 29. Lawyers at her biggest contributor, DLA Piper, increased their giving by 32% to $470,150. Other lawyer contributors that bumped up donations to Clinton were those from Greenberg Traurig, with $177,800, and Washington-based Patton Boggs, with $137,200. Obama has raised about $9.5 million in funding from lawyers and law firms, nearly a 20% jump from the previous quarter. Lawyers at one of Obama’s top contributors, New York’s Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, increased their donations by more than 30% to $196,420. In raising additional funds during the fourth quarter, Obama surpassed former Senator John Edwards, D-N.C., in contributions from lawyers. Edwards has since dropped out, and many of his supporters have turned to Obama. “We have had a major movement of the John Edwards fundraisers over to the Obama campaign,” said John Roos, chief executive of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and co-chairman of Obama’s finance committee in California. With the fundraisers are potential donors, many of them lawyers, he said. “We’ve already had a big expression of interest of Edwards people wanting to contribute to the senator’s campaign,” he said. While lawyers continued to prefer Democrats, Republican candidates snagged 30% of total giving from lawyers and firms during the fourth quarter, an increase from their average share of 23% during all of 2007, according to the CPR. That boost, however, preceded the decisions of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Senator Fred Thompson, R-Tenn., and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, all with legal degrees, to drop out of the race.

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