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To mark our 30th anniversary, we’ve reached into our archives to highlight key events and players who made a difference since we made our debut. A version of the following article appeared in the April 27, 1987, edition…
Law and lobbying firms nationwide donated more than $2.5 million to various federal and local political candidates during the 1986 election season through their political action committees (PACs), according to a survey commissioned by Legal Times. The $2.5 million total represents about a 50 percent increase over law and lobbying firm PAC contributions in the 1984 elections. The survey was compiled from Federal Election Commission (FEC) filings with the assistance of Sunshine Services Corp. of Washington, D.C., which publishes PACs Americana, a national directory. According to the survey results, Cleveland’s Jones, Day, Reavis & Pogue Good Government Fund was the largest law firm PAC donor, giving $264,291 to an array of 1986 Democratic and Republican candidates, up from donations of only $46,748 in the 1984 elections. The more than fivefold increase in PAC activity reflects managing partner Richard Pogue’s plan to get 670-lawyer Jones, Day more involved in the political process. “I’m a strong believer in it,” says Pogue, who estimates that 60 percent of his partners and many associates made contributions to the firm’s PAC. “Some people call it [PAC money] undue influence, but we don’t think of it that way,” adds Pogue. Sen. Robert Packwood (R-Ore.), who won easy re-election in 1986, was the top recipient of Jones, Day’s largesse, with a $6,000 donation. Hedging its bets in the hotly contested Senate race in California, Jones, Day gave $5,000 apiece to the winner, Democratic incumbent Alan Cranston, and his GOP challenger, Edwin Zschau.
PAC Players: Top Law Firm Political Action Committees
1. Jones, Day: $264,291 1. DLA Piper: $690,726
2. Akin, Gump: $171,640 2. Sonnenschein: $687,750
3. Vinson & Elkins: $168,613 3. Holland & Knight: $535,221
4. Verner, Liipfert: $119,544 4. Patton Boggs: $488,938
5. Baker & Botts: $111,299 5. Akin Gump: $485,765
Source: 2006 data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The Jones, Day Good Government Fund also gave $5,000 to the unsuccessful Texas gubernatorial campaign of former Lt. Gov. Bill Hobby (Jones, Day has a large Dallas office). The firm’s PAC also gave money to seven Texans running for re-election in the House of Representatives and to 13 incumbent House candidates from Ohio. Jones, Day’s PAC was one of the few included in the survey to give more money to Republican candidates running for federal office than to Democrats, giving a total of $51,375 to 41 GOP candidates running for federal office. Overall, the 80 law and lobbying firms that had active PACs in the 1985-86 election cycle gave more than $1 million to Democrats running for federal office, and $565,911 to Republicans. Since most of the PAC money went to congressional incumbents, the Democratic tilt is not surprising. Another $1 million of law and lobbying firm PAC money was spent on statewide and local races. Partisan breakdowns of these races were not available from the FEC. As for win-loss records, D.C.’s Williams & Jensen, headed by well-known Democratic fund-raiser J.D. Williams, scored well in the hotly contested Senate races, backing only one loser — former Rep. James Jones (D-Okla.), who failed to unseat Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.). Williams & Jensen hedged its bets in the Senate races in Washington and North Carolina, giving to both candidates in each race. The losers included Dickstein Shapiro & Morin, which backed seven losing candidates. Gray & Co., the lobbying powerhouse that merged last year with Hill & Knowlton, backed six unsuccessful Senate aspirants.

Update: Jones Day’s $264,291 performance in 1986 would still make it a respectable contributor among law firm PACs. However, PACs are just one part of the picture: Individual lawyers and law firm staff can swell a firm’s campaign power. Patton Boggs’ PAC, for instance, gave more than $488,000 to federal candidates in 2006. But individual contributors at the firm gave $817,000. Total giving: $1.3 million. That made Patton Boggs the biggest contributor among major law firms, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The tally will undoubtedly rise for firms in 2008. Already PACs and individuals at DLA Piper, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, and Patton Boggs have collectively given more than $3 million to candidates. And there’s plenty more where that came from.

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