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George W. Bush has close ties to Baker Botts. The Texas governor and presidential candidate once worked in the Houston law firm’s mailroom, and the firm has represented the Bush family for years. Partner James A. Baker was U.S. secretary of state when Bush’s father was president. So it’s not surprising that the firm and its lawyers (taken as a group) are among the largest firm contributors to the Bush campaign. Lawyers from Vinson & Elkins and Dallas firms Jenkens & Gilchrist and Haynes and Boone are also handing money over to the Bush campaign in large numbers, with the Bush campaign attracting more than two times as much money from firms and lawyers in Texas as the campaign of Vice President Al Gore. Some of that funding disparity can be explained by the Texas connection. “We’ve got a lot of people who like George W. on a personal basis and like the prospect of a Texan in the White House,” says Joe B. Allen, a partner in V&E of Houston. “It’s more about personal convictions and relationships than it is about anything else. I think people from Texas like having Texans as president,” Allen says. Texas lawyers and firms have given $1,388,674 to Republican candidate Bush, according to information compiled by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Responsive Politics. It includes contributions as of Oct. 1, reported electronically by the Federal Elections Commission. Democrat Gore received $528,415 during the same period, with a considerable amount, probably not surprisingly, coming from lawyers at firms with plaintiff practices. The contribution totals include direct contributions to campaigns but not so-called “soft money” that goes to the political parties. Individuals are limited to a $1,000 gift, although they can also give another $1,000 to a candidate’s compliance fund, which is used to pay for lawyers and accountants hired to comply with federal campaign finance reporting requirements. The nearly $2 million ($1,917,089) going to the two major presidential campaigns from Texas firms and lawyers is roughly 3 percent of all the money that lawyers and firms nationwide are pumping into federal elections for 2000, according to Center for Responsive Politics numbers. As of Sept. 1, lawyers and firms gave $71.2 million to federal candidates and political parties, including $12.1 million in soft money. Of that, 68 percent is going to Democrats and 32 percent to Republicans. PAC MAN Bush’s total from Texas firms includes $31,500 from political action committees. None of Gore’s money comes from firm PACs. The PAC money to Bush includes $5,000 from V&E, $1,000 from Jenkens, $10,000 from Baker Botts, $4,500 from Andrews & Kurth of Houston, $6,000 from Winstead Sechrest & Minick of Dallas, $4,000 from Houston-based Fulbright & Jaworski, and $1,000 from the now-defunct Houston firm Butler & Binion. V&E lawyers gave almost twice as much to Bush as lawyers from Jenkens, the second-place finisher on the list of firm and lawyer donations to the Texas governor for his presidential campaign. V&E partners raising money for Bush include Allen, Thomas Marinis, a childhood friend of Bush, and former partner Robert Whilden, who is now general counsel of BMC Software Inc. of Houston. Allen suggests that, that because of the Texas connection and Bush’s ties to lawyers at the firm, some of the lawyers who chose to pony up their $1,000 may not normally support a Republican. But Dallas plaintiffs lawyer Fred Baron, a member of the board of directors of the Gore campaign, disagrees: “I think you would be very hard put to find very many Democrats giving to Bush.” Baron and others at his firm, Baron & Budd, have given a total of $20,000 to the Gore campaign, second only to Williams Bailey Law Firm of Houston, which is down for $20,500. Partner John Eddie Williams did not return a telephone message by press time Oct. 12. Baron, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, says Gore is getting support from many plaintiffs’ lawyers in Texas and Bush isn’t because of their disparate records on issues involving victims and consumers. Many of the firms on the list of Gore’s top contributors in Texas are plaintiffs’ firms, but lawyers from some big institutional firms, such as Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld of Dallas, Fulbright, and Locke Liddell & Sapp, which is based in Houston and Dallas, are backing Gore. But the bigger chunks of money are going to Bush, in part because large firms have many lawyers to contribute. David Laney, managing shareholder of Jenkens and a fund-raiser for Bush, says lawyers at his firm are giving to Bush not because they know him personally but because they are favorably disposed to his record as governor. Personal ties to Bush may be more of a factor at Baker Botts, suggests partner Scott Rozzell, the chairman of the committee that oversees the firm’s PACs. “If you look back over the years, I think you will find two sort of blips on our participation in presidential politics,” he says. “Those blips were in ’88 and ’92, and again this year, and that’s because of our long and close association with President Bush and his family.”

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