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Lawyers and law firms made enormous contributions to the 2000 presidential campaigns. How enormous? Try $5.9 million to Al Gore and $6.6 million to George Bush. And if you add in their contributions to congressional campaigns and to the parties (including so-called soft money), those totals rise to $66 million to the Democrats and $30 million to the Republicans. Indeed, the job category led all donors in the last cycle — to both candidates and both parties. “Lawyers and law firms are up at the top of the list of professions when it comes to campaign contributions,” according to Larry Noble, Executive Director and GC of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a nonprofit nonpartisan research organization in Washington, D.C., which derived the data from Federal Election Commission filings at the request of The American Lawyer. By contrast, Noble notes that doctors, who lean Republican, gave as a group half as much as lawyers. The CRP says that total contributions from the legal community are up 37 percent from 1996, apparently matching increases overall, but lawyers’ soft money contributions rose 75 percent. (Such donations can be given to the parties in unlimited amounts but can only be used for limited purposes that don’t include specific campaigns.) The legal organization whose members contributed the most to federal campaigns (plus congressional) was the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, which gave $3,030,750 — 88 percent to Democrats. By combining the individual donations of lawyers who listed their firms (as most do) with those of their family members, the firm as corporate entity, and any firm-run political action committee, a few firms topped the million-dollar mark: Houston’s Williams Bailey, at $1.47 million, Wilmington, Del.’s Angelos Law Offices (with the Baltimore Orioles, which is owned by Peter Angelos), at $1.17 million, and Barnwell, S.C.’s Ness Motley, at just over $1 million. Contributions to the Bush and Gore presidential campaigns are all “hard” money given by individual attorneys, firms, and firm PACs. Identified separately in the charts that follow are contributions to the parties, which include both hard money from individual attorneys, firms, and PACs, as well as soft money from individuals and firms. In most cases, firms say that they maintain a hands-off approach toward individual gifts. According to partner David Sweet of the Harrisburg, Pa., office of Philadelphia’s Pepper Hamilton, “We don’t have a prevailing law firm political philosophy. Partners, we assume, receive solicitations and make contributions, and that’s their own business.” (The firm donated a total of $68,000 to both candidates and parties.) “Unlike labor unions and business corporations, law firms have no political agenda,” explains Frederick Lowell, a partner at San Francisco’s Pillsbury Winthrop and chairman of both the firm’s political law group and its political contributions committee. Lowell says the committee is primarily for administrative purposes. But ideological or not, many firms, even those that consider themselves uninvolved politically, have provided substantial contributions to partisan campaigns. A law firm’s contributions in any particular cycle may be skewed by geography. Many Texas-based firms gave a great deal to the Bush campaign and the Republicans; many Washington, D.C.-based firms gave money to the Gore campaign and the Democrats. Lowell’s example: The Los Angeles location of the 2000 Democratic National Convention drew out more Democratic contributions among California firms simply because those firms’ attorneys were represented at ticketed events there. Often, although individual partners may lean toward one party, their firm gives substantial PAC money to the opposition. Sweet says this doesn’t cause tension because attorneys accept that the firm needs to hedge its bets through contributions to both sides: “Individual partners may differ in their individual political philosophies, but recognize that the reasons for the firm, through its PAC, to make a contribution, tend to relate to the firm as an institution.”

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