Correction, 4/23/2013, 10:45 a.m. EDT: The original version of this included an incorrect reference to a Nixon Peabody partner who contributed to Anthony Wiener’s 2009 mayoral campaign and has given money to New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio in the current election cycle. He is Adam Gilbert. We regret the error.
As disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner weighs whether to dive into the 2013 New York City mayor’s race, money—specifically the $4.3 million in campaign cash he has on hand and $1.5 million in public matching funds he must use or lose—is undoubtedly figuring into his calculations. If Weiner ultimately does reach into that war chest to make a run, lawyers and others connected to Am Law 200 firms will be among those backing his unlikely attempt at a political comeback.
Weiner—who quit Congress in 2011 after inadvertently sending a sexually suggestive photograph of himself to his 45,000 Twitter followers and then lying about it in an effort to cover up what turned out to be inappropriate exchanges with multiple women—first confirmed that he is eyeing a possible mayoral bid this year in a recent New York Times Magazine article.
On one hand, it was a baffling development, given the cloud under which he left office. On the other, there was a certain logic to it. After all, before the fallout from his online behavior essentially sent him into hiding, Weiner was viewed as a leading contender to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg—in part because of the fund-raising prowess he displayed in preparing to run for mayor four years ago.
Though he bowed out of that campaign after Bloomberg engineered the lifting of the city’s term limits law so he could extend his City Hall stay, Weiner and others who abandoned the 2009 race—including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former City Comptroller William Thompson, both of whom are running this year—were allowed to roll the money they had raised over to the current election while remaining eligible for public matching funds. (Weiner must declare his candidacy by June 10 in order to keep the matching funds.)
That puts numerous individuals in the unusual position of having given Weiner money pre-scandal that he may end up using post-scandal. Among them: 63 contributors who were affiliated with Am Law 200 firms when they combined to give $72,721 to Weiner during the 2009 election cycle, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board database.
Five of those Am Law donors were as generous to Weiner as the city’s campaign finance laws allow, giving him the maximum $4,950. Those contributors include: David Nachman and Amy Schulman, former DLA Piper partners who are married to one another and have moved on to new positions since donating to Weiner’s 2009 mayoral campaign. Nachman is now the enforcement section chief for the New York Attorney General’s Office’s charities bureau; Schulman is Pfizer Inc.’s executive vice president and general counsel.
Scott Giordano, a commercial finance partner at Loeb & Loeb, and Lawrence Buttenwieser, a counsel in Katten Muchin Rosenman’s trusts and estates practice, also donated $4,950 apiece to Weiner. Another attorney who gave Weiner $4,950, Leonard Grunstein, the former head of Troutman Sanders’s real estate capitalization and investment practice groups, was subsequently caught up in a tangled web of litigation involving the nursing home business and among several defendants sued by the U.S. Department of Justice in a 2009 civil complaint over an alleged $50 million kickback scheme. Grunstein and his fellow defendants later agreed to a $14 million settlement in the case, according to The Am Law Daily‘s previous reports.
When contacted by The Am Law Daily, Buttenweiser said that though he can’t give Weiner more money because he has contributed the maximum amount, he would support the former congressman should he decide to run for mayor this year. Of the other four donors with Am Law 200 ties who gave Weiner the maximum amount, Giordano did not respond to emailed requests for comment, Schulman did not respond to a request for comment directed to a Pfizer spokesman, Nachman did not respond to a request for comment emailed to the attorney general’s office’s press office, and Grunstein could not be reached for comment.
Several Am Law 200 attorneys who contributed to Weiner’s 2009 campaign, meanwhile, have since switched their allegiance to other candidates, according to campaign finance board records. For instance, Nixon Peabody litigation partner Adam Gilbert, who gave Weiner’s 2009 campaign $1,000, has contributed the same amount to one of the Democrats already running in this year’s race, New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
Charles Dorkey, a New York–based litigation partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge contributed $2,175 to Weiner’s 2009 campaign over a three-year period. He gave Quinn $1,000 during the same election cycle. This time around, Dorkey has given Quinn $250 while contributing $500 to Republican candidate Joseph Lhota’s campaign. Neither Gilbert nor Dorkey responded immediately to requests for comment about whether they would back Weiner if he were to enter this year’s race.
Baker & Hostetler partner John Siegal, a longtime adviser to Weiner who helped the embattled politician cope with the reverberations of the Twitter scandal, did not contribute directly to Weiner’s 2009 campaign, but did raise money from others. Finance board records show that Siegal solicited or delivered 29 contributions totaling $2,171 to the Weiner campaign from a variety of donors. Siegal, who declined to comment when contacted by email, collected two of those donations from fellow Baker & Hostetler attorneys: partners John Moscow ($250) and Marc Powers ($75).
In terms of which Am Law firms were the biggest sources of Weiner donations, the contributions from Nachman and Schulman put DLA Piper at the top of the list, at $9,900, followed by Katten Muchin (three donors who gave the then congressman a total of $8,950); Loeb & Loeb (eight donors; $7,700); Dickstein Shapiro (two donors; $7,450); and Troutman Sanders (14 donors; $7,100).
If Weiner does wind up entering the race and resumes his fund-raising efforts, he will have some catching up to do. His campaign account has not received any contributions since November 2009 and, while he had collected more as of the end of March than either de Blasio ($3.7 million), New York City Comptroller John Liu ($3.2 million), or Thompson ($2.7 million), he trailed Quinn ($6.5 million) by a substantial margin. (Nearly $3 million of the Quinn campaign’s money was rolled over from the 2009 election, according to campaign records).
Weiner also lags in collecting contributions from those connected to Am Law 200 sources. Quinn has so far raised $479,581 from such donors, while de Blasio has raised $114,550 and Thompson has collected $99,675.
One thing Weiner isn’t lacking as of Monday: a new Twitter handle.