The pressure to raise enormous sums for the presidential campaign is on, and lawyers are delivering.
Law firms and individual attorneys have poured nearly $17 million into presidential campaigns within the last year, putting them on target to increase the amount they gave in the 2000 presidential election by more than half.
“We have money, we have awareness, and we have interest,” says William Kilberg, a D.C. partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher who has raised more than $200,000 for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.
Between January 2003 and March of this year, lawyers nationwide have donated $8.8 million to Bush and $7.9 million to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the likely Democratic presidential nominee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The nonpartisan center compiles data provided by the Federal Election Commission. In the 2000 election, lawyers gave a record $11.5 million to the two major party candidates.
Law firms make up nearly half of the Kerry campaign’s 20 largest contributors. Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom tops the list among law firm donors and is second among all contributors to the candidate, giving nearly $160,000 as of March 31. Piper Rudnick, which absorbed lobbying and law firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand in 2002, contributed $105,750.
Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo, the Boston firm that counts Kerry’s younger brother, Cameron, as a partner, contributed $94,100. Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld’s lawyers tallied $82,000, and Latham & Watkins lawyers donated nearly $70,000. Hale and Dorr attorneys gave $66,000. Arnold & Porter, and Manatt, Phelps & Phillips rounded out the list with about $60,000 each in donations to Kerry’s campaign.
A handful of Washington attorneys are among Kerry’s biggest fund-raisers, including Skadden partners Leslie Goldman and Ivan Schlager and Piper Rudnick partner Jeffrey Liss, all of whom have raised at least $100,000. Lanny Davis, an Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner and former lawyer to President Bill Clinton, and Robert Sussman, a partner with Latham & Watkins, have raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for Kerry.
Fewer lawyers, but larger numbers dominate the Bush camp. Attorneys from Philadelphia’s Blank Rome have anted up $208,000. Houston-based Vinson & Elkins, the Enron Corp.’s law firm and a major contributor to Bush in 2000, gave $166,500. Another Texas firm, Haynes and Boone, contributed $162,000.
Along with Gibson, Dunn’s Kilberg, major fund-raisers for Bush include Baker Botts partner James Baker IV, James Langdon of Akin Gump, and Bradley Wine, a partner with Dickstein Shapiro Morin & Oshinsky. Baker, Langdon, and Wine have each raised between $100,000 and $200,000 for the president. Both the Bush and Kerry campaigns publicly identify their leading fund-raisers.
Those fund-raisers act as “bundlers,” meaning that they solicit donations to a certain candidate en masse. Federal election laws limit the sums individuals can give, but there is no limit to what groups of individuals from the same organization can donate. Campaign finance reformers have discussed restricting the practice.