Big law is heavily favoring President Obama in campaign contributions, pouring twice as much money into the president’s re-election campaign than into the four leading Republican candidates combined.
Obama has received $4.1 million from lawyers and law firms compared with the $1.7 million that Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have received collectively, according to Federal Election Commission filings analyzed by the government watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics.
“The legal industry as a whole has been a traditional place for Democrats to turn to,” said Michael Beckel, the center’s spokesman. “Obama is not unique in that respect. If you look back, about 70 percent of the money the legal industry donates within a particular cycle benefits Democrats opposed to Republicans. Some of that goes back to [Republican] candidates touting tort reform,” making it harder to sue.
Beyond personal giving, campaign finance experts said no other industry has bundled more money for Obama than lawyers. Bundlers are people who, after reaching their individual contribution limit, solicit and “bundle” contributions from friends, family and associates. More than a fifth of Obama’s bundlers — 78 out of 358, the largest percentage compared to any other profession — are lawyers at some of the biggest law firms in the world, including Skadden, Winston & Strawn, DLA Piper and Sidley Austin (the Chicago firm where both Obama and Michelle Obama formerly worked as associates). Obama is the only candidate to voluntarily release the names of his bundlers.
Lawyers and law firms have raised at least $9.9 million through bundling, more than any other sector. The securities and investment sector comes in second, having raised at least $9.4 million that way.
Next year marks the first presidential election since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United began allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political candidates. The fact that corporate lawyers often have the deepest pockets means they could wield more influence in this election than ever before.
“We fully expect to see this group pony up money to super PACs,” Beckel said. “When you’re talking about lawyers, unions and Hollywood being traditional sources of big money for Democrats, the new campaign finance landscape means these same resources are likely to be funding the newest largest super PACs as well.”