Monday, January 28, 2008

Do you politically match your law firm?

This article will hopefully be interesting to the 80% of you Berkeley students who plan to head off to the world of Big Law.

From the article:

DLA Piper has given the largest amount to date, gifting $356,100 (£180,300) to Hillary Clinton’s cause, making the firm her top contributor. The donations have come from individual partners rather than the firm.

Sidley Austin has donated $203,325 (£103,000) to her main Democrat rival, Barack Obama. The candidate and his wife both previously worked in the firm’s Chicago office.

Other firms to have contributed include Kirkland & Ellis, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Greenberg Traurig, Patton Boggs and Latham & Watkins, all of which have given more than $100,000 (£50,600) to Clinton’s campaign.

UPDATE: try this link for more donation openness: here.

Labels: ,

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

nifty

1/28/2008 11:30 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

I'm confused.

How much are the partners giving and how much are the firms giving? Are these "individual partners" contributing money in the firms name, but from their private checking accounts? Or is the firm contributing money that *would* have gone to parters' paycheck?

And, are they doing it because (1) they think the dems will win and want to curry favor early, (2) dems are good for business, (3) BIGLAW partners are, in fact, a bunch of democrats, or (4) some more complicated reason that only EW knows how to articulate?

And why the $%#$% is &200k exchanging at about £100K? (Okay, I'm not super-confused on THAT one.)

1/29/2008 7:48 PM  
Blogger Earl Warren said...

The vast majority of these donations are individual contributions from partners and associates to candidates. As such, they're limited to 2.3k/per cycle/per election. The only reason they're "linked" to the specific firm is that federal campaign laws require campaigns to collect employment information from anyone who gives over $100 or $200 or something like that. But there's no formal involvement by the firm in any of these.

In a very tiny percentage of cases, the actual firm might write a check to a candidate or a PAC -- typically on the order of $5k to $25k. But this is pretty rare -- namely b/c how do you get 10-500 partners to agree how to spend the firm's money on politics? It's too contentious -- and it doesn't do much good anyway. However, I think you see this more with a) smaller firms and b) in state and local races, where it's easier to get agreement and the bang for the buck is more in terms of winning influence.

It's possible but not probable that a firm could also write a secret, big-$$ check to a 527 to run so-called "issue ads" (e.g. Swift-Boat Liars for Truth, etc.). As such, their involvement wouldn't have to be disclosed to anyone but, again, that seems way too contentious for most firms.

So mostly these numbers are simply aggregating the total individual contributions from everyone who works at a firm.

As for WHY they're doing it, well, the $$ amounts aren't really big enough to "curry favor" with anyone. They're small potatoes in the scheme of things. And I doubt anyone can project the effect of a Democratic administration on per-partner biglaw profits. If I had to guess, I'd say that -- other than the sense of civic duty that animates us all -- they're giving money for a simple reason: if your firm is pretty generous, the candidate will likely hold future events, meetings, and fundraisers at your offices, and that gives everyone a chance to mingle with the candidate, key staff, and other key supporters from the community. I know, for instance, that there's one SF firm that has held 5-6 events for Obama or Obama surrogates already -- and it has to be pretty nice on multiple levels to have 200-300 of the richest people in the Bay Area come through your firm, eat crab cakes, and shake hands with all your partners. (Even ignoring the candidate for a moment.) But that's only for the big machers.

1/30/2008 11:44 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Thank you, EW. That makes a whole lot of sense. I hadn't even thought about all the other people who tend to show up at fundraisers and such events . . . too bad Boalt Hall can't corral that crowd, eh?

1/31/2008 6:29 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Thank you, EW. That makes a whole lot of sense. I hadn't even thought about all the other people who tend to show up at fundraisers and such events . . . too bad Boalt Hall can't corral that crowd, eh?

1/31/2008 6:30 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home